Distant Hipster: A Guide to Austin’s Sister Cities [Part 1]

Summer is right around the corner and all of your out-of-town friends are coming to visit. But when you’re down at the Greenbelt and you can’t find an unoccupied swimming hole, you may realize “there are a lot of people in this town.” According to Austin Demographer Ryan Robinson, in addition to the 885,400 current residents, 110 people move to Austin every day (if you’d like, you can stop reading and bang your head against your desk until you’re ready to move on).

So what can you do? Those “Welcome to Austin – Please Don’t Move Here” shirts have somehow proven ineffective against the current migration trends. Well thanks to the Sister City program, you can take a vacation in one of Austin’s many twinned towns!

[Population included to simplify hipness determination.]


Koblenz, Germany (Population 109,779: 12% of Austin’s population)

Koblenz Large

– With the smallest population of Austin’s sister cities, Koblenz is by far the hippest on our list, so you’re pretty much guaranteed that the locals won’t want you to Austin their Koblenz. But it’s just so quaint, how can you help but want to live here (now you know how it feels to be one of them)!

– Koblenz makes everything sacred and hip in Austin look like a facsimile of a truly trendy town. For instance, the forts of Koblenz, part of Germany’s oldest extensive defensive works, make the Graffiti Park at Castle Hills look like a dollhouse (if dolls were spray paint fiends). If 1980s retro is too mainstream for you, then you can experience 1280s retro as you visit historical landmarks such as the Electoral Palace, the William I Monument, and many historic churches.

– Want to wet your whistle? In addition to providing the home for the Königsbacher brewery (watch out Austin Beer Works), Koblenz is a principal seat of the Mosel and Rhenish wine trade, and also does a large business in the export of mineral waters (which, hopefully for your Southern self, includes Topo Chico).

– Are you worried you’ll miss driving by Camp Mabry during your daily commute on MoPac? In Koblenz you can feast your eyes on the German Army Forces Command headquarters while you get used to driving on the the autobahn (and you’ll have plenty of time for that while MoPac is under construction – it won’t be finished anytime soon).

Maseru, Lesotho (Population 227,880: 26% of Austin Pop.)

Maseru Large

– Are you the cheerful one at the house party who complains about the girl-to-guy ratio, possibly by comparing it to a German culinary tradition? Has the Greenbelt become too tame for your rugged wanderlust? Then you and your bros can get stoked on Maseru, where there’s a ratio of about ratio of around 50 women to 41 men (pack a few extra cases of hard lemonade…if you really think that’s appropriate) and unbridled access to vast forests.

– If mingling and hiking doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then you can check out The Lesotho Sun or the Maseru Sun – the two hotels with casinos. The interest in these casinos has waned since their initial popularity in the 1960s, so this is your chance to gamble on more than just beating rush-hour traffic on I-35. Who knows? By introducing some of our own sophisticated pastimes (like Chicken Sh*t Bingo), you may quickly find yourself part of the Lesotho Gaming Commission!

Angers, France (Population 394,700: 45% of Austin Pop.)

Angers Large

– Worried you’re not getting enough out of your degree? Angers, France (formerly Happinesses, France) is an obvious destination for young informed Austinites to seek refuge from the cultural crossfire within the Live Music Capital.

– History buffs will bonhomously enjoy the urban structure of Angers – dating back to the 15th century – along with castles, abbeys and chateaus. Connoisseurs of fine arts can bask in the glory of Chabada, the concert hall that may or may not be more popular than it’s breaded counterpart. Cahiers du Cinema aficionados (film nerds) can show off their auteur knowledge in the birthplace of Andre Bazin just as long as they save room in conversation for self-proclaimed philosophers to butt in with discussions about Jean Bodin. And don’t worry, English majors; Angers is the birthplace of Cointreau, so you’ll have access to profound inspiration and your choice of green areas for you to contemplate.

– Haven’t started on your degree yet? St. Edward’s University offers a variety of undergraduate level and professional training at their new and expanding campus in Angers. Years from now you may just earn yourself a doctorate in Cultural Condescension (Here’s to you, Professor!)

Oita City, Japan (Population 475,861: 54% of Austin’s Pop.)


 – Your favorite part of SXSW is the Interactive portion and we can see why. What’s not to like about robots, virtual reality goggles, and progressive photobooths? If you get your kicks from technology, then charge your batteries and gear up for a trip to Oita City, Japan! In the 1970s Toshiba and Canon built and expanded their plants in inland area, quickly resulting in the emergence of the city as a major production center of electronics products such as LSIs and digital cameras (good news for those of you who need to update your portfolio – without another black & white photo of SoCo).

– The nearby Oita Airport was once accessible by hovercraft, but since 2009 this service has been temporarily suspended (assumedly once they got word of our Segway tours).

– Tired of the flood of burnt orange each game day at Darrell K Royal? Move on over to the Oita Bank Dome and dive into the “Big Eye,” a stadium with a retractable dome roof in case of rain (or if the equivalent to OU wins in Oita).

– If you’re more of a naturalist than a techie, you can take a break from Austin’s indigenous blind salamanders to observe Oita’s claim to fame: wild monkeys, specifically the Japanese Macaque. Just watch out if they cover their eyes or ears when you walk by; Japanese Macaques are the basis for the “three wise monkeys” (and your late night Sixth Street debauchery may just elicit a rejection of evil…).

Saltillo, Mexico (Population 823,098: 93% of Austin Pop.)


– You may have taken the MetroRail through Saltillo Plaza during Map Jam. If so, you may have found your natural East Side experience jostled by gentrification. Want a more authentic travel experience while you meet new friends in high places? Saltillo is located in the Chihuahuan Desert, and while temperatures are cooler than other Mexican cities because of its roughly 5,000-foot altitude, you can still expect triple-digit heat just like back home. And it’s no wonder a Texan feels at home in Saltillo; In 1824 Saltillo was made the capital of the State of Coahuila y Tejas, which included the area that is now the Lone Star State (though we’re not giving them credit as the original Live Music Capital).

– Have you ever found yourself drunkenly encapsulated with the potted flora at the Cactus Café between sets, longing for more? The world-renowned Desert Museum includes an extensive cactus greenhouse (but no guarantee of rowdy bartenders and evening acoustic performances).

– Saltillo was once known as the “Athens of Mexico” for its intellectual residents, and is now known as the “Detroit of Mexico” for its automotive industry. In a matter of weeks, you and your friends could turn it into the “Austin of Mexico” for your tremendous cultural contributions! With a daily flight to Houston and a 15-minute commute from the Plan de Guadalupe International Airport to the downtown area, you can get a taste of Austin’s nearest Sister City and still be back in time to grab a beer at Hole in the Wall.

Do you need a week to check out Austin’s less populous Sister Cities (and take plenty of “no filter” photos)? You got it!

Next time we’ll cover the Sister Cities with populations larger than the Live Music Capital (no word on whether or not Austin has to fight their big sisters for the top bunk). Until then, happy travels!

– Jack Anderson

Photo Credit: Marla / CC BY

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