…or “Hello from Germany” for those unfamiliar with the language! Well, it’s been almost a week since we arrived in the land of beer and schnitzel and I finally feel like I’m starting to adjust! From the second we landed in Frankfurt, it’s been a real trip. We were literally let our of our plane on the tarmac, herded like cattle onto a bus, and shuttled to the actual airport where we somehow managed to find our luggage carousel and our ride. Don’t ask me how the hand towel/drying thingy works in the Frankfurt International Airport bathrooms though…still haven’t figured out that one yet lol. The airport here is super nice though, it was pretty fancy and all decked out for Christmas… a nice welcome!
Like an angel emerging out of nowhere, Jeff’s new boss found us at the airport. We were pretty lost, confused, and tired at that point and with no cell service or wifi we were pretty sure we were screwed. But alas, she found us! How people found each other back in the day before cell phones I have no idea. She whisked us off to our hotel which is on one of the Army bases here in Wiesbaden (instead of one large Army base, there are a few small ones located pretty close to each other). At first when Jeff mentioned possibly staying at a hotel on base I was like “Uh, no.” Military lodgings not exactly known to be clean, comfortable, and classy. But much to my surprise, this hotel was redone in 2011 and is quite nice.
So nice in fact, that instead of switching to the Courtyard Marriott to rake in our Marriott points when we come back to Germany after Christmas, we’re going to stay here again. A few reasons for that are: 1) Free WiFi, 2) Free continental breakfast, 3) Free laundry facility on every floor, 4) On site Gym and access to free fitness classes at the community center, 5) Free transportation to the other bases, 6) We have a suite which is great for extended stays (equipped with separate bedroom and mini kitchenette). So all in all, this place is totally do-able as our faux home until we find a place to rent. Thankfully we have 90 days to find a place, and I’ve already started looking online, but I’ll get more serious about it once we get back after the holidays.
So anyhow, after we arrived on our first day to the hotel we immediately crashed and got a solid nap in. Then we cleaned up a bit and Jeff’s boss took us to downtown Wiesbaden for a tour. It is really adorable! We got to walk through their Christmas Market and the pedestrian shopping area which is neat because it’s all cobblestone streets and no cars are allowed so you can walk up and down the streets freely checking everything out.
Having never been to Germany before, or Europe for that matter, it was really cool to see the different architecture downtown. We had dinner there and did a little shopping. We got converters for our Apple Products (iPhones, iPad, MacBook) so we could keep in touch with people. Our cell phones don’t have service out here so we can’t make calls unless we use Skype or FaceTime, and we can’t text unless it’s through iMessage. Basically we can keep in touch best with other people with iPhones until we get hooked up on a German phone network out here. Anyhow, while shopping I got a new hair straightener that has the correct plug for over here. I was bummed about having to get a new one because I love the one I currently have, and much to my dismay, the new unfamiliar straightener burned the ends of my hair. I know, I know, #FirstWorldProblems #GirlProblems. Thankfully I get to see my hairdresser back home next week who will hopefully fix it lol. But there’s a lot of little things that we take for granted to having or doing on auto-pilot back home that are different here and take some time to adjust to. Some other examples outside of my super tragic hair-straightener debacle (I kid) are that the toilets flush differently, and there are no screens in the window so we need a special key thing to open our hotel window. There’s a lot more little stuff like that that I’m sure I will think of later to share with you.
The next day we decided to walk downtown on our own and explore some more on our own. The downtown area is about a 30 minute walk from our hotel. There’s a cute little footbridge from the base to get over the highway and onto the sidewalk to walk downtown. And of course we got to see more of the Christmas Market and architecture down there again.
After that we found a quaint little place to eat – having brushed up a tiny bit on the language, I was able to request a table and order in German. Jeff was really proud of me, which was super sweet, however the table of older people next to us apparently found it humorous and laughed at us, and the fact that Jeff is a vegetarian. Super rude, and not to mention hurtful. Not cool. Anyhow, the food was good, as is most of the food out here that we tried so far. Mostly I have been ordering soups and salads, which are really good here. The restaurants here make their own yogurt based salad dressings which are super tasty. And in general the restaurants here are really cute, cozy and with great atmosphere. Also, unsurprisingly, Jeff says the beers are amazing
The next night we went out to eat with Jeff’s boss and her family and a bunch of other Americans that are stationed out here. It was super fun, met some great people, and I even got to try schnitzel- it’s basically pork flattened out, breaded and fried and you can choose what kind of gravy or sauces you want on it. I had the Jäegerschnitzel which is schnitzel covered in a mushroom gravy. It was really good but I could only eat half. The portions there were HUGE!! I ordered the quarter size portion, but they also offered a half and a full portion…yikes! They also had a ridiculously ginormous cheeseburger on the menu that we saw go by our table a few times, that thing was a beast and seriously took up the entire dinner plate it was served on! The food here in general is good, but not exactly healthy for me haha. I’ve tried a few non-gluten-free foods just for the sake of trying them, and they were good but they obviously don’t agree with me so it’s back to the gluten free foods lol. One other thing I tried was their fresh hot pretzels- we grabbed one the other day when we were walking around downtown. It tastes really different than the soft hot pretzels back home. I probably can’t explain it right, but the soft hot pretzels here taste more like the combo of the ones back home AND the regular hard pretzels you would buy in the grocery store.
Eating out here is so different too- besides trying to order in German (although most people will switch to English if you ask), the service is a lot slower, and you have to ask for your check otherwise they will let you sit there all night. Once you ask, they come around at the end and gather everyone’s order- not sure why they do this, as they already took our orders at that beginning obviously (like in America), but it is handy in that you never have to request a separate check (or checks) at the beginning of the meal, because they divvy it up by person or couple at the end for you. Know what else is different? You may have heard that they don’t use ice over here which is true. So if I order a coke it’s cold, but there is no ice at all in the glass. But even weirder than that is that they don’t serve free glasses of tap water. So when you order water at dinner, not only do you have to pay for it because it’s bottled, but it’s a whole process of ordering plain water or carbonated water, and choosing the size of your bottle. Last but not least, tipping is different. You tip less because the servers are paid more. Interesting. And of course we’ve had to adjust to euros because no one takes American dollars, and most places only accept cash vs. credit card.
It’s a little bit of a relief to live on base because everyone here speaks English and you don’t realize how much you take that for granted until you’re immersed in another unfamiliar culture. Even walking around downtown I could only read the signs a little bit here and there which is weird. It’s so automatic back home. The base here has a lot of things here that help you get acclimated and set up. For example, once I got my ID I was able to go to the PX and the Commissary, which is basically like a mini Walmart and a grocery store. Being able to buy some food and bottled water to keep in the hotel room was pretty clutch. Not really realistic to eat out for every meal lol. There is an entertainment center here with a bowling alley and a bar and lounge that is cool, and the community center offers awesome fitness classes for free. So far I’ve taken yoga, zumba, and circuit training this week. Great instructors and small class sizes which are only women- men are allowed, but it’s primarily the military and DoD spouses like me that aren’t working that go to the classes. I’ve already met a few people that way which is great too. I also did a little volunteering this week at the community center by helping decorate for Christmas. Despite not having a job, I keep pretty busy during the day which is good. The workout classes are kicking my butt too, but I need it, as I’m pretty sure I gained 10 lbs the last few weeks with goodbye parties at work, Thanksgiving, and trying new foods here lol. Other things keeping me busy will be a shopping trip tomorrow with Jeff’s boss, going to Christmas Markets over the weekend, and studying for our German Driver’s License exam first thing Monday morning…wish us luck! After that, it’s back home to NJ for the Holidays, yay! Hope everyone is having a great holiday season so far. Thanks for checking in with the many happenings with us over here in Germany. More updates soon, til then, bis später! (See you later!)