I collaborated with Expedia.com to share four trips I recommend you not miss while you’re stationed in Germany and to help get the word out about the Expedia Military Offer. The military offer provides complimentary Expedia+ Gold Status to anyone that signs up by verifying their military status. It’s available to active duty, veterans, military spouses, and dependents. Expedia + Gold Status is valued at $10,000 and includes benefits like bonus points, complimentary upgrades, and exclusive amenities. Check out the Expedia Military Offer here.
I let out a deflated sigh as I flipped another page on our family calendar. As each month passes, I become more and more aware of the fact that our time in Germany is limited. I can almost see the days slipping away like tiny grains of sand passing through the neck of an hourglass. There are still so many places left to go, so many things left to do… and only so many hours and euros we have to work with.
The struggle is real.
That’s why I’m thankful for companies like Expedia that offer generous military discounts so we can make the most of our tight budget to experience as much of Europe as we can in the short time we’re here. Deutschland’s central location makes it the ideal home base for driving, riding the train or taking inexpensive hops by air to explore countries all over the European Union.
If, like me, you’re excited but feeling more than a little overwhelmed about figuring out where to travel and when, I’ve compiled a list of four trips by season that I’d recommend you not miss while you’re stationed in Germany.
Lisse, Netherlands in the spring
Just a five-hour drive from Ramstein Air Base in the Kaiserslautern Military Community, Lisse, home of the world-renowned Keukenhof Gardens, is the perfect European destination to visit in the springtime. In the last weeks of March, millions of tulip blooms begin to burst through the soil, transforming Holland’s flat, green farmland into a brightly colored patchwork quilt – a welcome sight for winter-weary military families. Reds, yellows, oranges, pinks, and even darker hues like blue, purple and black, paint the landscape with broad strokes – a masterpiece that truly must be seen in person; pictures just don’t do it justice.
While you’re there, consider planning day trips to nearby Amsterdam and Haarlem, which are less than an hour from Lisse. Holland’s famous beaches, sand dunes and windmills are also a hop, skip and jump away. If you’d prefer not to drive, it’s possible to fly or take the train, but I’d recommend renting a vehicle when you get there so you can come and go, taking in the beauty of all Holland has to offer in the springtime, as you please.
Cinque Terre, Italy in the summer
Setting foot on the beaches of Cinque Terre will make you feel like you’re stepping through the laminated cover of a postcard to get lost inside its picture-perfect scene. Italy’s famous “Five Lands” is made up of a string of wildly colorful seaside villages on the Italian Riviera: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Hiking paths, trains and ferries connect the towns, but automobiles can’t reach them from the outside. Its secluded location makes it the perfect place to slow down and escape the high tempo of military life for much-needed summertime rest and relaxation.
Spend your days hiking the trails from one village to the next for sweeping views of the famous taffy-colored houses that seem to be sitting on top of one another a little too precariously on the steep, terraced cliffs. Or, claim your spot on the beach to unwind with your toes in the azure water, all the while sipping chilled Limoncello and noshing on regional specialties like soft focaccia bread, savory pesto and fresh seafood dishes.
Bruges, Belgium in the fall
This fairy-tale medieval village is said to be one of the most well-preserved of its kind in Europe. Bruges is often called the Venice of the North, as its many dreamy canals are reminiscent of those found in its Italian counterpart. As the heat of summer gives in to the chilly days of autumn, brilliant gold and orange leaves perfectly compliment the cobblestoned streets and dramatic Gothic architecture, making it a splendid city for a romantic getaway for service members and their spouses.
Even though I usually prefer to stay in accommodations on the outskirts of tourist hotspots to save money, I recommend you splurge on a centrally-located hotel or bed and breakfast here so you can easily spend your days walking and enjoying the scenic streets as you make your way from one destination to the next. Nibble on chocolates, sample Belgian brews and warm yourself with paper cones filled with crispy Belgian fries. If you’re interested, you can learn about these tasty treats while you’re at it by making stops at the chocolate (Choco-Story), brewery and Frite museums.
Nuremberg, Germany in the winter
If you only visit one of Germany’s world re-known Christmas markets while you’re stationed overseas, I highly recommend choosing the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt. Known as Deutschland’s Christmas City, Nuremberg is a town after my own heart. In late November, hundreds of vendors set up shop in market squares to partake in a breathtaking tradition that has been around since the 16th century. The strands of twinkling lights, fragrant fresh garlands, and festively-decorated wooden stalls lined with colorful, handmade toys, traditional glass ornaments and freshly-baked holiday treats look like the cover of a vintage Christmas card come-to-life. The experience is truly so magical, you can’t help but feel like a kid again.
I recommend enjoying a steaming cup of Glühwein, or mulled wine, savoring Nuremberg sausages paired with spicy mustard or horseradish, and tasting the traditional Lebkuchen, or gingerbread, still baked according to its 600-year-old recipe. Don’t forget to pick out an ornament or two to hang on your Christmas tree at your next duty station while you’re there.
As I pencil the dates for our next few European adventures into my planner, I begin to relax. After all, deep down, I realize the number of trips we’ve taken – or didn’t take — won’t be what matters most when it comes time for us to leave Germany. Instead, it will be the memories we’ve collected on our journeys, and how we’ve spent the days together as a family in between that will stick with us.
If you aren’t sure where to start, take a deep breath, consider beginning with one of these four don’t-miss trips, and research the awesome military discounts you are eligible to receive through companies like Expedia.
You’ve got this.