Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Trip Home, Part Eins

(This post became so long, I decided to break it down into three parts to make it easier to read)

I got an amazing opportunity this week. I got to go back to Germany – the land of my ancestors and place of my first (real) assignment. Because of the flight schedules and jetlag, it’s almost impossible to make the trip without scheduling in a little extra time – a time I intended to take full advantage of!

I traveled with a guy I work with, Don Cournoyer, who had incidentally been assigned to the same unit I was in Germany, the 1st Combat Communications Squadron, just at a different time. For those of you unfamiliar with a combat comm unit, their mission is to deploy to a bare base that has no infrastructure whatsoever, and set up an entire base communications network, starting with a satellite communications link to connect back into the military network, and extending phone, classified and unclassified networks, video teleconferencing, and radio connectivity, among other things. We can also set up air traffic control services. Needless to say, this is about the coolest job in the whole Air Force!

We arrived Tuesday morning at 0700 with nothing to do except stay awake, because the quickest way (albeit grueling) to get over jetlag is to stay up all day, then crash early that night. So, we went shopping…and eating! We headed off to the BX to pick up some sweets to take back home for the family (Gummi Bears and German chocolate), then to Kaethe Wohlfahrt. This store stays open year-round, and sells nutcrackers, smokers, and Christmas ornaments. When we left Germany 8.5 years ago, we were pregnant with Brennan. To announce the news to the family, we bought these cute little wooden Christmas ornaments of a baby buggy under a Christmas tree. Unfortunately, we forgot to get one for ourselves to commemorate the occasion. So, I was under strict orders to go look for one over there. I didn’t hold out much hope that they’d still have that exact ornament, but Cristi asked me to look. Would you believe I got the last one they had?? I picked up four other ornaments (total of five – one for each member of the family).

By then, it was lunchtime, so we agreed on Fish ‘n Chips (authentic British-style) from this nice takeaway place in Ramstein Village. Unfortunately, it had closed. We had already discussed going to the Alte Feuerwache (Old Firehouse) at some point, so we took off over there to see if they were open for lunch. As you can see below, it really does look like an old firehouse, German-style (which indeed it was before becoming a restaurant).

This was Cristi’s and my absolute favorite restaurant in all of Europe. We had planned our last meal in Germany there, and we hadn’t had it in a while. Unfortunately, when we arrived, they were on holiday and weren’t open. We were crushed. I had wondered if it would still be open, because it was run by an older German couple. In fact, with the exception of a few grocery stores (like Aldi) and department stores (like Real, H&M, and Ikea), most businesses, hotels, and restaurants are all mom-and-pop operations. It turns out it was open, but under different owners. They had changed their menu to include Italian and some other things, as well as German. Fortunately, they still had a healthy selection of schnitzel. I ordered the Zwiebelschnitzel with bratkartoefln (onion schnitzel with fried potatoes). The portions were about as big as I remember, and the food was great, too. Here’s a picture (before I ate it!).

To be continued…


  1. I'm not quite so jealous anymore. The firehouse looks exactly the same from the outside and the bar looks familiar, but the rest has definitely changed. What's with the fancy tablecloths? The bratkartofflen looked different than what I remember. I'm sure it was good -- it just proves that you can't go home again.

  2. The bratkartoefln was every bit as good as I remember. The schnitzel was very good, too, but not quite the same. Still, I'll take it!

  3. oh, that looks so yummy!
    Looking forward to the rest of the trip! :)