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Magispook

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Germany Trip 2011
« on: September 08, 2011, 10:49:53 AM »

I started this as a new topic to document my recent Germany adventure.  Hopefully some useful info may be provided.  I traveled to Garmisch, Germany, to research employment possibilities and determine if it would be feasible living on the local economy.  I had planned to do this during 2012 but I found I could get a free flight to and from Germany via military hop originating out of Pittsburgh, PA, (very rare) a mere one and a half hours away from where I live.  It will be necessary for me to break up my journal in numerous posts and I'm still transcribing it.  I have a tendency to be somewhat verbose--I probably could qualify for my grandfather's nickname:  Windy.   Consequently it will not be an uninterrupted read which works out for the best should anyone want to comment or ask questions.  Research bottom line is good jobs are scarce and living in Garmisch itself is expensive although living in nearby villages will reduce living expenses by half.  There is a potential for a temporary job (3 months) working at the post office there but the pay is 40% of what I make now so I would be trading much needed income for experience of living on the local economy and opportunity to network.  Plus I wold be paying living expenses for over there and living expenses to support my family here.  I'm still researching to make a decision on the potential temporary job.  My projections for a regular vacation at Garmisch come to about $4000 for a ten day stay.  My expenses came to $1900 including $250 tyring to get back home from Dover AFB in Delaware.  Please don't hesitate to ask questions and comment, OK?  BTW, the link for pics I took there are at Geezerville 10 or maybe this link will work:     https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150788141600724.735667.566760723&l=3b504d89f6&type=1
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Magispook

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Re: Germany Trip 2011
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2011, 10:55:24 AM »

Day 1
Arrived at 171 Refueling Squadron PAX terminal in Pittsburgh too early so went to McDonald’s for a quick meal and returned to PAX parking lot to await shuttle bus.  Met Ed and Celeste along with Al who were also there for the flight.  Met a family who traveled in from Fairfax, VA, couple with eleven year old or so who apparently had the income to do some traveling just prior to school starting.  There is no guarantee you can return when you want to when you fly Space A which means they had to be prepared to get a commercial ticket back and the commercial ticket is significantly more expensive compared to  a round trip ticket.  Joe and Wendy M. showed up just prior to the shuttle arriving.  Reported to PAX terminal to register “present,” watched the mandatory safety briefings, and waited for flight.  Prior to my wife departing, I gave her my Thermarest as I had seen some closed cell mats at the PAX terminal and incorrectly assumed they would be for passengers.  The Thermarest wouldn’t fit into my pack anyhow.  I later observed troops simply attach theirs to their packs while at Ramstein but don’t believe one could get away with that as carry-on with a civilian flight.  Only nine passengers boarded the 50 passenger flight on a KC135 tanker.  I had heard tankers were cold so I was wearing my silk long johns which were a comfort during the flight.  There was room to sleep on the floor or on the fabric seats but I had no mattress.  Had to make due with my inflatable neck pillow and rain gear.  The family from Fairfax had bought some cheap inflatable air mattresses and after considerable effort blowing them up slept on them.  Their air mattresses fit very easily in their carry-on packs.  The KC135 was cold from the lower back down and very hot from the lower back up.  I had fitful sleep (an hour cumulatively at best).  We arrived in Munich and got VIP treatment compared to a civilian flight to include a shuttle to the terminal, easy customs clearance, and travel to the main terminal for arranging ground transport.  Since I had traveled in Germany before, Ed and Celeste, Al, and I went to the train ticket counter and I got my ticket for Garmisch and managed their ticket to Munich where they planned to putz around a few hours then go to Italy where Al had family.  Al is a very experienced Space A traveler (nickname for space A traveler is SPAT) and he and Ed and Celeste (also experienced) had stayed at Al’s relative’s residence the previous year.  Al stays there about four months a year and speaks fluent Italian.  I asked for and received good advice for future Space A travel from them to include signing up for return flight as soon as possible.  One suggestion is to sign up for flight at least 30 days prior to anticipated travel so you have seniority when you finally try to fly out.  The Fairfax family rented a car (had driven in Naples before and had been in Munich before) and the rest of us marveled at their boldness (or idiocy) in driving in downtown Munich without even having arranged for a hotel room.  I later learned from Wendy and Joe that Al and team checked into renting a car for travel down to Italy and decided just take a train after all when they found the rental would be over a thousand Euros which equals about $1500.  My train ride to Garmisch was uneventful although uncharacteristicall y hot (mid 80’s) for Germany this time of year.  The fact that I did not have time to change out of the long johns exacerbated the situation.  My review of a Garmisch map beforehand revealed the hotel (Rheinischer Hof) was less than a mile away from the station and rather than pay about $10 to ride there I decided to ruck in.  Good idea in theory but did not take into account I was still wearing the long johns.  Got to the hotel and happily changed out of sweaty attire.  Took a welcome shower and went back downtown to get something to eat.  Stopped at Postamt Restaurant and had the penne specialty and since I was in Germany, a non-alcoholic beer (Clausthaler) and then another beer as it was quite hot outside where I ate.  I am careful about beer given my diabetes and consider beer liquid bread in terms of carbs.  Went back to the hotel to try to get some sleep as I had been up for about 24 hours, was off on my meds, and the heat was making things very uncomfortable.  Good thing I packed my silk sleeping bag liner as that is what I used for a cover.  Few German hotels have air conditioning and so I had to open the windows to get some air in but it really didn’t cool the room much.  It did serve to allow street noises to intrude however.
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Magispook

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Re: Germany Trip 2011
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2011, 11:02:39 AM »

Day 2
Wore cotton socks today thinking they would be cooler given the heat.  Bad idea as they caused minor toe blisters.  Wool socks henceforth.  Started an account at the post credit union so I can have local access to funds and not have to store the funds on my person.  Wanted to get a GIRO card as well but must do direct deposit for that benefit.  GIRO card is a debit card accepted by German vendors nationwide.  If I get a job at Garmisch and direct deposit those funds, I can get the GIRO card.  Went to Army Community Services (ACS) and talked to Meghan who is a very helpful person.  She called contacts for employment possibilities and will email me info even when I’m back in the U.S.  She is also the Non-appropriated Funds (NAF) rep and was able to clue me in on how that system works.  She also gave me the name of a civilian employee who has a similar background/skill set as me.  Walked 1.5 miles uphill/downhill to the Almhutte Restaurant to get my long awaited Windbeutel (giant cream puff) and found to my dismay that they are served only from 1400 to 1800.  I got there at 1830 so no Windbeutel for me.  Will try another time weather and opportunity permitting.  It is so hot that my wicking Ex-Officio underwear is completely soaked and chafing.  Reduced the effects by using Body Glide at mid-day.  Will use every morning henceforth.  My pedometer reads 7.19 miles but often reads low depending on placement.  Still at Rheinisher Hof Hotel and need to charge my Android and Kindle.  Fortunately I have the plug adapter.  Reading the voltage information on the device(s) plug in charger, they handle the 220 volt standard here in Germany and all I need is the adapter to plug into the socket (I have two of them).  Feeling indications of a UTI so will search for cranberry juice in a local store.  Because I am not assigned to the military or have the appropriate paperwork from the German government, I cannot use the military exchange or commissary due to Status of Forces Agreement.  I determined my cheapo transparent poncho will make a good luggage cover if it rains heavily when I check out tomorrow morning to check in to Edelweiss camping village.  I found that a face-down drinking glass with a lens down LED flashlight makes a dandy lamp.  I found that hemorrhoid cream sooths chafed skin.  Difficult to sleep as a German-American couple next door have been engaged in a drunken argument for the past couple hours.  They finally quieted down only to be replaced by rowdy Brit and German revelers until 0300.  Slept from 0300 to 0730.
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Magispook

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Re: Germany Trip 2011
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2011, 11:53:54 AM »

Day 3
Checked out of Rheinischer Hof at 0900.  Got to Edelweiss at 0915 but was told I cannot check in until 1500.  However, they did store my luggage for free until check-in.  Started heavy downpour until a half hour after I checked in.  Sat in the lobby from 0915 to 1500, read a little from my Kindle, surfed the internet on my teeny tiny Android, and watched the rain.  Checked in and the clerk took pity on me since I was going to have to walk back out in the rain for ten minutes or so to get to the campground and gave me a trash bag to cover my luggage thus saving the disposable poncho for another time.  Ten minutes or so after I got to my cabin, the rain stopped and the air was mercifully cooler.  My cabin has satellite or cable TV and I got caught up on the news through CNN and BBC.  The hurricane is the big news at present.  Nice to be settled in.  Treated blister on left foot.

Day 4
Went to chapel service.  I don’t go to church unless it is some special event here in the US.  I am repelled by clergy telling me how to vote, etc.  But, I make an exception when it involves military chapel as they are not allowed to promote politics and tell you how they think you should live your life.  I wanted to see if a Korean woman we met the previous year was there also as I believe she could give my wife a Korean perspective on living in Garmisch.  Turns out she was still there and her husband is the contact Meghan told me about.  After chapel, I got her email address and gave my wife’s to her.  I talked to her husband, RICHIE, who told me jobs are scarce in my area of expertise and scarce period.  Met the Stuttgart military retiree rep who has lived in Germany (German wife) for over forty years.  He told me to consider hiring on as a local national (under the German employment system) like he did all those years ago.  He receives the German equivalent of  Social Security payments and Medicare in addition to his military retirement and American Social Security and Medicare.  He recently had two knees replaced which involved weeks in hospital and a month or so of physical therapy after release from the hospital.  Total cost:  $165.  Great medical care.  The problem for me with that system is that you have to be in the German system at least ten years before you can be eligible for those benefits.  At my age, I don’t think I will live long enough to collect.  Walked up to Riesersee (lake) which is a place I will take friends to next time I’m in Garmisch.  Went to the post library and was given a card which allows me one hour internet on their computers which sure beats working on that teeny tiny Android.  Also the library’s wifi is on 24 hours a day and I can pick up the signal outside their building which is three minutes away from my cabin.  If I absolutely need to, I can get online rather quickly instead of going over to the lodge’s free wifi area.  The lodge’s free wifi is greatly appreciated—last year we had to pay $8/hour to use the internet.  Re-treated the blister on my left toe—second draining.  My sterile blood sugar testing lancets are good for more than just glucose testing.  Pedometer reads 3.85 but I know I walked more miles than that.

Day 5
Jumped off a perfectly good mountain on my tandem paragliding adventure.  The morning was very cold and I put on my silk long-johns in anticipation of a cold jump.  Also wore my rain jacket but didn’t put on my silk gloves as I wanted as much grip as possible to hold on to the harness.  My German pilot is a naturally good-natured guy and we got along well.  He asked me if I wanted to go off the high point or lower.  I figured I just paid $137 including cable car fee so I wanted to get my money’s worth.  I told him I believe we would get more air time by jumping from the higher point so we went there.  Just so happens, a fellow gondola rider and recent grad of the para-gliding school was the music leader at chapel yesterday.  She is a retired fighter pilot who works at the Marshall Center as a professor.  She knew of a retired Army woman who is now an ex-pat living in Garmisch and arranged email contact with her.  The gondola ride up was scarier than the parachute ride down.  With excess adrenalin coursing through my veins, I decided to tackle a hike to St. Martin Hut which local Americans call “the halfway house” as it is halfway up the Zugspitz, Germany’s tallest mountain.  Austria is on the other side of the Zugspitz.  I had wanted to do this hike last time at Garmisch but family would not and there was not much of an opportunity.  The hike took about one and a half hours and the last hour was straight up with some switchbacks along the way.  Went to the hut and ordered a meal which was four hot dog weenies, two scoops of potato salad, and a bottle of mineral water costing 10 Euros (about $15).  The food was not very tasty but the view was good.  Interestingly, I noticed elderly Germans walking to the terrace.  They did not even seem winded although I would describe the ascent as the equivalent of being on a steeply inclined stair-master for about an hour.  There were a few Germans who we Americans would conclude were obese who also showed no sign at all of being fatigued or winded.  Of course, the lifestyle in Garmisch is that of an evening walk and bicycle riding.  About two-thirds of the way down, I accidentally found an alternate less steep way back into town at a little church on Kramerplateauweg.  Nice looking little church although I didn’t go inside.  I’m not Catholic but I believe there were Stations of the Cross at measured intervals on my way down.  Got down to the valley and consulted my map to try to figure out where I was.  Fortunately I didn’t have to work much at it as there were three American girls up by the church area who were gabbing away.  I noticed them pass me as I was consulting my map and concluded they were going back to the military area.  They were and I found a shortcut by following them.  I stopped at ACS and there was a job posted on the bulletin board at the commissary at the rate of $10/hour.  Meghan gave me name of the commissary manager and hours of operation.  She is also contacting the Marshall Center (where the good paying jobs are) to obtain a point of contact.  There is a job for a Supervisory Program Analyst posted for there but I do not even come close to the required qualifications.  Went to Tengelmann’s for rest of week food.  Pedometer did not work at all today but estimate at least eight miles.
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jollyquilter

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Re: Germany Trip 2011
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2011, 06:13:46 PM »

Just wanted to let you know have been enjoying your trip and I know the remainder will be just as good.  :gsmilie3:
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Magispook

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Re: Germany Trip 2011
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2011, 08:15:53 PM »

Day 6
Munich tour today.  Saw the Crown Jewels and some local places of interest.  Tour guide was Jim who lived in Munich twenty years and now owns a home in Grainau a few kilometers from Garmisch.  He has a strong Boston accent.  Ate at the Hofbrauhaus which he pronounces Hof.broi.haus—he pronounces a lot of words with au (normally pronounced “ow” as in ouch) “oi” as in oy veh depending on syllable.  His supervisor Kyle was there on the tour to evaluate him for a full time position.  Talked with Kyle who said the thirteen month Edelweiss positions at the lodge targeted at folks right out of or in the middle of college are not the only ones that come available.  We exchanged email addresses and he promised to email me notices of jobs that come available.  Had the signature snack/meal at Hofbrauhaus which was a salad (so-so), some bread, and a plate of different kinds of lunch meat.  Some were like sandwich lunch meat here in the US that I ate when I was young and two were some kind of head cheese and liverwurst which I tried to eat but the taste just put me off.  I had a bottle of mineral water as they don’t sell non-alcohol beer.  Total waste of funds in my opinion.  Found my way back to the meeting point and waited/listened to a Viet Nam vet’s war stories until the bus thankfully showed up.  Had supper at zum Wildschutz in downtown Garmisch, a restaurant we went to last year that has probably the best Apfelstrudel in Germany.  The waitress seated me at a six-person table inside (Bavarian style dining means you are often put at a table with strangers) and I had the entire table to myself.  An American family came in and told the waitress they had a reservation.  Turned out to be my/our table.  They were seated at the table and were obviously a bit uncomfortable with the local custom as I was dressed like a local.  How does one interact with a stranger at your table?  Not wanting to extend their period of uneasiness, I used my best West Virginia twang and remarked “I’m American too and this is just the Bavarian way.”  An obvious flood of relief shown across their faces and we had a good ol’ time and meal topped off, at my suggestion, with Apfelstrudel.  The father was on R&R from Iraq and his wife, two sons, and daughter had come to Edelweiss to join him.  The boys were approximately 19 and 20 years old and the daughter was about eleven.  The boys noted this was their first time drinking beer legally and both had the dark beer.  The eldest remarked the Apfelstrudel was the best he had ever had in his life.  They talked about the tours and activities they were enjoying at Edelweiss and it was evident their budget was very liberal as they were doing just about everything offered at the resort.  The dad said he saved about $10,000 by flying Space A so he could rationalize the expenditures. They were to travel to Ramstein the day after I was to travel there in order to fly Space A out to the US (except dad who was to go back to the war zone).  It’s possible I would see them at the Ramstein passenger terminal as SPATs usually take a few days to get out of Ramstein.  It was a great finish to a mediocre but productive day.  Also picked up from Kyle (and previously from Meghan) that employees connected with the garrison can stay at Beebrum’s which is subsidized housing for $50/month.  You have a roommate and the bath-house/toilets are in an annex building so it’s a cold walk in the winter.  Nevertheless, there is a long waiting list to get digs there.  Kyle said he tried that route and it was just too onerous, especially if you get a roommate with whom you do not get along.  Still have UTI symptoms.  Still miss family.  Pedometer reads 2.65

Day 7
Stopped at Post Office and met with the postmaster and his assistant.  Postmaster reviewed my resume and advised a temporary job opens up from November to January for the Christmas mail season.  He gave me some tips on how to word my resume to get it to the point it is referred to him for review and since he has already interviewed me I most likely have the job provided I get transportation to and from Germany as well as live off the economy with no governmental support.  However, I will get commissary, exchange, and postal privileges which is the goal of Americans living in the area.  Stopped at the commissary and talked to the manager who said one must have a local address in order to be hired for even the most menial job.  She also said that active duty military spouses have first chance at the jobs.  Went downtown and bought a purse for my daughter.  The clerk and I managed to communicate with her limited English and my limited German.  The purse I sought was to be similar to the one my daughter bought at the same shop last summer.  That line was out of production so I got something similar.  The clerk’s sister lives in the Hampton, VA, area and she has not been able to contact her due to the storms and power outages there.  I suggested she try to send a text message which she thought might work.  I had to buy a replacement backpack (totally unexpected expense) as the one I brought over started falling apart.  Checked the backpacks downtown and they were all way to expensive so ended up buying one at the Edelweiss gift shop which was of good enough quality and cheaper than downtown.  Had a great conversation with fellow camper Claude who has lived in Germany over 30 years and also gets all the privileges of a German retiree, US retiree, and military retiree.  He and his wife were divorced and he travels around Europe doing whatever strikes his fancy.  He grew up in southern Maryland.  He gave me some lines of inquiry for job hunting.  Before I bought the backpack, I checked the post thrift shop to see if there were any there and what kind of appliances/household stuff they had in case I get back to Garmisch and live on the local economy.  No backpack and very limited on household stuff although lots of clothing.  It was too late in the day to go to Partnach Gorge which is on my list of hikes to take.  Got a call from the military retiree (Suzann) with whom the A-10 pilot (Martha) had made an email introduction.  Before traveling to Germany this time, I had purchased the German equivalent of a Trac phone so I could keep in touch with family—all incoming calls (even from the US) are free.  She said to check with the post office to see if the job fell under SOFA agreements.  Otherwise, the way the German system is set up, I can only be in Germany three months cumulatively during a six month period which means my present research/vacation time counts as part of that three month period.    Pedometer 5.5 miles.

Day 8
Birthday.  56 years old and trees don’t live that long.  Received birthday call from wife and daughter before my daughter drove to school.  Checked at the post exchange who advised all jobs for there are posted at the military exchange website.  I re-started a job search agent there (had one a year ago but let it expire).  Got a bakery tart at the Nuss Konditerei which is a highly recommended bakery in the area.  Most of the time there is a line out the door but I hit it at just the right moment.  They do not speak English there and I didn’t know the name of the tart I wanted but managed to get by with the generic version of “I want this” pointing at the item I wanted.  It was great and not too sweet—no wonder there is such a line most of the time.  Talked with Eric at the campground office and convinced him to show me the deluxe cabin I had booked for my friend and me for summer 2012.  Took photos and wondered why this was called a cabin—more like a cottage and I would consider myself very lucky indeed if I had that place to reside in while living in Germany.  Eric also had gone the Beebrum’s route and advised it’s better to get a rental in Grainau where the rents are about half of those in Garmisch.  Like Kyle had previously noted, living in Garmisch is the equivalent of actually living in Vale, CO, so being able to commute into the resort town is cheaper than living there.  Checked with post office, no German visa required so good news there.  Walked to the train station to see about traveling to Ramstein as I have to check out on the morning of 3 Sep.  It will be a seven hour trip with three changeovers and cost 97 Euros ($155 at the exchange rate I got at Pittsburgh).  Late afternoon I went to Zuggy’s Base Camp at the lodge for my birthday pizza.  Turns out Thursday is their Wings and Fries night and that is the only thing they sell.  I had been checking out an Italian pizza place in Garmisch each day I walked downtown (almost daily) so it was my backup.  Got there and saw that they are closed on Thursday (this happens a lot in Germany).  I have had pizza on my birthday for at least forty years and was not going to dump the tradition so I went to the Garmisch Pizza Hut as my third choice where I got the buffet and a non-alcohol beer.  Went to the post library for free one hour computer time and also tried to download e-books to my Kindle but it simply didn’t work.  I suspect it does work with a Nook.  I ordered a couple free e-books from Amazon Kindle but they won’t download until I get back to the U.S.  Pedometer 5.91.
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Magispook

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Re: Germany Trip 2011
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2011, 07:45:37 PM »

Day 9
Laundry.  Used the camping sheets of soap I bought specifically for travel and they worked fine.  Lots of fabric softener sheets near the dryers so I got a bunch of them and used them since I had forgotten to pack one.  Finally managed to reserve a room at Ramstein Billeting—SPATs can only reserve twenty-four hours in advance and one day at a time.  Went to Mukkefuck (pronounced just like you’d think) and was seated at the main dining area.  All conversations there were in English.  I had stumbled into an ex-pats favorite dining area.  I ordered a pfankuchen (pancake) with champions (mushrooms) and got exactly that.  Wasn’t the tastiest in the world but taught me a lesson to look at the menu description more closely in the future.  Did not go to Almhutte due to impending rainstorm so will have to get that Windbeutel next time I’m in Garmisch.  Talked with Claude this afternoon and gave him a package of rice cakes since my packs were full.  He said he would most likely return to the campground during the period I will be back with my friend and his wife so I’ll look for him next summer.  Pedometer 5 miles.

Day 10
Checked out of Edelweiss at the campground office.  Eric did the honors and agreed with me the best route to the train station was via St. Martin Strasse.  I walked to the station with backpack and roller bag (w/another smaller backpack containing gifts on top of the roller bag) in tow.  It was a mile in forty minutes and I broke a sweat despite cooler temps than when I arrived in Garmisch.  My route took me to just prior to Munich (Pasing), to Mannheim, to Landstuhl, and final destination Ramstein.  I was worried about the transfer at Pasing to Mannheim because I only had five minutes to get from track 3 to track 10 but track 10 was easy to find.  Getting to track 10 was a challenge though as an entire class of teenagers boarded the train about five stops prior to Pasing and clogged up the aisles.  Turns out they got off at Pasing as well and onto the Mannheim train but went to the first class section while I got on at the peon level second class section.  Between Mannheim and Landstuhl, the train stops and a portion is disconnected to stay in Kaiserslautern while the other portion goes on to Landstuhl.  My German was not good enough to give me enough information to determine which portion of the train I needed to be in so I asked a nearby college student (most if not all of them speak English).  He didn’t know either until we pulled into the Kaiserslautern station when the announcement was made.  Turns out I had to hoof it quickly up to the front portion of the train.  The wait for a change at the Mannheim station was frustrating as there were absolutely no public toilets in the station.  Had to hold it until I got to Ramstein billeting.  There are clean toilets on the train but I did not want to leave my bags unattended.  The trip from Garmisch to Ramstein was on different kinds of trains.  Two legs were on regional trains which were adequate but without air conditioning.  The other two legs were on ICE trains which were very comfortable, had air conditioning, and had free wifi.  Two tweens tried to panhandle me at the Mannheim station asking for two Euros (about $3.50) but I told them in German that I spoke only Korean.  I asked them if they spoke Korean and they left disappointed.  Coincidentally, I used the same ploy twenty years ago at another train station in Germany.  Checked in to Ramstein Billeting after paying 8 Euros for a taxi then walked over to the passenger terminal to get the latest info on hops back to the US.  The evening clerk told me there were at least two flights leaving in the morning and it would be best to show up at 0430 to be declared present and hopefully get a hop on one of them. Was told it is very challenging to get out on the first day or even the first week.  Went back to my room and repacked bags to conform with travel regs.  Lodging is in a base mall (an honest to goodness real mall with a food court and everything else associated with a mall to include teens hanging out).  The place was pure pandemonium compared to the quiet of Garmisch in the Alps.  It is a sad thing but lots of folks assigned to Ramstein have very little interface with the local culture and live in little America right there on base.  Ramstein has the highest concentration of Americans in Europe.  Forgot to take a pedometer reading.  The pedometer was in my pack anyway.

Day 11
Got up at 0410 to be at the passenger terminal at 0430.  I was told at the terminal by security that they don’t open until 0600 so went back to the room.  Went back to the terminal at 0600 after checking out of Billeting.  Met Earl and Betty, seasoned SPATs, who are also trying to get back to the US.  They had also shown up around 0430 after being told the same thing.  There was a flight to Dover AFB with two tentative seats and so we waited until some info would become available on that flight.  Could not check in to Billeting until after 1400 anyhow.  No flight out and checked back into Billeting after sitting at the terminal for nine hours straight where I was fortunate to get a room since this is Labor Day weekend.  Heard there is a better chance tomorrow as there is a Patriot Express flight with 37 seats scheduled to BWI tomorrow morning.  Supper again at the mall food court—pure junk food and I have become used to real food.  Tattoos are everywhere.  The military guys I can understand although their tattoos are big and garish rather than making a discreet statement (like mine).  Women all the way up into their fifties have them as well.  They are prominently displayed (clothing selected to show off the tattoo) and, unfortunately, the tattoos are not well done.  In fact, they look homemade or are made to look amateurish.  I mean the tats are really crappy looking and they will someday regret having them done instead of getting a temporary one or more which they can change whenever they like.  I notice that German women continue to sport hairstyles and clothing of the very young adults. It’s quite a shock when the woman turns around and wrinkles and sagging contrast with hairstyle and clothing.  This is nothing new as I noticed the same thing twenty years ago.  Body image is a different concept in Europe.  Walking through the mall frequented by Americans one is immediately struck by the increase in percentage of folks who are obese in all ages other than service members (even some of them).  A former reserve member at the VA hospital where my dad was told me that troops in the sandbox or the “stan” are extremely well fed while in country and that her unit had lots of problems meeting weight and fitness standards once they returned to the U.S.  Saw a neat sign at one of the wine kiosks:  “Wine improves with age.  The older I get the more I like it.”  One piece of advice given to me by the SPATs was to print out the acknowledgement of my reservation to return to the US and it paid off since I was put at the lowest of the list of returnees until I showed the copy of the letter.

Day 12
Showed up for the  BWI call but must have been 50 folks of higher priority show up for roll call.  None of the retirees got on the flight.  There was a flight scheduled for Dover with roll call at 1405 so we all left the building after 1000.  I went to Billeting and paid for an additional night (was lucky to get a room) and putzed around there until completely bored so I went back to the terminal at noon thinking someone else got bored as well.  The German clerk who initially checked me in as “present” hurried up to me and told me to get over to the counter as a flight to Dover had just been announced.  I went over there and was accepted for flight.  I was concerned my fellow retiree travelers would miss out on this unscheduled roll call but later learned all but two had shown up early as well.  We managed to call Billeting and cancel our room and the charge for the room as well.  Another SPAT advice I had been told was to stay at the terminal as long as you can ‘cause you don’t know when an unscheduled flight will occur.  Flew to Dover on a C-17 with two Army helicopters in the back.  The chopper flight crews were there as well.  Deplaned at Dover but we all had to pay for a shuttle to BWI since there was some kind of NASCAR event going on in the area—no hotel rooms or rental cars available.  Shuttle to BWI cost each passenger $50.  Got to BWI and went half-sies on a car rental with Joe and Wendy who had left their car at Pittsburgh for the flight to Munich.  Took us about 5.5 hours to get there.  I dropped them off and went to drop off the car at the civilian airport rental drop-off location.  It was about 0300 and no one was there so I filled out the paperwork and dropped it and the keys in the drop box.  My wife had driven to Pittsburgh from our home in WV by the time I finished.  Got home at about 0430.

Some observations about travel in Europe:  The key to travel in Europe is travel light and compact.  You don’t want to be tied down with luggage—my train toilet situation is a good example.  Three sets of clothing and underwear along with raingear/jacket is sufficient.  Who are you trying to impress?  Take some food and water for times when food services are closed along with any meds.  Take funds and a credit card or two and secure them well on your person.  A phone is nice but not absolutely necessary.  An inflatable pillow/neck rest makes life more comfortable.  A blister kit and first aid kit containing common OTC stuff like aspirin, diarrhea meds, and heartburn meds is a good idea.  Take a watch—schedule compliance is very important especially in Germany.  A power plug adapter is good.  Reading material/puzzles help while away the time.  Travel toiletries are helpful as well—I mistook some things in my toiletries kit as something else when I packed and ended up having to buy deodorant and toothpaste at local prices.  Make a packing list and try to pare it down.  Put an itinerary and emergency points of contact in you pack and on your person.  Be bold and experience new things
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jollyquilter

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Re: Germany Trip 2011
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2011, 09:34:31 PM »

Dan......I enjoyed this all very much. But one thing you did not share was, would you do it again. I mean traveling the way you did? And what about your wife would she consider traveling with you?
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Magispook

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Re: Germany Trip 2011
« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2011, 10:23:07 PM »

When the girls are off to college and if we have the finances, we will do the SPAT thing.  It is definitely cheaper, there is the very strong lure of adventure and new friendships, possibly renewing old friendships during travels, and the appreciation of returning home as advantages.  My wife is a steadiness person (as am I to a degree) so she may find adapting to new situations and changing comfort levels more trying than I do but she is looking forward to finding out.  Only time will tell.  You learn as you go.  My preparedness attitude and tendency to research as much possible in advance for potentials will make things easier.  I've already been periodically checking pepperd.com for flight schedules and trip stories.  I doubt my wanderlust will ever go away.  As a matter of fact, got contacted by an old friend this weekend about some potential paid travel.........I'll let ya'll know more when and if there is any substance.  And, forgot to add on my last post, the UTI symptoms turned out to be symptoms of dehydration.
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chloe

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Re: Germany Trip 2011
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2011, 10:26:37 PM »

With the picture and the what I've been reading. It is almost like being there.
Thank you for letting us share your trip with you.
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Magispook

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Re: Germany Trip 2011
« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2011, 08:48:31 PM »

Just got an email from Claude in Germany asking how my trip back to the US went and generally keeping in touch.  He's going to Edelweiss for three weeks of skiing and he's in his 60's without a care in the world.  That's what I think retirement should be but I don't think I'll ever achieve that. Different generation and different circumstances.  It was nice of him to keep in contact.  Just submitted an application for a full-time job there but the application period doesn't even close until the end of the year.  Meanwhile, I'm haunting the jobs board for a job with benefits.  I'll be truly lucky if it ever happens but sometimes you have to give luck a nudge.
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Magispook

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Re: Germany Trip 2011
« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2011, 07:24:23 PM »

Just bought the entire Pimsleur German course for MP3 download and it's now loaded on my Ipod.  I've done the first 16 lessons through a CD set I got last year and it's a good course to the degree that I would sometimes think in German.  With discount, the entire course was $350 so it's obvious this is an investment.  Now I can sell the CD set of 16 lessons and get a wee bit of my investment back.  Just did lesson 17 and went right back into the groove learning-wise.
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