"The picture of Texas as a Wild West country with cowboys is very strong in Germany," says Claudia Baierl, who has been contracted by the Governor's Economic Development and Tourism division in Austin to help promote the state in Germany.The article mentions Old Texas Town, the nearly 60-year-old cowboy club in Berlin, which I visited at the end of 2007.
In recent years, Texas tourism officials have increased advertising in German news media and on the Internet.
"There's a lot of interest in us right now," says Julie Chase, chief marketing officer for the state's Economic Development and Tourism division, noting that Germany is the fifth-largest source of international visitors to Texas. Some 77,000 visited the state last year, the most since 2003.
At that time, "Ben Destry" (real name Fritz Walter) -- one of the original founders of the club -- was its "Mayor."
"Destry" was a courtly man in his 80s, who spoke almost no English, but loved the American West and Texas -- he dressed up in both Union and Confederate Civil War costume -- and was particularly fascinated by the Alamo. There is monument to those who died at the Alamo in the Old Texas Town grounds.
"Ben Destry" at the Saloon in Old Texas Town, December 2007. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber
Ben's death earlier this year closed a long, intense personal chapter of Germany's Imaginary Wild West. But O.T.T. itself seems to have overcome some of the financial and other problems that threatened to close it, and the town, at least through this year, remained open to the pubic the usual first Saturday of each month. (It is closed in January ad February).