a taste of America

Fresh on the heels of Kristen and Lauren’s visit to the States, we decided that everyone needed a chance to experience America after being in Germany for a year. Since parent-teacher conferences were scheduled for 2 days this week, and the kids were out of school, we packed up the van and drove to Ramstein Air Base, a 4 hour drive north from Hohenfels. For military families, Ramstein is a destination in itself: the largest military shopping complex in the world featuring a movie theater, hotel, American restaurants and tons of little shops with European goodies. We were able to reserve TLF (Temporary Lodging Facility) for 3 nights at $78 per night. Each TLF is a small apartment with full kitchen, laundry and 3 bedrooms. Bonus for us: each room had it’s own TV and DVD player. so much for quality family time but boy! how quiet it is when the kids each find a corner to hide out in.
While in Ramstein, we managed to hit the PX several times. I’m not usually one to enjoy shopping for boy’s clothing but there is something exhilarating in discovering that Levi’s has more than the “550” style jean. Will and Lilly hung out in the video/gaming area of the store–which had been set up with lounge chairs and couches so that shoppers could try out the latest in X-Box 360 Dance Central game. This became “kid central” and plenty of pre-teens were gathered around to cheer each other on. Each visit was capped off with a visit to the movies: Wreck It Ralph on Thursday and Skyfall (James Bond movie) on Saturday.
Since it just seems wrong to travel in Germany without experiencing something of cultural value, we drove to Trier, probably best known for the Porta Nigra, the black gate constructed in 160AD by the Romans. We first visited this site with Denise Rietkerk about 15 years ago on a cold and rainy December day. The weather was much the same for this visit but for some reason, the history seemed to come to life. We toured the gate, walked through the main town square, and stopped at the Trier Cathedral where the Holy Robe is kept in a wooden box on display at the altar. It’s said that this holy robe is THE seamless robe of Christ and that Helena, mother of Constantine, brought the robe to Germany when she lived here. We’ll never know for sure if this is indeed THE robe but having a story like this associated with your church sure makes tourists come out in droves. We finished off the visit with a trip to Karl Marx’s house, the Roman amphitheater and tasty doner kebaps for lunch. All this talk about the Romans has gotten me interested in reading “Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.” I wonder if I can finish it before we move back to the States?

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