Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bavaria, Texas?

No, there's no Bavaria, Texas - but then there's no Dainsville, Texas, either. Instead, there are quite a few links between the Lone Star State and Ludwig's home, which hint at a striking similarity hidden beneath their juxtaposition in Valhalla. It goes largely unnoticed (or rather, it's been edited out of our cultural script since the two World Wars) that Germans comprise the single largest ethnic group in the U.S.; there are approximately 50 million Americans of German descent. As elsewhere in America, there was heavy German settlement in Texas - particularly in the Texas "Hill Country" - between 1848 and World War I, and today there's a similar conservative, religion-centered, and not very gay-friendly culture in both locales. Likewise, both Texas and Bavaria tend to view themselves as something like virtual nation-states within their larger countries' borders. Indeed, many Texans will tell you that "Bavaria is Germany's Texas," and some Bavarians have been known to favor cowboy hats. In the last few decades, Texans have adopted such Bavarian traditions as Oktoberfest with a vengeance; some say one of the largest Oktoberfests outside Munich is in Fredericksburg, Texas, which also hosts a German shooting festival, or Schuetzenfest. There's even a Texan dialect of German, which is now only spoken by a few septagenarians in the Hill Country west of Austin.

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