The Czech community is huge in parts of Texas. The kolaches, churches, and bumper stickers asking, “Jak se máš?” are endless and make for a fun, unique, and enlightening Texas experience.
I am of Czech descent and am minoring in Czech language. I think the language, culture, and history are fascinating, so I thought I’d try to give it some love and attention on my blog. Fall is upon us, which is when all the festivals are happening around the state. Pick a weekend during one of the festivals and hit the road on this Czech road trip!
Jdeme na to!
Victoria, TX- The last weekend of September, the Czech Heritage Society of Victoria hosts a Czech festival with cultural food and music. Some songs you might want to learn on your trip- “A Já Sám” and “The Shiner Song.”
If you miss the festival, there is still much to do in Victoria! There are a few museums, a zoo, plenty of shopping, beautiful historic downtown, painting with a twist, mini-golf, bowling, skating, and plenty of both local and chain restaurants. I recommend Huvar’s and the Pump House.
Prasek’s Hillje Smokehouse- Head north on Highway 59 towards Houston to Prasek’s Hillje Smokehouse in Hillje, between Ganado and El Campo. The front of it looks like Old West storefronts, and the inside is a sight to behold as well. As soon as you walk in, the smell of meat, spices, and baked kolaches and klobasniky fill your nostrils. The options are endless: fruit kolaches, cream cheese kolaches, meat and cheese klobasniky, jalapeno klobasniky, breakfast kolaches and klobasniky, roasted meats, dried meats, fresh baked breads of all kinds, a wide assortment of cheeses, jerky, and more, all complete with a large wine selection, fresh brewed coffee, and the usual convenience store items and refrigerated drinks. You can also snag some rustic home decor and gifts from the shop within Prasek’s and the assorted merchandise throughout the store. They also have kick-ass bathrooms.
Photo: Wikimedia Creative Commons
Fun fact- a koláč, or as we know it, kolache, is a round doughy pastry filled with fruit or sweet cheese. A pig in the blanket is NOT a kolache. The pastries that are bread completely enveloping savory foods like meat, cheese, or peppers, are called klobásníky, or klobasniky.
Fun fact #2- Prášek in Czech means “powder,” so práškový cukr is powdered (confectioner’s sugar).
Hruška’s- As if one kolache joint wasn’t enough, head northwest on Highway 71 out of El Campo and hit up Hruška’s bakery in Ellinger. You can’t miss the flashing “Jak se máš?” sign as you approach. Inside, you’ll find the bakery selling kolaches, klobasniky, and other pastries, as well as sausages and meats and regular lunch items, like burgers. They also carry your typical convenience store staples, in addition to a stellar on-the-go coffee bar. I highly recommend the Texas roast! They also sell tons of rustic, quirky, and down-home decor. Like Prasek’s, they also have some really nice bathrooms.
Fun fact- Hruška means “pear.”
Czech Heritage Center, La Grange- These folks really help to maintain Czech heritage in the state. Only a hop, skip, and a jump from Ellinger, you’ll find the Czech Heritage Center is full of things to explore there in La Grange. They have their Main Museum, elegant Hanslik Hall, Melnar Library, Sanford Schmid Amphitheater, Kopecky Gift Shop, and the Texas Czech Village. You can go and look around or join a tour.
They also have events going on all the time. For example, they have a conversation hour where you can learn the language, movie screenings, special exhibits, and of course, festivals.
Schulenburg, TX- Down Highway 77 from La Grange is the little town of Schulenburg. Schulenburg and the surrounding area are home to beautiful “Painted Churches.” You could spend a day looking at these beautiful, awe-inspiring churches. They were built and ornately decorated by Czech immigrants, and are still true to that heritage. The Stations of the Cross in some of them are written in Czech, and the altars are breathtaking. Drive out to the nearby towns of High Hill, Ammansville, and Dubina to soak in the Old World beauty, talent of our ancestors, and the peace of these churches.
Fun fact- Dubina is related to the word dub which means “oak” in Czech. The word for April is “Duben,” which is related to the trees blossoming during that time of the year.
For a link to all the churches, click here!
Flatonia, TX- The last stop on this tour is Flatonia, TX. It’s just west of Schulenburg on Interstate 10. The first stop I’d make is in Praha (Praha is Czech for the city of Prague). It’s home to St. Mary’s Catholic Church, one of the painted churches. Go into town, though, and you’ll find cute and quaint downtown Flatonia. It’s rich in Czech culture, as you’ll notice from historical markers, the Chamber of Commerce, and family names on signs posted on businesses, street names, or political signs. Go during October, and you’ll be able to attend Czilispiel (“chili spill” if you can’t see it), which is a huge celebration of Czech and German culture.
Here are some of my pictures when I was at St. Mary’s last fall:
BONUS- West, TX- If you’re really feeling the drive, take Highway 77 to Waco and then jump on northbound Interstate 35 to West, Texas. It hosts a huge Czech community. As soon as you get into West, you have your choice of bakeries and Czech eateries. I personally like Slovacek’s, but they’re all good! In the fall, they hold a huge Czech Fest. People come from all over every year, just to take part in the festivities, from food to beer to music.
I know it isn’t the most exciting of all road trips, especially if you’re not Czech. If you need more to do, I recommend these stops:
Ganado, TX- Ganado (where I happen to be from) is a super small town, but we’ve got enough to offer to keep you busy. I especially suggest grabbing lunch at the Ganado Cafe- Lori makes some damn good burgers- and catching a movie at the theater. It was the first theater in the U.S. to have digital fiber optic sound, opening in the early forties, and is one of the last in the nation to be privately owned (by a man with Czech origins, actually).
El Campo, TX- El Campo is bigger than Ganado, and has its fair share of things to do. I highly recommend a night at Greek Brothers. I love Greek’s. It’s a swanky honky tonk restaurant that serves great food and offers up live music pretty often by well-known Texas Red Dirt artists: Roger Creager, Randy Rogers, William Clark Green, and one I’m thinking of going to, Koe Wetzel. Even bigger mainstream names like Luke Bryan and Eric Church have played there. It’s the place to be!
La Grange, TX- This city has plenty of its own to offer outside the Heritage Center. They’ve got endless shopping and history. It’s home to band ZZ Top and where The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was filmed. If you’re there at the right time, you could drive out to Warrenton, Round Top, and Carmine for Antique Weekend. It’s the biggest junk, craft, and antique show in the state. It’s amazing.
Shiner, TX- Shiner is south of Flatonia on Highway 95. It is of course where Shiner beer is brewed. The Spoetzel brewery is available for tours year-round.
Endorsement- I’m not a beer drinker, but Shiner is a beer I will more than willingly drink. Shiner Bock, Shiner Premium, and Shiner Homespun have amazing flavors and finishes. If you’ve never had a Shiner, have one.
Gonzales, TX- West on Highway 90 from Shiner is the historically significant town of Gonzales. This town kickstarted the Texas Revolution with the famous “Come and Take It” flag and canon. To learn more about Texas’ badass history, head to Gonzales!