David and Pam Schiel, and David and Sharon Redl share a tall German beer. Photo by David & Pam Schiel.
Planning started in May 2011 when I decided to call various Space-A departure points to get a rough schedule on weekly flights. We chose Air Mobility Command points at Baltimore-Washington International, MD; Dover AFB, DE; and McGuire AFB, NJ. We signed up at all locations at the start of the 60-day window giving us some priority.
Due to the possibility we could fly Space-A back to any location, we decided to rent a car and drive to the east coast.
On Sept. 3, we headed for Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, for the first night at $39 for a double.
The next choice for Sept. 5 was McGuire AFB where we stayed a night for $39 at the All American Inn. We tried the next day for Space-A but there was no Cat VI space available. Our last choice was to try Dover AFB. The flights to Germany were filled with higher priorities categories. There were flights to Rota NAS, Spain; Aviano AB, Italy; and Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England.
There was one flight with 71 seats for Moron AB, Spain, so we decided, what the heck, at least we will get to Europe.
On Sept. 7, we flew to Moron AB, on a KC-10 with 24 seats, the rest was cargo. Seats were airline style so not too bad for the seven-hour flight. No windows and the two ladies have claustrophobic issues. We flew all night (not much sleep) and arrived at 1130. When the hatch opened, all I could see was desert all around. Moron is a fly-through base and quite small. We stayed on base at Hotel Frontera for $35 per night, early to sleep. There were no flights leaving Moron and car rentals must be returned to base so we took a bus the next day to Seville, Spain, an early evening flight to Paris on Iberia Air and the subway to the train station so we could catch an ICE train to Kaiserslauten (K-town), Germany.
Top: David and Sharon Redl and (bottom) David and Pam Schiel pose for a photo in front of a German sunset. Photo by David and Pam Schiel.
We just missed a train to K-town and the next one was in the AM the next day. We roamed around the train station until it closed at 0100 to reopen at 0600. The Holiday Inn across the street was $210 a night and we said, no, it was not in our plans so we walked around for awhile.
When we were still inside the station we met a couple that were also waiting for a train. She was from Romania and he was from Hungary. We found an all-night café across the street and went in. Cost to sit was to order something every two hours, so we each had a small Coke ($8 per Coke).
Overall, it would have been almost as cheap to get one room for all of us and sleep on the floor. At least it would have been warm and dry.
Sept 9, 0704: We boarded the train for K-town. We tried to sleep but it did not work. We were so tired we did not even enjoy the scenery. We arrived at 1130 and picked up our rental Chrysler minivan with automatic transmission and a diesel engine—great on both counts. We stayed the night in K-town at Hotel Pirsch for $110 including breakfast. That night we had our first German meal complete with bier (beer). We each got a half order but it was so much a quarter order would have been plenty.
The next leg of our trip was to Bastogne, Belguim, with the intent to see the museum and battlegrounds areas of the Battle of the Bulge but the museum was closed for renovation. (It reopened in 2012.) The only battle area we had time to see was the monument dedicated to the 501st Parachute Regiment immortalized by the movie “The Band of Brothers”.
Then we drove to Bacharach, Germany, and spent Sept. 10 and 11 at Inn Malerwinkle for $83 per night (cash only). We enjoyed walking around the cobblestone streets and exploring the open shops.
One of the boats that tour the Rhine River. Photo by David and Pam Schiel.
Sept. 11: We took a boat ride to tour the famous Rhine River and all the castles along the river. Many castles were converted to restaurants and/or hotels. This was the only day we had RAIN and lots of it.
Sept. 12 and 13: We stayed at Spangdahlem AB for $39 per night.
Sept. 14: We drove to Trier the oldest city in Germany. We rode the trolley car around to see the sites. Then, as usual walked around looking at the shops. We decided to drive to Neunkirchen where we had lunch and a beer at the Hooters restaurant.
Next was a stop at Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp. Very humbling.
Then we drove to Munich to enjoy Oktoberfest where I finally got the chance to use my German by ordering beer and food.
On Sept 16 we drove to the Eagles Nest at Bertchgarden in southeast Germany where Adolf Hitler had his retreat perched on a hilltop overlooking some of the most scenic valleys in Germany and Austria.
When we returned to Munich, we drove to the city center. Due to Oktoberfest it was so crowded we had trouble getting around in our minivan. We did manage to find a parking place close to Hard Rock Café and bought a few shirts. The line was too long to wait to get into the dining room for a beer. We found a very German and colorful restaurant a few blocks away and ate there. Not much of the English language spoken here.
We spent three nights at Holiday Inn in southeast Munich. Breakfast each morning was at McDonalds, three blocks away.
Sept. 17 was Oktoberfest day. No area parking so we took a train. Very easy to figure it out.
A German Oktoberfest parade. Photo by David & Pam Schiel.
Oktoberfest was highlighted by a parade of floats sponsored by all the breweries that had beer halls set up at Oktoberfest. It was very colorful. We tried to get into one of the beer halls but it was so crowded and smoky. We left and walked the midway trying food and beer vendors. After a few hours we went across the street to a local beer hall and drank a good share of German Bitzburg beer.
On Sept 18 we decided to head south to Italy via Austria. Earlier we had left the key in the car by mistake and we had no spare. I called the car rental company and they contacted the local German auto club to unlock the car. It was no cost as they have an agreement with the club.
On the way south we stopped at the Armed Forces Recreation Center in Garmisch, Germany. We did not stay at the Rec because of the cost. We did have lunch and a few beers. Beautiful facility.
We ran into another retiree that we met at McGuire AFB and had flown with to Spain.
A German hotel. Photo by David & Pam Schiel.
We spent a few hours looking around the town of Garmisch, it’s near Oberamergau where they have the Passion Play every 10 years. The building was closed but we looked in the windows and saw some of the costumes. We stayed at the Hotel Schone Aussicht Garni in Garmisch for $108 including breakfast.
Sept 19: We stayed at the Ederle Inn at the US Army base in Vincenza, Italy, for $78, including breakfast. One of our “experiences” on the trip was to get stuck in the elevator at the Inn. The base fire department had to be called to get us out. We shopped at the PX for a few shirts.
(Editor’s note: Italy allows access for retired military and US military stationed in other countries on leave, access to their US military exchanges and commissaries to purchased non-rationed items. This makes Italy a very popular vacation spot for our military and can save a lot of money on travel. Italy also has quite a few attractive military lodging facilities as well as a couple of military MWR camping areas.)
Sept 20: We stayed at La Meridina in Maria Roma for $ 89 per night, with breakfast. It is a nice hotel with private beach 300 meters away but the beach season was over and there was not much activity in the town. Pam stuck her feet in the water, it was cold. Only one restaurant was open on the beach, no food but cold beer. Restaurants in town closed at 1500 and reopened at 1900. We found a place heavy on pizza and beer so we stayed.
Sept 21: We stayed at the Sea Pines Recreation Facility at Camp Darby, Italy for $65 per night. Its a small base and hard to find. You have to go past the joint US Army/Italian storage facility and take the first left at the fence. We shopped at the PX.
Sept 22: We stayed at the Wall Art Hotel in Prato, Italy, for $101, including breakfast. Nothing exciting to do. Another city where restaurants were closed until 1900. We did manage to find a local bar that offered a small buffet if you drink so we did and ate for no cost. Then we headed to Pisa to see the Tower and the rest of the Field of Miracles.
Sept 23: We drove into Switzerland and stayed at Hotel Tellsplatte on Lake Lucerne in Axenstrasse for $161, including breakfast. Our friend Dave ordered American coffee and the waitress said all they had was Swiss coffee. It became one of our travel jokes.
Sept 24: We drove to Stuttgart, Germany, and stayed at the Panzer Inn at the US Army base Panzer Kaserne for $127; a bit high but it is brand new and not yet subsidized by the Army. We went to the city center and found a festival of some kind and spent a few hours there.
David Schiel poses at the entrance to the city of Lautenbach, Germany. Photo by David and Pam Schiel.
Sept 25: We drove to Lautenbach, Germany, which is now a section of Gernsbach. It was special for me because my great-grand parents were born there. We had made prior arrangements to stay at the Badischer Landgasthof in the center of town, two blocks south of the original church location were my great-grandparents were married.
Our host Gerd Meyer and Dagmar Beilfuss tried to contact some townsfolk with the same last name so we could see how we were related but no one was available. Due to the timing, they promised that next time I come they will plan a get-together hoping I can make connections with distant relatives.
The town is very German and quite beautiful. It was a real honorable feeling to walk the same streets (I hope) my great-grandparents walked.
The cost for the hotel was $91, with breakfast. Dinner was a fantastic six-course served by the host. I really think we were treated special because of the kinship.
A castle in Germany. Photo by David and Pam Schiel.
Sept. 26: We drove to Ramstein AB to check on our departure date. We stayed at the new Ramstein Inn for $39 per night. We had a Sept. 28 latest date so we took a Sept. 27 flight to Dover AFB on a chartered 757 Patriot Flight. The cost was $58 per couple. Plenty of seats for all. We arrived at Dover and rented a car to drive home.
Sept 27: We stopped at the Air Force Reserve base at the Pittsburgh Airport to spend the night. All the billeting was under re-construction so we ended up staying at Marriott Inn at $170 per night, with breakfast.
On Sept. 28, the next stop was Peoria, IL, where we stopped to gamble a bit and spend the night. We stayed at the Stoney Creek Inn in East Peoria. The next morning we drove home to Cedar Rapids, IA.
Our first Space-A trip was quite interesting and what I expected. You do have to be flexible and ready to make quick decisions. The enjoyment was worth any problems and the scenery was breathtaking. I am ready to go again.
CWO-4 David Schiel, USMCR, (Ret.) and Pam Schiel Cedar Rapids, IA email@example.com
MST David Redl, USMCR, (Ret.) and Sharon Redl Oelwein, IA