I have spent the last two years living at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Getting stationed here was my only experience with leaving the U.S. so I didn’t really know what to expect. What would be similar and familiar? Obviously, I was anticipating some drastic changes from a small town in North Carolina to a European powerhouse like Germany. But there was the added twist of moving at the start of the pandemic, which made the transition even more interesting, to say the least.
Being overseas with so many restrictions in place made it hard to be optimistic, but as time has gone on and closures have been lifted, these are four of the things that made my first European duty station more enjoyable:
For the foodies
There are a few food places that are my go-to spots when I am missing a taste of home. Legends Sports Grill is a place to grab a cold beverage, watch sports, or chow down on some wings. It offers multiple chicken wing flavors to try — including creative options like strawberry and snickers — and an all you can eat wing night every week, as well as burgers and other bar food favorites.
Benji`s Burrito Bistro serves up fresh Tex-Mex food, such as the packed full big burritos, quesadillas, tacos, horchatas and margaritas. This small business also recently branched out with a second restaurant called Benji`s Birdhouse, capitalizing on the recent chicken sandwich craze. Menu options include Nashville hot, extra Nashville hot and Korean BBQ chicken sandwiches. Don’t forget to add a side of waffle cut fries and some deliciously creative milkshakes. I’d highly recommend this place over any chain restaurant chicken sandwich.
For the fitness enthusiasts
Ramstein offers two exercise gyms at no cost to military ID holders: Northside and Southside fitness centers. There is an option to get a 24-hour access pass so you can go anytime, whether it be during the day or if you are more of a night owl. Both facilities offer state-of-art equipment that is well maintained; plus, there is an aquatic center with swim lanes and a big water slide that flows into an area for the kids to swim.
Runners also have the option of numerous tracks outdoors around the base.
If you’re looking to try something new, the Ramstein Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Club is a great option. Whether you have done BJJ before or if you have watched MMA and have been curious about trying it out, this would be a suitable place to go to get your mat time in. Training offered here is also 100% free! So, what would you have to lose?
For the explorers
One of the things I have learned being here at the start of the pandemic was to get outside. Whether it be walking, jogging, hiking or bike riding, there are dozens of trails to explore around the Ramstein area. Many different German villages surround the base, and they are all connected by trails. The scenery is breathtaking, and the air is so fresh.
Also looking at how the buildings are designed is very cool when you contrast it to what you see in America. There are magnificent views to behold everywhere. Plenty of great opportunities to take some awesome photos to send to friends/family or post to your social media.
For the ones who like to travel
If you are a military family stationed overseas, it is an ideal time to travel — by plane, train, boat, or automobile, so many countries are within your reach. To name a few, France, Spain, and Ireland. During my time here I have visited Italy and France, places I only read about in a book.
If you are a history buff, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you did not make the time to get to Berlin. Ramstein is a global gateway for the military, and it can be for your traveling experiences as well.