There & Back Again joining us for the duty station series.
Hi I'm Jessica Aiduk, pronounced "aye-duck", like, quack quack! I'm a hippie work at home mom with an Air Force twist. My husband started us on this adventure in May 2010 and that's when I started blogging our family adventures. At There & Back Again, you'll find funny stories, photos, recipes, encouragement, and inspiration. I have an obnoxious amount of energy which I channel into a lot of various passions... lately it's writing, photography, and yoga headstands.
What is the name of your duty station?
Kapaun Air Station, Germany
Where is it located?
In the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC) area of Germany. 10 minutes from Kaiserslautern, 10 minutes from Ramstein Air Base, 30 minutes from the French border, 1 hour from Frankfurt. It is the largest US military community outside the United States.
How long have you been there?
Three and a half years
Any tips for incoming military members?
Jump right into this amazing culture. Our host nation is amazing! Live off base, but choose your village carefully. To get the full benefit of living in a European village, you should look for one with stores and restaurants within walking distance. All villages have bus stops, but the ones that have train stops are even more convenient for local travel.
Take German classes right away and get out there to use what you learn on a regular basis.
Be aware that the winters here are very dark and gloomy... lots of people struggle with seasonal depression, even if they've never had a problem with that before. I use a therapy lamp and I make sure to get out of the house to interact with other humans as often as I can. Connect with people easily by using facebook... there are a ton of KMC groups (something for everyone) that you can join and start to network with people who share similar interests. Find your people and hang tight; they'll be your family during your tour!
Say you’re hosting an out of town guest and you only have time to take them to three places or do three things. Where do you take them?
1. For our day trip, we'd go to Metz, France. It's only an hour away and it's like this tiny slice of French perfection. The cathedral there has the largest display of stained glass in the world! Two rivers run right through the city, and the views from the bridges are beautiful. There are great restaurants, a covered market, shopping, and parks. I love it there!
2. For our castle adventure, we'd go to Kusel Castle. It's a half hour drive and the entrance is free! You can climb up the reconstructed castle tower for great views of the surrounding countryside. And it's a fabulous place to explore the ruins and bring a picnic lunch (though the restaurant there is also delicious!)
3. For a taste of a true blue German village, we'd hang out right here in Otterberg. I couldn't ask to live in a more beautiful town. The people here are so friendly and there's so much to see! We'd have breakfast at my favorite German bakery, then walk down the main street. I can give you a tour of the second largest church in our state... it's a 12th century monastery that's now shared by the local Catholic and Protestant community. We'd have lunch right outside the church at one of my favorite restaurants... then we'd walk around the village so I can show you all my favorite old buildings. After that we'd hike up the hill to the monument they have from the world wars. I think it's a very sobering reminder of how we came to be stationed here. And for a more light-hearted end to the night, we'd eat at my favorite outdoor beer garden in town. They have great local food!
Have you checked out any local festivals or events?
We've done Oktoberfest and some really great wine fests, but I have to say my favorite are the super local Fruhlingsfest (Spring Fest) in my village and the Kaiserslautern Christmas Market.
The Spring Fest is an all day event in our village, to include a parade and then a hike up into the woods where they have a fabulous setup of food stands, bands playing oom-pah-pah music, and plenty of beer tents. You sit outside at tables (rain or shine!) and get to cheer on the local kids as they try to climb to the top of the "may pole" to get the prizes. There are also fun demonstrations and skits.
For Christmas Markets, many people love to travel to the larger cities for the more famous ones. And we've done a few. But I've found every year that I just love the simple Christmas magic of our own local "big city" market. You get many of the same items for sale and all the same delicious food and drink. Holiday treats, gluhwein, music, and a warm fire. All centered around the cathedral. Best tradition ever!
Where are your favorite places to eat/drink?
I really love the local beer garden outside the hotel Otterberger Hof in our village (Otterberg) and we also really like the local brewery the Brauhaus am Markt in Kaiserslautern. Barbarossa bakeries are definitely my favorite go-to for sandwiches, pastries, rolls, and good strong coffee.
Are there any local foods/drinks/anything that you love?
I adore German bread, beer, bratwurst, sauerkraut, and french fries. Yes, fries... they really know how to treat a potato right ;o) Fun fact: fries are usually served either with curry ketchup or with normal ketchup and mayo. Seriously, it's so good.
I also love this "pizza" type food called flammkuchen, which originates from France. It's basically a thin crust with creme fraiche, bacon, and onions on top. There are certainly many variations, but I think the original is fabulous.
What’s your favorite thing about your station/city/surrounding area?
There's always something new to learn or experience! I feel like everywhere I go I learn something new. And especially as I learn more of the German language, I get so excited to go out on the economy and talk to the locals! I love shopping at German grocery stores and seeing all the different products they offer that we don't have in the States. And I love love LOVE learning all sorts of cool things from my kids' and their German kindergarten teachers about German culture. It's such a blast! And of course it's amazing to be centrally located in Europe for all of the great travel opportunities. We've been to eleven countries so far!
Anything else you want to talk about?
Living here has definitely challenged my preconceived ideas about the German people. I have never lived somewhere where there are so many friendly smiles and greetings when you're out and about. The Germans in my area are warm and welcoming, celebratory, hardworking, and kind. I love my old German neighbors so much and every new German friend I make teaches me something amazing. I hate that I grew up with a "bad" perspective of the German people just because of their tragic past. I am so thankful that I was able to live here and learn how wonderful this country is.