Explore the Eifel offers afternoon adventures at doorstep

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
An ancient castle shrouded in fog rests atop a hill.

Spindly towers rise into the air reflecting the morning sun's rays off their stained-glass windows.

Below, a courtyard bustles with activity -- common folk beginning their daily marketplace rituals. Passersby clank flagons of mead together as if in a celebratory mood, someone in lederhosen serves bread and cheese to a gathered crowd at the town eatery, and a Gregorian chant echoes from a distant cathedral.

Germany. Or so I thought.

I'd been living in Wyoming for four years when the Air Force decided Spangdahlem AB required my services. I began researching the Eifel region, and after a quick Internet search, I viewed photographs of castles, wooded mountainsides and picturesque landscapes.

I realized there was more to Germany than just castles and mead as I read deeper into the country's history and its people's culture.

Further research led to other historic cities in France, Luxembourg and Belgium. Germany, it seems, is a hub for transportation and a gateway to destinations across all of Europe. Talk about striking gold, I thought. I now have a way to visit all of those places on my bucket list. I couldn't wait to get here to start my own Euro-trip.

I arrived at Spangdahlem in mid June 2011. The temperatures averaged between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit every day, and sunlight lasted until about 2 a.m. I'm kidding, of course, but those of you who live here will understand.

My travel plans were put on hold as I searched for a car and house. I delved into work to learn the base's mission, and I attempted to hold on to my sanity during the time-change transition. Before I knew it, it was nearly July.

I kept hearing about this "Explore the Eifel" event as I came in and out of the office. Apparently, the base hosts an information fair every year that lets local mayors, county and area officials, community volunteers, and travel and tourist office agents, and businesses spread the word about upcoming tours and partnership-building opportunities.

Sign me up! What better way to jumpstart my cultural immersion than by participating in a tailored, guided tour of the local surroundings -- in English, no less.

The first tour I signed up for was a hike through and around the neighboring town of Neiderkail, and it was here that I experienced my first in-person culture lesson taught by the town's mayor herself. Neiderkail is now more than 800 years old, and the historic monuments, artifacts and homes in the town are quite breathtaking.

The next day's hike took me to a Nordic walking trail outside of Speicher. A woodsman from Germany's forestry department spoke to the tour members about local wildlife and forest rules and regulations. I now use the trail we walked as a scenic alternative to the treadmill.

Who would have known that such beauty and history lies so near the front gates of Spangdahlem? In my early attempt to plan weekend vacations across Europe, I overlooked the afternoon adventures at my doorstep.

There were many other opportunities I could have signed up for at the fair, but I only chose these two. This year, the fair takes place 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. May 11 at Club Eifel, and more than 100 exhibitors will offer tours, trips and events.

This is another chance to see first-hand the German and U.S. partnership. So, I really don't have to ask if you're going to go. I'll just see you there.