Department of Germanic Studies

Austin - The Heart of Texas

UT Tower

People from outside of Texas are pleasantly surprised when they visit Austin for the first time: huge areas of parkland of live oaks and junipers, ribboned with hike-and-bike trails, world-famous Barton Springs, and easy access to the Hill Country, with its German and Scandinavian influences an access to natural natural landmarks like Enchanted Rock -- all countering those vicious rumors that Texas is a desert! Because of the Balcones Escarpment, summer always brings breezes, and the landscape is cooled by the many springs and pools used as swimming holes.

Austin sports an intriguing combination of bluebonnets, high-tech, live music, hill country, research and recreation. "Silicon Hills" (aka "Silicon Gulch") has come into its own. Corporate Austin consists of companies like Motorola, 3M, IBM, Apple, Dell Computer, Texas Instruments, and many more. This diversity drives a vibrant cultural scene, running from the Broken Spoke (barbecue and line dancing), and Threadgill's, where Janis Joplin sang, through one of the world's largest Halloween Parties (on 6th Street), through the new Dell Campus and Jewish Community Association of Austin (on land that was a gift from Michael Dell, a home-grown computer millionaire). Oh yes, even a Formula-1 race track!

No matter that locals complain that Austin has gotten awfully big since those good old days, navigation in town is easy. The University has negotiated free travel for students on city busses with Cap Metro (, whose site will give you a good idea of the public transportation options. Many an Austinite goes for years commuting on bicycles on ever-improving bike paths. And foodies understand that the national natural grocery, Whole Foods Market (now a part of Amazon), and Trader Joe's are matched on the local level by Central Market and Wheatsville Food Coop. Restaurants are plentiful, reasonably priced, and incredibly diverse.

Find the most current information on Austin and its many pleasures at Austin CitySearch or, the city's most complete events and information website, including the daily paper, the Austin American-Statesman. For those of you who'll think you'll suffer from withdrawal if you decide to move to "The Third Coast," as Central Texas down to Houston has been dubbed, the Austin Chronicle will refer you to all that is cool (hot?) in town. Art, music (classical in all forms, including opera, through techno and beyond), theater, museums and TWO public radio stations (KUT for news and KUTX for music).

On the more practical side, the Austin Independent School District (AISD) has a diverse selection of magnet schools and "academies," making it very usable for children of all ages. There are also private schools from Montessori and Waldorf through religious institutions of many denominations, as well as UT's own charter school. The City of Austin website can provide more information on city facilities.

Other area events and places of note: