Run on water

Texans can be crazy. After the world’s hottest and longest summer with 100+ continuous days of temperatures higher than 40C / 100F, San Antonio had a cold spell where the temperatures dropped below zero.

Because this never happens, the Texans of San Antonio panicked. The television stations broadcasted instructors about the 3P’s: Pets, Plants, Pipes. And there was a “run” on bottled water, since the Texans thought the world might actually end:

The German heritage of Texas

Huge numbers of Germans migrated to Texas in the mid 1800s – so much so, that even today you’ll find German villages in Texas, and a number of Americans who have been born here but speak German — not English — as their first language!

You can still see this German heritage everywhere around San Antonio, such as shown in this snap here:

Parking place for police in San Antonio

As far as I can tell, countries like Switzerland treat their police just like everyone else. Not so in the US, where companies do their best to encourage police to shop at their stores and eat at their restaurants.

This snap from San Antonio, Texas, shows a parking place reserved for police officers at the local grocery store – just to make it a bit easier for them to come in and do some shopping.

Refinery weeds

I took this snap in the southeast Texas seaside town of Corpus Christi, just a few months before the Covid pandemic erupted. It shows a dead weed in front of one of the zillions and zillions of refineries you’ll find in South Texas:

Note added on 05.05.2021: My Dad just informed me, this weed is the dead remains of a so-called sawtooth cactus. According to him – and my parents lived for many years in Corpus – the neighborhoods around the refineries are increasingly becoming devoid of vegetation. There are the laws that regulate the nature of the refinery pollution – but then there is reality, which often differs considerable.

Padre Island National Seashore

Looking south on a cool summer’s day:

A beach is a beach is a beach? Not so. Padre Island National Seashore is the largest undeveloped, untouched barrier island, not just in the United States but in the world!  It’s long enough and isolated enough that, after even a modest drive, you are truly on your own: no mobile telephone services, and indeed no other human beings for 30+ miles in any direction.

Mixed feelings in Texas

I have very much mixed feelings about this blog post.  Sadly, Texas is the state where the largest proportion of residents have diabetes – at least count, over 60% of all Texas have diabetes. This leads to mobility problems and, ultimately for many suffers, huge numbers of people with amputated feet.

But in contrast to other countries or even other states, Texas stores do their best to enable their customers who are mobility limited.

This is no unusual sight at the entrance of any store in Texas, be it do-it-yourself store or supermarket or any other large store: a fleet of battery operated buggies:

And this is no unusual sight in any supermarket:

So you can see: it is a real tragedy that so much of the population suffer from health problems – but it is a real blessing that commercial enterprises have done their best to enable their mobility limited customers.

Stay in your vehicle in Texas

I can’t think of any other state than Texas that offers so many commercial opportunities via the drive-thru channel.

Here is a drive thru bank. You stay in your car, and real people (called bank tellers) pass money to you via pneumatic tubes:

America is highly segregated into areas that reflect the financial class of the residents. So here is a similar shot at a much fancier bank in a much more affluent neighborhood:

Need to hand in your cowboy boots for a good cleaning or a bit of repair, handy if you can stay in your three-axel, 6 wheel, 300 HP pickup truck to do it:

And last but not least, it does make a lot of sense that – particularly if you are sick – you stay in your automobile while you get your medication from the pharmacy:

Sadly, I don‘t have a snap to show, but some states have quite impressive drive thru liquor and beer stores. In Pennsylvania it was illegal to buy individual cans of beer – a case or 24 cans or bottles was the minimum size you could buy – so you‘d drive your car into what looked like a garage, where someone would load the beer into your car. Never seen one of these in Texas, however.

Keeping your hands clean in Texas

Not just in Texas, but this is increasingly a common sight in many places in the United States:

In Texas we might say something like: This ain’t worth a hill of beans.  The overwhelming majority of easily transmissible infections are URI’s, or upper respiratory infections – and the overwhelming majority of them are caused by viruses, not bacteria, that are not affected by topical alcohol.

Refining in Texas

The United States is the largest producer of oil in the world, and Texas is the largest producer of oil in the United States.

So if Texas produces a lot of oil, it makes sense that it would have a lot of refineries – and it does.

Interestingly, refineries in Texas are often huge polluters. The refinery operators often have excellent contacts with the local politicians, so it is very common to read about things like an accidental release of toxic gases that occurs once per month like clockwork.

Anyway, here is one huge refinery near Floresville, Texas:

Normally I do no post-processing of my snaps except for cropping, but in this case Google helped me to assemble multiple shots into a single panorama.

Little Alsace in Texas

Texas is an amazing, amazing place. Not a lot of people know this, but it was founded by thousands upon thousands of European immigrants that settled here in the early 1800’s, bringing their language with them and creating miniature villages of how they lived back home. There were Irish villages, Norwegian villages – sadly, most of these are now just ghost towns (but you can visit them, if you know where to look).

But a few of these European villages do not just survive but thrive. Depending on the village, here you will find Americans, born and raised in these villages, that do not speak English as a first language, but rather speak Alsatian or French or German or – believe it or not – Schwiizerdüütsch.

Castroville, a tiny village just outside of San Antonio, was founded by Alsatian and Swiss settlers, and a significant number of the old timers are Americans who actually speak English as a second language to their native Alemannic.

As you head into town, you’re greeted by an authentic Alsatian bakery, selling authentic Alsatian baked goods, in an authentic half-timbered house no less!

While visiting this village with my father and I had the honor and privilege to meet Connie, a 90-year-old native speaker of Alsatian and Allemanic – and I could confirm, she spoke fluently and would be right home in Alsace or even Switzerland! In fact, she was kind enough to take my father and I on a tour of Castroville, where she shared her memories growing up here in this Texas community where there were essentially few or no English speakers.

In fact, she and her father wrote the very first ever American / Alsacienne foreign dictionary!

There are plenty of other historic buildings, including a Catholic church. This is what it looks like from the outside:

And this is what it looks like from the inside:

But the highlight has to be an authentic half-timbered house that came from Alsace itself; it was taken down piece by piece, sent to America a few years ago, and re-assembled in the village by handworkers from France:

I hope to return to Texas soon, and visit a unique French village, where the number of Americans who have French as their first language is shrinking fast.