Flatonia

This agricultural village just off I-10, halfway between Houston and San Antonio, was founded by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1873 and named for pioneer merchant F.W. Flato. Waves of immigrants--English, German, Czech and Italian--settled in and around Flatonia. Today, the town is known for its colorful Czech traditions. The annual chili festival, Czhilispiel (pronounced "chili spill"), is held on the fourth full weekend in October). Local sausages and kolaches are popular.

The city is a well-known spot for watching trains. One of the last manned switch towers for the Union Pacific Railroad remained in operation here until 1997, when rail switches were computerized. Arrange tours of the tower by calling 713/524-1750.

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