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Dispatches

Extremely rare coins make their way to Chicago; the Obamas visit Ireland; a Wild West theme park in Germany; Boston’s harbor gets a makeover; the 20th anniversary of Perry Farrell’s Lollapalooza.

BERLIN
Ich Bin ein Texaner

The Lone Star State goes on tour

— MOISES MENDOZA

On a chilly Saturday evening, nine men in Civil War-era uniforms stride proudly down the main street, past Nelly the town donkey and a small crowd gathered outside the local saloon. Holding rifles stiffly to their shoulders, they march toward a Texas flag waving on a tall flagpole. “Ready, halt!” shouts their leader, 52-year-old Ralf Keber, who goes by the name Jack Hunter. As the soldiers salute, the malty aroma of German beer lingers in the air. “Sehr gut,” whispers an onlooker, nibbling on a bratwurst.

Welcome to Old Texas Town, a Wild West theme park in Berlin, sandwiched between a warehouse and a supermarket. It seems beyond incongruous, but it’s just one of many Texas-themed bars and Wild West villages dotting this oddly Texas-obsessed country. “I like the idea of the freedom of it,” says Keber, Old Texas Town’s mayor and leader of the 30-person club that runs things here. He fell in love with Texas as a kid, watching Western TV shows with his parents. He’s never actually been to the state, he admits, but says, “I envision it as it was in the old days: big, with lots of land and space.”

At Old Texas Town, visitors can see a courthouse, pharmacy and jail complete with a fake skeleton lying on a bunk. Club members roam the grounds with black cowboy hats, polished badges and six-shooters strapped to their hips, mingling with Berliners who crowd the town saloon to happily gulp down Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam whiskey. Keber says he has decreed that the revelers will listen exclusively to country music until midnight. After that, though, he’ll defer a bit to German culture, and consider putting on some Rammstein.

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