Guten tag, everybody! We're in Germany and I just had to sit down to write about our arrival because I'm so afraid the little details will fade from memory.
Let me start by apologizing for any formatting issues that this post will have...it took me about 10 minutes just to figure out how to create a new post because, well, everything is in German on the iPad now. Adventures.
So I'll start with our departure from Atlanta. It was a very sad and bittersweet morning of saying goodbye to our families. But in some ways it was a relief to have that moment over with after weeks of an emotionally exhausting and tense buildup to the final goodbye. There were tears and it was hard and we both had moments of "oh my gosh, what are we doing?"...but then we were on our way. The flight from Atlanta to Baltimore was uneventful. When we landed, Zach had a call from Delta...never a good sign. Unfortunately one of our bags didn't make it on the plane. Of course I was SURE it was my bag and this caused some mild agitation. Zach told me the whole time he was hoping it was his bag that was left behind because he knew it would put me over the edge. God knows and loves me well enough that He sent both of my bags...it was indeed one of Zach's bags that didn't make it. All we could think is "how in the world will we work out the logistics to get this bag to us in Germany when we don't even know which city we'll be in?" But, in another gift of grace and show of sovereignty, God granted Delta the efficiency to get the bag on the next flight to BWI and we picked it up and had it checked in a few hours after the rest of our bags. PHEW. Zach would have been without his uniforms if the bag hadn't made it.
We had a few hours to wait until we boarded our flight to Ramstein, so we had some lunch and sat around watching the other soldiers and families arrive at our weirdly secluded gate. BWI basically has a whole terminal that was (seemingly) devoted to the military charter flight to Ramstein. There were a LOT of families with small children. A lot. I found myself feeling VERY thankful that this move didn't involve children. I can't even imagine. Zach made a friend with one particulary precocious boy who was about 5 or 6 years old. He was very excited to know we were going to Germany (he didn't realize everyone was going) and he told us that they didn't speak the same language there. That's when it occured to me how challenging it must be to try to prepare young kids for a move like this. How do you try to make them understand how long they have to be on a plane, or how the time changes, or what living in another country will be like? I have a lot of respect for those parents who have to PCS to another country with young children. I also have a lot of respect for the dad who was measuring out doses of Benadryl for his kids as we boarded the plane. He's obviously done this before.
The plane ride was pleasantly uneventful. I slept for most of it, thankfully. However, the jet lag was very noticeable after we landed and began our in-processing. Local time was 9am, but to us, it was 3am. Woof. However, the process was very efficient. We were off the plane and through "customs" in no time, had no issues getting our luggage, and were signed in waiting for our bus shortly thereafter. We found out we were officially headed for Grafenwoehr, Bavaria in east Germany. Since it's the furthest duty station away from Ramstein, our bus was the first to leave. Even though we had a four hour ride ahead of us, Zach and I were both very eager to see the country, so we didn't mind. Plus we were promised a stop for lunch midway through the journey. That stop never actually happened, meaning our entire bus went from 9am until about 6:30pm without food. The ride was beautiful though (even though I passed out after about an hour and slept most of the remaining three). Rolling countryside with little villages tucked into valleys. Germany is very progressive in terms of wind and solar power, so there are giant wind turbines perched on hills everywhere and a lot of the roofs are covered in solar panels. Each little town has a church steeple sticking up over the red rooftops. It's straight out of a postcard. ALSO, driving on the Autobahn is everything we heard it would be. Since we were in a big bus, we stayed mainly in the right lane and witnessed people FLYING by in the left lane. It was crazy and I know Zach can't wait to get his license and car...gulp. We finally arrived at the garrison and went through a little more in-processing before our sponsor picked us up and (bless him) took us to the Burger King on base. Sweet, sweet Burger King. I could have cried from happiness. He then took us to our hotel in Grafenwoehr (on-base lodging was full) and we were left on our own.
Our hotel is basically adorable. There's a restaurant downstairs and a biergarten in the courtyard outside. There are flowers planted everywhere here (mostly in window boxes or small gardens), and the biergarten was no exception. We had our first German beer outside while trying (unsuccessfully) to eavesdrop on a group of about 10 very old German men who had met for drinks. It was so quintessentially "German". After their wives came to shoo them home, Zach and I went on a little evening stroll to check out the area. This little town is exactly like the Germany I had pictured in my head. It's adorable...cobblestone streets, bakeries abundant, mom and pop restaurants, flower shops, beautiful churches with bells tolling on the hour. It's all incredibly charming and incredibly European. After a short walk, we headed back to the hotel and crashed.
There's something really nice about finally being here and knowing that this is a long-term assignment and not a short vacation. It takes the pressure off...there's no rush to see as much as we can, as fast as we can. We are HERE, after all of the anticipation and anxiety leading up to this. And it feels really, really good to finally "relax" over the fact that the leaving is behind us and now we're here. Now we can start to make this place home.