• Day Trips

    Backroads of the South Eifel

    From the Gateway of the Eifel to the Edges of Volcanoes It’s no secret that the Eifel has some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in all of Germany.  With Fall quickly approaching, we decided to spend a few hours driving some of the prettiest stretches of backroads between the southernmost tip of the South Eifel up to the Vulkan Eifel area.  We only skirted the Vulkan Eifel, though, as the focus of this drive was really on the area referred to by Germans as Südeifel. I spent the days leading up to our drive scouring the motorcycle forums because, let’s face it, they know all the best streets.  Unfortunately –…

  • Life Abroad

    Choosing the Right Coats for German Winters

    Because There’s No Wrong Weather, Only Wrong Clothing Ever since moving to Germany, I have struggled with staying warm in the winter.  My husband is always telling me that the coats I brought from Texas just don’t work for German winters.  We even tried to go shopping for cute coats when we were in Texas earlier this year, but he just kept circling the racks saying, “Why are these jackets all so thin?  No wonder you are always cold!” He finally got me into a store this past weekend, where I got a crash course in coat shopping – German style.  I had no idea there was so much involved. …

  • Life Abroad

    5 of the Best TV Shows to Learn About German Culture

    Shows You Should be Watching (Even if You Can’t Speak German) It’s no secret that one of the best ways to gain insight into a culture and its language is by watching originally made TV shows.  But sometimes that can be difficult because you don’t always know what’s good – or even what’s out there to begin with.  So, I’ve put together a list of shows that: are/were a hit with the German public have crossover potential with an American audience (meaning they’re not so overly laden with cultural references that we wouldn’t be able to follow them or make use of certain types of humor that don’t tend to…

  • Life Abroad

    Confusing American Behaviors?

    Things We Do That Baffle Germans Living in a foreign country teaches you so many things about its people, its customs, its passions, and its history.  It can also teach you about its language and government.  But what I find is often overlooked is just how much living in a foreign land teaches you about your own country.  You don’t notice the small things – the quirks – about your own culture until you surround yourself with people from another one.  You might find that some things, I mean tiny things, that are commonplace in one culture don’t exist elsewhere.   Like when my German husband first learned that we…

  • Life Abroad

    A Beginner’s Guide to the Integration Course

    Der Integrationskurs For a lot of people who move to Germany, completing an Integration Course is a condition of renewing their initial Residence Permit.  There are probably exceptions and variations, but the majority of people – whether moving to Germany or staying here after getting out of the military – will start off with a three year Residence Permit.  In order to renew that permit after that initial three years, most people have to demonstrate that they are familiar with German customs and laws, and that they are able to speak an adequate level of German. Now, I know that, for people who come to Germany with a job offer…

  • Life Abroad

    Die Drei Jungfrauen von Auw an der Kyll

    The Three Maidens of Auw an der Kyll There is something especially magical about Eifel forests.  Whenever we take a walk through one, I can’t help but look out into the darkness and imagine knights riding through on horseback or medieval vagabonds sitting around a campfire.  My husband teases me about looking at much of the Eifel through Hollywood-tinted glasses, but, as I always tell him, stories come from somewhere.  I mean, it was just a few weeks ago that he, too, stopped on one our walks, looked around, and said, “Is it any wonder we have so many legends and fairy tales in this area – with landscapes like…

  • Life Abroad

    Commonly Misunderstood German Behaviors

    Things That Seem Rude But Really Aren’t Moving to a foreign country is incredibly difficult, especially when you don’t speak the language.  And no matter how much research you do, there will be things that happen where you think, “Whoa.  What the heck is that?”  When you don’t understand certain behaviors – or when you totally misread them – it can make the people, the country itself, seem unwelcoming, unfriendly, sometimes even hostile.  I heard an American expat once say that he thought Germany was the most Americanized country in the world.  In a lot of ways, he’s absolutely right.  But, there are some German mannerisms that are almost completely…

  • Life Abroad

    Bitburg’s "Am Spittel"

    A Füßgängerzone Fixture If you’ve spent any time around Bitburg in the last couple of years, you’ve probably heard the words “am Spittel” at least once. The “Spittel” is a new-ish element of the Füßgängerzone.  For those of you who spent time there a few years back, you’ll remember this area as being where the post office was.  In 2013, they tore the post office down and redesigned the entire square. Here’s what it used to look like – And here’s what it looks like today – It’s kind of bland, I know, but it was also empty that day.  To be honest, a lot of the locals also didn’t…

  • Hiking

    Stausee Bitburg

    The Heart of the South Eifel When people think of tourism in Germany, their minds most likely shoot to one of three places: Bavaria, the Rhine River, or the Moselle region.  The Eifel usually doesn’t make the cut – even for temporary expats who live in it.  I remember my childhood years in the Spangdahlem area as a constant sea of travel to anywhere that wasn’t the Eifel.  Bavaria, the Black Forest, Amsterdam – these are the types of places we travelled to.  And what I’ve found is that, when I talk to my parents now about places within 30 minutes, 10 minutes, sometimes even down the street from where…

  • Day Trips

    Riquewihr

    The Most Beautiful Village in all of France Well, at least one of them. It was named one of the most beautiful villages in France by the association Le Plus Beaux Villages de France. And it’s not hard to see why. Riquewihr (pronounced Ricky-uh-vee-yuh) dates back to the 8th century when it was founded by a Frenchman named Roche.  The original name was Roche Villa, hence the pronunciation.  And as this area flip flopped throughout history between Germany and France, the spelling is actually German, as is the main language for most of today’s residents. This is one of the most well preserved medieval towns you will ever see despite…