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Jun 28, 2011

To the Autobahn and Beyond!

I was positive the culture shock would set in immediately as we hopped off the plane in Ramstein. It's typical, and rightly so, to feel completely overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of entering a foreign country you've never visited. I didn't get any of that right off the bat. I'm half sure it's because we flew into a military installation instead of a commercial airport. Still, I didn't feel the nervous pit in my stomach that I had been so used to when entering uncharted territory. When D and I made our first mini-trip to Virginia during our Senior spring break to scope out our future home, I was flooded with feeling of insecurity and doubt about my soon-to-be surroundings. All I wanted to do was curl up under the covers in the hotel room and never come out. The city wasn't at all what I had expected or hoped for and stepping foot (for the first time) on an Air Force base was almost too much for me. I felt as if everyone was staring at us, as if they knew we were new to the whole military lifestyle. All the nameless buildings overwhelmed me and the sight of men in uniform was unsettling. In hindsight, it's stupid, really, but at the time it all seemed so...foreign.

That is far from the feeling I got here. The whole military part of it didn't phase me. I've already lived 3 years as a MilSpouse and now military things are second nature to me, so that didn't factor into my expectations. Like a crazy person, the instant that I didn't feel the impending culture shock I'd been expecting, I immediately tried to fabricate an uncomfortable feeling in my mind, as if to compensate for my lack of shock. It seemed absolutely unusual for me not to feel even a twinge of discomfort. I searched the caverns of my brain to try and remember what I previously had been so cynical about regarding our stay in a new country. I drew a blank. I still felt...normal. Comfortable. Peaceful. All of those irrational thoughts and preconceived notions of what I would feel as we left the airport terminal had dismissed themselves. 

How about that. I had somehow managed to worry myself normal, if that concept is even possible. I remember briefly thinking that as soon as we left confines of base, the culture shock would then decide to slap me across the face. So, I held my breath. 

D and I made our way, with our combined 300 lbs of luggage and carry-on's, to our lovely sponsors car. We all exchanged pleasantries and expressed our excitement for the new adventure ahead. D's sponsor is really great. Well, both of his sponsors are. He's been lucky enough to have two men from his gaining squadron team up to help get us around town and acclimated to our new life here in Germany. Lord knows we need all the help we can get! For the sake of anonymity, I will refer to these PCS saviors as Sponsor 1 and Sponsor 2, and to lessen the confusion in my stories.

After we were all loaded up in the car, Sponsor 1 drove us around a very small part of the base to find a Shoppette so D and I could get drinks and a snack to enjoy on the hour long ride to our base and new city of residence. Ramstein seems nice, from what little we saw. I definitely want to make our way down there one day to check out their ginormous BX/KMCC mall. I have a feeling it will be my "go-to" place whenever I miss America too much. Really, anything on base will. As we made our way off base, I instantly noticed how green Germany is. Lots of trees creating dense canopy's overhead. It wasn't eerie, but it was as if we'd entered straight into a forest in the foothills of some mountain. Coming from an area plagued with beige and tan buildings around every turn to a complete natural landscape was refreshing. As we made our way down the road, the scenery only flourished. There were miles and miles of grassy hills with tiny structures that resembled castle towers plucked into the sides of them. It was almost ethereal, the rows upon rows of lush, green vineyards blanketing the countryside. I was in the midst of daydreaming about all the fabulous wine tastings D and I were sure to enjoy here when suddenly, I heard a WHOOOOSH! and felt the car shift a bit. I quickly turned my head to the left and caught a glimpse of a red BMW as it zoomed down the road ahead. I thought to myself, "Holy crap, are we on the Autobahn?!" As if the first car wasn't evidence enough of my revelation, a white hatchback VW simultaneously careened by at lightening speed! Yep, we're on the Autobahn literally 15 minutes after we'd entered the country. As if he had read my mind (or maybe he had seen the dazed look on my face), Sponsor 1 chimed in, "So yeah, we're on the Autobahn now...hold on to your keesters!"

After the inital shock wore off, it was really, really cool being a passenger riding on the Autobahn. Although our driver was conservative with his speed and didn't go any faster than 150 km/h (about 93 mph), it was still faster than any car I had ever ridden in. I also never expected my first German experience to be the Autobahn! It was a pleasant surprise. D and I giggled every time a car flew by and marveled in the rear view at a fast approaching Mercedes. If you're not careful, cars can come up on you in the blink of an eye. That's why one of the first rules of Autobahn driving is that you coast in the right and only pass on the left. Plain and simple. I expect I shall be more of a coaster than a passer. But only time will tell. :)

This is a video of some guys going 178 km/h (110 mph) and getting passed by another car on the Autobahn. Check out how fast this car comes up on them...and then how fast he's gone! It's seriously like that. Bananas!

As exhilarating as our ride on the Autobahn was, D and I were both ready to have a hot meal, check in to our hotel and get some sleep. At this point, we were dragging and looking rough, for a lack of a better word. Sponsor 1 exited the Autobahn and we entered into Wiesbaden, our new city. From what we could see at the time, it looked quite like any other city. Building and businesses, traffic lights and pedestrians...not at all what I expected to see. I had painted a mental picture of a small town clad with cobblestone streets; lined with the kitschy brown, timber framed cottages with window boxes bursting with colorful flowers. Not so much, or at least not where we will be living. I know for a fact that these little picturesque towns exist because they were dotted along the path of the Autobahn. I can't wait to explore these little hamlets!

pic credit
Ok, so that was the last of the photos that aren't mine. Here starts my photos of Germany, firsthand.

{City of Wiesbaden...taken from the Commissary. This photo doesn't do the view justice.}

At about 9pm Germany time (total travel time to final destination approximately 32 hours), we finally arrived at our hotel or TLF for all you MilSpouses. We checked in and then dropped our bags off in our extended stay studio (a room with 1 queen bed, a 2 burner stove, mini-fridge, microwave convection oven thingy, TV, bathroom, and a desk. Not too shabby seeing as the construction of this new hotel was just completed back in March. After scoping out our temporary digs, we met Sponsor 1 at the bowling alley across the street for a cheeseburger dinner and a run down of the next days events. He might as well have been speaking German to us because I was so exhausted that I barely heard anything he said...I'm not even 100% sure how I ate my burger. We slugged back to our room, fumbled with how the heck to flush our toilet for what seemed like hours, and then passed out cold. We had to be up at 6am to be ready to be picked up at 7am to start part of D's in-processing. That was the worst wake up of our lives. It was like trying to wake the dead...who wanted to just keep dying again. We spent Friday in a fog. To be honest with you, I can't recall anything that we did last Friday except for driving to D's new squadron and eating at the chow hall (the only reason I remember that was because the salad I ate was scrumptious...my body was CRAVING veggies). The rest is a blur due to our semi-comatose state. Jet lag is ridiculous. Supposedly it can last for a week or more, depending on how well your body can adapt. We're still fighting it. Although it's getting easier, I'm not sure I like living in the future (compared to NC time...we're in the future, kind of). 

{Our very modern TLF! Looks alot like something IKEA would come up with, doesn't it?}

Saturday was the first day we really got to experience life in Germany. Has the culture shock finally burrowed its way into my mind?

Stay tuned...


  1. Soo glad you made it safely!!! I wouldn't have imagined Germany to look like your pictures either!! lol!

    I hope the jet lag setteles!!

  2. Cool! Not at all what I imagined it would look like either (although the pic you posted of the white and brown buildings fit the bill a bit better as far as my imagination goes)!

  3. I just left a comment on another page and then as I'm reading through your posts I find this one. We lived in Wiesbaden for 4 years! We lived in Hainerberg Housing near the high school. Reading all of this makes me miss it all so much =( I met some of my best friends there and I'd LOVE to go back. It's such a great place!


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