Happy to have this guest post by Rebecca on Wiesbaden, Germany. Please visit my Duty station guest post page for posts on other locations or more information about how you can write a guest post about where you have been stationed.
I had the privilege of living in Wiesbaden, Germany from January 2008 through December 2010. This was my first experience living overseas and it was an adventure! Back in those days, military and their family flew on commercial flights, which landed us in Frankfurt. We were then bussed to an inprocessing center and then finally bussed to Wiesbaden Army Airfield. At that point we were escorted to a downtown hotel and I could, finally, sleep.
Now, families fly into Ramstein Air Force Base, about 90 minutes from Wiesbaden and they are housed in a nice, new hotel, conveniently located close to the commissary, PX, and housing. While it is nice that families with school-aged kids are close enough for their children to walk to school immediately upon arrival, we really enjoyed the hotel that was downtown. It gave us an opportunity to explore, walk around our new city, and, upon our departure, visit the Christmas Market each evening.
Housing in Wiesbaden was 90% stairwell apartments. We lived in a new two-bedroom, one bathroom third floor walk-up. Contrary to the stories my mother-in-law shared about her Berlin apartment building, we had government provided washers and dryers in each apartment, so I did not have to descend to the basement to do laundry.
I loved our apartment. I loved that we were on the 3rd floor and heard no one above us. I loved that there were only 3 families in the stairwell and no one ever walked past our door or came up to the 3rd floor unless they were coming to visit us. I loved our neighbors. This was the apartment where our house because a home. Where we bought our bedroom set, first couch, and more importantly, where we brought our children home for the first time.
I was pregnant when we arrived in Germany, and when we left, I had two kids. In Wiesbaden, all prenatal care is handled by off-post, civilian providers. I had excellent care and delivered both of my children at St. Joseph’s Hospital, just a mile or so from housing. For everything else we saw providers on post and had no problems with any of the medical care. My children used the CDCs on post, both for full time care and hourly care and we were always impressed with the quality of the providers there.
As seems to be our luck, there was a lot of construction going on during our time. Improvements were made to housing, the commissary, the PX and that resulted in some frustrating times. However, those improvements have been well received. Wiesbaden has grown tremendously in the past few years, and with all those people, these changes were necessary. I just wish we’d been able to enjoy them.
We were, incorrectly, told we would not need a car in Germany. Wrong! We ended up purchasing one there, that we shipped back with us. And we bought a second car, for my husband to use to get back and forth to work. Most people buy and sell the second car around PCS season, so it is easy to find something affordable and quick. You absolutely need at least one car, as most housing is not on the airfield.
We travelled as much as we could. With four deployments, one long TDY, and a high op-tempo, my husband didn’t have the time to travel. With two pregnancies resulting in two kids under 2, I didn’t have the energy. And with the exchange rate not in our favor, we had to budget accordingly. I was strongly encouraged by friends to save the COLA for travels and to not get used to living off of it. This was, and continues to be, good advice.
I did a lot of day trips with the Spouses’ Club, and we became very familiar with both Wiesbaden and Mainz, the university town across the river. We weren’t afraid to get out and explore. I got my license quickly after arriving and drove around a lot. It’s not as intimidating as some think. We really enjoyed the local scene and felt at home in the town.
We took a few bigger trips; Koln, Berlin, Portugal, Italy, and Munich. Berlin we did by train, which was so much fun. That trip was arranged for us by the travel agency on post. We drove to Koln for an overnight. We flew to Portugal for a four-day weekend and explored as much as possible. We took a longer trip to Nuremburg and Munich when family came to town. There were tons of USO trips, both day and weekend available, but with two little ones, we just couldn’t imagine those long days being fun. We did venture to Garmisch for a marriage retreat and I was so grateful to see Bavaria that summer.
Europe, like any duty station, is what you make of it. We did the most we could with the time and finances and kids. We made some of the best friends we could ever have. We grew into a fantastic family there. And we’d love to go back. We know it would be different, but we also know what fun we will have. I hope, that if Europe is ever an option for you, you embrace it head on.
Rebecca Alwine has been a military spouse for over 8 years, traveling the world and learning about herself. She’s discovered she enjoys running, loves lifting weights, is a voracious reader, and actually enjoys most of the menial tasks of motherhood. She is an avid volunteer, most recently as President of the Fort Huachuca Community Spouses’ Club and has worked as a career counselor for transitioning service members. She has a Masters in Emergency Management from American Military University and a Bachelor of Arts in Geography from the University of Mary Washington. Her writing has been published both in AUSA’s ARMY Magazine, Military Spouse Magazine, on Many Kind Regards, and multiple digital magazines and blogs. You can follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.