36 Hours in Kaiserslautern
Sitting in a biergarten, sipping on cold lagers and watching the kids play on German soil, Dennis remarked how wild it was that we were there – in Germany. And just the next morning, we would wake up and fly home in under three hours. What an adventure we really are on, living here in Europe!
The fact that we were in Germany was remarkable, but it was nothing more than an extended layover with the complication of getting from the military airport to Frankfurt International Airport, about an hour away. We had one full day in between the late arrival and early departure and hoped to make the most of it. But, alas, there were no rental cars, ruining our plans to explore a charming Rhine village or hop on a quick ferry ride down the river taking in the castles. Doesn’t that just sound amazing?
Instead, we opted to take a room at one of the Air Force lodges and explore the town of Kaiserslautern on Friday. We quickly read up on “K-Town” and learned it is home to the highest concentration of Americans living in Europe, as well as a park with the largest collection of life-size dinosaurs in all of the continent. We’re maturing enough to know that sometimes, planning a day for the kids makes it easier for everyone. So, dinosaurs it was.
Gartenschau Kaiserslautern ended up being a short and easy bus-walk combo from our lodging. Fortunately or unfortunately, we were led astray making it take much longer. But, we did get to take in more of the town that way – two large churches (both closed), a mall and pedestrian center, educational buildings. Finally, the incredibly helpful lady at the Tourist Information center got us going in the right direction and recommended the café right outside the gate. The café did not disappoint. We drank beer and chocolate milk. Ate schnitzel with pepper sauce, farmer’s sausage and spätzle. After a good German meal and beer, the adults in our party were more on board with spending our only day in the city running around a playground with life-size plastic dinosaurs.
It was more than a playground, however. How neat for the kids to be able to see just how big the dinosaurs actually were against the background of large trees and tall slides. They made up stories about the dinosaur families before taking turns on some of the neatest playground equipment I’ve seen yet – so full of imagination. There were families wading through the creek that ran through it all, and picnickers enjoying the beautiful weather. What a neat experience it really was.
All too quickly we did have to head back to catch the airport shuttle, which we missed. Taxis turned us down because Cora needed a car seat or because our family wouldn’t fit in the vehicle. No one seemed to be able to tell us where a bus going in the correct direction would stop. We missed our first airport shuttle as we literally ran through the streets and woods of town trying to make it back. Between waiting for another shuttle and driving around between stops, it would be a couple of hours before arriving at the Holiday Inn Express by the airport. It was suppertime and we were seemingly in the middle of nowhere surrounded by fields. The desk clerk said there were German and Italian restaurants across the street, though they were invisible from the road. But, what a treat! Sitting back from the road was a large and busy campground with two full size restaurants. The biergarten was nestled in the trees beside a playground and couldn’t have been a more quaint and wonderful way to end our German layover.
All in all it was a rush, without much time, a car, or a plan. But there were some victories and simple pleasures like good comfort food and a long drive to the airport watching picturesque German towns and forests pass by. It was a reminder that in some odd way, Germany will always feel like it is welcoming me home. I feel like I could belong there, which is not something I feel in Spain, despite the amazing time we have been shown. It may be that Germany looks like Pennsylvania, or the wonderful memories of our time there as a family affectionately shared by generations of our family. Either way, I look forward to more time there soon.