I’m moving. Here’s what to expect from HereatGK.

My time here at Geilenkirchen is almost at an end. Unfortunately, that means that I will not be able to continue upkeep of the blog. Here are some ways to keep this blog alive.

While I believe many of the posts will be a helpful resource for a long time, I realize that stores and restaurants move or close and on-base businesses change their hours. So, keep this in mind as you search the site. If you see something that requires edits or deletion, you can let me know at hereatgk@gmail.com. Keep in mind that www.militaryonesource.mil is an excellent resource where you can find the Tri-Border Phone book and many other resources provided by the GK A&FRC.

If you are interested in helping by adding new posts or editing old ones, all you need is a WordPress.com account, then I can give you access. If you just want to submit an article once, you can do so by emailing me at hereatgk@gmail.com.

The blog under it’s current URL, www.hereatgk.com, will stay for about another year until it reverts to http://www.hereatgk.wordpress.com, which should continue forever.

I and everyone that has helped on this blog has volunteered their time to help inform our community and build a place to help you adjust and have your best overseas experience. This blog does not make money on ads and is purely here to help you and the community. I hope, with your help, it can continue for years to come.

Posted in GK/Schinnen/JFC Brunssum Info, Resources/Help, Upcoming Events | 1 Comment

Easter Markets and Fun

Carnival may be over, but there is still fun going on before the Easter holiday. Check the links and information below.

Öcher Bend Fun Fair (Carnival Rides) at Bendplatz, Aachen March 26 – April 11 1400-2400 (Bonus, this is right next to the Lindt factory outlet)

Frühjahrs-Kunsthandwerkermarkt in Köln (Craft Market with 150+ vendors)– March 12-13 at Gutshof Engelshof, Köln

Jahrmarkt at Open Air Museum Kommern (Carnival set among historic buildings)– March 26 – April 3 at LVR-Freilichtmuseum Kommern, Mechernich

Ostermarkt auf Burg Satzvey (Easter Market)– March 27-28 at Burg Satzvey, Mechernich

For more ideas check http://www.ostern-in-deutschland.de/

Easter Markets

Check you mail for announcements about local church bazaars, Easter egg hunts and Easter egg shoots. You might also see information in a bulletin board at your town’s local bank.


Cochemer Ostermarkt – March 12-13, Cochem

Sankt Wendel – March 12-13, St Wendel

Find more Easter markets at http://www.ostern-in-deutschland.de/ and http://www.ostereiermarkt.de/

It’s too late this year, but bookmark the Kloster Eberbach Easter Egg Market for next year. This market is close to Wiesbaden and has a fantastic variety of decorative Easter eggs to buy. Find out more at http://www.ostereiermarkt.eu/

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Klompenschuurtje – Wooden Shoe Shop and Painting

Living so close to the Netherlands, I felt like I needed one more thing before I could call my time here complete. Wooden shoes, clogs, or klompen, as the Dutch call them, are one of the most typical Dutch items you can acquire. I was lucky to find Klompenschuurtje, where I could combine two loves, painting parties and wooden shoes.

Klompenschuurtje is a clog making business first. Nicole is a 5th generation clog maker and the first female master clog maker in the world. She can make clogs by hand and machine and has clogs of all shapes and sizes. Clog making demonstrations are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays and her clog shop has plenty of finished painted clogs to buy for kids and adults. She also teaches people how to make clogs the traditional way in a weekly class. Nicole was very friendly and helpful and was always ready to fill our coffee cups or just talk to us about life.

Workshops at Klompenschuurtje are easy to schedule by emailing Nicole at her business email. Packages for kids or adults can be arranged. For adults, the package price ranges from 15 to 45 euro per person, depending on the project and size of the group. Her workshop can fit a maximum of 15 people per workshop (two fest tables) and there is a minimum group size that must be met to pay the advertised price per person. You can choose from 1 souvenir clog, a flowerpot clog, bird feeder clog, birdhouse clog or a pair of clogs in your size to use at home for your group’s project. Children workshops start at 13.50 euro per person. The workshops include coffee or tea (lemonade for the kids), a sweet treat and all painting supplies and materials.

Klompenschuurtje is located east of Eindhoven, about 1-1.5 hour drive from our area. The workshop is located behind a house with a giant clog in the front. The driveway can fit 4 to 6 cars. There is a fitness center a little further down the road that has more parking if needed. If you have a large group, I recommend carpooling. I really enjoyed my clog painting party. I hope you will have fun there too.

Like their Facebook Page
Helmondseweg 3B, Aarle-Rixtel, NL

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Rauw – Vegetarian Cafe in Sittard

Rauw is located near the corner where Hema and V&D meet in Sittard. This all vegetarian and mostly vegan cafe has a lot to offer in its small footprint. They have all of the usual cafe offerings for coffee and tea, plus smoothie and fruit juice options. Their salad offerings are large and have different combinations than you usually see. You can see their full menu on their website. The cafe also has weekly muffins, soups and warm meals that you can usually see posted on their Facebook page. The majority of these meals are gluten-free, lactose-free and organic, but you can always ask if you aren’t sure.

When I visited, I tried the spicy pumpkin soup, which was a large portion and had a nice kick to it. My beau tried the rijstewafels (we call them rice cakes) with several tapas options. The hummus was quite good. If you’re looking for a nice cafe in Sittard, try Rauw out, you might make it your new regular place to stop while you’re shopping.

Nieuwstraat 3, Sittard
Tues-Wed 0900-1900
Thurs 0900-2100
Fri 0900-1900
Sat 0900-1800
Sun-Mon Closed

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Aquis Plaza – Aachen Mall

There’s a new mall in town. Aquis Plaza is a 3 story indoor mall that has opened near Aachen’s city center. There are over 90 shops and 20 eateries, so there is plenty of variety. Here are some highlights.

TK Maxx – Almost exactly like TJ Maxx

Build a Bear – Exactly like the stateside version

Elbenwald – A sci-fi and fantasy fan’s dream store

Party Fiesta – A bit like Party City

Munster Accessories – A scarf and legging lover’s dream

There are over 90 stores here, so I won’t list them all. You can check out their entire list at this link.

If you’re looking for food, they have a KFC, Pizza Hut, Burgers, Italian, Kebaps and more.

Parking Lot (Open when the Plaza is open)
Stiftstrasse, Aachen

You can also use a lot listed on Aachen’s parking website: www.apag.de. Aldabertstrasse is the closest one to the plaza.

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Serious Request by 3FM

I gave this Serious Request presentation during my monthly Information Exchange class at the A&FRC. While 2016’s Serious Request will be in Breda, this article is here to explain the yearly event that you will likely still hear about on the radio.

A Dutch tradition starts today right in our backyard. You may have already heard about Serious Request on the radio station, 3FM (90.9 or 103.9 locally).  Way back in 2004, the national radio station decided to fulfill their company goal of philanthropy by teaming up with the Red Cross and holding a nationwide drive. During the week before Christmas, 24 hours a day, 3 of their DJs would always be available to take song requests for a donation towards the Red Cross. They called this week Serious Request. The DJs are readily accessible in a glass house for the entire week and subsist on a a liquid diet during this time. Dutch citizens, especially in the local area, have been raising money, and events leading up to this week have been going on at least since this summer.

The event has grown over the years. There are now many side events that are also running during the week in Heerlen, from demonstrations of 3-D printing, a food truck alley, a Wishmas tree, Christmas market and much more. Serious Request is held in a different city each year, so this is a great chance to experience the national tradition without a long drive.

This year’s theme is “Keep Them Going”. The money raised during this event will go towards Red Cross efforts to ensure children education and training in war-torn countries. You can find out more about the efforts at the Serious Request website. You can also follow them on Facebook.


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Unique Christmas Markets and Other Holiday Events

While the holiday season is over for 2015, many of these markets will be back next year. Click on the links to find out the dates for the upcoming year.

The Schinnen Public Affairs Office has compiled a list of markets in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. I’ve linked to their PDFs below. I have also highlighted some markets and festivals below that you might enjoy. Please note that some of these special markets only last for a weekend and some include entrance fees.

Christmas Publication NL 2015

Christmas Publication BE 2015

Christmas Publication GER 2015

Castle Markets
Schloss Rheydt – 12/5-6, 1100-1800, 60 vendors
Schlossstr. 508 Mönchengladbach, Germany (45 min drive), 5€ entry

Burg Linn – 12/5-6, 1300-2100,
Rheinbabenstraße 85, 47809 Krefeld, Germany (1 hr drive)

Schloss Dyck – 11/28– 12/20, 1000-2000, 150 vendors
Büttgen, Germany (45 min drive), 12€ entry

Schloss Merode – 11/26-12/20, 1400-2000
Langerwehe, Germany (40 min drive), 6,50-7€ entry

Burg Satzvey Medieval Christmas Market – 11/28-12/20, Sat-Sun 1200-1900
Mechernich-Satzvey, Germany (1 hr drive),8 € entry

Open Air Museum Kommern -Advent fur Alle Sinne – 11/28-29 1000-1800
Eickser Straße, Mechernich (1.5 hr drive), 6,50€ entry
Explore historic houses and enjoy homemade crafts and treats.
Very close to Burg Satzvey

Special Festivals
Candle Night in Gouda, NL (2.5 hr drive) Dec 11, http://www.goudabijkaarslicht.nl/
Dickens Festival in Deventer, NL (2.25 hr drive) Dec 19-20, http://www.dickensfestijn.nl/
Dickens Days in Bilzen, BE (1 hr drive) Dec 19-20, http://www.bilzen.be/dickensdagen
Star Wars Ice Sculptures in Liege, BE (1 hr drive) Nov 14-Jan 31, http://www.icesculpture.be/
Ice Festival in Bruges,BE (Vikings) (3 hr drive) Nov 20-Jan 3 http://ijssculptuur.be/en/

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Local Christmas Markets

While the holiday season is over, many of these events will be back in 2016. Find out more at the links and look in your local papers and town flyers and signs for date in the upcoming year.

It’s almost the Christmas season! In general, Christmas markets start at the beginning of or one week before Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas. This year, Advent starts on Sunday, November 29. Many of the larger markets will open their gates starting between November 20 and 23. Smaller markets and church bazaars are only held for one weekend or one day. These markets are only advertised locally by signs or in your local announcements that come in your newspapers. I’ve compiled a list of them, along with their general locations here.

  • Bocket Missionsbasar: Nov 22 at 1400 at Burgerhaus “Alte Schule” Bocket
  • Tüddern Adventbasar: Nov 22 at 1400 at zur Turnhalle
  • Heinsberg Weihnachtsmarkt: Nov 23-Jan 3 at 1130-1930, on Hochstrasse
  • Geilenkirchen Christmas Market: Nov 27-29 near Rathaus
  • Haarener Weihnachtsmarkt: Nov 29 at Marktplatz 1100-1800
  • Gangelt Nikolausmarkt: Nov 29 at 1000-1900 around village center
  • Huckelhoven Christmas Market: Nov 28 – Dec 6 around Breteuilplatz, Rathauszuwegung, Rathaus and Hartlepooler Platz in Huckelhoven
  • Süsterseel Weihnachtsmarkt: Dec 5 at Hübertusheim
  • Waldfeucht Christmas market: Dec 6 at Ortskern

Larger city markets are also fun to visit. Many of these markets have their own dedicated websites, which I have linked to. Their sites will have information on parking, specific hours, closings and more, so check them out before heading to the markets. If you want to avoid large crowds, avoid weekends and evenings, if possible. If you show up when the market opens, you’ll have a good amount of time to browse before the crowds show up.

November 20 – December 23, Open Daily 1100-2100 (Sunday, Nov 22: 1800-2100)

A local favorite. Try the local Printen, gingerbread. I like the chocolate covered version. Here is the map of the main market. If you go by train, you will arrive on the right of this map, near the Dom (cathedral). There are also a few stands to the right and up from this map at Holzgraben and Kugelbrunnen.


November 23 – December 23, Open Daily 1100-2100, check this flyer for specific market opening times.

If you want a variety of markets to choose from, head to Cologne. There are seven distinct markets throughout the city. If you don’t want to walk that far, there is a Christmas train that will take you to most of them for an 8 euro round trip ticket. The map below shows the locations of each market. If you go by train, you can start at the Markt am Dom, next to the cathedral. You can find out more about each market at this booklet, provided on the Cologne tourism website.


19 November – 23 December, Open Daily 1100-2000, Closed on 22 November

Instead of having separate big markets, Düsseldorf has smaller markets connected throughout the city. You can see where the majority of the stands are at the stars on this map. The tourism office also has a brochure showing more details on each market on their website.


November 27 – December 20, Fridays-Saturdays 1100-2100 and Sundays 1100-2000.

This lovely German village, with it’s half-timbered homes, is always nice to walk around. Their Christmas Market is only open on weekends, and due to it’s popularity, you will probably have to park further out of town and take a shuttle bus in.

November 13 – December 23, check their website for hours.

Two of the Valkenburg caves (sandstone mines) are turned into markets for the holidays. The Municipal and Velvet caves have separate entrances and entry fees. It costs 6 euro to enter one of the caves, there may be a combination ticket available when you go. I find the items are pretty much the same in both, and most are not things I would buy, but it’s nice to go into the caves while they are all lit up at least once while you are here. It is good for getting out of bad weather as the entire market is underground. The whole city also becomes a Christmas city, and there are weekly parades on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Find out more at their website.

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American Football Team – Aachen Vampires

There’s are american football teams nearby if you’re interested in playing or just watching. The Aachen Vampires, American Football Club has a male and a female team, the Damenteam des AFC Aachen Vampires e.V. You will find details on their Facebook page and website, just click on their name above. Also, if you would rather be cheering, you may want to check out their cheerleading team Bats Cheerleader Aachen.

The Aachen Vampires also has youth football teams for 10-13, 14-16 and 17-18 year olds. Cheerleading squads also includes 6-12 and 12-18 year old groups. Find out more on their website.



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Fall Fun – Pumpkins, Apples, Corn Mazes and more

Updated Sept 25, 2016

Many of you already know I am a volunteer at the Geilenkirchen A&FRC. I’ve been heading up the Information Exchange that happens every month and free coffee or cappuccinos are provided. Each month is a different subject, where we spend 10-15 minutes talking about something about our local culture. September’s subject was Fall Fun and I provided the following information. The remaining 45 minutes is open to discussion between newcomers and experienced residents where you can ask questions about any subject. 

The previous paragraph was written in 2015. While the Information Exchange is not currently running, it could be resurrected by a volunteer who likes to research this area and fun things to do. The GK A&FRC has all of my old files too.

Fall Fun PowerPoint

Pumpkin Regatta, Kasterlee, BE – Oct 23 (1 hr drive)
Free entry for spectators
Pumpkin soup, beer and games
Relay races in giant pumpkins

Apple Picking
-Netherlands Fruit Picking Day – Sept 17 (3rd Saturday in September every year)
Groot Welsden 30, Margraten

-Olmenhoorst Pick Your Own – Sep 17-Oct 30
Oct 28-29 – Halloween Kinderfeest
Lisserweg 481, Lisserbroek, NL (2 hr drive)

Corn Mazes
-Le Labyrinth (1.5 hr drive) – Sep 1–Oct 2
Rue Basse Commène, Barvaux-sur-Ourthe, BE

-Mais Labyrinth (1 hr drive) – Jun 25-Oct 31
Schlecker Deich 2, Wachtendonk, DE

-Krewelshof, https://www.krewelshof.de
Krewelshof 1, 53797 Lohmar (1.5 hr drive)
Sept 11-Nov 6, Pumpkin Festival
Krewelshof 1, 53894 Mechernich (1 hr drive)
Near Open Air Museum Kommern

-Open Air Museum Kommern (1.5 hr drive)
Oct 9, Apple Festival
Eickser Straße, Mechernich

-Kettwig Kurbisfest (1.5 hr drive), Oct 28-30

-Kwekerij Bastin Pumpkin Parade (0.5 hr drive), Sep 24-25
Nieuwenhuysstraat 29, Aalbeek, NL

Castles in the Fall
-Herbstfestival Schloss Rheydt (1 hr drive)
Sept 30-Oct 3 (Fall Market)

-Schlossherbst Schloss Dyck (1 hr drive)
Oct 1-3 (Fall Market)

Schloss Ludwigsburg
Huge Pumpkin Festival
Sept 2-Nov 6
Schlossstraße 30, 71634 Ludwigsburg
5 hr drive, near Stuttgart

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Local Oktoberfests

This information was compiled for 2015, but click on the links for information on next year’s events.

Places to buy Dirndls and Lederhosen
Lederhosenland by Hendricks Mode http://www.lederhosenland.com
o Rijksweg Noord 22, 6131 CH, Sittard
o Nassaustraat 80, 6043 ED, Roermond
o Kleinkölnstraße 20-22, 52062, Aachen

Karnevalswierts http://www.karnevalswierts.com/
o St. Jobser-Straße 47, 52146 Würselen
o Homerusplein 11, NL-6411 AW Heerlen

Real, Kik, C&A, V&D and other department stores will have a small selection

Online, search for “Trachtenmode” or just “Trachten”

Dates for Oktoberfests Near and Far

19-24 sept 2015 Oecher Wiesn (Aachen) http://www.oecher-wiesn.com/

19 sept – 4 oct 2015 Oktoberfest Munchen http://www.oktoberfest.de/de

25 sept-11 oct 2015 Oktoberfest Stuttgart http://www.cannstatter-volksfest.de

25-26 september 2015 Oktoberfest Meeuwen Belgium http://www.oktoberfestlimburg.be

28 september 2015 Oktoberfest Valkenburg, NL

26-27 september 2015 GK Base Oktoberfest

09-12 oktober 2015 Geilenkirchen Oktoberfest

09-11 oktober 2015 Oktoberfest Haaren http://www.haarener-oktoberfest.de

16-18 oktober 2015 Oktoberfeest Brunssum, NL http://www.brunssumseoktoberfeesten.nl/

16 -17 oktober 2015 Oktoberfeest Ubach Palenberg http://www.rockfabrik-uebach.de/oktoberfest

16-19 oktober Fall Festival and Oktoberfest Stahe http://www.schuetzen-stahe.de/Termine.htm

16-17 oktober 2015 Oktoberfeest Weert, NL http://www.oktoberfestweert.nl

23-28 oktober 2015 Oktoberfeest Sittard, NL http://www.oktoberfeestsittard.nl

24-25 oktober 2015 Oktoberfeest Ubach Palenberg http://www.rockfabrik-uebach.de/oktoberfest

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American Football Team – Maastricht Wildcats

Do you miss watching neighborhood football games at the local high school? There are some football entertainment options in the area for you. I’ve already posted some information about the American football teams in Cologne. There is also an adult team in Maastricht that you can follow.


The Maastricht Wildcats is also recruiting new members for their team. You can sign up for a practice session on their website.  The new season should be starting in the fall, so follow their Facebook page to keep up to date with the details.

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Dangerous and Poisonous Plants in Germany

Living in a different country also means encountering plants that you may have never seen before. Here are some plants to watch out for.

Don’t touch these plants

Stinging Nettle – You’ll find stinging nettle along paths, in gardens, in fields and pretty much everywhere else. They are generally between 3 to 7 feet tall in the summer and die off in the winter. This plant has tiny needle like hairs that will stick in your skin and inject several chemicals that will cause your skin to burn and itch. This effect can last from a few minutes to a few days.


“Brennnessel 1”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brennnessel_1.JPG#/media/File:Brennnessel_1.JPG

Giant Hogweed – This plant can grow to be between 6 and 18 feet tall. The sap of this plant causes the skin to become hypersensitive to UV light (phytophotodermatitis). If you are spending the day outdoors, the amount of sunlight exposure can cause severe sunburns in affected areas, leading to blisters.


“Herkulesstaude fg01” by Fritz Geller-Grimm – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Herkulesstaude_fg01.jpg#/media/File:Herkulesstaude_fg01.jpg

Poisonous Plants

The writers over at Living in Germany have a great listing of poisonous plants with pictures. This is especially important for those of you with children or pets that go outside.


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Cafe Bagett – Heinsberg

Cafe Bagett is just off of the main shopping street in Heinsberg. As you might expect from the name, the main fare here is sandwiches. Warm baguettes, cold baguettes, tosties, and salads are all on the menu, which you can view on their website. During the summer months, they have milkshakes available along with their drink and cafe menu. If you’re an early shopper, they also have a breakfast menu to choose from.

On my visit to Cafe Bagett, we tried one cold and one warm baguette. Both were delicious. The cafe is especially busy around lunchtime, so if they are full, expect to wait 20-30 minutes for your food. I think it was worth the wait.

Parking tip: There is a free parking lot on Schafhausener strasse that I have yet to see full. You can park there and cut across the paid parking lot just off of Ostpromenade to get to Cafe Baguette.

Patersgasse 19, Heinsberg
Mon – Fri 0900-1700
Sat 0900-1600

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Happy Italy – Kerkrade

This restaurant suggestion was given by a fellow blog reader. Click here to find out how you can contribute to HereAtGK.

Happy Italy is a fast Italian restaurant located in the Leisure Dome complex in Kerkrade. It would make a great place to have a dinner and movie or have lunch with the kids, then have some fun at GlowGolf or Bowlo. Please note that the restaurant does not take cash. You must pay with a debit or credit card. The chip is not required in the card. See our reader’s review below.

Happy Italy
Open Daily at 1100
Roda JC Ring 2P
6466 NH Kerkrade
0031 (0)45-7440083

We were quite happy to discover Happy Italy.  It’s the kind of place that’s able to be family friendly but also is a great environment for all ages, and they have an amazing Pizza Nutella, so what’s not to love?

They have an English menu.  Yay!  They do mostly pasta and pizza, but there are several salads and paninis to choose too.  Everything is made fresh with fresh ingredients and comes out quickly.  The prices are great, and the portions are big.  The waiters are happy to put your leftovers in a pizza box or container to take away.  This is especially good because they offer yummy desserts, and you’ll want to make sure you have room.  On our first visit, the waitress recommended the Pollo con Extra pizza.  It has chicken and bell peppers and was a great recommendation.  My husband chose Pasta con Polpette, which comes with tomato sauce, meatballs, cherry tomatoes, and parmesan and was so delicious that he ordered it again when we went back. For dessert we have had the Pizza Nutella and the chocolate cake.  They’re both delicious, and we’ll be back to try the others.  We fed two adults plus a baby lunch and shared a desert, and we paid under 30 Euros and went home with leftovers.

There’s a nice bar area, but we haven’t checked that out.  It’s become our after church place, so we do sodas and a glass of milk for our little one.  There is a kids play area with a ball pit and things to climb on hidden away around the back corner.  There’s a changing table in the ladies room which can be tough to find around here and highchairs are available.

We saw what looked like a really fun kids birthday party happening on our last visit.  Every child got a pizza crust with sauce.  They brought bowls of topping and cheese to the tables for the kids to make their own pizzas.  Then they took them to the giant pizza ovens and cooked them for them.  It looked like everyone was having a great time.

Heads up, they DO NOT take cash.  However, we’ve had no issues using an American debit card without a chip.

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Oorlogsmuseum Overloon, NL – War Museum

Let me start by saying this is the biggest museum dedicated to World War 2 that I have ever seen. The amount of vehicles and history exhibits is huge. Oorlogsmuseum Overloon is between 1 and 1.5 hours away, depending on where you live around GK.

Overloon was the site of a major tank battle between the American and German troops in October 1944, which destroyed most of the town. The museum was originally set up to educate about the history of the battle, but has expanded to show the entire history of World War 2 from the Dutch perspective. Almost everything in the museum has an English explanation, though there are a few signs here and there only in Dutch and German. The museum also has a huge collection of both Allied and German vehicles, many of which were used at the Battle of Overloon.

The museum also hosts several events throughout the year, including Militracks in May and the Santa Fe event in June (In 2015 June 20 and 21). Militracks gives you the chance to ride in vehicles used in World War 2 for between 5 and 20 euro per ride. Jeeps, motorcycles, tanks and many other vehicles ride around the museum grounds on an exciting and bumpy route. The Santa Fe event will show what life was like behind the front lines. There will also be vehicles to ride in at this event and demonstrations of the Battle of Overloon.

Oorlogsmuseum Overloon
Museumpark 1, Overloon NL

Adults: 15 euro
Children (4-12 years old): 9 euro
3 and younger: Free
Museum Card Holders: Free

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American Football Games in Cologne – FREE!

There are three teams in the Cologne area that have teams for several age groups. Each team has their own website with the game schedule. Games are free to attend. There is also a team in Maastricht that I talk about in this post.

CrocodilesCologne Crocodiles (U11 to Adult Teams) – Adult Team Game Plan – Home Field at Merianstr. and Willi-Suth-Allee, 50769 Köln – Facebook Page

falcons_logoCologne Falcons (U14 to Adult Teams) – Adult Team Game Plan – Home Field at Ostkampfbahn, 50933 Köln – Facebook Page

falconetsCologne Falconets (Adult Women’s Team) – Adult Team Game Plan – Home Field at Ostkampfbahn, 50933 Köln – Facebook Page

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Classic Remise Dusseldorf – Classic Cars

There are plenty of benefits to living in Europe, but one of my favorites is being close to cars that we don’t get to see often back home. I like it even more when I can see these cars for free. We have one such opportunity in Dusseldorf at Classic Remise. The building, which was once used for trains, serves several functions. There are businesses along the outside perimeter relating to classic car sales, rentals and restorations. There are cars on display in the central area, most of which are for sale. The best part is, throughout the building are glass garages where people can store their cars where people can still enjoy looking at them. A restaurant is located in the center of it all.

There is free parking located on-site, so stop by next time you’re in the neighborhood.

Harffstraße 110a, Düsseldorf
Free Entry
Mon-Sat 0800-2000
Sun 1000-2000

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What to Buy and What to Leave Before Moving to Germany

Moving to a European country adds some complication when deciding what to bring with you on your PCS. Here are some guidelines. Of course, if you’re not sure, bring it with.

Things to Bring

Bed frames/Matresses/Sheets – German bed sizes are different from American sizes and AAFES selection for these items is limited. Size of items can also limit what you buy online.

Lamps – Your 110V American lamps can work over here with the addition of a plug adapter and a new 220V light bulb.

Duel Voltage Items – Check your TV, desktop computer, printer and other big ticket items for the text”100-240V and 50-60Hz”. Items may have a switch on the back to change voltages or the power cord might have a transformer box connected that allows you to use the item on European power. You may also be able to buy a new compatible power cord for some items, like a Wii. If your item is not duel voltage, you can still use it with a transformer, but it’s better to limit transformer use if you can.

Lawn mower/Yard tools – Most Europeans use electric lawn mowers, so if you have a good gas mower, bring it with.

Rugs – Most houses here are wood or tile flooring throughout. Carpet is rare. You can buy rugs here too if needed.

Grill – Grills can be expensive in Germany. If you already have one, bring it with. You can buy propane at several locations in the area.

All-Season Tires – Germany requires that cars have winter or all-season tires during winter weather. If you have summer tires, you will have to change to winter tires and back every year. Buying and installing will be cheaper in the States.

GSM Cell Phone – If your phone is GSM compatible, you should be able to get it unlocked by your current cell phone company or another service. You can then just switch to a new SIM card when you choose your new phone plan.

Specialty Food Items – Your favorite nonperishable rubs, spices, and sauces that you probably can’t get over here.

Things to Leave

110V Microwave/Toaster/Coffee Pot – It is better to buy 220V kitchen items that you use regularly. Transformers suck up the maximum wattage they are rated for while they are on, plus they take up valuable counter space. You can buy these items second hand for cheap or at a local store easily. If you’re not sure if you’ll use the item often, you can bring these items along and replace with 220 as needed.

Those Boxes in the Attic – The ones you haven’t seen since you moved into your last house. While most German houses in this area are big enough to store those items, don’t waste space and PCS weight on things you haven’t looked at in 3 years if you can avoid it.

Washer/Dryer – You will be issued a European washer and dryer to use for the duration of your tour. You also get an American sized fridge,  a closet sized wardrobe (1 per family member plus 1 extra for uniforms), and a kitchen cabinet/microwave shelf.

Plug-in Clocks – 110 clocks will run slow on European voltage.

Things to Bring on the Plane or Mail to Yourself

You can sign up for your APO Box 30 days prior to your PCS date. Your sponsor will need a copy of your orders to set this up.

Sheets/Towels/Pillows/Blankets – To use between moving out of temporary housing and receiving your household goods (HHG) shipment. You can get loaner furniture for this in-between time instead of using inflatable mattresses, but they don’t provide sheets.

Toys for the Kids – I think this is self explanatory.

Important Documents – Keep them on your person during the PCS. It’s good to have a digital back up copy too.

Clothes for the German Weather – The temperature in this area can vary widely. Check online weather sites prior to your arrival and pack accordingly. If you’re coming in the summer, it is still wise to pack a sweater or fleece, just in case. Raincoats are nice to have on drizzly days too.

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Peter’s Irish Pub – Maastricht, NL

Tucked in the corner of Maastricht’s Markt square is Peter’s Irish Pub, a cozy restaurant and bar with plenty of character. I’ll admit that my main reason for going was their advertized weekly trivia night, which happens every Monday, 8pm-11pm.  A taste of Irish fare was also a draw and did not disappoint. The staff is friendly and attentive. Menus are in English and are also available on their website. We tried the Cottage Pie and the Steak and Guinness Pie, which were both delicious and filling. There are also burgers, soups and salads on the menu for those not so interested in the Irish food. The beer menu includes, Belgian, Dutch, and Irish beers (including Guinness) and cider. For the unconverted, there is Corona and Budweiser.

Trivia night is a series of several rounds, which is why it takes about 3 hours. The questions were in English, although the host would also give the Dutch words for certain clues when necessary. You can work in teams, so bring your friends for a night of fun. We will be back to try some more of the menu and hopefully improve our trivia rankings in the near future.

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Local Thrift Store Summary

There are plenty of second hand stores in this area. The trick is knowing where they are. This is a listing of some of your options. If you know of others that you would like to share, let me know in the comments or through email (hereatgk@gmail.com).

Werk aan de Winkel Sittard (Mostly clothes)
Putstraat 30, Sittard (Close to Bagels and Beans)
Tues-Fri 1000-1700
Saturday 1100-160

Kunterbunt Second Hand Kinder Boutique (All things related to children)
An der Burg 8, Gillrath
Mon 0830 – 1230 & 1400 -1800
Tues, Wed, Fri 0830 – 1230
Sat 0930 – 1300
Closed Thursdays

Lupalums (Children clothes, books, toys)
Sittarder Str. 8, Gangelt
Mon-Fri 0930-1130
Mon, Wed, Thurs 1430-1800

De Goeden Doelen Winkel (Furniture)
Nusterweg 88-C, 6136KV Sittard
Tues – Sat 1000-1700

Meubel Depot (Furniture)
Dr. Nolenslaan 151, Sittard
Mon – Sat 1000-1700

Bis-Bis (Furniture, clothes and everything else)
Milieuparkweg 13, Sittard
Mon 1300 – 1700
Tues-Fri 1000 – 1700
Sat 1000 – 1600

RD4 (Furniture, clothes and everything else – two stores)
In de Cramer 9, Heerlen and Spekhofstraat 4, Kerkrade
Mon – Sat 0900-1700


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Spielplatz de Gitsap (Playground Gitsap)

pic 1

This playground is on the property of the restaurants Aan de Hoeve and de Huifkar Hoeve, so there is a fee to play on the playground (and you’re NOT allowed to bring your own food, since there are 2 restaurants on site).

Children = 2.50 Euro
Adults = 2 Euro

Package Deals:
1. Access to playground, ‘happy meal’, and ice cream for 8.25 Euro
2. Access to playground, ‘happy meal’, ice cream, and mini golf for 10.75 Euro

Address: Gitstappermolenweg 1 6063 NT Vlodrop NL
Free parking

Playground is open from March to November.
Opening hours: daily from 10:00 – 19:30.

Winter Hours:
Saturday & Sunday from 10:00 – 1700

pic 2pic 3

 If you find that some of this information is incorrect or if you feel that something important should be added, please leave a comment! I have yet to go here so I’m not 100% sure on all the information, but it is all from the website. Thanks!

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Kinderspieldorf Pee Wee – Posterholt NL

pee wee NLI saw an article in a German newspaper, so I clipped it and decided to do some research so I could share another indoor/outdoor play area and petting zoo with you.

This place goes by a few names….Pee Wee Posterholt (since it’s in Posterholt, NL), Kinderspielparadies Pee Wee or Kinderspieldorf Pee Wee.

Under the age of 1 = FREE
Kids over the age of 2 = 8.50 Euro
Adults = 5 Euro
Adults over the age of 65 = 3 Euro

According to the website, they are open all year round. However, they are closed on December 5th (St. Nicholas), December 24th, 25th, and 26th for Christmas, December 31st and January 1st (New Years), and Carnival Sundays & Mondays.

Hours of Operation:

Wednesday & Thursday              1200 – 18:30
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday   10:00 – 18:30

Easter Vacation 2015:
Friday April 3 – Tuesday April 7               10:00 – 18:30
Wednesday April 8 – Thursday April 9   12:00 – 18:30

For some reason, 2 addresses are given. Not sure which is the right one:

Heinsbergerweg 65 6065 AH Posterholt     or                                                              Berresheimring 65 Posterholt 6061AH

If you find that any of this information is incorrect or you feel that something important should be added, please comment so we can update the listing!

The website is:

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Hallerbos – Bluebell Forest near Brussels

Have you heard about the beautiful Bluebell Forest in Belgium? It’s not a far drive from us and it’s FREE to see. Hallerbos is a sizable forest where the bluebells cover the forest floor each year, usually in April or May. I went last year with a friend after visiting the Royal Greenhouses in Laeken (Brussels). I’ve written the address for the main parking, but it’s best to follow the route given on the website or you might end up on the opposite end of the forest thanks to your GPS, like I did. Thanks to our proximity to this forest, you can time your visit for the peak blooming season. The website posts regular updates on the progress and growth of the forest with beautiful pictures to get you excited for your visit.

You can download a digital map of the area, just in case you end up parking away from an information point where you can pick up a free map. Each trail is well marked, just follow the colored arrows and stay off paths that are only for bikes or horses. It’s important to remember that this is a forest, and there are no toilet facilities or water spigots within the forest. We did run into an ice cream truck near the main parking lot though. If you are bringing a stroller, you will probably have to stick to the open barrier paths (openbare on the legend). Dogs are welcome if they are kept on a leash. If you like a quiet walk with beautiful views, this is not to be missed.

Hallerbos/ Bois de Hal

Vlasmarktdreef 4, Halle, BE

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Ice Skating (Indoor and Outdoor) in Geleen

Do you miss being able to skate on ice that sees a Zamboni from time to time, or where the threat of rain won’t stop your plans? You can find such a place in Geleen just off of the main drag (Rijksweg). Laco Glanerbrook is a large fitness center that also houses a gym, restaurant, basketball and other various sport facilities, but the main draw for me was the full sized indoor ice rink. They also have an outdoor ice track during the winter months.

The parking lot is large and free. The first stop for us was the skate rental, which has a window just before you go into the building.  They have sizes between 24-52 (European) available for hockey and figure skates. You will have to provide an ID to the shop to ensure you return the skates and the shop assistant will give you a ticket for you to present to get your ID back. The next stop is the skating rink inside. You pay the entrance fee here, then walk down the stairs to a large area where you can change into your skates. Large lockers are available for 50 cents to lock away your shoes and coats. The rink is just a short walk from here. Remember to bring your gloves, which are required for safety while skating.

I joined some friends on a Friday evening for Laco’s weekly Disco Skating night. The dance music and lights make for a fun party atmosphere. The majority of those on the ice were of middle and high school age, but we older patrons had a good time and benefited from a good workout too. If you’re going with younger kids, I recommend going earlier in the day or going on the weekend as Disco Skating proved to be a popular and loud event. If you need a break off of the ice, there are drinks and some snacks available just outside the rink and bleachers with padding so you can walk up the stairs and sit without taking off your skates.

Laco also provides ice skating lessons for young and old. There are also local hockey teams you or your kids can join that practice throughout the week. The outdoor ice track will close in the spring, but the fitness center has decided this year to keep the indoor ice rink open year round, so it will be a nice way to cool down if it gets too hot outside.

Laco Glanerbrook
Kummenaedestraat 45 , Geleen

Open Skate Hours (Ice Rink)
Mon – Fri 1400-1600
Friday (Disco Skating) 2000-2200
Sat – Sun 1400-1700

Open Skate Hours ( Ice Track – Outside)
Mon – Sun 0900-1700
Mon & Wed 2045-2200
Tues & Thurs 2015-2200
Friday 1945-2200

Entry Price
Disco Skate € 5,50 per person
Open Skate € 4,50 per person
12xVisit Card € 55,00 per person
Skate Rental € 5,50 (For Disco Skate Rental is € 4,50)

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Boerderij Daalhoeve (Maastricht Petting Farm)

Boerderij Daalhoeve (referred to as Farm D) is FREE. They just ask that you be respectful and gentle with the animals. Sounds fair to me! There are many types of farm animals to visit with, as well as a barefoot path, large playground, a farm shop (which offers items produced on the farm as well as local items for purchase), and a small café and terrace.

play area at Boerderij Daalhoeve (Farm D)

play area at Boerderij Daalhoeve (Farm D)

Farm D Cafe

Hours of Operation:
Monday – closed
Tuesday – 1000-1700
Wednesday – 1000-1700
Thursday – 1000-1700
Friday – 1000-1700
Saturday – 1200-1700
Sunday – 1200-1700

Romeinsebaan 200
6215 SK Maastricht

Website for more information: http://www.daalhoeve.nl/

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Kasteelpark Born

Kasteelpark Born (http://www.kasteelparkborn.nl/)

Address: Kasteelpark, Born,  NL

Admission is as follows:
Adults: € 7.50
Children from 2 to 12 years: € 6.00
Children under 2 years: free
Free parking

Summer Hours of Operation (1 March 2015 – 1 November 2015)
Open daily from 10: 00 to 18: 00 (See below for holiday and winter hours)

An animal park situated in the gardens of a former castle (Castle Born). There are a wide variety of animals, to include alpacas, water fowl (geese, ducks, swans), deer, turtles, monkeys, as well as goats and sheep in the petting zoo. There is also a Tickle House (closed in the winter months) that house tropical frogs, spiders, iguanas, and insects.

In the middle of the park there is a large playground. The playground is next to the terrace (parents can enjoy a beverage or snacks while children play).

Winter Hours of Operation (3 November 2014 until 28 February 2015)
Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday: 10 am to 5 pm.

During the holidays for the elementary schools in South Limburg, the park is open daily in winter.

Christmas holidays: open every day from 10 am till 5 pm.

We are closed on:
1st and 2nd day and New Year’s Day
On 31 December the gate closes at 2 pm.

Carnival: closed from Sunday 15 to Tuesday 17 February 2015.

Summer Hours of Operation (1 March 2015 – 1 November 2015)
Open daily from 10: 00 to 18: 00.
Due to a special evening activity is the castle park closed at 4 pm on Friday 5 June 2015.

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Fitness Classes on GK

The Sports department now has a Facebook page! They will be posting their classes and events on their page so be sure to “Like” them. Note that these classes are held at the NATO gym near the track, not the US gym.

Spin classes change weekly so it’s best to call the office or have someone with access to the GK Intranet forward the spin schedule to you. The spin classes are usually around lunch time.

As always, if you know of any other classes going on, let us know in the comments!


Posted in Geilenkirchen NATO Base - Info, Health Resources, Sports Clubs and Classes | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Studio 54 Bar and Burgers – Sittard, NL

We have another American style burger place in town, and it’s a good one. Studio 54 (full website is in the works) is located down the street from the Markt on Putstraat. There is plenty of room inside to have dinner with a group of friends. The atmosphere is fun and lively and the servers were friendly and attentive during our visit.

But, let’s be honest, you want to know about the burgers. We visited Studio 54 during carnival weekend, which meant a limited menu but quick service. Even so, the burgers we chose, a classic cheeseburger and a burger with cooked onions, bacon and barbeque sauce, were both delicious with flavorful patties of local beef. We were able to eat both burgers without having to use a fork and knife, which is a rarity in the burger world in this area and a plus in my opinion.

Their full menu is filled with classic and inventive combinations that I’m sure we will be trying in the future. I have my eye on the burger with goat cheese, eggplant and a balsamic sauce. If you’re not a fan of beef, there are lamb, chicken, salmon and portobello burger options and a few salads too. Mini burgers are also available for the kids or a set of three for the grown up appetite.

In the spirit of carnival, we also tried one of their desserts, the lemon cheesecake, which was a tasty way to end our visit. I’m already looking forward to visiting this restaurant again in the near future.

Studio 54 Bar and Burgers Website and Facebook
Putstraat 31, Sittard

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Hello Fresh – Food Delivery Service in Germany

Convenience and variety of meals is the name of the game for Hello Fresh. The company is located in several countries now, including the U.S., Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. If you just want to get a feel for what the service is, I suggest you start at the U.S. version of the site, then move to your current country to see specifics on shipping, prices and meals.

Hello Fresh provides your fresh ingredients and recipes to make a new meal every day at home. The German site offers boxes with either 3 or 5 meals and provide enough food for either 2 or 4 people. You have the option between the original box (for omnivores) or the veggie box (for vegetarians). There is also an option to add a fruit (obst) box in addition to the regular meal box. If you would like to just try out the service, there is a trial box (Probierbox) that will send you one shipment.

I found the website easy to use. Each countries website mirrors the others, so you can use one to help guide you through the other. Most of the text translated well using Chrome as well. Adding my information to make an account and purchase the box was also a simple affair.

I live further out from a major city so I had three options available to me for delivery (Wednesday, Thursday or Friday between 0900-1200). If you live closer to one of their warehouses, you also have the option of an evening delivery (Tuesday 1730-2230). I chose the trial box because of the huge time window. Once you find out when your delivery time is, you can expect delivery within the same hour every time, barring weather and traffic problems.

Subscriptions are at least 2 deliveries, you can cancel anytime after those first two deliveries. Cancellation has to occur before Wednesday, or you’ll receive the next week’s shipment. It is also possible to put your subscription on hold when you go on holiday. There is an option to have to box delivered to your work, have UPS drop it off at a neighbors house, leave it on your doorstep or take it to the nearest UPS shop to you. You specify which delivery choice you would like when you order your box. My box was delivered at about 1130.

I was sent an email a few days prior to the delivery with information on what the meals would be for the week. This also included information on what pantry staples I would need on hand, like vegetable broth, olive oil, mustard, and vinegar.

The box was a reasonable size. My cat can serve as a size reference in the pictures. Most items were loose, but packed well in the box. the plastic bag held the cool pack and wool insulation for the cheese (I selected the Veggie box, so there was no meat). If you do sign up for the service, you will be provided with a shipping label to return the cooling packs and insulation that surrounds some of the ingredients every fifth delivery. The rest of the material can be recycled with paper or gelb.

P1100511   P1100512

P1100518   P1100513

The pictures show everything I received except for the cheeses. There was mozzarella, marscapone, white cheddar and feta. We also had a few spice packs for the fajitas and pasta. There were a few promotional coupons included with the three recipe cards. The cards also tell you the estimated amount of time to make the meal and relative difficulty. All of the vegetables were fresh at the time of delivery.

Don’t know German? The recipes are also on the Hello Fresh website in PDF format and can be copy-pasted into Google Translate. Anyone can see these recipes, so feel free to look in every week and get a feel for what the meals will be like before purchasing. We found cooking the meals and following the translated instructions fairly easy. There were a few places where words don’t translate directly so a little guess work is required. We did learn a few things, like making our own salad dressing and cooking lentils, but the meals were not difficult to make. Meals don’t repeat very often so the below pictures are just to show you what your box might be like. Excuse my terrible photography skills. A food blogger, I am not.

Pasta with tomato cream sauce and mozzarella

Pasta with tomato cream sauce and mozzarella

Spinach salad with roasted sweet potato, onions, lentils and feta

Spinach salad with roasted sweet potato, onions, lentils and feta

Veggie Fajitas with carrots, corn, onion, rice and cheese

Veggie Fajitas with carrots, corn, onion, rice and cheese

We enjoyed the opportunity to try the Hello Fresh service. The food was good and pretty easy to make and I didn’t have to decide what was for dinner for three nights (plus a few lunches for leftovers). If you are interested in this concept, I highly suggest trying the Probierbox (trial box) to see how you like it.

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Unwanted paper/ads in your German mailbox

This information is if you are receiving unwanted newspaper, ads, etc.

Post on the box:

Bitte keine Zeitung oder Reklame. Danke

(We used a label maker, but you may need to be more creative!)

This will help lower the amount of paper you are clogging up the recycling bin with.

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A Guide for Nearby Airports

While flights can be found for low prices with airlines like Ryanair, make sure you know what airport you are beginning and ending your journey with. Many big cities have one big international airport and a smaller one (sometimes with a similar name) that is located further away from the city. An example is Düsseldorf International (DUS) and Düsseldorf-Weeze (NRN), which are 1 hour away from each other. Your best bet is to verify using the international airport code, which I have put in parentheses after each airport name here. I hope this will keep you from missing a flight or having a stressful dash to a different airport.

Tip: If you plan on parking at the airport, look into it well ahead of your planned flight. You can often get discounted parking by booking in advance. Rail and Fly is another option that allows you to take the train to the airport on a combination ticket. There are parking companies surrounding most airports, similar to “The Park Spot”, you can search for these lots at most airports at Parkplatzvergleigh.de.

In the following list I’ve provided: Airport Name (IATA code) Distance from GK NATO AB, Estimated travel time


Dusseldorf International (DUS) 85km, 1:00

Cologne Bonn (CGN) 100km, 1:10

Dusseldorf-Weeze (NRN) 109km, 1:28

Dortmund (DTM) 153 km, 1:53

Frankfurt-Hahn (HHN) 240km, 2:22

Frankfurt International (FRA) 266km, 2:42


Maastricht-Aachen (MST) 42km, 0:37

Eindhoven (EIN)  98km, 1:13

Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) 218km, 2:28


Liege (LGG) 100km, 1:11

Brussels International – Zaventem (BRU) 137km, 1:59

Brussels South – Charleroi (CRL) 175km, 1:55

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La Place Cafe

You’ve probably seen people enjoying coffee and cakes inside the Dutch department store, V&D. This is actually a separate company that is linked with V&D called La Place and it is one of my favorite places to eat. The cafeteria style cafe has sandwiches, soups, desserts, freshly made juices and, of course, coffee, hot chocolate and fresh mint tea. The larger versions of La Place found in big cities, like Maastricht and Amsterdam, have bakeries making cakes, breads, pies, pizzas and more. The bigger stores also have a chocolate/sweets section where you can buy any variety of chocolate, including chocolate letters and sweets like marzipan pigs around St. Nicolaasdag.

If you live in the Netherlands, you’ve probably received coupons for this restaurant in the mail, so take advantage of the deals. You can also download the current set of coupons and print them out for yourself.

La Place has locations all around the Netherlands, which you can search here. You’ll also find small kiosks at many of the train stations. I’ve listed the addresses and opening times of the closest restaurants below.

Dautzenbergstraat 47, Heerlen
Monday 12:00 – 18:00
Tuesday 10:00 – 18:00
Wednesday 10:00 – 18:00
Thursday 10:00 – 21:00
Friday 10:00 – 18:00
Saturday 10:00 – 17:30

Grote Staat 5-15, Maastricht (Ground level and top floor)
Monday 11:00 – 18:00
Tuesday 09:00 – 18:00
Wednesday 09:00 – 18:00
Thursday 09:00 – 21:00
Friday 09:00 – 18:00
Saturday 09:00 – 18:00
Sunday   12:00 – 18:00

Munsterplein 9, Roermond (2 also located in Roermond Outlet Center)
Monday 11:00 – 18:00
Tuesday 09:30 – 18:00
Wednesday 09:30 – 18:00
Thursday 09:30 – 21:00
Friday 09:30 – 18:00
Saturday 09:00 – 17:30
Sunday 12:00 – 17:00

Markt 1, Sittard
Monday 11:00 – 18:00
Tuesday 09:30 – 18:00
Wednesday 09:30 – 18:00
Thursday 09:00 – 21:00
Friday 09:30 – 18:00
Saturday 09:00 – 17:30

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Kommern Living Museum Christmas Market -1st Weekend of Advent

About 1.5 hours from the Tri-Border area is an open air museum near the town of Kommern called LVR-Freilichtmuseum Kommern. There are open air museums scattered throughout Europe. The main goal of these museums is to educate people about the old way of life in particular regions. The Kommern Museum has rescued buildings from the local region between Monchengladbach down to Koblenz and through the Eifel region. These buildings have plaques outside that show where the building came from and what it was used for. There are three “towns” that you can explore, with each town representing a particular region of our corner of Germany. You are welcome to explore inside each building. Some have museum like exhibitions showing a particular aspect of the buildings, like roof making, or a local craftsman might be making brooms or handmade baskets inside. There are even a few sheep and chickens among other livestock to complete the perfect picture.

During the first weekend of Advent each year, the entire museum turns into a Christmas market and it is not to be missed. There are a good number of stands near the entrance to get you started, but the real charm comes from finding the stands inside these old buildings. Most of the wares for sale are unique handmade items that I have not seen at any other markets. Food stands were scattered throughout the museum grounds as well. Chestnuts were actually roasting on an open fire in one building while another had lentil stew warming over the fireplace. Of course Glüwein and other hot beverages were available throughout the grounds. Saint Nicholas was there too with his donkey handing out apples to the children. If you are looking for a uniquely European Christmas experience, this is your place. If you missed the market, you can still come see the museum 365 days a year or visit during one of the several events scattered through the calendar.

Here are a few practical notes:
-The parking lot is large. You will need to buy an exit coin from the main ticket office to get out after your visit. (€2,50)
-There is a steep (paved) hill that you must walk up to get to the museum from the parking lot. There is a van that will transport you up the hill for free. You may need to call for the service at the nearby covered area.
-The majority of the trails throughout the museum are level gravel/dirt. There are steps to get into most of the houses, so plan accordingly.
-Audio guides (in English) are available at the ticket desk for a small fee. There are numbers for the guide scattered throughout the museum.
-WCs are strategically located around the museum grounds. You shouldn’t have to walk too far to find one.
-There is a nearby rodelbahn that offers a combination ticket.

Address (Very close to the A1 and Burg Satzvey):
Eickser Straße, Mechernich-Kommern

Adult Price: €6,50
Children under 18 are free.
Audio Guide: €2,50

Opening Times: (365 Days per Year)
Summer March 29 to October 31, 2014: 0900 – 1900
Winter November 1 to March 30, 2015: 1000 – 1700
Last entry 1 hour before closing.

Special Hours
24 and 31 December: 1000 – 1400
25 and 26 December and 1 January: 1100 – 1700

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Stolberg Christmas Market

The first Christmas Market of the season for me was in the town of Stolberg, just on the outskirts of Aachen. The majority of the market was surrounding the large castle, Burg Stolberg. I was too close to get a picture of all of it, but the Stolberg city website has a good picture on their homepage. The market surrounding the castle (Burg) and just below in the Altstadt (Alter Markt) are open on Saturdays and Sundays while the Kaiserplatz market is open daily.

I showed up too early because a few stands were still setting up. It seems to be a pretty small market even if you add all of the stands together from the three markets. If you don’t go for the shopping, the ambiance is still excellent. The city is beautiful and old. We walked down many one lane streets surrounded by old houses with the sound of the stream just on the other side. Business will probably pick up next week with the start of advent, but the city was not crowded at all, which was quite nice.

There were a few shopping and food stands in Alter Markt. Kaiserplatz only had food and a few stands when I was there, but they do have the largest Advent calendar in the area, with a window opening everyday (starting in December) at 1730. We spent most of our time at the Burg market. There are stands surrounding the castle and quite a few inside. There is also a restaurant to enjoy inside the castle. We stopped for some red and white Glüwein (warm mulled wine) and enjoyed the ambiance. There were also crepes, hot chocolate, reibekuchen (potato pancakes) and sausages available in the stands surrounding the castle.

While the shopping choices are small, I think Stolberg is worth a visit to just walk around the city and castle and enjoy some Christmas market food and drink. You can find out more about the market at the city website.

Kaiserplatz Market (mostly food) open daily 12-20
Alter Markt and Burg Market open Sat-Sun 12-20

Parking available near the castle and at Stolberg-Aldstadt train station.

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Local Christmas Markets and Bazaars

This post was for 2014 markets, but many of these markets will return for 2015. Dates will change of course.

There are a bunch of local Christmas markets and church bazaars going on the next few weeks. Here’s a summary.

Tuddern Adventbasar: Nov 23 at 1400 at zur Turnhalle

Geilenkirchen Christmas Market: Nov 28-30


Adventbasar in Breberen : Nov 29 in the Festhalle

Gangelt Nikolausmarkt: Nov 30 at 1000-1900 around village center

Huckelhoven Christmas Market: December 5-7 around Breteuilplatz, Rathauszuwegung, Rathaus and Hartlepooler Platz in Huckelhoven

The Waldfeucht Christmas market will be December 7, 1000-1900. Here’s an article on last year’s market.

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2014 Christmas Bucket List

The dates listed on this post are for 2014, many of these events will return, but the dates will be updated closer to the holiday season.

Here list of a few unique Christmas experiences that aren’t centered around shopping.  Thanks to Susu for contributing to the list and for the idea.

Advent at Kommern – Nov 29-30
(From the website) The traditional museum event lets the big and small plunge deep into history and conveys much of how farm families once prepared for the Christmas. Thus, performing at the farmhouse parlors of the museum houses pre-Christmas house music is sung together with the guests and told stories. Children to make Christmas decorations and gifts at a craft room and the adults to practice the old village school in ancient calligraphy for Christmas post.

For the classical Advent fragrances baked apples, spiced biscuits and gingerbread are made in the museum ovens. In the Lower Rhine farms of the museum housekeepers ready to roast chestnuts, honey cake and brandy punch. Besenbinder, mousetrap maker, weavers, wood carvers and many other craftsmen demonstrate their traditional skills. Lantern tours offer each at 16.30 the opportunity to see the historical museum villages in a very different light. Inside and outside the historic ballroom from Pingsdorf there is a small Christmas market with handpicked deals: leather workers, bookbinding, hand knitted, Adventskranzbinderei and much more.

Looking at the flyer, it appears that each house will have something special inside to see, some have food and drinks while others show handy crafts.

Candlelight festival and carols, Gouda, NL – Dec 12
(From the website) Candle Night, or Kaarsjesavond in Dutch, is a famous annual Christmas event in the city of Gouda in western Netherlands. This nighttime tradition is marked by countless lit candles, singing, and festivities. Thousands flock to Gouda each year to attend Candle Night, including important national and international guests. The event is held on a Tuesday night ahead of Christmas at the central market square in front of the Gothic town hall. Street and electric lights are turned off, and instead the night is lit by candles placed in windows facing and around the square. The Mayor gives a speech and lights a towering Christmas tree adorned with thousands of light bulbs to create a truly magical experience. Choirs gather to sing Christmas carols with audiences enthusiastically joining in. Attendees visit nearby churches and museums following the celebration. Gouda became known for producing quality candles around the mid-19th century, although it is probably most famous for its other waxy product—Gouda cheese. Gouda candles are made from a natural wax that burns steadily for hours and can be purchased around the city as souvenirs. The city of Gouda is not only magical during Candle Night. Pretty canals, historic churches, and Dutch architecture make a great setting for a city that is also known for its breweries, smoking pipes, and stroopwafels. Gouda is easily accessible by two train stations.

Dickens Fest, Deventer, NL – Dec 20-21
The historic center of the city of Deventer provides the backdrop for the Dickens Festival. Well over 900 characters that feature in the famous books by the 19th-century British writer Charles Dickens come to life. Come and meet Scrooge, Oliver Twist, Mr. Pickwick, Christmas carolers, orphans, drunks, office clerks, and the upper class. Enjoy the aromas of English punch and roasted chestnuts, thousands of fairy lights, and tall Christmas trees. The Dickens Festival fills the whole center of Deventer with the heartwarming ambience of Christmas. Every year, there’s a market on the main square with 200 stands. The Christmas ambience continues in the churches in the city center with a cultural program. Different choirs, orchestra and vocal ensembles perform Christmas music. Not only in the street, but also behind the windows, in the houses and in the little shops and galleries the romantic time of Dickens will revive. During the Dickens Festival in December the shops are open on Saturday and Sunday. Well over 160,000 people come to this festival annually. Admission is free, so be prepared for queues at the entrance.
More info: http://www.dickensfestijn.nl

Dickens Days, Bilzen, BE – Dec 20-21
(From their website) The center of Bilzen is transformed into a cozy English Christmas town from the Victorian era. On every street corner, the visitors collide in characters from the stories of Charles Dickens, there is music and you can enjoy delicacies. The visitor in various cozy Dickens cottages enjoy delicious winterkos’: pancakes, meat skewers, pea soup, muffins, heartwarming gin, hot chocolate, mulled wine, tartiflette, and grilled snacks. In a large beer tent, the lovers taste a wide range of special Christmas beers. Especially for children there are workshops and they go back in time with a special photo-booth.

During the Dickens’Dagen on Sunday the stores open the doors so that the visitors can do Christmas shopping.

World’s Largest Advent Calendar, Gengerbach, DE – Nov 30 – Dec 23
For 16 years, the town hall of Gengenbach has been turned into a magical attraction every year at Advent: its 24 windows turn it into the largest Advent calendar in the world. Come and marvel at the beauty: around 100,000 visitors came from far and wide to see the Advent calendar last year. About 5 hours away from Tri-Border area. More info:

Winter Evenings at Bokrijk – Dec 26-30
(From their website) From 26 to December 30 you can enjoy various nostalgic fairground rides in Bokrijk. Grandparents get nice memories from their childhood, while parents and children enjoy ancient, unknown, but no less spectacular acts and play.

A nostalgic fairground like this took place in Flanders, with activities and attractions from the beginning to the middle of the 20th century. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the time. Because now there’s trump atmosphere, with lots of music, freak voostel men and all kinds of goodies. So you and the whole family can have fun on the Grand Carousel, the carousel, the cakewalk or have driving fun along with the old subway train. Typical winter snacks make it extra fun on this trip. Your visit ends with the fireworks at 20:30.

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Nearby Christmas Markets

The Christmas Market season is upon us. Here is some information on ones close to GK.

Aachen – November 21 – December 23 – Surrounding the Dom and Rathaus, this market is always fun. There are plenty of parking garages or you can take the train. If you have a group going, you might be able to save money by buying a group ticket for the train. If you go into the ticket office at the train station, 5 people can ride to Aachen and back for about 24 euro. Ask for the “open ticket”.

Bonn – November 21 – December 23 – Bonn has one large market that covers several squares. We went last year after an outing to Augustusburg Palace.

Burg Satzvey – Sat & Sun – November 29 – December 21 – A Christmas market complete with a medieval nativity play.

Cologne (Köln) – November 24 – December 23 – There are 5 main markets spread throughout the shopping areas of Cologne. Each market has it’s own collectable mug. A map of their locations is on page 11 of this flyer. If the long walks won’t work for your family, there is a Hop-on Hop-off train that will take you between the markets for €8.

Dusseldorf – November 20 – December 23 – There are several markets located throughout the city. A brochure on the website lists the locations.

Schloss Merode – November 27 – December 21 – This market surrounds the castle. Parking is ample and free in a local field. There is an entry fee that varies depending on the day, listed on this flyer.

Monschau – Fri, Sat and Sundays November 28 – December 21 – Monschau becomes particularly picturesque when dusted with snow and filled with the Christmas market huts. You’ll have to park on the outskirts of town, but they have buses running.

Münster – November 24 – December 23 – This city is a little further away, but the small and walkable city center boasts 5 Christmas markets.

Schloss Rheydt – December 6-7 – This market was recommended by a local. Entry is 4 euro, but this market will have handmade crafts for sale. There are flyers showing previous vendor’s work on the website.

Stolberg/Kupferstädter Weihnachtstage – November 21 – December 21 – Stolberg is a town on the outskirts of Aachen with a big castle in the backdrop. This market occurs daily on Kaiserplatz and at the castle and old town on weekends. Here is a flyer for the event.

Valkenburg – November 14 – December 23 – There are two markets, located in two different parts of the sandstone mines. Entry is 5 euro into one market. This market is nice to do on a day with bad weather because you spend the whole time underground. There is also a Christmas parade every Wednesday at 1900 and Saturday at 1930 starting on November 15.

Close to Home

Gangelt – November 30 – Held along the B56, this market is smaller, but there are unique items that you won’t find at the bigger markets.

Geilenkirchen – November 28-30 – Another small market, but the food vendors are worth the trip.

Further Out

Stuttgart – November 26 – December 23 – Stuttgart is a big city and their market sprawls across the whole shopping district.

Esslingen – November 25 – December 21 – This medieval market is just a short train ride out of Stuttgart.

Nuremburg – November 29 – December 24 – One of the most well known Christmas markets in Germany.

Of course there are many more markets to choose from. Check out this post for a list of websites to help you find markets in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and France.

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Pompoen Regatta – Pumpkin Boat Racing in Kasterlee, BE – Sun, Oct 25, 2015

Updated 16 October 2015

About an hour away from the Tri-Border area is the small town of Kasterlee. Most people visit the nearby attraction of Bobbejaanland, but during the month of October, pumpkins become the center of attention. This article from Flanders Today does a good job of summing up all of the festivities, but the one that is the most unique is the highly anticipated Pumpkin Regatta. Thanks to HereatGK contributor, Susu, for letting us know about this event. We were able to visit the event and enjoy the spectacle in 2014.

The pumpkin boat races were fun to watch. Teams of four take turns kayaking the hollowed out pumpkins around a gate in the middle of the pond. Most teams dress up in silly costumes for additional fun. There are many heats, including mixed, women only and kids only races, so no matter what time you arrive at the event, you’ll be sure to see at least a few races. If you get hungry or thirsty, there is food on sight, including homemade pumpkin soup and pumpkin beer. For the kids, there is a large playground along with additional games to play involving some of the smaller gourds. I saw ring toss, bowling and some sort of croquet among others. You could also pay a small fee to carve your own pumpkin to take home with you.

If you’re interested in participating in the races next year, you can register online. This year there was a team that came all the way from Spain specifically for this event and the commentators were surprised and thrilled. I’m sure they would be happy to welcome a few from our area as well.

Ark Van Noë
Arkstraat 6, Lichtaart

GPS : 51.210147 , 4.938325

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Horse Riding Lessons

Updated 15 May 2017 – Thanks to M.E. for their input.

There are quite a few options in the area for horse riding lessons. I have compiled this list from fellow readers, but I have not used their services myself. I hope this helps you find a location that works for you.

Zum Wasserwerk 3, 52538 Gangelt-Niederbusch
Instructors speak English. The rider can be registered in Germany at their riding level.

Manege Galop
Tunnelweg 1 Landgraaf, Netherlands
Lessons are given in Dutch and English. Prices are at the bottom of the website.

Manege Klipper
Michiels van Kessenichstraat 75, Limbricht, Netherlands

Manege Ten Eijsden
Ten Eysden 1, Geleen, Netherlands

Ruitercentrum Daalderhof
Douvenderweg 27-A, Oirsbeek, Netherlands
I couldn’t find a website, but here’s a link to their Facebook page.


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Updated August 2015

I have found a few options for balloon shops in the area that have been recommended by others in the various Facebook groups. Consult their websites for opening times.

Balloon Shop Sittard
Steenweg 72, Sittard

Ballon Romazen
Rodebachstr. 129, Gangelt

Drop Inn Geleen
Groenstraat 6a, Geleen

Limballon Brunssum
Winkelcentrum ‘De Parel’ 7, Brunssum

Luftballonshop Cremers
Marienstrasse 22, Übach-Palenberg

Toys R Us sells unfilled balloons and helium tanks.
Schumanstraße 4, Wurselen

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iClean Car (and Dog) Wash – Brunssum, NL

Photos and article idea courtesy of a fellow blog reader.

The iClean car wash is located in Brunssum, not far out of the way from the GK back gate or JFC Brunssum. iClean has three main services; an automatic car wash, a self-service car wash and a dog wash. The automatic car wash prices are between 7,50 and 13,50 euro, all of which come with complimentary vacuuming. There are also 4 self-service stations for you to spray down and wash you car, which also include vacuuming.

The special service that I haven’t seen anywhere else is the temperature controlled indoor dog wash, which can come in handy if you have a big dog and a tiny bathroom, especially in the winter. This video shows the dog wash in use. It costs 7,50 euro for 10 minutes of use and includes special shampoos, conditioner and a dryer with a low and high speed option. The machine takes bills and coins, but it does not give change back. You are able to deposit 50 cent, 1 euro and 2 euro coins to add to the original 10 minutes of time as well.  There is a door on the front of the washing station that opens to allow easy access to your dog. There is also a chain where you can clip your dog in for safety and to keep them still during the wash. After you are finished, you have to disinfect the tub for the next customer. There is also a dog treat vending machine, where you can treat your dog after the bath for 1 euro.

This video shows all of the iClean systems available in Brunssum.

Molenvaart, Brunssum, NL

Mon – Fri 0800-1900
Sat 0800-1800
Sun 1000-1700

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Museumkaart – The Dutch Museum Card

If you like to spend time in museums and historical attractions in the Netherlands, I have a deal for you. The Museumkaart can be purchased at most of the attractions where it is accepted and it will get you in to these places for FREE for 365 days. In some of the more popular attractions, like the Van Gogh museum, you get to join the people in the “skip the line” line too. The price is worth it in my opinion. You can do the math for the attractions you’re most interested in.

The website is easy to navigate, click Zoeken to pull up the search bar. You can search by province, or by a nearby city (in de buurt van). There are check boxes for the type of attraction. You can also choose to only see where the card gets you in free, where it offers a discount, or where you can actually buy the card (verkooppunt). Search around the local area and big cities, you might be surprised by what the card offers. I’ve compiled a list below of some of my favorites, along with the usual adult price without a discount.

Museumkaart Price
Adults: 54,95 euro
Children (18 years and younger): 27,50 euro

Free with Museumkaart
Underlined names sell the card on site

Continuum, Kerkrade (Closed until Oct 2015)
Schunck, Heerlen €5
Thermenmuseum, Heerlen €6,75
Kasteel Hoensbroek, Hoensbroek €8,25
Romeinse Katakombien, Valkenburg an de Geul €7,50
Museum Abdijkerk, Thorn €3
Natuurhistorisch Museum Maastricht €6
Limburgs Museum, Venlo €11

Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam (Royal Palace) €10
Amsterdam Museum €11
Rijksmuseum €15
Museum het Rembranthuis €12.50
Hermitage Amsterdam €15
Van Gogh Museum €15
Science Center NEMO €15
Anne Frank Huis €9
Ons’ Lieve Heer Op Solder (Hidden church in a canal house) €8

Den Haag
Mauritshuis €14
Botanische Tuin (Garden) Tu Delft €2
Gemeentemuseum Den Haag €14,50
Louwman Museum (Cars) €14

Museum Bevrijdende Vleugels (Planes from WW2), Best €6,50
Nederlands Openluchtmuseum (Open air museum), Arnhem €15,70
Kasteel de Haar, Haarzuilens €14

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Tips for House Hunting

Everyone’s preference will be different on this subject, but I hope this list will help you when deciding on a house.

Available housing lists – There are several locations to get housing lists. They are the US housing office, the NATO housing office (in the Italian NSU), Brunssum (NL) housing and Schinnen (NL) housing.

If you are stationed in the Netherlands, you must live in the Netherlands. If you are stationed in Germany, you can live in Germany or, with commander permission, in the Netherlands. Note that you do not get the same tax benefits if you choose to live in the Netherlands when stationed in Germany and your housing allowance stays at the German rate. Also, in general, houses are bigger and less expensive in Germany. If the choices on these lists don’t work, you can go on the economy, but you may have to pay a “finders fee” to a realtor and the house may or may not have a kitchen included. A good place to start is http://www.immobilienscout24.de. Look at the “Meitwohnungen“for apartments for rent and “Haus meiten” for houses for rent. Kreis Heinsberg includes all of the nearby towns in the Geilenkirchen area.

Keep in mind that the housing office has a “black list” of landlords who cannot rent to military stationed over here due to prior problems. Even if you do go find a house on your own, you may want to ask the housing office if they know anything about the property.

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” – Many of the houses in the area are more than what they appear in the first photos you see of them. Many of these houses can’t even be judged from the road. Try to get appointments to walk through these houses. They might surprise you.

School bus ride time – Depending on where your town is on the bus route, the ride length for your kids may be quite different from the time it would take you to drive to or from school.

Distance from Esso – You can find the addresses of the nearest gas stations on Esso Fuel Finder. Remember that the stations on the Dutch side of the border do not take the ration card.

Internet speed and if Fiber is installed – You can ask the landlord if Fiber (cable modem speed internet) is installed in the house. If not, your town may have cables installed in the street already, which would mean you still have to schedule workers to get the cable from the street to your house. Call the company to see how long that would take. If not, most people get internet through T-mobile. You can ask someone at the T-mobile office to check the speeds for specific houses.

Cell phone network connectivity – It is possible to have no reception in parts of this area. At the bottom of this blog post, you will find a listing of the main German networks. You can then go to their respective websites to see a map of coverage in your area.

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Pet Shipping or PCSing with your Pet

Moving overseas with your pet and getting their paperwork in order can seem overwhelming at first. But I hope this listing will help answer some of your questions about getting your pet to this side of the Atlantic.

Summary of requirements for shipping a pet – This link lists all of the paperwork and actions you must take to make sure your pet is ready to be moved. The last item on this list is specific to the Pet Relocation company, but the rest of the requirements are universal.

Note: Some of these requirements are time sensitive. For example, rabies vaccine must be administered after your pet has received a Europe accepted microchip and must be between 1 year and 3 weeks old at time of travel. You will also need a health certificate completed no earlier than 10 days before travel.

Operation Military Pet Assistance Application – If the price of shipping your pet or transporting them on the same plane as you is too much, the SPCA is here to help. You need to submit a quote from the airline to submit this application. The rest of the requirements are listed at the link.

Ramstein Fact Sheet for Pets – This fact sheet is full of useful information.

Pet Examination Fee: Pet owners arriving at the Ramstein Passenger Terminal or Frankfurt airport will be assessed a 55 Euro veterinarian examination fee in accordance with European Union Ordinance #998/2003. The fee will be charged per pet. The fee is not reimbursable on travelers orders and will be payable by credit card only. Please note that if you arrive on a weekend or holiday, you may have to pay an extra fee for the Vet to come outside normal working hours.

My Top Tips:

Start researching early. Some airlines don’t ship pets during specific date ranges or when the temperature is too hot or cold. Some airlines don’t have jets equipped to ship pets on certain routes. Check different airport choices and code share flights.

When you go to book your flight with TMO, be sure to tell them that you are bringing a pet. They will help make sure you get on a flight that will allow your pet.

As soon as you have a flight booked with TMO, call the airline to reserve a spot for your pet. This includes pets that will be in the cabin under the seat in front of you. Space is limited and the airline must know that your pet is coming as soon as possible.

If your first flight choice doesn’t work, try again. I changed my flight 2 times to ensure my pet was on the same plane as I was.

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Where to Buy Propane

There are two main places to buy propane in this area. Both of these locations will work for your American propane tank and cost around 20 euro to fill.

NATEX Garage (Tank Exchange)

Phone: 0049 (0)2451-6207-252
Mon – Thu: 0800 – 1700
Fri: 0800 – 1500
Sat – Sun: CLOSED

Van Dooren

In de Cramer 17, Heerlen
Mon – Fri: 0730-1730
Sat: 0900-1300
May 1 – Sept 1, 2015: Saturdays open until 1600
Closed Sunday

The benefit of Van Dooren is that you can fill up your own tank so you are guaranteed to walk away with a tank of propane. Just drive to the back from the front gate, fill up your tank, then pay inside the store. It’s also around the corner from IKEA and the RD4 thrift shop, so you can make the trip more “productive” if you like. Thanks to the spouses who shared this information on Facebook!

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Dutch Market Search Engine

Do you need a market other than Sittard, Eygelshoven or Heerlen? I’ve found a database that lists all of the markets across the Netherlands, to include specialty markets of cheese, books, or antiques.

The home page has a description of Dutch markets, but the real lifesaver is the search engine. You can search by municipal region (Brunssum, Heerlen, Landgraaf, Kerkrade and Sittard-Geleen are examples) or by day of the week. The entries will include specific location of each market and it’s opening hours.

Search to your hearts content, you might even learn something new about your usual stomping grounds. Example: They list an organic market in Sittard on Steenweg which takes place on Saturdays 1000-1700.

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Trends in the Tri-Border Area

Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but here are some guidelines to help you navigate life in the Tri-Border area. Thanks to the HereatGK Facebook community for helping add to this post. If anyone else has epiphanies that I should add, feel free to let us know in the comments!

General Tips

Always have change on you. Between restrooms, shopping cart deposits, parking ticket machines, restaurant service tips, and bus rides, you’ll be using it all the time.

A coin purse is helpful for all of the loose change. A light colored interior will help when you need to locate the correct change. The picture below shows a convenient and organized way to carry change. Similar items may be sold in stores

469874800_880Research stores, restaurants, and attractions before you go. Opening hours may also include a lunch break or be limited on certain days, so check ahead of time. Some attractions close or have limited hours during the winter.

Self-service ticketing machines (at train/bus stations, in parking garages, etc.) generally only accept local bank cards, chipped credit cards, pre-issued parking tokens and/or Euro coins. Don’t expect your US credit card to work.


Restaurants are usually closed on Mondays (sometimes Tuesdays too).

The universal signal to let the waiter know you’re ready to order is to close your menu. If this doesn’t work, you’ll have to wave him/her down. The same goes for when you would like the check. Hand signals work really well.

Know tipping conventions for the country that you’re in. In this area, the general rule is to round up to the next euro or two.


Stores are closed on Sundays. Exceptions are called Koopzondag in the Netherlands. German cities sometimes open stores on Sunday too, but it’s more rare. Touristy towns like Valkenburg and Monchau are open on Sundays, along with big cities like Maastricht, Roermond and Eindhoven.

Stores are open later (usually to 8pm) on Thursdays in the Netherlands. For a full listing of participating cities click here.

You will have to pay for plastic bags in most stores, so it’s nice to have a lightweight bag that doesn’t take up too much space to keep in a purse or pocket. I keep a heavy duty one in the car too.

Fresh produce that is loose should be bagged prior to checkout. There should be a scale nearby that you can put the items on, press the corresponding item’s button, and a label will be printed to be affixed to your bag. Some grocery stores will weigh your produce, but they are the exception.


Most parking must be paid for or has a time limit. Check out this post for more information. Also, beware of blue lines in the Netherlands, which denote parking areas for permit holders.


Ever hear something like a tornado/air raid siren? It’s the notification for the volunteer fire department.

Has a car driven slowly down your road while ringing a bell and carrying a trailer of junk? They’ll take your scrap metal.

Download apps to your smartphone for services you plan on using, especially for public transportation. We have a listing of useful apps here.

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Val Dieu Abbey and Brewery – Aubel, BE

I was first inspired to visit the Abbey of Val Dieu by this article on CheeseWeb, an expat blog based in Belgium. The abbey is about one hour away from the Tri-Border area, and entrance into the grounds, gardens, and church is free. We visited on a Saturday so we could join the weekly tour of the abbey for 5 euro which takes place at 1330. The tour was in French, but we did get to see parts of the abbey that are closed off otherwise. It is possible to organize a group tour in English with prior coordination.

I’m sure the main draw for some people will be the brewery that is located here. It is possible to set up a group tour of the brewery, which can include beer tastings as well. There are two restaurants located here. The first, Casse-Croûte, is a cafeteria style restaurant, which has a few big meal items, lots of snacks and, of course, beer. Across the street is Moulin de Val Dieu, which is the usual bistro/restaurant and also has delicious beer. We took CheeseWeb’s recommendation and went to Moulin for lunch and ordered the same dishes, which were exceptional. I only wish my stomach was bigger, so I could have finished the meal. FYI, there is a small playground next to the terrace of Moulin and the water wheel for the mill still turns.

All in all, a visit to the Abbey of Val Dieu is a worthwhile way to spend a few hours in Belgium. Good food, good beer, and a bit of culture, all in a beautiful setting.

Val-Dieu 227, Aubel, Belgium

Open Everyday 0900-1800

Abbey Store:
Sunday, Monday and holidays: 1130-1800
Tuesday-Saturday: 1000-1800

Open Everyday except Tuesday: 0930-1830

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Burg Rheinfels – St. Goar, DE

Just north of the famed Lorelei on the Rhein river sits the small town of Sankt Goar and the largest castle on the Rhein, Burg Rheinfels. The ruins that remain of this castle are impressive and you have free reign on your self-guided tour. The website even recommends to wear sturdy shoes and bring a flashlight so you can explore all of the nooks, crannies, and tunnels of the Burg. It’s also because of this that I don’t recommend bringing young and mobile children. There are quite a few areas that a small child could fall or squeeze through. There is also a small museum within the castle that explains the history of Burg Rheinfels and why this part of the river was so important. I think between 1-2 hours is a good amount of time to spend at Burg Rheinfels. It’s hard not to put the camera down while you’re exploring.

Sankt Goar is a bit touristy during the summer months, but is still worth a stroll down the main street. There are plenty of souvenir shops to see, including a Stein store with a huge selection. Remember to bring a VAT form if you plan on any purchases.

St. Goar is about 2 hours away from the Tri-Border area by car. There is a parking lot located right next to the castle. The town also has a train station along the beautiful route of the MittelrheinBahn about 30 minutes from Koblenz and 1 hour north of Mainz. If you take the train, you will have to walk up the hill to the castle, which is about a 15-20 minute walk.

If you still have time left after all of your fun in Sankt Goar, I highly recommend stopping in Bacharach. It’s just a few train stations south of Sankt Goar and there are a ton of wineries to have tastings at and cute houses to take pictures of.

Opening Hours
March 15-Oct 25, 2014: 0900-1800
Oct 26 – Nov 9, 2014: 0900-1700
Closed after Nov 9.

Adults: 4 euro
Children 6-14: 2 euro
Children under 6: Free
Family (2 adults and up to 4 children): 10 euro

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Amsterdam Park and Ride

When traveling to Amsterdam, I am a big fan of using the NS train day-tickets that go on sale about once a month, but sometimes this isn’t the most practical way of traveling in the Netherlands. I’ve compiled a list of tips for some of the P+R lots around the city that will hopefully help you get parked and into the city as quickly as possible.

First, if you have never done P+R in Amsterdam, look through the overview on their tourism website. It will give you the basics, a list of lots you can use, and the rates for parking and getting the P+R ticket. If this page is missing any information about the parking lot you’re interested in, just use a search engine, all of the parking lot information should be on the company’s website.

The website does an good job of explaining the steps, here are some of my additional notes.

NOTE: You must use a credit card with a chip (a debit card might work) to purchase the P+R tickets. The tickets are not included in your parking fee.

Your transit into and out of city center using the P+R tickets must be used within an hour of arriving and leaving the parking garage respectively.

For the parking lots at RAI, Olympic Stadium and Arena, check their event calendar before you go. Park and Ride is closed during major events.

For RAI and Arena, the P1 parking lot is designated for Park and Ride.

RAI can only be used for 24 hours as Park and Ride.

P+R Amsterdam Flyer


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Gangelt Pool

While there is an indoor pool at Brunssum and an outdoor one at GK NATO Base, sometimes it’s nice to try something new. Last summer, I spent several days poolside in Gangelt. The pool is located right next to Haus Hamacher and is HUGE! With places to rest, tan or watch the kids, you can bring your own small cooler or buy ice cream from their vendor. As for the pool itself, it is sectioned off into three areas. One for diving, one for the huge slide, and one for free swim. Prices are reasonable and they offer a card for the season if you really like to spend your days by the pool.

Click on the links for info on any of the pools. This will include prices and times of opening.

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Eisparadies Penners- Ice Cream in Tuddern

This ice cream cafe is a staple for many of us residing in the Selfkant region, but remember, Tüddern is just across the border from Sittard, so don’t let the distance be a deterrent from visiting at least once.  Eisparadies has indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a covered balcony for those days when the weather isn’t as nice.

If you plan on having just a scoop or three, walk into the building and order with one of people at the counter. If it’s a busy day, they’ll have a second counter open in the garden area. If you plan on having drinks and sundaes, take a seat and one of the waiters will be over to take your order. The selection and the portion size are both generous. There are 9 types of spaghetti eis alone and plenty of other options are available. Most sundaes have 5 or more scoops of ice cream. I usually just ask for “ein Löffel” or one spoon so I can share with someone. You can view the menu on their website.

There is a huge playground for the kids to play on in the backyard (I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves). Parking is available just past the cafe. If you can’t find a spot, the street is always an option. There is plenty of room for bikes as well.

Eisparadies Penners
Millener Weg 25, Tüddern
Summer Hours Open Daily 1300-2100
Winter Hours Open Daily 1300-1900
Facebook Page

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Cafe Rekko – Maastricht

Along the row of restaurants in Vrijthof square in Maastricht is a cafe that we go out of our way to visit. We usually visit on Sundays for their Ontbijt (breakfast). For € 8.50, you get croissants, bread, baguettes, (along with butter, jam and chocolate sprinkles) ham, cheese, salami, a hard boild egg, orange juice and your choice of coffee or tea. After all of that food, you are ready to tackle Maastricht’s city center, which is open on Sundays too.

After trying several other selections on their menu, we can say that the portions are large and well priced and everything has been delicious. There is ample seating both inside and outside and the waiters have always been helpful.

Cafe Rekko Website
Open Daily 0900-2230
Vrijthof 10, Maastricht

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Royal Greenhouses of Laeken (Brussels), BE

The Royal Greenhouses are only open to the public for a short period of time each year. This year, they are open April 17-May 8, 2015 and admission is 2,50 per person over 18 years old. Children admission is free.

The first third of the tour is outside through the grounds. You will get to see the manicured landscape and the exteriors of the impressive greenhouses. The rest of the tour is inside the huge greenhouses, which are all connected to each other. The way the trail is set up, there is only one direction you can go so you won’t get lost. There are some stairs, but if you have two people, a stroller works well through the buildings. The entire visit for us took about 1.5 hours and was about 4km of walking.

Find more information on opening hours and directions here.

Parking is free across the street from the palace garden gates.

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Geyser Andernach

Andernach is a small city situated along the Rhein river just north of Koblenz, about a 2 hour drive from GK. The city has an expansive park along the bank of the Rhein with a large playground and even a beach. There are quite a few historical buildings to see in the park and around the city, including an old crane, the city walls and a huge round tower.

The real draw of Andernach for me was the largest cold water geyser in the world. Unlike most geysers that are powered by thermal energy, this geyser is propelled by the carbon dioxide in the water. To visit the geyser, you first stop by their Discovery Center to buy your tickets. The center suggests allowing 1.5 hours to visit the center, an interactive science museum all about geysers. After spending your time at the center, you cross the street to the boat that will take you to the geyser. The boat ride is about a 15 minute and has a few drinks, snacks and cakes available on board. The walk to the geyser is an easy one, which is wheelchair accessible. There is ample time from when the boat docks to when the geyser erupts so feel free to take your time walking up. Because the water is cold, you are allowed to get extremely close to the geyser during the eruption, but be ready with an umbrella if you don’t want to get wet, or you can stand further away. After the geyser finishes it’s show, the boat will take you back to where you started and you can explore the rest of the city. The whole visit, from buying tickets, to arriving back on the boat, takes about 3 hours.

Geyser Andernach
End of March to October 31
Monday-Sunday 9:00 am – 5:30 pm
Our Boat leaves at 11:15 am, 1:05 pm, 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm

Tickets and Prices
Driving Directions
There is free parking behind the Round Tower on Hochstrasse.

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Buying bikes at low cost

There are a few places to buy bikes that have some low cost options. So far I’ve only experimented on the NL side, but I hope to add some German stores soon!

Halfords – Sittard (Next to Xenos near the centrum)

Tempelplein 7, Sittard


(They had a few 300€ touring bikes for guys and some adorable ladies bikes for 230€)


Decathlon We wrote about this “sports authority” here

Decathlon Kerkrade
Wiebachstraat 75, Kerkrade, NL


Bike Arena Next to Decathlon….

They sell expensive bikes but their used ones are well priced! They also do bike repairs.


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Taste of India and Grenzenlos Restaurants, Tüddern

After much anticipation, the owner of Romas has opened the doors to his new restaurant. The building is located in the Tuddern shopping center just past the car wash. There are about 4 parking spots in the front of the building and a big gravel parking lot behind the restaurant.

The building is split into two halves. The front half is a modern cafe or bistro called Grenzenlos. The cafe has a daily breakfast buffet from 8 to noon and a few dishes that include hamburgers and curry wurst.

The back half of the building is Taste of India, an Indian restaurant with all the decorations, music and good food that you could hope for. The menu has a huge selection, to include tandoori, 10 types of naan bread, 6 types of rice and briyani and more Indian dishes than I’ve seen in a long time. Chicken, lamb, fish and vegetarian dishes are available. For those new to this type a food, the back of the menu lists a variety of Thalis, which are like a mix between a sample platter and a 3 course menu item.

The prices are a little higher than some of the other restaurants in the area. Vegetarian dishes are around 10 euro, while meat dishes are around 15 euro. They have menus available to take home if you want to stop by just to peruse. All in all, we enjoyed trying Taste of India and will be returning soon.

In der Fummer 18, Tüddern
0245 6508 7280/1

Grenzenlos: Open Daily 0800 – 2200
Taste of India: Open Daily 1600 – 2300

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Abbaye de Villers, Belgium

Located between Brussels and Charleroi is the quiet village Villers-la-Ville, which is home to the Villers Abbey ruins. While I could describe how relaxing my trip was and how beautiful every angle of this abbey is, I think the story is better told in pictures. You can see many aspects of the abbey on their website (you’ll see more on the French site than on the English site). The area is extremely well taken care off. The grass is short and a perfect location for a picnic. Walkways are well maintained, but the stairways and some areas of the abbey are in the middle of improvements. We wandered around the area, read the informative signs (in English) that were scattered about the area and spent some time relaxing on a park bench. All told, we spent about 2 hours here, but I am sure an avid photographer could easily spend all day expanding their portfolio. The abbey is about 25 minutes from Waterloo, so a trip up there could round out your day.

Rue de l’Abbaye, 55
1495 Villers-la-Ville

1st November – 31st March: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (closed on Tuesdays)
1st April – 31st October: 10:00 am – 6 pm (open everyday)

Annual closing: December 24, December 25, December 31 and January 1.

  • Adults: € 6
  • Children (aged 6 to 12):  € 2,50
  • Children (<6 years): Free
  • Audioguide: € 1,50

Dogs are allowed on a leash.

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Nazi Dokumentations Zentrum – Cologne

If you are interested in history (especially WWII), this is an informative and compelling place to visit. Located in Cologne, this center still has the cells that held those waiting for documentation. There are stories throughout and lots of information. Some of it is written in English, but most is not. Audio guides are available for a small fee. This museum is a real experience and look at what conditions were like and what processing entailed. I really hope you take a moment to check it out. It’s well worth the 4,50€.

NS Dokumentationzentrum Website

Tue to Fri 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sat and Sun 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Every 1st Thu of each month: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
closed on Mondays and during carnival

Adults: 4,50 €

Children up to 6 years old: Free

It is possible for individual visitors to visit the exhibition with audio guides (2 €) , which are available in six languages (English, French, Spanish, Polish, Russian and German) and run for more than 3 ¼ hours.

Cologne National Socialism Documentation Center

Appellhofplatz 23-25 (EL-DE building)
50667 Cologne

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Primark Clothing Store

Located in various cities in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany, this store is like a big version of H&M. I saw 3-10 euro shirts, 10 euro pants, 1 euro for 2 pairs of cozy socks, 12 euro for cardigans and much more. I went to the store in Eindhoven, which is 4 floors. The basement is accessories, home products and sleepwear. The first and second floors are for women and the top is for men and children. This store is big and really popular with the locals. It was very busy on a Saturday afternoon. To get an idea of the types of clothes they sell, look here. If you’re looking for fashionable clothes on the cheap, this is definitely your store.

Closest Primark Locations:
Liege, BE
Eindhoven, NL
Dusseldorf, DE
Cologne, DE
Essen, DE
Gelsenkirchen, DE
Dortmund, DE

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Helpful Smartphone Apps

Updated May 7, 2016

Smartphones can be a tremendous tool in navigating life in Europe. Here are some apps that we and contributing readers have found helpful. If you have any awesome apps you would like to share, please let us know in the comments.

AFN Europe – Android and Apple – Get AFN schedules, news and weather.

MüllAlarm – Android and Apple – Have the trash schedule for your town right on your phone! The iPhone version seems to have more capability than the Android version right now.

Visit Europe – Apple – Audio guide/walking tours of big cities


Skype – Android and Apple – Make calls over wifi.

Viber – Android and Apple – Similar service to Skype.

KakaoTalk – Android and Apple – Make calls or text with other users. Low speed internet still works well.

WhatsApp – Android and Apple – Use data and wifi to call phones. This app is very popular in Germany, so chances are that your friends are already using this.

Conversion Calculators

Convert – Apple – Easily convert from Metric to English units.

Currency Converter – Android and Apple – A helpful tool, especially with big purchases.

Metric Conversion – Android and Apple – Calculator for converting units.


Groupon – Android and Apple – Find travel, dining and fun deals for cities in Germany and the Netherlands.

VarageSale – Android and Apple – Join the local “GK/Schinnen/JFC For Sale/Wanted, Germany” group

Social Deal – Android  – Very similar to Groupon. This is a Dutch website with complimentary app.


Fast Talk –  Apple – Learn important phrases in common languages.

Google Translate – Android and Apple – Translate just like you would on the website. No internet connection needed.

Public Transportation

DB Navigator – Android and Apple – Buy tickets or look at current rail schedules on German trains. You can save itineraries for reference while you’re out and about.

NS Reisplanner – Android and Apple – Plan your trip and check for rail work on Dutch trains. Unfortunately, you must have an internet connection to run this app, but most NS trains have free Wi-Fi.

SNCB/NMBS – Android and Apple – Plan your trip and check timetables for Belgian trains. Certain features are available offline.

Veolia – Android and Apple – Dutch bus information at your fingertips.

9292 – Android and Apple – Another Dutch transportation coordination app. This one contains all Dutch transportation systems.

Travel and Traffic

Komoot – Android and Apple – Use your phone as a GPS for your bike. This app give you your first offline maps for free. They contain the bike trail network and will give you voice directions as your ride.

Esso Fuel Finder – Android and Apple – Find Esso gas stations no matter where you are. Great for road trips.

Flitsmeister – Android and Apple – This app tells you where all traffic cameras are in the Netherlands.

NavFree  – Android and Apple (Benelux and Germany) – Data free GPS for your phone.

Parkopedia – Android and Apple – Find parking options by searching a city or using GPS. Parking price, address and sometimes even real-time capacity are listed.

ADAC – Android and Apple – The German version of AAA has a bunch of apps to help you out. It’s probably all in German, but check it out. You might find some helpful things here that you can’t find anywhere else.

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Space Available (Space A) Tips

I recently returned from my first space available flight back to the U.S., here are some tips that I hope will help any of you who might use this service while living overseas.

First, head to www.spacea.net. This website is a tremendous resource. You can find information about all of the passenger terminals, the planes that allow passengers, and how to sign up for these flights. All of my information leading up to my flight came from their website.

NOTE: Not everyone is eligible for space available flights, check here to see if you are.

The following tips are observations that were not mentioned on the website so I am letting you know here.

  • Everyone who is traveling with you must be listed on the required command sponsorship letter. There was a person trying to check in the morning of the flight at Ramstein who was flying with her baby. Her name was on the command sponsorship letter, but her baby’s was not. Luckily, she was based on Ramstein, so she was able to obtain a new letter that morning before the flight, but it was a very close call.  This letter is good for one round trip flight to the US and back within 90 days of the date on the letter. Also note that your sign up date can be no earlier than the date that this letter is signed.
  • Hold onto your passport during the entire trip. It should be second nature, but any important documents, especially your passport/orders/ID card, should stay on your person during the entire trip. There was someone on my flight who put their passport into their checked bags. They showed up at customs gate to find out that they would have to go get them to proceed any further. Remember, you will go through customs on the other end of your flight before you get your checked bags.
  • Sign up by email early. You can sign up at any base up to 60 days before you plan to fly. If you are going without an active duty member, sign up early so you will have a higher priority in your category. If you are going with an active duty member, you will have to wait to sign up when his/her leave starts.  Also, print the email. This will ensure that your initial request date will be honored, even if the system is down or they lost the email somehow.
  • Check in early. You can check in/be marked present for a flight up to 24 hours prior to a flight. If you are flying out of Ramstein, avoid the lines and check in the day ahead if it’s an early morning flight. Just stop by the passenger service desk with your letter, passport and the dated email of your space a request. You don’t have to stay in the terminal after being marked present, however, if your name is called during roll call and you are not there, you risk being pulled off of the flight.
  • Space-A is not always free. Flights on military aircraft are free, but chartered flights from Patriot Express are the following prices: OCONUS to CONUS flights are $35, while CONUS to OCONUS flights are $17.50. You should be able to pay with credit/debit card, but it’s a good idea to have some cash just in case. (This tip was on the website)
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Yellow bag recycling in Germany

If you aren’t sure exactly what can and can’t go into the yellow bin or yellow bags for recycling, well here is the translation of the items that they have listed on the bags themselves.

For proper recycle bags, you can go to the town hall (Rathaus) or simply pick up some at the GK A&FRC. For English directions on how the entire trash system works, you can download the Geilenkirchen Trash Calendar and Information Booklet PDF.

Translation of info on bag:

Here only empty into disposable the packaging made of plastic, metal and composite.

This will include for example:

Shopping bags, bags, wrapping films, milk bags, cereal bags, etc.

Food cans and beverage cans, closures, aluminum trays, aluminum lid, aluminum foil, etc.

Bottles of rinse detergents and personal care products, etc.

Margarine tubs, cups from buttermilk, curd, sour cream, yogurt,  etc.

Drinks and milk cartons, vacuum packaging, etc.

Fruits and vegetables containers and foam, etc.

This is not a general value cloth bag! No filling of other products made from plastic, metal, and plastic (such as electronics and batteries. They must be disposed of properly). No filling of residual waste or household waste, paper and glass! Otherwise, there is no pickup of your recycle can!

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JFC Brunssum Auto Hobby Shop

Current information is available at the  Brunssum MWR website. Also check their information on the base car wash.

The Brunssum Auto Hobby Shop is located in the first building you see at the top of the hill. They have 5 bays with 4 lifts available for use.


You can also drop your car off to have maintenance done by the hobby shop employees. The price is being updated right now, but feel free to call them to get a quote. Here are some of the services available.

  • Tire Change
  • Tire Repair
  • Tire Balance
  • Resurface Disc
  • Resurface Drum
  • Oil Change
  • Winter Check
  • Winter Tire Change
  • ABS Brake Bleeding
  • Battery Charging
  • Welding
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CYSS – Child and Youth Services on JFC Brunssum

The Brunssum CYSS is a large program the encompasses a variety of services. Visit their website for more information. All programs are located on JFC Brunssum, Building 602. The CDC and SAC are on the far left of the building, Parent Central Services is located in the center door and the Youth Center is located on the far right side of the building.

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Events in 2014

While the calendar is the most complete listing of events, I’ve compiled this list with some of the highlights. I’ll be adding events as I find them. Of course, if you would like to add something, let us know in the comments. I’ll leave this up for future reference for next year too.

Feb 7-16 – Brussels Chocolate Week

March 3 – Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) – One of the craziest days of Carnival. Many towns host parades on this holiday. Cologne has an enormous parade that starts at 1030am.

April 19 – May 5 – Ocher Bend in Aachen – This fun fair is held in Bendplatz, Aachen, right next to the Aachen West train station. They have all sorts of rides for young and old.

May-Sept – Rhine in Flames – See the link for dates. This firework show travels up and down the Rhine throughout the summer.

20-29 June – Pilgrimage to Aachen Dom – The relics are on display during this time and will not be opened again for 7 years.

28 June – Extra Shift – Night of industrial culture in the Ruhr river valley.

11-20 July – Dusseldorf Fun Fair – This huge fair claims to be the biggest on the Rhine.

11-20 July – CHIO in Aachen – A must for any horse enthusiast.

19 July – Kolner Lichter – By far the best fireworks show I have ever seen. Reserve a seat on one of the participating river cruise boats or watch for free on the banks for the Rhine.

August 2-3 – Amsterdam Pride – Sure to be one crazy weekend in Amsterdam.

August 8-18 – Ocher Bend in Aachen

August 21-24 – Weinsommer in Aachen – A compact wine fest next to the Aachen Dom.

Sept 13-14 – NL Open Monument Day – visit some monuments that are closed to visitors during the rest of the year.

Nov 21-Dec 24 – Christmas Market Season

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Boom Chicago – Chicago Style Improv in Amsterdam

Located on Rozengracht in the Rozentheater in Amsterdam is an unlikely show that I never expected to find in Europe. The sketch and improv based comedy group Boom Chicago is mostly comprised of Americans.  Several shows are available for you to enjoy Wednesday – Saturday. While the group was initially set up to attract tourists, the majority of the crowd is Dutch, which doesn’t keep Boom Chicago from making fun of certain Dutch qualities. They recently had a show named “Delete Zwarte Piet Niet!” and another called “The 7 Deadly Dutch Sins”. All in all, the show was a blast and a great way to spend a night in Amsterdam.

Side note: We went on a Saturday to their first show of the night “Baby I Like it Raw”. The next show, “Shot of Improv” was not sold out, so they were selling tickets for €5 each to stay for that show, which was almost as long and even more fun. It’s possible that this is something they do whenever they have more tickets to sell. I highly recommend staying for this show.

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Tiger and Turtle – Magic Mountain in Duisburg, DE

I found this curiosity on Pinterest before I moved here. We eventually went to see it on our way to Extra Schicht (Extra Shift) for a day and night of German Industry exploration (We visited Zollverein later in the day). Tiger and Turtle – Magic Mountain is a walkable roller coaster. It’s not the usual thing you go sight seeing, but it is a fun (and free) place to visit and burn some calories.  The loop is blocked off from climbing, but you can walk the rest of the structure.

The sculpture is also featured on Atlas Obscura, a website full of unique sightseeing opportunities. Just put in your location and it will list items by distance away from the starting point.

Parking is available along the street Ehringer Strasse.
Use Ehringer Strasse with the cross street Richard-Seiffer-Strasse for the GPS.

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Tasso – Pet Registration

We all hope that our pets will not escape the back yard or get lost somehow, but what happens if they do? The microchip required for your pets in Europe is a good step in the right direction, but their microchip needs to be registered with your contact information to ensure that they are returned to you. The German non-profit company Tasso is available for you to register your pets. The registration process takes less than 10 minutes. All you need is the microchip number and your contact information. Once you are registered, the company will send you some information in the mail, plus a tag to add to your pet’s collar. They will send a letter asking for a donation, but this is completely voluntary, the service itself is free.

If your pet ever goes missing, come back to this website and report them missing with any helpful information, like where they were last seen. Hopefully, someone will find your pet (there are volunteers linked to the website that will help in the search),take them to a vet to get screened for the microchip and you will be quickly reunited.

There are a few animal shelters where your pet may be taken.
Tierheim Heinsberg – Tierschutzverein f.d. Kreis Heinsberg e.V.
Stapperstr. 85, 52525 Heinsberg
Tel: 02452-7773
Their Facebook page will post missing animals when they are not registered with Tasso.

Dierenbescherming Limburg
Langereweg 9 Born, NL

The Dutch also have a similar pet finding service available at Amivedi or Mijndieriszoek. You can register your pet through Chipnummer.nl.

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Q-Park Website- Parking in The Netherlands


Use the website to search cities in which a Q-Park is located. The prices do not fluctuate much from the typical 2.30 euros an hour. Q-Parks are located all over the Netherlands.

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Where to Park in Maasticht

There are quite a few options for parking in Maastricht, all of which can be reviewed on their handy website.

Here is my opinion on some of the options available.

Park and Walk
Cabergerweg – Cabergerweg, Maastricht
€1,50/hour up to €6/day
About a 10 minute walk from Vrijthof for Markt Square. You don’t drive into the city, so you avoid all of the traffic. There are 3 Park and Walk lots available, but this one seems to be the closest to city center.

Parking Garages
Vrijthof – Vrijthof 100, Maastricht
€3,53/hour or €35/day
It’s an easy drive to get to this lot in the morning, but the lot fills up fast once stores open. It’s also extremely expensive, so I wouldn’t use this lot if you plan on staying for a long time.

De Griend – Griend 4, Maastricht
€2,14/hour or €12/day
This parking garage is on the opposite side of the river from city center, near the train station. This means a lot lower chance of traffic. It is located right next to a bridge that takes you to Mosae Forum and Markt square. There are stairs that you must climb to get onto the bridge, but that is the only down side.

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Bisschopsmolen – Flour Mill and Bakery – Maastricht

Located close to the Vrijthof Square is this original flour mill and restaurant. Although it can be much simpler to grind wheat in a more advanced setting, this company prefers to use its centuries old water mill to grind the product that is used in it’s pastries and breads.

The bakery offers a tour, although it can be much simpler to just go into the private entrance of the mill and take a look yourself. The entirety of the mill can be enjoyed in a matter of minutes, but is interesting to look at before you enter into the bakery or the restaurant. You can purchase flour, bread, and pastries to take home as well.

Address:Stenenbrug 1-3
6211 HP, Maastricht


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Taart – High Tea in Maastricht

Recommended by a German friend, I set up a tea date with two friends. If you have never had high tea let me explain the basics. Although once a working persons “Afternoon Tea” it has since been adapted to mean a tea time accompanied by more substantial foods than just crumpets or cakes. Less technical, it’s an event where you and your friends dress up and have tea and quiche.

Taart offers high tea with a reservation. Call and reserve with one of the friendly staff members who speak English. They offer delicious tea, three tiers of savory and sweet snacks, a piece of quiche, and a tart to top it all off. The restaurant also offers  other meal choices that you do not have to reserve, but the menu is not extensive. One point that interested me is that they bake their tarts in house as opposed to a majority of the other restaurants who buy their cakes and tarts off site.

Parking is available in the  Vrijthof 100, 6211 LE Maastricht


Helmstraat 2a 6211TA Tele: 0437370054

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Kasteel Limbricht – Limbricht NL

Located a short drive from GK is the Kasteel Limbricht. Although today it is used as a restaurant, bowling centre, and overall tourist destination, it was once a beautiful fortress.

From In Your Pocket Guide:

The current building, which was built upon the foundations
of the old castle, originates from 1630, although exact
dates aren’t 100% certain since the castle’s archives disappeared
when it was pillaged in 1650. These days you’ll find
the oldest remains of the first chateau in the cellars of the
castle. Of all the rooms in Limbricht, the Great Hall has the
most valuable design elements including its centrepiece, a
unique sandstone fireplace. Unfortunately, you can only visit
the castle as part of a tour group, but you can visit the large
public terrace of its historic courtyard restaurant.


We visited this castle as part of an office dinner party and were met with the kindest hosts. The dinner atop personal table top grills was delicious and the bowling was very fun. Be aware of the platforms on the bowling lanes. They are slippery!

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Ich & Dich – Sittard

This restaurant in the market square is sometimes overlooked but it’s definitely worth a try. Their menu is mainly sandwiches, but soups, salads, and a few tapas are also available. The soups were a favorite of people who were sitting around us, while we enjoyed our sandwiches. There are tables outside that you can sit at or walk inside to the back of the restaurant past the bar area. There is an open area back there that is quite nice. I think Ich & Dich is a nice alternative to Bagels & Beans every once in a while. Give it a try next time you’re in Sittard at lunch time.

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Zaanse Schans – Windmills!

Just a 20 minute train ride from Amsterdam is the Netherlands we all thought of before moving here. Zaanse Schans is filled with quaint houses surrounded by canals, windmills, wooden shoes, boats and bikes.  Most parts are open 1000-1700 everyday during the high season (April-November), while some shops are closed on weekdays during the low season. You can go inside the windmills for around €3. Why not start your day trip to Amsterdam here? Just switch trains at Amsterdam Centraal towards Koog-Zaandijk.

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Zum Goldenen Einhorn – The Golden Unicorn- Aachen

Located in one of the many beautiful and historic buildings surrounding the Aachen Cathedral is Sum Goldenen Einhorn. This translates into the Golden Unicorn. The building was once the horse stables for the town center and the restaurant plays off of this. The fayre is typical German, specifically Aachen specialties. The ambiance is so warm and inviting and the staff were more than helpful.

The prices for lunch were moderate, but the service and quality of food were fantastic! The schnitzel was superb (which is a make or break deal around here) and the Aachen specialty of roast with apple cabbage slaw and potato dumpling was delicious. This is a gem of a restaurant that I hope you experience to believe.

Address: Aachen, Restaurant Zum goldenen Einhorn Innenaufnahmen 3-Bildaufnahmen 52062


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Leisure Dome – Movie Theater, Bowling, Mini-Golf, Play Place in Kerkrade

A new entertainment complex has opened up in Kerkrade and it has something for everyone. Here’s a summary of what they have to offer.

JT Movie Theater – This theater boasts the largest movie screen in South Limburg. There are 8 screens total, but the large one also has XD sound and the option to sit in D-Box chairs that move with the movie. Their prices are comparable to Foroxity, including the reduced prices and sneak previews on Tuesdays for €5. The theater does not take credit cards, but had pin-code machines, so you may be able to buy with Dutch bank cards, but cash is always accepted. As with other movie theaters in the area, beer and wine are available and there will be an intermission during the movie.

If you are facing the theater, there are stairs outside and to the left of the theater entrance that will take you to the bowling, mini-golf and arcade.

Bowlo Bowling Lounge – This is the classiest bowling venue I have ever seen. The lounge area looks like a nice place to have a cocktail while you wait for your turn on the lane.

GlowGolf – Indoor mini-golf under black lights. I think kids will love this one. A regular game costs €7,50 per person and will take 60 to 75 minutes to play. Birthday parties can also be arranged.

Darteldome – This indoor play place is huge, measuring 2000m², and is open to kids ages 0 to 12 years old. Prices are based on age; up to 2 years old is €2, up to 4 years old is €4, and kids up to 12 years old are €8,50. Birthday parties are also possible here. There is also a Darteldome location in Sittard at Dr. Nolenslaan 128.

Gamestate – This arcade is larger than the usual in the area, but it’s no Dave & Busters. I’m sure the video game lover could still have some fun in this place.

WOK Parkstad Plaza – This restaurant has a few sides to it. There is a brasserie/cafe, which is open all day, and a restaurant open in the evenings. There is also a play place located in the restaurant for the kids to enjoy.

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European VAT Forms for GK Stationed Families

This information may have changed since it’s original posting. If this process has changed, you can contact us at hereatgk@gmail.com to have this post updated.

This is a question that I’ve often asked and have received several answers to. So let’s crush the rumors once and for all and give it to you straight!

Building 74 is just outside the front gate of GK. There is a sign on the building for NATEX Administration and AMSTO. You are able to purchase European VAT forms from the AMSTO office, which is located just inside the front door of the building. AMSTO also sells tax forms for European car purchases. For the European VAT form, you buy the form for 5 euro, they certify it and you can use it anytime within the a year. This form is valid for Belgium, the Netherlands and many other European countries.

If you are using the VAT for the first time, make sure you ask the store what their procedure is before your purchase because they all handle it differently. Some take it at the register and remove the tax prior to your payment. In other stores, you pay the full price, then you take the form to a service desk and get reimbursed the taxes.

Quick Tip: If you have a favorite store that you go back to time and again, this tip is for you. Many stores will reimburse your VAT for multiple purchases. Save your receipts and take them all in at once with your VAT form. Make sure you purchase your VAT form before you start buying though and process it before it expires. Also, check with the store to see what their policy is, but if they do allow this, you’ll be able to save time and money.

Posted in Financial Resources, Geilenkirchen NATO Base - Info, General Local Info, Shopping | Leave a comment

Listen to AFN Online

If the radio signal is weak in your area, or you just don’t have a radio that tunes to even numbers, you’re in luck. AFN streams online.

AFN hosts the local Benelux station along with the other European bases. You’ll also find several stations focused on different types of music; Country, Classic Rock, Contemporary Hits and Talk radio, plus a few more.  You can listen on your computer or download the AFN Europe App (Android and iPhone) and listen on your phone. Happy listening!

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MSC Cruise Lines – Sinfonia

Living in Europe gives numerous opportunities to travel and one of your travel options is a cruise. When my family and I decided we would like to take a cruise I went to a ton of websites and ultimately decided on militarycruisedeals.com to book our cruise. We chose this option due to the ease of the website, the variety of destinations, and cost.

I called the number at the top 866-9-MILITARY and spoke with my travel agent Mitch. He was incredibly laid back but professional. He walked me through choosing the best deal to meet my demands. I had 4 adults and 2 children. I chose a Mediteranian cruise on MSC because it offered children cruise free. You will see a variety of different destinations that offer this same deal, but I chose Genoa as my departure port because of the close proximity to a Ryan Air destination. Again, this will be your choice.

Mitch talked me through the steps and I booked and paid that very day. Because of the fact that we used our military status to get a discount he needed my sponsors LES to prove that he was indeed American Military. You will need to scan this in and e-mail it right away.

Skip ahead to the cruise. We flew from Dusseldorf Weeze to Milan Italy and stayed the night in a very quaint apartment near the airport called Airport Abaco Suite. The owners picked us up from the airport and drove us to our accommodation where we had to pay cash for the room. Did not see that coming, but now maybe you will! Website: http://www.booking.com/hotel/it/airport-abaco-suite.en-us.html?sid=818548ad7a402af3a396bfb975101d7f;dcid=1;checkin=2013-12-24;checkout=2013-12-25;srfid=5da0575cd1b4afa9fe7d2f4399533f4031321d95X6

The next morning we woke up and walked the very short distance to the train station where we boarded and headed to Milan Central train station. Our tickets were purchased ahead of time on the EU train website but you can buy tickets at the station very easily. At Milan Central we changed trains and went straight to Genoa. At departure we walked the next short distance to the port. You can easily see the boats when you come out of the station so just head in that direction!

Because you have your tickets printed and you know your departure time you need to show up at the terminal at least 2 hours prior to departure. You will need to follow the well positioned signs to find your cruise line terminal. It was very easy for us. They took our bags outside the terminal and took them to our rooms for us. After we checked in we bought our all inclusive drink package and it was billed to our rooms. Then we took the small ramp to paradise.

First they gave me all of the information I needed for my children. Lots of paperwork. Bring a binder. Then we headed to the deck for a mandatory safety meeting where we were shown how to put on our life vests and which lifeboat we would be on in case of an emergency. There are plenty of lifeboats. Don’t worry.  Enough with the technicalities. We went back to our rooms to find our bags and put away our life jackets. Then to the deck for swimming and daiquiris.

The Sinfonia was beautiful, but don’t get me wrong. They are a discount destination cruise line. The price was nice and the ports were beautiful, but if you are used to fancy ships, you wont get that here. It was my first cruise so I was PLENTY impressed. There were a lot of services.

My children used the kids club once when we went into the city of Mahon. They were very professional and courteous. My kids were well taken care of and the process was easy and free! There was entertainment every night such as bingo, movies, dance lessons, fashion shows, and bartender shows. They also had mini golf, a basketball court, and a disco on the top of the boat. In the boat were 2 bars and a casino. We spent most of our time on the top deck soaking in the sun and swimming in their two pools. For dinner we were assigned a table in the same restaurant every night. Their menu changed every day and there were gala nights for dressing up. If you didn’t want to partake in the fancy sit down dinner you could always go to the buffet. Any time of day there was food laid out for the taking. For breakfast we could either go to a separate restaurant or the buffet. The food was absolutely delicious.

We went to 5 ports. Nice, Palma, Menorca, Sardinia, and Solereno.  I will post about the cities in a separate post, but if you were interested in purchasing any of their excursions you could do that at the excursion desk. You could inquire about anything that was going on on the boat, ask questions about your bill, or order room service and a wake up call at Reception.

I am sure this is not all of the information I learned on my first cruise, but enough to set your first cruise off to a good start!

Posted in Adults, Kids, Places "HereAtGK" has been, Things to do, Travel, Travel Tips and Resources | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Locking Your Door

This seems like a silly thing to write about, but some don’t know about or don’t use the deadbolt feature on the front door of their house. Without a handle on the outside of the front door, it is difficult to break into your house, but not impossible. A thief could jimmy the latch open or, if you have a mail slot in or around your door, they could hook the door handle from the inside . If you have clever pets, it is also good to know how to lock the door and disengage the inside door handle so they can’t open it and let themselves outside.

Dead-bolting the door is simple. Turn once counter-clockwise to engage the deadbolt and turn again to disengage the handle inside (so your adventurous dog can’t get outside or a thief can’t use the easy exit). It might be good to test your lock out with two people and two keys to make sure your lock works the same way. Test out locking from the inside and outside and with a key stuck in one side while trying to use the other side. Try all of the combinations to make sure you won’t get locked out or in accidentally. You and your house will be more secure and hopefully you’ll have some extra peace of mind.

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Recieve calls from the U.S.

Submitted by Melissa B. ~

I wanted a Washington phone number, so all of my friends and family could call me. When we cancelled my cell phone with Verizon in the U.S., we IMMEDIATELY called Vonage and they were able to use the same number. You can buy $100 kits with all of the phones included, but you really only need the box. The Vonage box by itself is about $40. When we started, it was a special deal, free for 3 months and $25 a month after. The list of countries that I can call is amazing, but the best part is all the people that can now call me. We bought a house phone for our German land-line, and another to plug into the Vonage box. Now people in North America can call away (so long as they mind what time it is!).

Unlimited calling from Germany to landlines and mobile phones in the U.S. with No Contract! Free shipping to Germany!

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Fitness Options in the Tri-Border Area

Updated: 15 April 2016

We’ve written about many of the fitness options available to you on the bases in the area. This post is here as a summary sheet.


Fitness Classes on Brunssum – All classes are back up and running.

Indoor Swimming Pool

Geilenkirchen: (US and NATO)

Fitness Classes on GK – Mostly located at the gym located near the base track. You need an MWA card to use these facilities.

Mama HAWCS – Check with the A&FRC for their schedule.

Crossfit Gym -Located in the old elementary school gym (Building 298). They are sometimes open on the weekend. Check the Facebook page for updates.


Fitness Classes on Schinnen  – There is also a rock wall located in the Community Activity Center. Call the Gym for more details.

Posted in GK/Schinnen/JFC Brunssum Info, Health Resources, Newcomers, Sports Clubs and Classes, Things to do | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Spoordeelwinkel – Dutch Train Ticket Deals

Spoordeelwinkel is a great place to get ideas for trips around the Netherlands. The items offered on the site are a varied, from day trips to museum, zoos or theme parks, to a meal at a restaurant, or even an overnight stay at a hotel. These offers always come with a train ticket (greatly reduced in price) to the destination.

Take a look around the site. You’ll be sure to find something that peaks your interest.

Note: The only way to pay for tickets on this site is through iDEAL, which is connected to Dutch online banking systems. You will need a Dutch bank account to use this service.

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Waldschänke – Selfkant

Waldschänke is my favorite German restaurant in the area. Their menu isn’t as extensive as some other restaurants, but they excel in what they do have. Their Rahm sauce is delicious and they have homemade croquettes. Most dinners come with the salad bar and fresh bread as well. Soups, salads, fish, meat and even a vegetarian items are on display in their menu.

In the summer months and on weekends in the winter, you can stop by their Eiscafe for one of their sundaes. Many people bike here when the weather is nice.

An der Waldschänke 1
52538 Selfkant-Süsterseel
+49 (0) 2456 509 9971

Opening Hours:
Summer: Closed Mondays
Winter: Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Tues – Sat 17.00 – 21.00
Sun 12.00 – 14.00 and 17.00 – 21.00

Eiscafé & Bistro:
Winter Season:
Sat, Sun 12.00 – 19.00

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Student Discounts for .edu emails

Discounts are a wonderful thing, but they aren’t always something you know about. If you attend school in the tri-border then you should be taking full advantage of your .edu email address. UMUC is my school and they just recently switched to giving this access to students. So contact your school if you don’t have an email account set up yet!

Click on anything blue to be connected to that link!

Amazon – Free year of Student Prime which gives you free shipping! This can save you money on school books and supplies, or even just your everyday purchases. After the first year, they give you a reduced rate for your prime membership. 

Norton- Computer Protection Software 

Hp- Computers, printers and more

Dropbox-file transfer system. If you enter your .edu email address, Dropbox gives you 3GB of extra space. 

Apple – Save on a Mac

Microsoft- Software

StudentRate-a website where you sign up with your .edu email address and get access to hundreds of discounts from stores that you’d regularly shop at like Forever 21, Boohoo, Urban Outfitters, Toms and more. 

Barnes and Noble – You can even rent textbooks….

More to be updated as found. Of course, feel free to contribute!

Posted in Education Resources, Things to do | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

NMBS/SNCB – The Belgian Rail System

I’ve found that when it comes to traveling by train, crossing country borders increases the price, so when traveling on the Belgian trains, I leave from Genk.

Genk is the closest Belgian train station to the Selfkant region(EUROPALAAN, 39
3600 GENK). Free parking is on the side of the station (put a copy of your ticket on the dash), otherwise, there is a Parkhaus underground just across the street. There are trains going between Genk and Brussels every hour with no transfers. A weekend ticket (half price round trip) from Genk to Brussels currently costs €15,40.

Eupen (BAHNHOFSTRASSE, 2, 4700 EUPEN) or Welkenraedt (PLACE DE LA GARE, 11, 4840 WELKENRAEDT) are the closest train stations to the GK area, however, they are only about 10-15 mins closer than the Genk station. Both stations require no transfers to get to Brussels. A weekend ticket from Eupen to Brussels currently costs €21,60. Welkenraedt is one euro cheaper. It’s a close call on which station is best in terms of travel time and price for all three stations.

It is possible to get on the Belgian Rail system from Aachen or Maastricht. These tickets have their own special category on the ticket type drop down when you go on the website. You will have to pay for your NL or DE train ticket separately to get to these stations.

Please note, that on the way back from Brussels, the train splits. Half goes to Liege, the other half to Genk. Ask the ticket checker if you are on the correct half. You can also determine this by looking at the LED signs on the side of the train cars or the TV screens inside each car. If they screen says Genk, then you are on the correct car. It splits around Hasselt.

Buying Tickets
On the train website http://www.belgianrail.be/ put in (Your Starting Station) [NMBS/SNCB] to (Your Ending Station) [NMBS/SNCB]. The part in brackets tells you that it’s a train station and not a bus stop. Brussels Station name is Brux.-Central / Bru.-Centraal [NMBS/SNCB] and is a short walk from the Grand Place.  If you are going on a weekend, you can choose “Weekend Ticket Internet” for your ticket type for 50% off. Buy the tickets and print them out. I have always bought the tickets online with a credit card and had no problems. You should also be able to buy weekend tickets at the train station at the ticket counter or kiosk.

Ticket Specials
The website frequently has tickets specials for round trip tickets at a set price. Check online frequently so you don’t miss a great deal.

Tickets for Children
Up to 4 children under 12 years old ride FREE per paying chaperone.
Half price children tickets are available if you have more than 4 children traveling with you.

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Kruidvat reminds me of a Dutch version of CVS or Walgreens. They have a little bit of everything, from makeup and hair items to baby products and items to clean your house. They are also one of the stores that sells discounted train tickets from time to time.

The closest Kruidvat is located in Sittard, relatively close to the ABC parking lot. There are also stores located around Heerlen. If you want to search for other stores, go to their website and use the search function. Change the radio button above the search bar to “Winkel”, which is the Dutch word for a shop. Be sure to use Dutch city names or postcodes when searching.


Opening times:
Mon, Tues, Wed, Fri: 0900-1800
Thurs: 0900-2100
Sat: 0900-1700

Posted in Health and Beauty, Maastricht, Sittard | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Your German Dishwasher and Dishwasher Salt

When we moved here, we were lucky to have a friend and our landlady explain the ins and outs of how to use German dishwashers properly. I know your thinking “uh, you are retarded!”, but seriously, they require care different from back in the U.S.


Yes, really! There is a screw off lid in your dishwater at the bottom where you need to fill it with salt. There is also usually a little symbol on the timer inside that says it needs salt. Now, don’t be thinking “table salt” because that will get you nowhere. You must buy the “Salz” in the local grocery store, the Natex, or you can even pick it up at Schinnen. In each store it is located next to the dish soap. Most of the time it comes in a red box. You might need two boxes to fill up the reservoir.

Here’s a YouTube post by another military wife showing the process of putting the salt into the dishwasher. The salt softens the water, allowing the detergent to work more efficiently and helping to prevent lime scale.

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US Gym on GK – HAWC


The US Health and Wellness center is located in Building 109 on GK (part of the old elementary school complex). They have cardio and weight lifting equipment along with balance balls and other assorted fitness accessories. This gym has no air conditioning, so plan accordingly.

You need an access code to unlock the door to the center. You can ask your sponsor for this information. Remember, this gym is for US personnel and their dependents only.


Crossfit Gym

Located in the old elementary school gym (Building 298), check their Facebook page for more information.

Posted in Geilenkirchen NATO Base - Info, Sports Clubs and Classes | 3 Comments

Tirerack.com — Online Tire Sales

According to most Americans Tirerack.com is the place to go for tires when you are stationed overseas. Some say that the price of tires in Germany and The Netherlands are just way to high to pay. That is opinion, but we here at GK must be open minded and so I am putting this website out there for those that would like to try them out.

I drive a Subaru Outback Limited 2.5 with 17 inch rims. My tires are big and costly. I went to the site to find that they boasted a 107 USD price along with a 55 dollar per tire shipping fee. That seemed reasonable to me for my Hankook Optimo tires. I check with Schinnen and their price was 235 USD per tire. This price included no mounting. So tirerack  seemed legit. So this is 324 for the two tires I needed plus I had to pay someone to mount them. This would be minimal at about 20 dollars. It can take between 1-4 weeks for delivery.

Then I went to Van Son, my go to place in The Netherlands (see blog on this site). They are charging me 112 euros per tire and that is for mounting and balancing. Then we must add the 19% sales tax because I can not get my VAT back because I live in Germany. This comes to about 349 dollars for both tires. Best part though, I get them in two days MAX!

See both sites and compare to get your best results. This is bias on only one type of car, but just to keep your options open there are the two place I know about!

Site is very easy to use: http://www.tirerack.com/

Posted in Auto or Motorcycle, Shopping | Tagged , , | 2 Comments


It can be tough to find a sitter. AFRC at GK NATO Base does have a list but here are some of our readers who also offer sitting services!

We will do our best to keep this updated and add more names often!

Regina Dante –   A local spouse, she lives in Kreuzrath and has her own transportation. She provides adult supervision for your kids while you are away and can also provide sewing classes as well. She has experience in both babysitting and teaching classes.  rmdan14@gmail.com  or 0049 170 299 7298

Nicole Schlicker- 18 years old and speaks German and English fluently. She is first aid trained and has experience babysitting for families of all nationalites and ages. Nicole is able to provide her own transportation. 02454 936095 or email is lschlicker@me.com   Located near Birgden.

Dan Schlicker- 17 years old and speaks German and English fluently. He is first aid trained and has experience babysitting for families of all nationalites and ages. 02454 936095 or email is lschlicker@me.com  Located near Birgden.

Vivyan Howell – 14 years old and  is first aid certified with previous experience babysitting. Also has 3 younger siblings so lots of experience! She lives in the Schalbruch area. vivoli98@hotmail.com

Olivia Howell – 12 years old and is first aid certified with previous experience babysitting. Also has 3  siblings so lots of experience! She lives in the Schalbruch area. vivoli98@hotmail.com

Posted in Businesses of GK families, Kids | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Asian Cash and Carry – Market

From our reader Mary:

There is another great Asian market in Landgraaf called Asian Cash & Carry. It’s a big store that I can even take my stroller comfortably into and the parking lot is big as well. It’s pretty close to being my one stop shop. I was elated to find a big bag of sticky rice and they also had ingredients/spices I grew up with. I’m pretty picky when it comes to my soy sauce and spring roll wrappers and they had it all.




**Thanks for sharing Mary!

Posted in Asian, Food | Leave a comment

Toko Lim–Asian Market

I am always just one ingredient shy of the perfect recipe. Especially when it comes to Asian food. However, on a recent trip out to Sittard, a friend showed me the place to go!
Toko Lim
Rijksweg Zuid 2A, 6131AN Sittard
031 – 46- 4517894
This is walking distance from the market and if you know where Thai Garden is (my favorite place to eat!) then it is on the other side of the street and next to the light where the pedestrian walk way is.
It’s a tiny store but it had everything I needed from my favorite crackers to the wonton wraps to the perfect thai rice noodles.

Posted in Asian, Food, Sittard | Leave a comment

Tri-border Walking club

Imagine a great day filled with beautiful sights, awesome people, and a little healthy walking….. If this sounds like a great idea to you, well your in luck! Somebody else already thought of it and they are inviting everyone to join in!!!

The Tri-Border Walking Club is based at JFC Brunssum and is a recreational club for the NATO military and civilian community and their families. Members participate in volksmarches throughout Europe but mostly in the tri-border.

For information on participating or to see some of their previous adventures, check out their Facebook page: Https://www.facebook.com/triborderwalkingclub

Staying in shape and seeing the local areas have never been more fun!

Posted in Adults, NO COST | Leave a comment

V & D department store

Website: http://www.vd.nl/

This store (which I frequent in the Sittard market place) is a normal department store that could be compared to JC Penny’s. The clothes are fashionable and varied. They have name brands and great prices and sales. We shopped for school clothes for my children there and I picked up a few items for myself. I was so impressed by their wonderful selection and prices that I had to pick up a gift card for my friend. You will not be disappointed in this store. The stores in Heerlen and Maastricht are even bigger than the V&D in Sittard!

Markt 1, Sittard
Opening Times

Dautzenbergstraat 47, Heerlen
Opening Times

Grote Staat 5-15, Maastricht
Opening Times

Posted in Clothing, Craft/Home decor, Shoes, Shop by city, Shopping, Sittard | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Blueberries!! “Oppe Boesj” Blueberry picking

Blueberry picking in the heart of all things that grow is just as fun as you would think. They have acres and acres of blueberry bushes just waiting to give their fruit.

Located at: Prinsenbaan 45
6104 BB Koningsbosch

They are a hop skip and jump from our local tri-border area. We had a wonderful time picking blueberries and the prices are great at 2.50 Euro/kg but you must pick at least 3kg (one bucket). The farm provides you with a crate to transport your berries home.

Take your time this growing season to pick some blueberries for pie, muffins, or just snacking. Check their website to make sure they are open, the growing season is throughout the summer, but they close from time to time to allow more berries to ripen.

Helpful Tip: If you go on a drizzly day, there will be less customers and less insects to compete with.

Website (in English) :http://www.oppeboesj.com/

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Ride the Alps–Annual Edelweiss Sponsored Event for Motorcyclists

Each year, Edelweiss Lodge and Resort hosts “Ride the Alps”. They offer a discounted room for two and it includes Friday and Saturday night, the dinners and the breakfast. But the most important part is the ride! They have a ride through the alps that is a poker run. This means you follow the signs to the stops where you pull a card in hopes to win the grand prize by getting the best hand. They also have live music and several fun games for winning prizes. Our club (the Geilenkirchen Riders Association) goes annually and has a great time! The event is usually held in June and advertised early in the year on their website. Reserve early to ensure your ability to participate in this highly anticipated event!

Ride the Alps 2014 Information June 20-22

View albumView albumView album

Posted in Adults, Auto or Motorcycle, Places "HereAtGK" has been | 2 Comments

Helpful Facebook Groups

There are a bunch of Facebook groups/communities out there that are helpful in sharing information and connecting people. Here’s a list of some of them. Please note that most of these groups are closed, so an administrator will have to grant you permission to enter these groups.

GK/Schinnen/JFC Brunnsum Garage Sale – An alternative place to connect people to buy and sell items in the local area. This group now uses the VarageSale App on Facebook. (www.gkswap.org, and gk.bookoo.com are the other main options).

GK/AFNorth/JFC Classifieds – Another Facebook group for listing items for sale.

GK / AFNorth / Schinnen / JFC Brunssum Volunteer Connection – A group dedicated to letting you know what volunteer opportunities are out there. Clubs and individuals can advertise to get the word out on the volunteer work they are doing.

GK/AFNorth/JFC Friends and Faux – A tri-border consumer review platform. They let you know good and bad experiences at companies in the area.

Tri-Border Village Elder Program – This group is an extension of the GK AFRC Village Elder program. Members post events in the local area and use the group as a forum for questions about the local area.

Alternatives to shopping at the BX/Commissary in Germany – If you need to find a specific item on the economy, this group can help you out.

Companies that ship to APO’s – A place to find/discuss your experiences with companies shipping to APO addresses.

Wives of Germany Travel Information – Ask a question and you’re sure to get an answer quickly on this group. It started in the Tri-Border community, but it has grown to include people from many of the other bases in Germany.

411 Travel through Germany! – There is a ton of information on this site. Their files can be helpful as well. This group started in Ramstein.

I Love Germany – Ask questions about moving to and living in Germany!

SHAPE Travel Tips – Another travel group a little closer to home.

BEEN THERE ~ Stuttgart’s Essential Travel Club – Exactly what the name says. They have few helpful files posted in their group as well.

Travelling Spouses – A group mostly based in England, they still have some good ideas for traveling around mainland Europe and they have a ton of files with notes on different locations.

The below image came from a recent edition of Stripes Welcome to Europe publication. You can see a complete listing of their publications here.

Moms Helping Moms Facebook Pages

Posted in General Local Info, Newcomers, Resources/Help | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Dachau Concentration Camp and tour from Munich

You have heard us rave about Sandman’s Tours before, well here we ago again. These tours are in major cities all over the EU. Most of the city tours a free, but they offer bike tours at a low cost and in some areas have tours for specific attractions. In Versailles they offer a tour for example. I think one of the most serious tours they offer however is of the Dachau Concentration camp. This tour leaves the main square of Munich and for a little over 20€ a person, it includes the train and bus ride to get to the camp. Upon arrival, you take a tour of the camp which covers all the highlights. If I did it again, I’d get the travel info from the guide and make my own way back to Munich because then we could have stayed and spent time combing through all the reading and such that was offered. However, the guide did tell us about the book he used to learn everything and it was 10€ including a cd and you could buy it at the camp. The tour itself is about 3 hours long and then there is also travel time.

This experience is life changing. It is sobering and not something to do alone. I am literally crying tears as I write this simple blog because it brings me back to the feelings I had walking through the camp. It brought to life, the pain and suffering and injustice that occurred and it made my heart physically ache in my chest. It was however the single most important experience of my life and I will never forget the way it felt to see the this place of terror.

It is not something for young kids and I found it frustrating that people brought their small children because they were running around and untamed. However, for a high schooler, this would be a prime example of how living in Europe is living in history and I highly recommend everyone does this with their teenager. We stayed at Edelweiss and they do offer child care at the resort.

For info on the tour, please click here.

Click to enlarge photos.

DSCN2683 At the entrance

DSCN2686The gate into the camp translates “work makes free” (Arbeit macht frei)

DSCN2694The art was added after and represents barbed wire and human bodies. Many killed themselves on the wire in suicide to escape the life they were forced into.

DSCN2697The active years of the camp

DSCN2719A toilet in one of the barracks where people were put in small rooms and punished for days on end.

DSCN2749The dorms were actually destroyed by angry American soldiers before the prisoners wisely stopped them from destroying the whole camp by telling them that it needed to be preserved so that the future generations would learn from it and never forget the lesson. The dorms were then rebuilt by the prisoners to ensure that history lived on.

DSCN2763The crematory


DSCN2768The gas chamber. While  this was not a death camp, it did have a gas chamber. It is unknown if 10 died or 10000 in this room as it was not recorded.

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Outdoor Recreation Rental – Schinnen

The binder listing all of the equipment available is located in the Andre Bruls Fitness Center on Schinnen. For more information visit the Schinnen MWR website.

  • Canopies,
  • patio heater,
  • beer tables,
  • XXL BBQ,
  • dunk booth,
  • bounce houses,
  • tents,
  • coolers,
  • and a few other items.


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Genker Plantcentrum

I found this store in one of our local newspapers. They had an ad that said they were the biggest plant center in the Benelux area and they were open on Sundays. I have to agree that this place is quite large. I was able to find all of the plants I was looking for plus a few extras.

First, parking is free and open. They have room for cars with trailers, so they can fit a truck easily. Almost everything is outdoors so either go on a nice day or plan accordingly for the weather. There is a map as you first walk into the center which is helpful if you a looking for specific items.

This place has everything: flowers, herbs, ground cover, bushes, trees and hedges in all shapes and sizes. You can buy all of your gardening tools and supplies as well. There was also a bounce house when I was there for the kids to use some of their energy.

Hengelhoefstraat 118
3600 Genk, Belgium

Opening Times
Open on Sundays and Holidays

  • Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri: 9.00-18.00
  • Sat, Sun and Holidays: 9.00-17.30
  • Closed Tuesdays

Closed 12/15 – 01/31

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Weather Websites

It’s always good to be prepared, so here are some weather websites (that specialize in Europe weather) to keep you up to date.

Wetter.de – This trusty site seems to be most peoples go-to site. Just put in your zip code or city and get local forecasts up to 8 days out and radar. They have an App for your smart phone as well.

Weathercast.co.uk – This site has excellent radar for many European countries. There is one for Germany, but I usually use the Netherlands and Belgium radars because they’re more zoomed in to our corner of the country.

Do you know other good weather sites? Let us know in the comments.

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Have questions or want to share info? Let us help!

If you have a questions about places to go that Hereatgk hasn’t blogged yet, and you want to put it out there to other spouses in the Tri-Border to answer, send us your question and we will post it on Facebook so that you can find what you need. The best part is, afterward we’ll check the places out and blog about them so others can know about them too!

If you have a great place that you want to share or something that provides important info to the community, let us help spread it.

Email or Facebook us!



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Eetcafe Pretzels – Sittard Whiskey Bar and Restaurant

This whiskey bar has it all. I don’t care how many you’ve tasted, you have barely begun denting the list of whiskeys that they carry! With a range for everyone’s preference and budget, this is a quaint bar that is quiet but fun. The decorations alone will give you something to remember.

The restaurant has a good selection, with some seasonal items (mussels in the winter). The soups were quite good. Our meals both came with a salad and fries and everything was delicious. The staff is very friendly, which is always a plus.

They offer deals for whiskey tastings on Social deal sometimes or on their facebook page.

Putstraat 37 6131 HH Sittard       Tel: 046 – 4 51 53 52

Open Wednesday-Sunday after 5pm

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Gasthof Peters – Höngen

Gasthof Peters is a traditional German restaurant with loads of character. All kinds of farming and kitchen tools hang from the ceiling of the historic building and a huge fireplace dominates one of the dining areas. The menu offers a variety of German specialties, all of which can be reviewed on their website. This restaurant has been a favorite of many people stationed here. There are also several rooms available for large gatherings, one of which seats up to 180 people. I am personally intrigued by the bowling room, where you can try your hand at Kegelbahn style bowling.

Heerstraße 1
52538 Selfkant – Höngen

Opening Times
Wed – Fri at 18.00
Sat at 17.30
Sun at 16.00
Mon and Tues Closed

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Ryan’s Car Detailing Service

Getting ready to PCS, need your vehicle detailed to ship it? Or does your vehicle just need a good detailing in and out? Everything is cleaned: engine, interior, exterior, radiator. 100% guaranteed to pass inspection! 70 Euro.

Call/text me at 0031-61-687-7175
or email me at rrudd44@yahoo.com7270a

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If you’ve been craving big juicy burgers, we’ve found a new place for you to try. The restaurant is fairly new to Heinsberg, but it has already had quite a few rave reviews in the Facebook community. I have to agree that this is a great place to get your burger fix. The staff was friendly and the restaurant has a a fun quirky style. They also have a patio area that should be open now that the weather is nicer. Their menu is listed on their website. Unfortunately, the menu can’t be translated through an online service, but you can still get an idea of prices (and manually translate as needed) before you head out.

The restaurant is on the opposite side of the street from McDonalds at the intersection of Hochstraße and Industriestraße. Parking is available just past the restaurant on Industriestraße.

Hochstraße 177, Heinsberg
Open Mon-Sun 1200-2200

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Keukenhof Gardens- Lisse NL


The tulip garden’s of Keukenhof is a showcase of the beautiful flowers that call the Netherlands their home. The tulips take center stage because of the lush landscape that provides such a solid home to them, but there are other flowers there as well, such as the crocus flower.

When the gardens are blooming there is a variety of color, landscape, and environments to visit. There is also a windmill on display for the Holland experience. The blooming times are from March-July , but the online site gives accurate and up to date information about what is exactly going on with those bulbs. Prices and varying opening times are also listed on the website.


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Van Son- Brunssum Tires

I popped a tire the other day along side the road driving from GK to Brunssum. After changing the tire I thought, I need to go to Schinnen and get a new one tomorrow. Turns out Schinnen does not carry tires in stock. That’s the first word of advice I have for you. Then I thought- Where oh where will I go? Turns out this little area that I have passed through many times has a plethora of tire shops, mechanics, and car dealers. I chose Van Son on a recommendation. They have a variety of tires and could match my tire to the other on the same axle (law for inspection) and was able to get my tire in that very day. I was so relieved to have an English speaking attendant and their customer service was amazing. The prices are lower than that I was quoted to order tires from Schinnen and the arrival time was faster. Hope this helps if you ever need new tires!

Site: http://www.vansonbanden.nl/


Autobanden Van Son
Haefland 16

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Not really sure I can accurately compare this store to anything in the U.S., but it is a nice store. While it is a bit small in some cities, most bigger cities in the Netherlands have one. It usually has things to decorate your home or toys. The most common reason though that people are familiar with this store is because this is one of the stores where you can occasionally buy NL train tickets for cheap. It is only during one of their sales, but more info is available on this blog.


Most people I know are familiar with the store located in Sittard near the market, but there is also a nice one in the mall next to ikea. Plus they have many other locations listed on their website.

Posted in Craft/Home decor, Sittard, Toys | Leave a comment

A Beginner’s Guide to Paid Parking

German (and Dutch) parking rules aren’t always clear when you’re first starting out. I still find parking to be the most frustrating part about driving here, (aside from the slow tractors) but I hope this post will help clarify a few things, especially for those new in town.

What I do beforehand:
If I’m going to a big city that I’m unfamiliar with, I always search for parking garages online. Use the word “parking” for German cities and “parkeren” for cities in the Netherlands. You will almost always find a website listing of parking lots and garages located in and around the city. These listings usually have the address, opening hours, and rates so you can compare between them. I write down 3-4 of the addresses because your first choice might be full and a backup plan is always good to have.

Parking Garages
I am a big fan of parking garages because they are usually cheaper than the open-air parking lots within the city and you only pay for the time you spend in the garage. Here is how they work.

  1. You enter the parking garage, generally by pressing a button at the gate and getting a ticket. Some gates have a slot for a credit card as well. If this works for you, the credit card will act as your ticket. Park and then go have fun, but take your ticket with you.
  2. Once you’re back at the garage, find a Parkautomat or Kassenautomat (or some similar word). Insert your ticket and your total fee will be displayed on the screen. Pay the amount and you’ll receive your ticket back. Keep in mind that these machines have a maximum bill size they can take. (Most give change) Now you can leave the lot.

Parking Lots with a Parkautomat (usually open air)

  1. Go into the lot and park, then find the nearest Parkautomat/Kassenautomat.
  2. Attempt to read the rules for the parking lot. There is usually a time limit for parking there. It’s also possible that the lot is free at certain times or days (for example, after 6pm and on Sundays).
  3. If the lot is free, you’re done, enjoy the day. If the lot is not free, then insert money for the amount of time you intend to stay. Once you say OK, you’ll get a ticket. Most of these machines only take coins and you must have exact change or it keeps the change and just adds more time onto your parking allowance.
  4. Place the ticket on the dash of your car and note the time written on it. This is the time that your ticket will expire.

Parking with a Camera gate

  1. These lots look similar to the lots with a Parkautomat, but there is a camera at the entrance that will register your license plate number and the time you entered.
  2. Park your car and go about your business. You will pay at the end.
  3. Once you return, find the Parkautomat and input your license plate number. The Parkautomat will display the amount due.
  4. You may have an option to pay with coins or card.
  5. Once you’ve paid, you can leave the lot.

Parking Lots with the Blue Disc Placard

  1. Park your car and note the time limit on the disc parking sign.
  2. Note the current time and rotate your disc to the nearest half-hour, then place your placard on your dash. This parking is free, but you might get a ticket if you stay longer than the time limit.
  3. Note: Parking monitors might mark your tires with chalk to make sure you are not cheating the system.

Watch out for:

  • Signs saying Vergunning(houders) in NL. These spots are for cars with parking permits.
Posted in General Local Info, Newcomers | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Haus Hamacher – Gangelt Restaurant

A beautiful restaurant and delicious place to eat, you’ll enjoy a nice dinner out. They have some unique menu options including a Greek schnitzel where they put tzatziki sauce on your schnitzel! (It was heaven!)

We loved our experience so much that we are actually renting a room from them to host one of our dinner meetings for our club! So whether you need to have a large event or a date night with that special someone, consider going to Haus Hamacher.

open from 11 o’clock
sun and holidays from 10 o’clock
7 days a week

Posted in German, Open Sunday, Restaurants | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Simla – Indian Restaurant in Sittard

If you have been craving Indian food, this is the place to go. They have a wide variety of dishes available (listed on their website), including vegetarian options. The dishes will come as Dutch non-spicy unless you request for it to be spicy. The waiter was friendly and accommodating and food was served quickly. I really enjoyed the experience and will be returning soon.

Parking options are given because the restaurant is in part of the shopping area where cars cannot park. We parked at the Steenweg parking lot (Address: Wilhelminastraat 33) because it is free after 6pm. It was a short walk to the restaurant from there.

Reservations are encouraged for groups bigger than 2 people (Make at least two days in advance).

Opening Times
Wed-Sun (and Holidays) after 5pm
Closed Mon and Tues

Stationstraat 17, Sittard

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Motorcycle and Auto Repairshop

I heard of this shop through multiple friends in our Motorcycle club. They have a great reputation with our fellow members and we have come to trust them as well. I know a few people who have used their car repair services as well and I have yet to hear a complaint.

If you need a repair on the car or the bike, give them a try and see what you think.


Max-Planck Str. 11 —GK


English speakers available – Call to make appointment or check out the website for hours of operation!

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Antiquitäten Krings

A little place right off the 56 in Gangelt, you drive by more then you realize, is an antique shop. It’s the store with the mannequin woman out front. Pull in the “driveway” and stop for a look at the stuff outside first. Garden decor and some furniture is laid out for you to view. If you walk to the “house” you can head inside for a peek at even more treasures. This place had everything. Furniture, hats, utensils, signs, etc.  Most items were in fair condition. It’s worth a stop by if you have a few minutes to kill.

Bundesstrasse 107 Gangelt-Stahe 52538



Firday 10am-630pm and Saturday 10am-2pm. Also open for appts. (the owner speaks a fair amount of English!)

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De Pannekoekenbakker – Pancake House in Thorn

After hearing rave reviews about the pancake house in Thorn, we finally made our way there on a Sunday morning. Pancakes seem to be a Dutch tradition, especially for children’s birthdays. The pancakes are as big as the plate and thinner than traditional American pancakes. They are usually topped with either sweet or savory ingredients.

De Pannekoekenbakker boasts over 200 kinds of pancakes, from a Gyro inspired Greek plate, pizza pancakes with salami or other pizza toppings, and dessert pancakes with fruit, powdered sugar and, most importantly, ice cream. Just remember, these pancakes are big and filling. My husband and I could have easily shared one and been satisfied (or had one meal pancake and one dessert pancake). Thankfully, the waiters don’t mind if you share.

There is a Kids Club that you can sign up for that will get your kids a special prize when they first sign up. They will also give you coins on your birthday to buy something in the restaurant’s toy store too. There are some toys for kids to play with while you’re waiting on food as well.

Their website is very easy to navigate. There is an English menu available for download and if you’re looking for other things to do in Thorn, check out their Tourist Tips section (in Dutch, but GoogleTranslate works).

The restaurant was not very busy on the Sunday morning when we went, but I have heard that it can get pretty crowded, so definitely reserve a table if you have a large group. I used email and they responded within two days. You can also call to make a reservation.

Bogenstraat 2
6017 AV, Thorn
0031 (0)475-563327
Opening Times

Check out all of their locations here.

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Where to park at Aachen Centrum

There are plenty of parking options in Aachen. You can check out all of them online (including hours and rates) at APAG.

Here are out favorites in terms of proximity and price.
Parkhaus Rathaus
Parkhaus Büchel

Posted in Aachen, Cities | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Meens Dranken – Beer Distributor

I stumbled across this company while looking for a seller of Gruut Inferno. The company has a small store in Geleen and a distribution center in Puth, where they ship to local restaurants. The store, in my opinion, is not really worth it. It’s pretty small and the person working the desk did not know any English. You can get more selection at other stores, like Drankenhal Corstjens.

The distribution center has strange hours but we eventually were able to talk to one of the employees. The minimum order is half of a case (12 bottles), but they are willing to order anything that is on their distributors list. The service was quick too. I asked for the order on a Saturday, they ordered it on Monday and it was in my hands on Wednesday.

Kerkweg 56, Puth, NL
0031 (0)46-4434678

Monday 0900-1200 and 2000-2130
Tuesday 0900-1200
Friday 0900-1200 and 2000-2130
Saturday 0900-1200

The building is white and does not look like a store. Street view on Google Maps has a accurate picture. You can park on the left side of the building and ring the doorbell for service.

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OSSA Camping and Water Sports

Most of the relevant information you can get from their website. It is not big but thorough if you use translate in Google. They boast a variety of activities such as camping, canoeing, mountain biking, Geo-Caching and more. Located near Roermond at:

Heideweg 3
HP 6077
St. Odiliënberg

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Alternatives to Staying at Hotels (Especially for Families)

Hotels can be expensive, but they aren’t your only option when traveling. Here are some websites you can use to find different accommodations that fit your needs. These options are great for anyone, but they are especially good for families that would usually need to book more than one hotel room.

homeaway.com – This website lists rental houses and apartments. Most listings have a daily and weekly rate and some require a minimum length of stay. This is great for groups who like their privacy.

VRBO.com – “Vacations Rentals by Owner” is an offshoot of HomeAway. The rentals are similar and most are listed with weekly rates.

airbnb.com – Similar to homeaway, airbnb also lists rental apartments and houses. Some listings on this site are “private rooms”, which means you’ll be sleeping in the apartment or homeowners spare bedroom, usually while they still are living there. This is a good option for single and couple travelers who don’t need a lot of space and don’t mind making new friends. There are also entire homes or apartments to look at too if you like your privacy.

apartmentsapart.com – Very similar to airbnb.com, but only lists apartments.

These last options are a little more traditional, but the websites can help you save money.

bedandbreakfast.com – Sometimes a B&B will cost the same as a traditional hotel, but with a nicer atmosphere and a decent breakfast included in the price.

booking.com – This website is a good place to start your search. They have a huge selection so you can get the feel for prices in areas of the city.

NOTE: I haven’t had the chance to use all of the websites personally. Let us know about your experiences or about other helpful websites in the comments.

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Alter Bahnhof in Gangelt

We recently visited this new restaurant in Gangelt with a few friends. They serve the usual drinks: beer, coffee, tea, wine and soft drinks. Their menu is varied with giant salads, paninis, a ton pancake options (savory and sweet) and traditional dishes too.

The restaurant’s open seating is inviting and the waiters are friendly and patient. Everyone was happy with their food (especially the sweet pancakes). Check them out.

Hanxlerstraße 15, Gangelt
Open Daily 1000-2100
Closed Tuesdays

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Irrland farm adventure oasis: Kevelaer-Twisteden

Just a hop skip and about 1 hour from GK is the “Farm oasis” called Irrland. It is known as a low cost, high fun adventure park for children. Obviously boasting a children’s petting zoo and a few rides, this place is also full of great fun and adventure. Take a look at the site to uncover great treasures for the children to discover and probably find a few things that you as adults will swoon about as well. I personally love the 5 euro price tag. Count me in for the March 23rd opening date. Yes, they are not open year round as a lot of the parks are, but I will be taking advantage of the times that they are open.

Am Scheidweg 1, Kevelaer-Twisteden
Open Daily March 23 – Nov 3, 2013

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Off base Optometry – GK Tricare for Dependents

The Optometrist from Spangdahlem visits GK on a quarterly basis. The appointments are in order of priority. ( 1. Flyers 2. Diabetics 3. Active duty 4. Dependents) If you are Tricare Prime then you are authorized to use network providers in the local area for you annual exam. Any follow up other the routine annual exam requires a referral from your PCM.

There is NO reimbursement for glasses/frames on the economy as this is not covered by Tricare. Active Duty members can get their prescription filled for free if they take it to Spangdahlem. Examinations to fit lenses are not covered by Tricare.

Only Active Duty members can be reimbursed for travel to Spangdahlem (for medical necessity only).

If you decide to get your exam in the Netherlands, YOU WILL NEED A REFERRAL. However, for Germany you do not.

To make an appointment with the Spangdahlem optometry, call 0049  6565 61 8333 then select option 1 followed by option 5.


Dr. Zarrinnam 0049 24524244

Geilenkirchenerstrasse 13-15 in Heinsberg

Local Optical Store – for glasses/frames/lenses

1. Optik Louis  0049 245164748 – Konrad Adenauerstrasse 108, GK

2. Optik Schlunitz 0049 24512250 – Konrad Adenauerstrasse 116, GK

3. Dieter Laumen 0049 24512215 – Herzog-Wilhelmstrasse I GK

4. Pearle Vision  – Click for website. This has multiple NL locations

5. SpecSavers   – Click for website. This has multiple NL locations

6. Hans Anders – Click for website. This has multiple NL locations

You may also be able to order online from the U.S.

Questions??? Contact GK’s U.S. Clinic’s Tricare office at 0049 2451-99-3400

Posted in Health and Beauty, Health Resources | 1 Comment

Education financing opportunities

(Copied from the GK AFRC FB page on 13Mar2013)

These resources are available to you and your families as you pursue your
educational goals. We will continue to provide you with information as we
receive it regarding additional resources, status of Military Tuition
Assistance (TA), etc. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to
contact Dan or I at 458-2244.

Additional Mil TA Clarification (rcvd from USAFE A1KE thru AF/A1DL):

TA already approved will be honored.

TA that was in the queue (before AFVEC capability was closed) for approval
and those currently deferred will be honored as long as they meet all the TA
usage rules. There are approx 2,000 AF wide waiting action and AF/A1 says
this will need some time to act on the request list. We had several at GK
and have highlighted them to USAFE to ensure they’re processed. Keep in
mind that this will be done centrally and we will have no control other than
to be advocates for you, our TA applications are shut down as well. Please
ensure your email address in AFAEMS & AFVEC is up to date, as this is how
you’re contacted within the system.

If a student has an approved TA and needs to make a legitimate change (class
is cancelled, need to change the class, wrong dates, wrong cost, etc.), they
must contact their Ed Center for review. We will then forward to the
appropriate OPR to make the change. We have one case currently that is
being worked to completion.

Increased Services NOW available:

As you know, CCAF accepts up to 30 semester hours in examination credit, or
CLEP/DANTES testing. Individual colleges/universities have their own
policies about acceptance of examination credit, i.e., # of hours, etc so
please check with your school directly. Just yesterday, the UMUC National
Test Center (NTC) brought on board a new Test Administrator to accommodate
better CLEP/DANTES testing here at GK. Mrs Alison Burns will be offering
CLEP/DANTES testing (at no charge to US Military mbrs), including Speech, on
Tues, Wed and Thurs. Mrs Burns is still inprocessing and working exact
office/testing hours but anticipates Tues & Thurs 0900 – 1600 and Wed 0900 –
1200.. Please contact her at ntcgeilenkirchen-europe@umuc.edu or
alison.burns@umuc.edu to schedule your CLEP/DANTES.

Your GI Bill can be used while serving on active duty:
Access information about the Montgomery GI Bill at:


Access information about the Post 9/11 GI Bill at:


We have several 2012 – 2014 Financial Aid for Veterans, Military Personnel
and Their Families books that can be signed out for your use.

Please visit the following sites for additional information:

.The Student Guide – The Student Guide is the most comprehensive resource on
federal financial aid from the U.S. Department of Education.

.Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

.FinAid: – The Financial Aid Information Page Free scholarship search,
financial aid calculators, glossary and bibliography.

.Financial Aid Services (College Board Online) – Explore information on
scholarships, college costs, financial aid facts, loan information,
financial aid calculators and other resources.

.Financial aid for spouses of Service members – A list of Web sites and
booklets providing information on financial aid and general resources for

Online scholarships – A list of general online scholarship Web sites.


College Board Scholarship Search:




College Scholarships:


E-Student Loan.com:


Fast Web:




Federal Student Financial Aid:


Scholarship America:


Scholarship Experts:


Scholarship Gateway:




There are also locally available scholarships through the American Women of
GK, and the GK Top 3 (applications available at our Ed Office). Please
contact those organizations for more information.

Posted in Education Resources, Financial Resources | Leave a comment

La Trappe Brewery – Tilburg, NL

Just outside of Tilburg in the Netherlands is Koningsheoven Abbey and the only Trappist brewery in the Netherlands. The Brouwerij de Koningshoeven, founded in 1884, provides a large assortment of beers through their La Trappe brand. The monastery also makes cheese, bread and chocolate with the beer.

The monastery has a gift shop and restaurant open to the public. The food at the restaurant is delicious. The club sandwiches are giant and require the fork and knife to eat successfully, but everyone was happy with their meals (and beer). We didn’t make it to the gift shop while they were open, but you can buy other Trappist products there, such as cheese, breads, soaps, jams and mustards along with La Trappe glasses and gift sets.

Tours of the brewery are offered twice daily on the weekends for €12/adult (includes one drink). Children under 12 can go on the tour for €2,50, while ages 12-16 cost €6 (includes one non-alcoholic drink). The guide uses Dutch and English throughout the tour and was very entertaining. It is best to book your tours in advance through email to ensure your spot, but if they aren’t too busy, you can be added to a tour just before it starts.

This is definitely a good place to visit with the beer lovers in your group, but the food and tour alone are worth the trek.

De Koningshoeven Brewery
Eindhovenseweg 3
Berkel-Enschot, NL

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Black & White – Formal/Semi-Formal Dresses

Black & White has recently closed (Jan 2015). This post is still published to hopefully save you from making the drive to Heinsberg based on old information. An alternative to this store is Autumn’s Glamour in Sittard.

I have seen this store a hundred times while walking to or from H&M. I always love the large windows where they have a ton of displays with these elegant gowns and wedding dresses. So yesterday in my panic to fit into one of my dresses, the first thing to pop into my mind…. Grab a VAT Form and go find a dress at this store.

I got there with my limited German and found out the lady doesn’t speak a lick of English. However she was fabulous. With my broken German and some “pointy-talky”, we figured out my size (which I knew from a previous formal gown I bought on Amazon.de), and we figured out my style preference. From there I was ushered into the dressing room and she started bringing out the dresses. After trying on 5 or 6 of them, I was stuck deciding. There wasn’t one I didn’t want. Luckily, the last dress was still waiting for me to try and when I did, I knew it was THE ONE.

She does take the VAT Form but bring the German translation with you. I didn’t, but thankfully I was able to explain it to her.

This store is well priced by the way. The short cocktail dresses were between 59-79€ and most of the long formal dresses were between 99-149€ (Now of course there were several well above that price, but she had at least 5 that were 99€ to choose from).

Black & White

Mon-Fri 10-1230, 1400-1800

Sat 1000-1500

02452 976 0990

Hochstrasse 156 Heinsberg

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Posted in Clothing, Heinsberg | 2 Comments

The cost of traffic tickets


There are a few resources for the cost of speeding and other tickets:

How to Germany

German Site

Please check out this document if you are interested in just what kinds of fines are in store for you if you are caught speeding for tailgating in Germany.


Posted in General Local Info | Leave a comment

De Trechter Cafe – Sittard

If you’re looking for a lunch option in the Sittard Markt at a similar price point as Bagels & Beans, this is your cafe. De Trechter is a good sized cafe, located next-door to the oldest building on the square. They mainly serve sandwiches, but they do have larger meals available and a kids menu. The waiters were more attentive than we expected them to be, but it was nice not to hail them from across the room for once. They do have English menus available, but they didn’t have the full menu on them, so I suggest at least trying to read the Dutch menu. All in all, I think this is a good place to go for a quiet and cheap lunch.

Markt 19, Sittard

Opening Times
Monday to Saturday 0900-1800
Thursdays 0900-2100


De Trechter has the orange awning

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When a company won’t ship to APO addresses

Many companies will not ship to APOs for one reason or another. Fortunately you have a few options when this occurs.

  • First, try to put the address in with City: APO and State: NY. This usually works if APO isn’t an option on a site.
  • Call the company. Some of them will make an exception so they don’t lose your business. I have had this occur a few times.
  • Find a different company that will ship to APO (hopefully for a similar price).
  • Find a German company (like Amazon.de) that will ship to your house.
    • Note: If you ship anything from a non-German company to your German address, you may have to pay import taxes unless you get a form to waive the fee.
  • Use a third-party shipper that’s located in the states, like ShipitAPO or APOBox. (These shippers will receive your package in the states for you, then ship it via USPS for a fee.)
  • Ship your item to a family member and have them ship it to you via USPS.

NOTE: Anything shipped through FedEx or UPS will end up on a ship with all non-priority mail. If you need your item to get here faster, the third party shippers (companies or family)  and USPS will be your best bet to get your package in a timely manner.

Posted in Geilenkirchen NATO Base - Info, General Local Info, JFC Brunssum- Info, Schinnen Services- Info | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Kölner Dom – Cologne

The Kölner Dom is a huge landmark in the middle of Cologne. It’s always an impressive site, no matter how many times you see it. You can roam around the inside of the cathedral for free (with an option for donations) if you like, and pick up a brochure for a few Euro cents. There is an English tour given daily that I believe is worth the money. You can also climb the tower for €3 and see the relics in their Treasure chamber for €5, or combine the two tickets for €6. Family cards are also available. For more information on their prices and hours click here.

The Dom is located right outside of the main train station. If you are driving, there is a parking deck located underneath the cathedral at Kurt Hackenberg Platz 2, Köln (€1,80/hr). For more parking options, check out this site.

Cathedral Opening Hours:
November – April / 6:00 – 19:30 hours
May – October / 6:00 – 21:00 hours

Monday -Saturday
10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
Sunday and Feastdays
2:30 p.m.
Meeting Point: Main portal, inside
Adults: 7,00 Euro
Children and Students: 5,00 Euro


Posted in Cologne, NO COST, Open Sunday | Tagged , | 1 Comment

NS – The Dutch Train System

The Nederlandse Spoorwegen(NS) operates the majority of trains running through the Netherlands. Their website is offered in Dutch and English, both of which will allow you to search for train schedules. The Dutch side of the website has more capability so it’s worth looking at, even if it requires some translation.

NOTE: Even if you are using a day pass, I suggest looking at the train schedule shortly before leaving for your trip. The website will give you the most up to date information on your train for delays, construction and cancellations. Any alerts will be in red.

Sittard Train Station Parking Garage – Q-Park
Geerweg 4, Sittard
€1.72/hour with max €7.82/day
With OV Chip Card €3.39/day
You must pay with a chip (EC) card. Our community bank card his worked for us.
If you have a train ticket with electronics in it (you can see them if you hold it up to a light) you have an OV chip card. You can use this ticket to get a discounted rate at the parking garage. When you go to pay for parking, insert your parking ticket, then wave the train ticket in front of the machine. The price should be reduced to €3.39/day.

Discount train tickets come with a blue and yellow half that must stay together for the ticket to be valid. All you have to do to validate your ticket is time-stamp it at one of the stampers around the train station. They are usually in the main hallway of the train station next to stairs leading up to the platforms. There might be one on the platform as well. Here is an example. Just fold your ticket in half and insert the ticket into the machine.


Some discount tickets being sold are OV Chip cards. These cards have some electronic inner workings that check you in and out of the train, tram or bus when you hold them up to a special reader. They are usually located at the entrances to the train station and sometimes on platforms. They will look similar to the picture below. Just hold your card next to the symbol until you hear a beep. You must check in when you start your journey and check out when you end your journey.

Train Tickets for Children
Children under 4 years old ride FREE.
Children between 4 and up to and including 11 year old can ride with a Railrunner day pass ticket. These tickets are 2.50euro and can be bought at the ticket kiosks at the train station.

The Trains
There are two types of trains. Sprinters go to every stop on the line and are used for local transport.  The train that stops at Schinnen is a Sprinter. NOTE: There are no bathrooms on the Sprinter trains. Intercity (IC) trains make limited stops only at major cities so you get to your destination faster.

The IC train will sometimes have a logo on the side of the car. There are Wi-Fi cars, Quiet Cars, Bike Cars and maybe a few others. The logos are pretty easy to figure out their meaning. Just look for them by the train doors. Each car will also have a 1 or 2 on the outside of the car and on the doors. The 1 and 2 correspond to first and second class respectively. If you are using a discount train ticket, you should sit in second class.

Sometimes the IC trains will split into two trains and go in different directions somewhere along the route. Make sure you are on the correct half of your train before the split occurs. Sometimes there is an LED sign on the outside of the car that will tell you the end station. Most IC trains have a TV that will show you the stops your train will be making.

Helpful Website Links

http://goedkoop-treinkaartje.nl/ – This website keeps an up to date account of current and past NS Train Day Pass deals. Deals have been available at Blokker, Kruidvat, Hema, Jumbo and Albert Heijn.

Spoordeelwinkel – This website offers deals that combine train tickets with hotel stays, exhibition tickets or maybe just a coffee at the Kiosk. Typically these tickets are deeply discounted. I wrote about the website here. Note that you must have a Dutch bank card to utilize this website.

Groepsretour NS deal – This deal is available any day. It is a combined group ticket that can be less expensive than the usual train day pass deals. You must buy this ticket online using a Dutch bank card.


From a fellow reader: (Requires a Dutch Bank Account) Travel Tip thanks to the AFNORTH parent newsletter: Earlier this school year I posted in the newsletter some information about a great website that offers fantastic deals for traveling by train in the Netherlands. There is now a permanent offer in the Netherlands for traveling with a group. An offer that will work out cheaper than all the Kruidvat, Hema, AH discount tickets as long as you are traveling with four or more people! So if you are planning to travel in the Netherlands with four or more people (max. 10 people) the following information will save you a lot of money! Visit the websitehttp://www.ns.nl/reizigers/producten/losse-kaartjes/groepsretour.html and you can buy a group ticket for 49 euros! Four people can travel with this ticket to any place in the Netherlands and return the same day. Can it get any better? Yes, it can; if you plan to travel with more than four people, the extra passengers only pay 2,50! You can also get a coffee and croissant for only 2,50 at the KIOSK stands by presenting your ticket! The tickets are valid on weekdays after 09:00 and in the weekend the whole day. Take advantage of this great deal and head out and discover more of the Netherlands. Note: You can only buy this deal online with a Dutch bank card.
NS Groepsretour | NS › Consumente
Posted in General Local Info, Travel | Tagged , , | 24 Comments

In Your Pocket City Guides

I’ve found a new great travel resource called “In Your Pocket”.  They have a website where you can look at all of their locations. The first guide I found was a printed version for Sittard-Geleen at the VVV. The guide is mainly written for English-speaking tourists. It starts by describing the region and some of the cultural things that are good to know, but I think the real benefit of this guide is the listing of restaurants, bars, and tourist attractions. Each has a small but helpful review of the location along with some informative icons that will tell you if the restaurant takes credit cards, has air conditioning, is kid-friendly, etc. The website has all of the same information for your convenience and there is an iPhone app for some of the cities as well.


Other City Guides
and many more

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Glutenvrije Super – Gluten Free Grocery Store

As the name implies, this grocery store specializes in allergen free products. Their website is extensive and allows you to see all of their products online. The store seems to do most of their business as an online grocery store, however, they have a brick and mortar store in Geleen where you can also shop as you normally do. Most of their website easily translates using Google Translate so the language barrier shouldn’t be much of a problem.

Glutenvrije Super in Geleen
Rijksweg Zuid 245, Geleen


Wednesday 10:00 – 17:00
Friday 10:00 – 18:00
Saturday 10:00 – 17:00

G&W Gezondheidswinkel Schreurs in Maastricht
Wycker Brugstraat 22 , Maastricht


Monday 13:00 – 18:00
Tuesday / Friday 9:30 to 18:00
Saturday 9:30 to 17:00


Posted in Food, Maastricht, Sittard | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Obsthof Dreissen – Apple and Pear Farm Gift Shop

Obsthof Dreissen is an Apple and Pear farm located between Susterseel and Wehr. Their shop has a selection of their produce along with various items that would make great gifts. Good olive oil and vinegar  Monschau mustard,  jams, apple and pear juices, soaps and assorted pretty things are all available for purchase.

To get to the store, turn onto Hillensburger Weg from either Wehr or Susterseel. The road will be immediately on your left. There is a sign for Obsthof Dreissen on the road.


Winter Opening Times:
Mo-Fr 9:00-12:30 and 14:00-18:00
Sa 9:00-14:00
Wednesdays closed in Afternoon

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Früh Brewery in Cologne

Früh is one of many Kölsch breweries in Cologne. A list of all of them can be found here. The Früh Brauhaus is located less than a block away from the Dom (and across the street from a Starbucks), making it very accessible. The food is the traditional German fare and oh so delicious. As with most of the restaurants here, you seat yourself. The inside of this building is huge with three floors, so walk around and hopefully you will find a seat. In the warmer months they also have a huge seating area outside where you can enjoy your beers and people-watch. Good food, good beer and an excellent atmosphere. I don’t think it gets much better than that.

Opening Times
Monday – Sunday 0800 – 2400
Breakfast 0800 – 1100
Warm Kitchen 1100 – 2345


Posted in Cologne, German | 1 Comment

Pizza Hut – Dusseldorf and Cologne


A slice of the American (pizza) Pie….. What more can I say about this place? The pan pizzas are just like at home (there is also an Italian and Cheesy Crust option). You can get actual pepperoni pizza and pitchers of soda too. The service in Aachen was good and FAST, unfortunately the Aachen location has since closed, but we had a great experience.

Cologne: Schildergasse 83 Köln
Mon – Sat:   11:00-22:00
Sun: 12:00-22:00

There are two Dusseldorf locations as well. Check out there site for addresses under “Restaurantfinder”!



Posted in Aachen, American, Cologne | Leave a comment

Barbarella Cupcake Cafe – Aachen

An adorable cafe of pink and white, Barbarella is the perfect place to sit with the girls and chit chat. Any girl from age 2-100 will adore the delicious options for cupcakes and the sweet and  fun atmosphere. The cupcake selection changes weekly! Of course no matter when you go in, you’ll have more then enough options anyways.

Each cupcake was about 3.30 € and was an unique experience. Andrea, Megan and I had a blast trying them! Sometimes, one must suffer for the good of others. In this case, we suffered (our belts were stretched)  so that you might know of this special spot. 😉

Pontstraße 40-42, 52062 Aachen
0241 – 16020789
Monday – Sunday 1000 – 1930
They are also on Facebook

Another Cupcake option is Cuperella Cupcakes
GALERIA KAUFHOF – Adalbertstraße 20, Aachen
Mon – Sat 0930-2000

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Posted in Aachen, American, German, Ice cream | 2 Comments

Emergency Phone Numbers and Hospitals

Note: If you want a medical opinion before going to an emergency room, you can also call the US Clinic on-call doctor (or dentist). Call the US appointment phone number (49)(0)245-199-2300 and wait for the “on-call” option on the recording or call the After-hours Doctor on-call directly at (49)(0)171-260-9565.

****Emergency & Local Hospitals  —  TRICARE Covered Facilities****

Aachen, Germany – University Hospital
Pauwelsstraße 30 52074 Aachen, Germany  PHONE: (49)241-800

Geilenkirchen, Germany (no pediatric care)- St Elizabeth Krankenhaus (Hsptl)
Martin-Heyden-Straße 32 52511 Geilenkirchen, Germany  PHONE: (49)2451-6220

Heinsberg, Germany (no pediatric care) -Stadisches Krankenhaus (Hospital)
Auf dem Brand 1 52525 Heinsberg, Germany PHONE: (49)2452-1880

Mönchengladbach, Germany (pediatric ER)-Elisabeth-Krankenhaus Rheydt
Hubertusstraße 100 41239 Mönchengladbach, Germany PHONE: (49)2166 3940

Heerlen, The Netherlands- Atrium Medisch Centrum
Henri Dunantstraat 5 6419 PC Heerlen, Netherlands PHONE: (31)455-76-6666

Brunssum, The Netherlands (no emergency room)- Atrium Medisch
Kochstraat 2 Brunssum, Netherlands PHONE: (31)455-27-9999

****NON-TRICARE Facility**** Sittard, The Netherlands – Orbis Ziekenhuis (Hsptl)    Dr. H. van der Hoffplein 1, Sittard-Geleen, Netherlands  PHONE: (31)88-459-7777



Geilenkirchen MFLC –   PHONE: (49)(0)1522-578-0828

GK Child & Youth MFLC –   PHONE: (49)(0)1520-269-8610

USAG Benelux (Schinnen) –  PHONE: (31)(0)62-947-1920

JFC Brunssum –  PHONE: (31)(0)62-518-1036

Posted in Emergency Resources, General Local Info, Newcomers | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

How-To-Dial Information

From Germany/Netherlands to the USA

00-1-area code-seven digit #

From Germany to Netherlands 

00-31-omit 0 from the Dutch #                 

From the USA to Germany

011-49-omit 0 from the German #           

 From Netherlands to Germany

00-49-omit 0 from the German #               

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Listen to Even-Numbered Frequency Stations (like AFN)

Most American car radios are not able to tune to even-numbered frequency radio stations. This means that AFN Benelux in the Tri-Boarder area, which is on 89.2, is not easily accessed without an aftermarket radio tuner. Fortunately, there are some workarounds that are easy and cheap to install. The easiest workaround is buying a portable FM radio (around $10) and plugging it into your cars AUX inlet. You can also use an FM transmitter with the FM radio if you do not have an AUX inlet. All of these options are explained, with pictures, in the link here.

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TK Maxx

TK Maxx is almost exactly the same as TJ Maxx. I visited the store in Neumarkt, Cologne, which is about the same size as your usual TJ Maxx. The store contains a ton of clothes, shoes, purses, luggage, housewares, everything you would expect, and at reasonable prices. Most of the stores are about an hour away. You can find their addresses here.

TK Maxx Neumarkt
Neumarkt 8-10
50667 Köln
M-Sat 1000-2000


Posted in Clothing, Cologne, Craft/Home decor, Shoes, Toys | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Schinnen Gym Class Schedule

Visit the Schinnen MWR website for current hours and schedule.


Rock Climbing and Racquetball lessons are available upon request.

Posted in Schinnen Services- Info, Sports Clubs and Classes | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Corio Center -Mall

This mall is located nearby in beautiful Heerlen. Larger than some of the other nearby malls, there is something for everyone inside. It is centrally located so parking is a breeze in town or in their parking garage. Also, just outside the mall you can shop in one of the many stores on the street or head to T’loons, another mall just down the street. Head to their website for opening hours (Openingstijden) and to find out which Sundays they will be open (Koopzondagen).

Stationsplein 28  6411 NK Heerlen, Netherlands

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Tri-Border Publications to Keep You Informed

USAG Benelux Gazette – This is posted weekly and includes events and announcements for Brunssum and Schinnen.

NATO Skywatch – Skywatch is published monthly and contains information about upcoming events and  IYA activities along with their articles about the base. The current issue has a link on the website.

JFC Brunssum Northern Star – Another monthly publication. The Northern Star is mostly articles about the accomplishments and events of NATO instead of focusing specifically on the base. They will announce things like holiday hours and the movie schedule too.

Tri-Community CMFRC Newsletter (Canada) – This monthly newsletter will let you know what the Canadian community has planned. Many of their events are open to all NATO ID card holders.

Stripes What’s Up – This is a monthly publications written by Stars and Stripes. There are editions for the big base communities, but most of the articles and events are still relevant to our location.

Stripes Welcome to Europe – Published three times a year, this magazine is full of useful facts and ideas on things to do. You can sometimes find a paper copy at the A&FRC.

If you have any publications that you use regularly, let us know in the comments.

Posted in GK/Schinnen/JFC Brunssum Info, Newcomers, Resources/Help | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ordering Items for the Schinnen Commissary

Did you know that you can order items that are not usually carried at Schinnen? This usually works best with items that are carried at other commissaries in Germany, but it never hurts to ask. Just fill out this form and give it to a cashier next time you are at Schinnen. They’ll respond to your request quickly through email and either tell you they can’t get the item or let you know when your order is expected to come in. The order form is also available at checkout.

Commisary Order Form

Posted in Food, Schinnen Services- Info | Leave a comment

Amsterdam Overnight Trip

We began our Amsterdam planning like you would expect- with an offer to watch the children! Amsterdam seemed like the perfect place to spend a night! I had train tickets that were good for anywhere in The Netherlands. Every now and again tickets in The Netherlands go on sale.

My husband had been to Turkey previously and wanted a Hamam (Turkish bath), but the tellak (bather) was out while he was there, so I planned to stay at a spa and booked hamam baths for the two of us. I chose Spa Zuiver because it was close to the train station and had a bus that was right out front that would take you to the city center. The spa offered a package that allowed a hamam treatment along with access to the spa itself, robe and slippers, and a smoothie at their Body and Mind restaurant. The package at this time was about 300 euros. The treatments were the bulk of the price running about 80 euros each. You could choose to opt out of the treatment and that would save you a ton of money.

With the trip booked, we needed to know when the train would be running from Sittard (our closest NL city) and to Amsterdam. The NL Bahn site offered up to date information in order to plan the trip. Just input information about when you would like to leave and when you would like to get there; the site generates train departure and change times.

Now off to Amsterdam! We packed lightly because we were taking the train. This is a European must! Do not be the silly American trying to navigate big bulky luggage on the train and through cobblestone walkways.

We showed up to the train station and located the little yellow stamp box that we had to use to stamp our prepaid train tickets. This validates them for use. Then we went to find our train only to discover that the train was under repair and we would have to take a bus to the train change instead of the actual train. Oh well! Live and learn. The trip was smooth and not too busy. We arrived in Amsterdam with plenty of time to spare. A taxi took us around the block to the hotel and was about 12 euros. Taxi fare includes taxes and a standard 15% service charge. To be absolutely sure look for the words inclusief BTW en service. So no worries about tipping unless you wish to.

The hotel was having a tennis match, lucky us, so the lobby was packed with spectators and players. We checked in and had our bag held and went to the spa to change. The staff provided us with bracelets to use in lieu of money, so anything we needed would be placed on the bracelet and compensated at the end of the stay. The changing rooms were co-ed. The bracelets opened our lockers (free) and we nervously changed into our robes. Although I had read up on the spa vigorously beforehand, I was still nervous about the European spa experience in the nude. Clothing is not optional, it is prohibited. Nevertheless, we wore our robes when we were waiting for the tellak to call us in. The hamam was wonderful! It is a very awesome experience, for more information check out the website in the link below. There is even a video. The spa was an experience. The best part was the wading pool that was inside and outside. The water was non-chlorine, so instead it is treated with a salt-like substance. Very relaxing!

After the spa we changed and got ready for the nightlife. We spoke with the staff at the bar downstairs for a good hour and found out some really great places to visit and the do’s and don’ts of the city central. Do visit the red-light district and sex museum (it’s on your things-I-never-really-wanted-to-do-but-must-do-now-that-I-live-here bucket list). Don’t even stop to acknowledge the drug peddlers on the street. Do follow the locals to find the best hot spots. Don’t bother going to any of the main bars on the strip. Do go into the ally’s and crevices to find the best deals on drinks and or food. Don’t take a taxi to the city. Do take the inexpensive bus there, taxi back. Do wear comfortable shoes. Don’t wear heels on the cobblestones, you will break your ankle. Do plan to party late. The Dutch usually don’t even go out until 1 or 2 and party until the sun comes up.

We took the bus downtown and saw as much as we could before becoming too tired to do anymore. We met a lot of really great people. Mostly locals because they were more than willing to talk and even to show us around. We saw the red-light district. (Don’t even think about taking their pictures.) We saw the beautiful swans in the dirty canals, the coffee houses, and most everything in that area. For more information on how to plan your trip and cater to your interests check out this link. We took a taxi back to the hotel and crashed. In the morning we woke up and enjoyed their free buffet breakfast and checked out of the hotel. The train ride back lulled me back to sleep and before we knew it we were home and back in the arms of our babies. It’s nice to get away for the weekend, but even nicer to be home!

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Gruut – Gent’s Brewery

Gruut is a must see if you are spending any time in Gent. Unlike many breweries in Belgium, this brewery is very new, being founded only in 2009. As such, Gruut reminds me more of a micro-brewery you would find in the States (including all the character these places have). Beer making equipment, which makes the beer served in the restaurant as well as a few local cafes, is visible in the restaurant area. They have a separate brewery where they make beer for export.

The type of beer made is a very old style which uses a spice mixture (gruut) instead of the usual hops. We tried all five varieties and each one was delicious. They have a tasting option to try four 0,2L glasses for €6,50, that we highly recommend. For more information about the restaurant, brewery and the history of gruut beer, check out their website.

Grote Huidevettershoek 10, Gent
Mon-Wed: 10-6
Thurs-Sun: 10-Midnight

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Posted in Adults, Drinks/Beverages, Open Sunday, Things to do, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

JFC Brunssum Gym Facilities

To get to the main gym parking lot, you’ll have to circle around the main headquarters building (the building with lots of flags in front of it) because of all the one way streets. The signs on base should help you find your way. Follow the signs for “Courier Gate” until you reach the back gate traffic circle, then turn left and head back up the hill towards the gym. The parking lot is on your right. The gym has four floors and is part of the building that also houses the Alliance Theater and the Chapel.

Visit the Brunnsum MWR website for schedule, hours and contact information.

If you would like to use the gym outside of normal working hours you must first attend a safety briefing with the fitness center staff. Contact the gym for more details.

Ground Floor
This is the level that you enter from at street level. There is an office to sign out equipment and ask any questions you may have. The Men’s locker room is also on this level along with the basketball court.

Rental lockers are available for your use with the use of a 1€ coin. Put the coin in the slot inside the locker door, close the locker and turn the key. The key should then release. When you unlock the locker, you will get your coin back. There is a solarium available on base at the pool.

The Basement level has the Cardio Room and the Weight Room, both of which are the best I’ve seen (for free) in the area. There is also a massage therapist available during certain hours.

2nd Floor
This floor has two Squash courts, the Spin room and a Parent’s room (which has a treadmill and a few other pieces of equipment). The Women’s locker room is also on this floor.

3rd Floor
This floor is the aerobics room, which has floor mats, weights and bands available for your use.

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HEMA is one of my favorite places to go. You’ll see them everywhere, with their big capital red letters outside of each store, calling you inside.  This store has a little bit of everything, you can browse their website to get the full scope, but here’s a list of my favorite things about HEMA.

Leggings – Especially their fleece lined leggings are great. They stay in place, are super soft and keep you warm. I’ve worn them under dresses and as long underwear under jeans. They definitely help keep the cold out.

Cheap clothing and jewelry – Depending on the size of the store, they can have quite the collection.

House and office supplies – Curtains, decorations, binders, and paper. It’s all here.

Discount Tickets – These are somewhat like Groupon promotions.

Package Deals – This is another Groupon type promotion. For example, you can buy a Sushi package for two for €44 and it’s good at several different restaurants in the Netherlands.

Train Tickets – HEMA is one of the Dutch stores that sells the discounted NL train day passes. These sales are for a limited time and usually only occur once a year per store.

I have found HEMA in every shopping area I’ve been to, but here are some of the locations near us. You can also go to their website and search for locations and opening times by city.

Rosmolenstraat 1-3, Sittard

Kerkstraat 220-226, Brunssum

van der Maesenstraat 1, Heerlen

Posted in Clothing, Craft/Home decor, Maastricht, Sittard | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Travel and Entertainment Deals Online

Europe can be expensive, but there are deals to be had if you know where to look for them. Here’s a listing of websites that I use to find deals both near and far. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments.

Groupon – The website offers deals in and around the big cities in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. The Groupon for France and the UK can also help you snag deals (even for Disney). If you don’t want to sign up for their mailing list, just click the “Already a Member” link (in whatever language).

Social Deal – This site is very similar to Groupon and is mainly for the Netherlands. Sittard-Geleen, Maastricht, and Parkstad (Heerlen) are all worth looking at for local deals.

Travelzoo – This site mainly offers deals for hotels and flights but they do offer discounts on tickets as well. There is a German and UK version that are worth looking into. You can set up email alerts for a particular region.

Eurosun.de – This site searches for deals based on your input for flights, hotels, vacations rentals and cruises. Enter your dates and city and the site will give you current deals.

Lastminute.de – Another website where you enter your dates/location and it gives you dals to choose from.

Hotwire.com – Works just like it did in the States. Search your city/dates and pick your deal.

German Wings Blind Booking – This is for the more adventurous people out there. For these tickets, you pick your flight dates and a theme, which includes several different possible destinations. Once you buy the tickets (at a reduced price), you find out where you are going.

Life Lessons of a Military Wife – This blogger used to be in the travel industry, so she finds out about deals all the time. She’ll post them on Facebook, so if Like her page, you can get the updates too. Her blog is full of useful information too.

Pouring Pounds – This site works as a cash-back program. You sign up for the site, then click through their website to buy on other sites (like amazon, hotwire, lastminute). You get a certain percentage cash back from each purchase.

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Another hardware store that is comparable to ACE, Gamma can be found in many places throughout the Netherlands and Belgium. You can also check out Praxis in the Netherlands or Mobau in Germany for similar style stores.

Gamma Website

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Located throughout the Netherlands, Praxis is a great place to look for your hardware needs.  Clean, well stocked, and loaded with options, my husband loves to go on a trip to this store. No need to ask him twice to go to Praxis!!

Similar but in my opinion larger, this store could be compared to the German Mobau.

Check out their website for locations and hours! (we normally go to the one next to Ikea in the two story Woonboulevard shopping center.)

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A two story shopping complex next to ikea, this makes a nice place to stop and take a look around. With home decor, hardware, furniture, and pet stores, you can find it all here. Blokker, gamma, praxis, Xenos, etc. Woonboulevard also includes the small stores on the otherside of ikea as well which includes furniture, baby items, and lighting stores. You could probably spend the better part of a day shopping in this huge complex!


In de Cramer
6412 PM Heerlen


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If you are looking for a new hutch,  maybe a dresser, a book shelf, or a table, then there is no better place to stop then one of the many second hand furniture stores. We’ve previously written about two in Sittard, but personally, this is my favorite one. It is not far from Ikea and is a great stop if you’re in the area or looking for some new items. Prices are fair and you never know what treasure you may find. Stock changes almost daily so there is always a chance to find something new (well, new to you anyways!!).

Monday – Saturday from 0900-1700 (check website for holidays)


In de Cramer 9, Heerlen

Spekhofstraat 4, Kerkrade

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Casa Leonardos

A superb Italian experience, this should be on your list of places to eat. This is an upscale restaurant in the center of Gk and is a mouth watering experience. I have had the pizza and dessert and my husband went for a pasta with prawns. We tasted each other’s meals and found both the pasta and the pizza to be amazing.

Monday to Sunday and public holidays:
1130 – 1430 and 1730 – 2300


Alte Haihover Straße 2
52511 Geilenkirchen

Tel.: +49 (0) 2451 – 9124 396

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Get Email Alerts for NL Train Sales

This website keeps the most up to date information on the sales of NL train day passes. It tells you the price, the rules and when the sale has been offered in the past year.

Sign up for a mailing list and the site will email you when a new sale starts. Now you can be the first in line to buy your train tickets!


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Minicards – Tourism Ideas Online

You’ve probably seen these business card sized minicards at the AFRC. These cards contain information about many of the attractions in the local area. Most also provide discounts to the businesses advertized. Aside from the AFRC, I have also found these cards at the VVV in Maastricht, which has a ton.

If you’re just looking for new things to do, you can check out the minicards online. Just select the country and region you are interested in to get relevant cards. You can print these out, but the cards online usually don’t have the discount included on them.


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Maastricht Underground

Maastricht is a very old city. One of the ways to experience its history is by taking a tour underground. There are three types of tours offered: Caves, Casemates, and Fortress. All stand-alone tours are €5,75 for adults and €4,75 for children. Tickets can be bought at the VVV, online or at the starting point of the tours (provided on the website). There is currently a Minicard at the VVV which gives you 10% discount.

There are two caves that can be toured: North Cave (Grotten Noord) and Zonneberg Caves (Grotten Zonneberg). Both tours last about 1 hour. These caves were made by mining marlstone, just like the Valkenburg caves. English tours are given in the North Caves (all year round) and in the Zonneberg caves (6 Jul – 25 Aug). You can always join a Dutch tour if you like. 

Maastricht was once a fortress city. This tour explores the underground passageways that connects the different parts of the casemates surrounding the old city. The tour takes about 1 hour and is usually only provided in Dutch. The guides were nice enough to give us a bit of history in English before the tour started though.

Fort Sint Peter dates from the 1700s. The fort was recently restored and the tour takes you through the fort to it’s top, where you get a great view of the city. The tour lasts 1 hour and is usually only provided in Dutch.

Maastricht Underground

English Tour Times

All Tour Times

VVV Maastricht
Kleine Staat 1
6211 ED Maastricht
+31 (0)43-3252121

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Recycling Plastics and Cans – Get your money back!

There’s a way to get money back by recycling your German plastic bottles and cans with very little effort. Here’s what you need to know.

If your can or bottle can be refunded, it will have this symbol on it.

recycle symbol

After your done using the bottle or can for it’s intended purpose, rinse it out and hold onto it until you get a bunch together. Make sure they are mostly dry and don’t crush them. There are machines that you can take these recyclables to that will scan the item, send it back to the crusher and count your refund. The one I use is outside of Lidl, but I’ve seen ones at Trinkgut (which is red) as well.  Just keep an eye out for them near grocery and drink stores.

Once you’ve scanned all of your items, press the button for the machine to print out your receipt. Lidl has a button for euro and a button for a credit to their store, some only have one button. Take your receipt to the store cashier and they’ll give you your refund. Simple as that! Most cans and bottles are worth 0,25€, sometimes more, which is definitely worth it to me.

Known Locations (I’m sure there are more):
Lidl in Tüddern
Rewe in Gangelt
Trinkgut in Heinsberg and Niederheid
Kaufland in Geilenkirchen

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Pannenkoeken & Meer – Maastricht

This was my first experience with Dutch pancakes. The pancakes are larger and flatter than traditional American pancakes and the toppings are quite a bit different. Mine had ham, onions and cheese on it and ended up tasting more like a quiche than a pancake. My husband had salami, ham, peppers and a few other things on his pancake and it tasted like a pizza that was missing sauce. It was an experience to say the least. I think if we go again, we will be sharing a savory and a sweet pancake between us (or just going for dessert). One pancake is more than enough for one person in my opinion.

The sweet pancakes are what really shine here. You can get anything from fruit, to ice cream, to powdered sugar on your pancake, and they all sound delicious. If you’re in the Maastricht Markt area, check out Pannenkoeken & Meer. It’s a Dutch experience you have to try at least once.

Markt 70, Maastricht


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ADAC and ANWB the European AAAs

We recently learned that ANWB will give you discounts on certain items in their store (i.e. maps) if you are an ADAC member. It may work the same way the other way around. Of course, it never hurts to ask!

ADAC is like the German AAA. Most people end up using ADAC for their towing service. The yearly dues costs about the same as a normal towing service, but ADAC will take your car to the nearest garage instead of the nearest exit. They also sell maps and guides of Germany. My favorite are the Motorcycle guides, which give you around 15 routes per region. FYI: You can buy the maps and guides without a membership. You can get a full listing of services provided by an ADAC membership here.

Just in case something does happen, and you don’t have a membership, ADAC will sign you up on the side of the road if you need them. Just call them at 22 22 22 on your cell phone in Germany or +49 89 22 22 22 if you are out of country and press 1 for an operator.

Our Recent Experience

On a busy holiday weekend, my husband was driving back from Garmisch on his motorcycle when it abruptly stopped working. Police made sure he safely made his way to the side of the highway, and called ADAC for him. We already had an ADAC Plus membership (about 90 euro/year), so he gave the ADAC office our membership number and they headed to his location with a trailer. The driver drove him and the bike to the nearest ADAC highway office, where he was given a rental car to make his way home. The bike was returned to our house two days later, where they then put the rental car on the trailer to take back to their highway station. A few weeks later I received a letter stating that these services would have cost us over 1000 euro if we had not had an ADAC membership. ADAC made the whole ordeal so much easier to handle and saved us hundreds of euro.

Closest ADAC Office (Garage)
Strangenhäuschen 16
52070 Aachen
Mo.- Fr.: 09:00 – 18:00

ANWB is the Dutch version of AAA and offers many of the same services as ADAC. Both have memberships that can cover you and your car throughout Europe. If you need help, call +31 (0)88 2692 888.

Closest ANWB Offices
Rosmolenstraat 40
6131 HZ Sittard

Honigmanstraat 100
6411 LM Heerlen

Sittard and Heerlen Opening Hours
Mo: 13.00-18.00
Tu-Fr: 9.30-18.00
Th: to 21.00
Sat: 9.30-17.00

Hoogstraat 150
6373 HZ Landgraaf
Mo: 13.00-17.00
Tu-Fr: 10.00-17.00
Sat: 10.00-16.00

Remember, this blog is not getting paid to say this. I’m just letting you know these services exist if you’re interested in using them. Call or visit their office to get all of the info.

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Hair Crew by Concept in Kerkrade

A review from our reader: Lineik Lazare

I have been an Aphrodite customer since we PCS here in March 2010. (Aphrodite was a hair salon that ironically closed down according to our sources on the day this post was published) I was very happy with their service and specifically Tamara since she was the only one I booked for my hair.

A few months a go I contacted Aphrodite for my bi-monthly appointment and I was told that the Tamara was no longer with them and that they are they would not be able to inform me as to where she was working. So after some research and asking around I found my Tamara working at a Salon called Hair Crew by Concept in Kerkrade. I booked my appointment with Tamara and came out with great hair as always.

When it came time for my Christmas appointment, Roger from Hair Crew by Concept called me and informed me that unfortunately Tamara was not well and was unable to do my hair. He was lovely enough to schedule me for another appointment (the following day) and he did a wonderful job too.

I just would like to give praise where its due and make sure that Tamara’s former customers will know where to find her.

Contact information:

Tamara Schaeks


Terbruggen 9
6471 JS Kerkrade
Phone +31 45 545 2403
Email: haircrew.bc@gmail.com

Thanks Lineik for sharing! I’ll be going there myself to check it out next time!!!

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Schnee-Express Overnight Train to Austria

I haven’t experienced this personally, but I thought you should know that the Schnee(Snow)-Express at least exists as an option for getting down to the slopes in Austria instead of flying or driving. On Friday afternoons the Schnee-Express travels from Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Cologne and makes several other stops picking up passengers. The train then travels overnight to various Austrian ski destinations. The return trips occur on Saturday nights, so a week long trip is required to make the train schedule work for you. Tickets are around €100 depending on the timing of your trip and which cabin type you choose.

Lists of all the train stops, times and prices are given on their website, which works well in Google Translate. Tickets have to be bought on their website.


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Decathlon – The Sports Superstore

Decathlon can fulfill almost all of your sports needs. Running shoes, swimsuits, yoga mats, skiing gear, tents, climbing shoes, and much more, all at reasonable prices. I’ve put the info of the two closest stores to the GK area below.

Decathlon Kerkrade
Wiebachstraat 75, Kerkrade, NL

Decathlon Maasmechelen
Kolenmijn Limburg-Maaslaan 3, Maasmechelen, BE

Posted in Clothing, Outdoor/Camping, Shoes, Shopping | Tagged , | 1 Comment

“Ice” skating in Heerlen

You can stop by Minli Schaatsparadijs almost anytime as they are open for skating 7 days a week (doors open at 11am). This is a great indoor activity without the cold because the “ice” is actually synthetic. It didn’t feel exactly the same as skating in a regular ring, but it was extremely similar. I thought the falling was better because it wasn’t as hard and is definitely much dryer!

Adjacent to the ring is a place to order drinks and small candies. If you head in through the cafe to the other side of the building, your kiddos can play on the jumping castles. This was included in the price of the skating.

The price of the skating including the rental skate fee is 10€ per person (regardless of age). We spent about an hour skating and probably an hour playing on the jumping castles. There were several and this would be a fun party place for a birthday group.

Einsteinstraat 3          6372 BW Landgraaf

Telephone +31 (0)45 53 18 170

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Maasmechelen Village Outlet Shopping

There are over 100 stores in this shopping center. You can definitely spend some time here at least window shopping. Most stores are designer, although we did see some reasonably priced stores as well. There are a couple of restaurants, a movie theater and a tourist information building (full of pamphlets!)  all located here as well.

Zetellaan 100
Maasmechelen, Belgium

Opening Times:
Monday – Friday: 10 am – 6 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 10 am – 7 pm


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Euroscoop Maasmechelen Movie Theater

Here’s another movie theater option for you. It is located just across the Belgian border next to the Maasmechelen Village Outlets. Prices are slightly cheaper than Foroxity and they have €5 Tuesday movies as well. There is a restaurant connected to the theater and there are a few other restaurant options located in the outlets for you to choose from as well. Any films ending with “NV” after the title are dubbed.

Zetellaan 74
Maasmechelen, Belgium

http://www.euroscoop.be/nl/maasmechelen/home/ (Does not work well in Firefox)


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Sandman’s New Europe Tours (Free)

I’ve been wanting to talk about Sandman’s Free Tours for quite some time but I wanted to confirm how awesome they were beforehand. This past weekend, I had the chance to go on the free tour of Amsterdam. The tour was a whopping 3 hours long with a 15 minute break in the middle. Our tour guide was excellent and we were able to gain some insights that you just don’t get by walking around on your own.  These tours are available in 14 cities, including London, Berlin, Prague and Dublin. Just show up at the meeting point a little before the tour starts to sign up or book in advance (for a small fee) during the busy season to guarantee your spot on the tour. At the end of the tour, you tip what you think the tour was worth. This gives the tour guides more incentive to be great at what they do.  Most cities also offer a few themed tours, including Pub Crawls, that you pay for.

UPDATE: We just went on the Prague Free tour and their Castle (paid) tour. Both were excellent and I highly recommend them.

Check out all of the cities where tours are offered here.

Information on the Amsterdam tours is here.

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Monschau Christmas Market

Monschau is my favorite place in all of Germany so you can bet that I went to the Christmas Market!

The parking situation is a bit unique. You can try to find parking (hahahaha, yea right!) just outside of Monschau, or you can take the easy way and park in the designated bus areas. 5km from either side of the city is a well marked parking area that you can use. We chose the one in Hofen and parked for free at a park. From there we walked a few hundred feet to the bus stop that was marked for the Christmas Market Park and Ride. The cost of the bus is 3€ per person and when you pay they will give you a ticket for your return trip. The buses come by every 10-15 minutes and the ride is about 5 min long.

Between the shops and the market booths, you will have a few hours worth of stuff to do. Especially if you have never been to Monschau before. I do recommend you go again when the market is not here because it is a beautiful place. You can read more here.

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Shopping Guides for the Big Cities

I’m a planner, even when it comes to shopping, and especially when it comes to shopping in the big cities. There are so many stores in Cologne that you can easily spend all day in their shopping district and not see everything. I’ve found something that can help you out if you’re a planner like me or you just want to see what the various shopping districts have to offer. ShoppingGuide – Köln is a map of the shopping districts of Cologne that is updated twice a year. It is available on their website in PDF form and should be available as a pamphlet at various locations in Cologne (Tourism office, Hotels and other attractions). There is also an iPhone App which is available in English and includes all the Shopping Guides for 9 cities in Germany.

Guides are available for Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Leipzig and Hannover.

Happy Shopping!

Posted in Cologne, Shop by city, Shopping, Travel Tips and Resources | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

VVV – Netherlands Tourism

The VVV is the place to find out about activities and events going on in the Netherlands. As the tourism offices, it’s their business to know these things and to encourage you to explore the area. I visited the VVV office in Sittard during my last trip to the market. They had a huge variety of brochures and booklets available for free. They also had maps for hiking and biking for reasonable prices and products from the local area.

List of VVV Locations in South Limburg
http://www.vvvzuidlimburg.nl/ or http://www.southlimburg.com/

Go to vvv.nl for information about the rest of the Netherlands.

Posted in General Local Info, Maastricht, Sittard, Travel Tips and Resources | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pharmacy (Apotheke) and Emergency Services (Notdienst) Search

Here are two websites to help you find the nearest pharmacy and emergency services to you. Search by zip-code (Postleitzahl) and how far out of the zip-code you’re willing to go (Umkreis in km). Both websites will give you the hours of operations as well. The HS-Woche also lists the names and addresses of these services on page 2 each week. They also give information on a pet emergency care location (Tierärzte Notdienst) and an emergency eye doctor (Augenärzte).



You can also call the US Clinic on-call doctor (or dentist). Call the US appointment phone number 0245-199-2300 and wait for the “on-call” option on the recording.

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Trash Pickup Calender Online – Abfallkalender

New 2015 calenders should be coming in the mail shortly, but just in case it doesn’t get to you or it gets lost, here’s a backup plan. The garbage collection company, Schoenmackers, will be posting the new calenders online here. Just click on the Gemeinde/community you live in (Geilenkirchen, Übach-Palenberg, Gangelt, Selfkant, Heinsburg etc.) and save the PDF that pops up. There is also an iPhone and Android App available.

For those of you who always rush to get the trash out as the truck goes by, here’s a method that has helped me (besides paying attention to the neighbors). Take a normal calendar and write the trash days on it. As soon as I did this, I found that there was a method to the madness, like Gelb pickup is every other Monday in Selfkant. I hope this helps you too.

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Merode Castle Xmas Market

This is by far my favorite Christmas Market. I’m sure I will find others that are amazing, but this is kind of a Christmas topper!

A beautiful castle surrounded by a moat and then a trail around that moat that is lined with booths….. I dare you to top this place!!!!

I ended up buying a few items here and I was so pleased with them. The atmosphere and view were the biggest factors though. AMAZING!

Please visit this place as it is only an hour from GK. Entrance fee was 5,50€ unless after 7 pm (2,50€). Thursday thru Sat they are open until 9 pm. Sunday they are open till 8pm. The market took Megan and I about an hour to cover, so you could definitely get there at 7 and see it all!


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Brugge/Bruges, Belgium

Brugge is beautiful. I think that says it all. It is home to Belgian chocolate, lace, and beer and it’s historic city center, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a sight to see. The city center covers over 1000 acres, and one day is not enough time to see all of the beautiful buildings, prominent landmarks, and serene canals. For more information, visit the Brugge Tourism site.

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Aral Car Wash

Technically you are not supposed to wash your car in the driveway. Some neighbors may do it and then you can venture out and do your’s as well, but because of the water laws here, it’s better to go to an actual car wash. German soap is much safer chemically for the water then American soaps and the laws regarding what goes in the water is much stricter. Germany has some of the best drinking water and they want to keep it that way!

I recently ventured out to the car wash at ARAL on Bundestrasse (the 56) in Gangelt. I have been told that most car washes you pay the person at the entrance. However, at ARAL you pay inside the gas station and they give you a card to give to the attendant. They range from 6-11€. I paid 10,40€ for the premium and added a euro for “softech” which is the upgraded brush that is nicer to your paint (or so they say! 😉  )

The lady came out from another building, rinsed my car very throughly and then scrubbed my windows and lights before I drove into the automatic washer. From there, it is just your typical drive thru auto wash.

I washed my car in the states in Apr 2011 then again in Germany Apr of 2012. So I’m sure my car appreciated this early xmas gift of getting washed! Turns out my car isn’t black, it’s silver!!! I enjoyed seeing it again from under all the dirt. 🙂


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GK NATO’s IYA program offers many trips throughout the year. This years final trip was to Trier for their Christmas Market. It was a wonderful way to see Trier.

The trip on the bus was about 2.5 hours. It is only 30 minutes away from Spangdahlem, so you could also make a side trip here after you run errands on the base. When you arrive, you have a spectacular view of the city! We parked near the city center and walked directly into the large market. After several hours of combing through the booths, we ate in a beautiful upscale restaurant.

Whether you drive with your family or you book a trip like we did, make sure to leave time to explore the city itself. Trier is home to the Porta Nigra and the cathedral of Trier is home to the holy robe. It is said to have been worn by Christ himself.

You can also visit the palace which is a short walk from the center of Trier and has some nice walking paths through the gardens. (there was also a small playground next door for the kids to burn some extra energy!)

Trier is also the in the middle of Mosel wine country. Be sure to sample some wine from a local weingut (winery).

I think our favorite thing about this trip wasn’t the Christmas Market, but rather the city itself. Trier is the OLDEST city in Germany and a must see! For more information, go to the city tourism website.

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Base Services ICE Surveys

If you’ve ever had a good or bad experience with a base service, or you just want to voice your opinion on how services can be improved, you can easily provide feedback using the ICE survey online. These surveys are available at all bases, but here are links for our local area.

Geilenkirchen NATO AB
JFC Brunssum
USAG Benelux – Schinnen
Spangdahlem AB

Posted in GK/Schinnen/JFC Brunssum Info, Newcomers, Resources/Help | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Many Drinks of Christmas Markets

There are more warm Christmas drinks at the markets than just Glüwein, but it’s not always clear what they are, so here’s a list of drinks I have come across locally so you can hopefully find a favorite.

Most of these drinks are served in 0.2L collectable mugs that you can keep if you like. The Pfand is usually between 2-4€, so keep the mug if you want, or return it to get the Pfand back. You can also trade your mug for a clean one.


Glüwein (rot/red or weiß/white) – You will find red Glüwein at every Christmas Market you go to. It is usually a sweet red wine, mulled with cinnamon, cloves, star anise, lemon and sugar. White Glüwein is made with the same spices, but is a little mellower. You can find the white Glüwein at most of the big markets in this area.

Feuerzangenbowle -This drink is a bit of a show as well. It starts with Glüwein, then the server places a sugar cube over the drink, pours rum over it, and lights it on fire. The sugar caramelizes and melts into the drink.

Schokopunsch/Lumumba – Hot chocolate with a shot of rum or amaretto, for those of you who don’t like Glüwein.

Eierpunsch – Eggnog mixed with white wine and rum.

Jagertee/Hüttentee – Black tea with a shot of rum.

Grog – A mix of rum, sugar and hot water.

Glögg – A Scandinavian form of Glüwein, the spices used include cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and ginger.

Warmer Apfelkuchen – Mulled apple cider mixed with vodka or rum.

Alcohol Free

Kinderpunsch – An alcohol free version of Glüwein.

Apfelwein – Apple cider. I tried this and it seemed non-alcoholic to me, but check before buying.

Heiße Schokolade – Hot chocolate

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Augustusburg Palace and Falkenlust

Schloss Augustusburg and the smaller hunting lodge, Falkenlust, are one of four UNESCO World Heritage sites in NRW. Located in Brühl, about 20 mins from Bonn, the drive from GK is an easy one and parking is easy to find around the palace. The park and gardens surrounding the palace are free for everyone to enjoy and is sure to be beautiful during the Spring and Summer months.

Augustusburg Palace and Falkenlust were both built in the 18th century in the Baroque style. Seeing the ornate staircase alone is worth the entrance fee. Tours of Augustusburg are given in German about every 30 minutes and last about an hour. You can borrow a headset for €1 to listen to the tour in English.

Falkenlust is about a 30 min walk south of Augustusburg. Audio guides are available for this building too, but they will give you paper explanations to read on your self guided tour of the lodge that are sufficient.

Augustusburg and Falkenlust are definitely worth the visit. The palace is even more impressive than Linderhof, and a much shorter drive. I think you could see everything in about three hours and then head to Bonn for some shopping or site seeing while you’re in the area.


Opening Times:
Closed December and January
Monday: Closed
Tues-Fri: 0900-1200; 1330-1600
Sat-Sun: 1000-1700

Ticket Prices can be found here.

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Mckaela’s Tea Leafs and Coffee Beans in Sittard

Mckaela’s is located a stone’s throw away from Bagels and Beans in the Sittard Markt area. This shop is a tea  and coffee lovers dream. The tea selection is enormous, and if you can’t choose one, you can buy sample bags for 50 cents each to try. All of the tea is loose leaf and is usually sold in 500 gram quantities. The shop also has all the tea and coffee accessories you could ever want. Check out their website to see a listing of their coffee and tea selection or stop by next time you are in the Markt.

Paardenstraat 9A, Sittard

Opening Times:
Monday: Closed
Tues, Wed, Fri: 1000-1800
Thurs: 1000-2000
Sat: 1000-1700
Koopzondag: 1200-1700

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Train Tickets and Deals on the Deutsche Bahn

NOTE: These deals only work if you are staying within Germany and are available on www.bahn.de.

KIDS RIDE FREE – Kids (14 and younger) can ride free on the train as long as they are accompanied by their parents or grandparents. Kids older than 6 must be included on your ticket, but are still free. If you have 3 or more kids, you can get a Family Card from the ticket desk that is free and valid for one year. This will count as ticket for your children.

BahnCard – The BahnCard is a discount card that is good for one year. The BahnCard 25 offers a 25% discount on all tickets and costs €61 for 2nd Class. If you plan on taking many long distance trips on the train, this could be worth the investment. They also have a 4 month trial version (Probe-BahnCard) available for €25. The site will also offer this when you are booking a trip online so you can see the savings before you purchase.

Sparpreis/Savings Fare – These fares are usually available while booking a longer journey online as long as you book more than three days in advance of your travel. The catch is that you have to stay on the itinerary given on your ticket, however, you are allowed to deviate from your ticket if your train was late arriving and you miss your next train. You can buy these tickets between 3-92 days out from your date of departure.

All of the following deals are available at the ticket booth at the station or online if you click “Local Transport” when searching for tickets. On the ticket kiosk, click Specials Fares then Group Tickets.

Länder Ticket/SchönerTagTicket/Beautiful Day Ticket – This is the best deal out there. It is a full day pass (0900-0300 next day on weekdays and weekends starting at 0000) for the trains as long as you stay within the state. For us, that means staying in Nordrhein-Westfalen. The ticket is good for up to 5 people and costs €41 in NRW. These tickets exist for each state in Germany and the price varies depending on the size of the state.

Quer-Durchs-Land-Ticket/Cross Country Ticket – This ticket is another day pass good for up to 5 people and costs €44 for one person and goes up by €6/person. The times are Mon-Fri 0900-0300 the next day and it’s valid for use on all regional trains. This would be a good deal if you have to leave NRW to reach your destination.

Weekend Ticket – Valid on Saturday or Sunday from 0000 – 0300 the next day for up to 5 people. This ticket costs €42 and allows you to travel anywhere in Germany for one day.

Open Ticket – You can buy group tickets to Aachen for less than the Lander Ticket listed above. The total should be about 24 euro for up to 5 people per ticket. You must buy this ticket from the ticket desk. Remember to validate your ticket before getting on the train at one of the yellow time stamping machines located close to the ticket kiosks. The GK ticket desk opening hours are listed below.

For more information on travel deals on the Bahn, go here.


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Karin’s Guesthouse

Karin’s Guesthouse is a family run business which was started in Gillrath in 2001. They are currently operating up to 8 accommodations; 6 full family houses and 2 smaller apartments. Pets are welcome!

Update January 2015:

Karin’s guesthouse has just ordered 8 brand new Volkswagen cars, 1 for each  accommodation. Each car has automatic transmission, built-in navigation and Bluetooth hands-free as well as many other extras. Estimated delivery of the cars is March or April 2015.

There is no minimum stay required and no rental car charge. Basically, as long as guests stay with at the guesthouse, they will have a car.

All of their Guesthouses are equipped with the following and everything is included in the daily rate:

Modern kitchen with dishwasher
Microwave, Stove-top & fridge-freezer
Washer and dryer
HD LED Flat screen TV
DVD player (multi regional)
Free English SKY TV (up to 150 US & UK TV Channels)
Free Telephone including calls to the US, Canada and more
Free High Speed Internet DSL/wi-fi
Baby cot and diaper changing facility
Toys, trampoline and swing
Access to own garden (including your own BBQ)

If they don’t have what you’re looking for, just ask.

Karin’s also operates their own Airport Shuttle Service for the guesthouse and for all English speakers in Germany, they have an administrative assistance company called King & Mayr.

Karin’s Guesthouse Website

Karin’s Guesthouse Facebook Page

phone: +49(0)2451- 720 15 Call to book today!

Posted in Businesses of GK families | 1 Comment

SKY TV – Provided by KPK

Sky Tv is a wonderful way to get entertainment in you home. If you are looking at installing Sky, the prices can may make you think twice because of the price of the equipment and installation.

KPK offers a unique solution for you by providing you with a low cost alternative. You can rent the box and equipment required as part of your monthly cable cost. If the 50 free channels aren’t enough, you can also rent the viewing cards and KPK will assist you in getting them loaded with the channels you and your family need/want so that your not paying for things you won’t use.

With purchase of the sky box you receive a 1 year warranty  but KPK’s rental plan means that this 1 year warranty will actually cover you for the entire rental period (even past that year).

The contract is for one year, but after the first year, you are paying month to month and will receive a reduction in premium. If you decide to cancel, you only need to give KPK one months notice after the contract ends.

Give them a call today for all the details or check them out online!

TEL.:       +49 (0)2451 – 49 00 682

FAX:       +49 (0)2451 – 49 00 683

Email:    service@kpk-business.de

Web:     www.kpk-business.de

KPK Business Facebook Page

Posted in Geilenkirchen NATO Base - Info | 1 Comment

Facebook Pages to Help You Stay Informed

Updated 15 Jan 2016

One of the best ways to stay up to date on upcoming offers available on base is to like a few Facebook pages.  Some were easy to find, but others are harder to find if you don’t know what to look for. I’m sure I’ll have missed a few in this list, so readers, feel free to comment and suggest other pages that can be helpful to us all.

The most helpful pages are in bold. Like them to get important news and alerts.

Geilenkirchen AB Airman & Family Readiness Center
Nato E-3A Component
NATO Airbase Geilenkirchen Community (Group)
Food Services System MWA GK
470 ABS School Liaison
Sports Department GK MWA
Crossfit GK
Geilenkirchen NATO AB Chapel
Geilenkirchen NATO AB Women’s Ministry
Royal Canadian Legion Branch 003 (Group)
Geilenkirchen Team 5/6
Geilenkirchen U.S. Top Three Association
AFSA Chapter 1678: Geilenkirchen
Geilenkirchen Riders Association (Group)
American Spouses of Geilenkirchen
International Spouses Club of Geilenkirchen: ISC (Group)
The GK Swap
GK/Schinnen/JFC Brunnsum Garage Sale

Alpha Company, AFNorth Battalion SFRG
JFC Brunssum Happenings
Afnorth International School – Brunssum The Netherlands
Allied Joint Forces Command Brunssum
JFC Alliance Theater
JFC Brunssum Chapel
JFC Brunssum Arts and Crafts
Curios Thrift Shop
Bike Service JFC HQ
USAG Benelux (Schinnen and Brunssum)
AFN Benelux
Afnorth Int’l. Middle/High School PTA
American Spouses Club
Tri-Border Walking Club
Alliance Players

Tri-Border Community
Tri-Border Treasures

52D Force Support Squadron
52D FSS Community Center
52D FSS Airman & Family Readiness Center
52D FSS Information Tickets & Travel
52D FSS Club Eifel
Spangdahlem Passenger Terminal
Spangdahlem Air Base

Ramstein Air Base, Germany (official)
Ramstein Passenger Terminal
Ramstein FSS

Edelweiss Lodge and Resort

Other Helpful Sites:
Stars and Stripes
European Stars and Stripes
Stay Safe Antiterrorism
Military One Source
U.S. Department of State: Consular Affairs
American Forces Network Europe
Combined Federal Campaign-Overseas

Local Tourism:
CheeseWeb – Travel, Photography and Expat Life in Belgium
The Charlzz – Tri-Border Cultural Events
Home Away from Home – Living in Düsseldorf and Making the Most of It
Het Smalste Stukje Nederland
Heart of Europe
Wallonia – Brussels Tourism

Local Train Systems:
SNCB – Europe Belgian Trains
DB Bahn German Trains
Nederlandse Spoorwegen Dutch Trains

Local News:
The Local – European News in English
Aachener Zeitung
Flanders News (website)
Geilenkirchen (City)
Limburger.nl – Limburg News
Selfkant online ein Service der Huchel visualmedia Werbeagentur

Posted in Geilenkirchen NATO Base - Info, General Local Info, JFC Brunssum- Info, Newcomers, Schinnen Services- Info | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Füchschen Altbier Brauerei in Düsseldorf