Ranking Military Bases– Baumholder Germany

photo of lichtenstein castle

Discovering the ins and outs of Baumholder becomes a journey in itself when you PCS here. Although it’s not possible for me to evaluate all services provided on the installations, as I haven’t utilized them all, I can certainly share insights based on my experiences. In my forthcoming reviews, I’ll rank the military bases I’ve resided at, considering factors like location, settling in process, schools, shopping facilities, cultural and travel prospects, driving conditions, job opportunities, and military housing.

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Baumholder-in-winter Ranking Military Bases-- Baumholder Germany


PCS to Baumholder 

Moving to Baumholder

It’s not uncommon for some military spouses to find reasons to express dissatisfaction or critique of this military base. They may scrutinize my words, spelling, and views—perhaps because my husband is an officer, or because I choose not to engage negatively—but that doesn’t bother me. My invitation is open to all spouses who have positive stories and insights to share about life at Smith Barracks in Baumholder, Germany, affectionately known as “the Rock”.

Life on Smith Barracks

This is Only My Opinion

Those who know me well won’t be shocked to hear that Baumholder, Germany, holds the top spot as my favorite duty station to date. Here’s why. It’s important to note that I understand my experience may not mirror everyone else’s. What I share is based on my personal experiences and recollections of life at Smith Barracks and in Baumholder. I encourage you to share your own experiences in the comments below.

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Living in Baumholder 

Upon learning we were set to PCS to Germany, I was thrilled. However, my excitement was dampened by others’ reactions to our impending move to Baumholder. I was met with a barrage of unsettling anecdotes and opinions: dismal housing, a tiny town, discourteous locals, and a lack of activities.

Guess what, it’s all true IF you never venture past the front gate and your idea of a great day is shopping at Wal-Mart and vegging out in front of the TV. There’s no Wal-Mart in Germany. And the cable quality was mediocre at best.

We lived in Baumholder, Germany, for three full years until they made us leave in 2012. I’d go back again tomorrow if they’d let me.

Getting Settled in Baumholder
Hotel Ullrich

When we arrived, we stayed at the Hotel Ullrich, which I am happy to announce is permanently closed. It wasn’t anything nice ya’ll. When we left, we didn’t stay in Baumholder. We stayed at the Lagerhof Inn, operated by Army Lodging, before moving to the Ramstein Inn, where the terminal is located.

**Just so you know if you aren’t staying in an American hotel, the bed is going to be hard, and there will probably be two twins pushed up together– it’s a European thing.

Honestly, who complains about a town where neuwein (new wine) is delivered to your front door at the beginning of the wine season.

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Town Life in Baumholder Germany

We loved Baumholder. Baumholder Germany is a medieval town, mentioned in a document dating back to 1156. Thankfully, the city has gone through a few renovations. There are a few good restaurants in town, including the Vis a Vie, Zum Stadtkrug, Eis Cafe Dolomitten Giovani Panciera, Afrin Kebap, Zum Stern. There was even a McDonald’s.

You could walk out of the pedestrian gate and be in the heart of town in minutes. And like any good European town, there was a small lake, a couple of pretty churches, a supermarket, a pharmacy, and a couple of motels.

Where is Baumholder Located?

Baumholder is affectionately called the Rock. It has been my favorite duty station in the 23 years we have traveled with the military. I heard Baumholder was in the middle of nowhere. Still, honestly, the best thing about being in Baumholder was that it was 40 minutes from the French border, the French-German Weinstrasse (wine road), and Cora Supermarket, one of our favorite places to shop. It was less than 90 minutes from Frankfurt, central to a lot of cute towns like Idar Oberstein, and less than an hour from Frankfurt Hahn, an international airport. And Baumholder was in the middle of it all.

aka the Rock

I never understood why lots of people regretted their PCS to Baumholder. I loved it from the beginning. The reason it had such a bad rep was that the post sits on an elevated plain that doesn’t get the best weather. Hitler once used ‘The Rock’ as his winter training location because the weather was so bad. There were many a day I looked out the window and sighed. Some of my friends even had to take vitamin-D pills because of the lack of sunshine during the winter. But get in your car, and 10 minutes later, the sky would open up to reveal its true blue nature.

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Military Housing

Our military quarters were unique. We lived in a converted mansion, renovated into four 3-bedroom apartments with a large balcony on Smith Barracks. I wasn’t impressed when I first saw it because it was so tiny compared to the house we had just sold in Virginia. The kitchen was at the front of the house, and the living room/ dining room was at the rear.

The first thing we did was take the kitchen door off the hinges. Both boys had their rooms, and the master was humongous. We all had to share one Pepto, Bismol colored bathroom. If I had any complaints, it would be that I had to share the bathroom with three boys. That’s something I would vow never to do again.

Other military quarters included stairwell housing and living off-post housing. Most of my friends opted for the latter.

Schools

The boys attended different schools. My elementary kid walked, and the high schooler rode the bus. Both schools had caring professionals working there, plenty of qualified teachers, counselors, and excellent facilities. My oldest played every sport under the sun, and my younger one, who was recently diagnosed with ADHD, had a team of professionals who made it their mission to see him thrive in school and otherwise. Sometimes they were successful, but that’s entirely another story.

Shopping in Baumholder

The Exchange has never been my preferred place to shop. I did order online. However, I was also able to find my size in the local department stores. Baumholder has an Exchange, PX Extra, gas station, commissary, small food court, and food and specialty trucks from time to time.

There is a much larger option for all the above 20 minutes away at Ramstein AFB located in the  Kaiserslautern Community (KMC). Ramstein also has a multi-screen movie theatre, A Macaroni Grill, and the Ramstein Inns operated by Air Force Inns. We left Germany in 2012.

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German Culture

The German people appear stern when you meet them, but they aren’t. They are fun-loving people who love a good festival. And there are too many of them to count. We enjoyed the wine walks and wine festivals, touring the vineyards and castles, and sitting at an outdoor cafe in the summer.

When you PCS to Germany, you’ll have to get used to restaurants closing on Sundays. This was not a problem for me; I loved it. The Germans love their cafe culture, beer, and wine, which brings me to my top reason for ranking Germany first.

One of my favorite activities was to rent a driver and bus at Outdoor Recreation and invite my friends along to the wine walks and festivals.

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German Food

German food gets a bad wrap. I miss the schwenkbraten (steak sandwich), spargelsuppe (white asparagus soup), Sauerbraten (pot roast), flammkuchen (flatbread pizza), spiessbraten (roasted beef) and schnitzel (fried and battered), home fries, rindswurst (beef sausage), the strudels and bread, especially the dark ones. The salads are delicious, don’t expect to beaked what dressing you want–there’s only one. And for heaven’s sake, you’ve got to try the spaghetti eis (ice cream that looks like spaghetti).

Wine and Beer in Germany

People are surprised when they find out Germans drink just as much wine as they do beer. We both discovered our love of fermented drinks in Germany. It was all so good and cheap. I went wine shopping in the case, not by the bottle. The house wines were exceptional, and Steven loved the fact that light beer was NOT a thing in Germany.

You are never more than a couple of hours from a large vineyard or a family-run one that might have its tasting room in the living room. Just look for a broom over the door and knock. The Wein Strasse (wine road) stretches clear into France. Know that alcohol Frei means alcohol-free. Tastings are generally a full glass, Frei and Riesling are OMG DELICIOUS. I also love the Dornfelder grape, which only grows in that region.

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Driving

All the roads on the Autobahn lead to Ausfahrt, which means “exit”. I loved to drive in Germany because Germans know how to go. Heaven helps you if you stay in the passing lane too long, you will be reminded it’s only for passing when a BMW crawls into your backseat. But contrary to belief, the Autobahn is not entirely unrestricted. There are some speed-limit enforced areas, but it may not be posted. I know because I got two or three speeding tickets in the mail with my pretty face posted on them.

The roads are so right because they use almost twice as much asphalt as we do in America. The streets aren’t straight either. They wind around mountains, bridges, and tunnels with scenery designed to keep you engaged and awake.

Travel Opportunities
USAEUR and International License and Vignettes

You need a valid stateside license to get a USAEUR driver’s license, which is required before you can drive in Germany. You have to pass a very detailed driving test which can be taken on-post. Study the signs, man. They can trip you up, I’m not ashamed to say I passed on my second go-round.

There are other requirements for driving outside of Germany (International license and vignettes); there is no FCC, so you never know what you’ll hear on the radio or see on TV for that matter. And don’t be surprised to see men peeing on the side of the road. It’s legal– however, littering is not. If you have to pee, stop at a rest where you have to pay– trust me on that one, okay?

Jobs in Baumholder 

Finding a good job is the worst thing when you PCS overseas. Our priority for going to Germany was to travel, but some of my friends didn’t have that luxury. There are jobs in Baumholder. Unfortunately, there are never enough good-paying jobs for the spouses who want one. But what irritated me was that the Germans held many of the jobs desired by military spouses. This is something I would notice later in South Korea too.

Our visa didn’t allow me to work off-post. But the Germans homesteaded jobs (stayed beyond the maximum timeframe). Germans don’t have to  PCS in three years as we did. There are changes in the wind however to the homesteading rules that are frequently overlooked. This will help more spouses find jobs in Baumholder based on more frequent turnovers.

I did eventually find a part-time job working at the Stars and Stripes as a writer/ editor. I wrote for several in-house publications about travel and the military lifestyle.

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Comments

  1. Dan Black

    while Stationed in Baumholder 84-87, one of my favorite things was Volksmarches every weekend through the communities. over the time I was there I had over 60 flashes on my walking stick. My Gosh what an awesome experience it was. Always in small communities and away from the more touristy areas.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Hi Dan– I know exactly what you mean. I would go back in a heartbeat myself. Our three years there flew by, but I’m grateful for all the wonderful memories. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share your own memories.

  2. Dan Black

    I was in Baumholder 1984-1987. I Loved it, the Germans were rude if you didnt at least try to speak to them in German But even if you butchered your German to them they would butcher English back, and was some of the most enjoyable exchanges. To this day Ich Spraken Sie Biechen Deutch. LOL Thank you for the look back. Id go back in an instant.

  3. Andrew J. Geesey

    Some of my fondest memories have been of my time stationed on the Rock. I was at Baumholder for 3 1/2 years from 1986-90. 8th infantry at that time, i was on the hill at HHB Divarty., for the entire time.

    Loved it even back then, I owned 3 different cars, and had tons of fun driving allover the country, my favorite outing was making my way to Trier. I drove in that direction often, loved the scenery, the river, vineyards, mountains, and yes the city’s cobble stoned streets. I lived in the barracks, then married and lived in both off post housing and on base at Idar-Oberstein. food, beer, omg! so many memories. Thanks for taking this old timer back, to another time and place. I arrived when i was 18 and left when i was 21, and in my 50’s now.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      No, thank you for sharing your memories with us. I can feel your experience in your words. I am glad I was able to remind you of such a wonderful experience. And honestly– I miss the drives, festivals and wine walks the most too. Such beautiful roads and scenery everywhere you look!!

  4. Oyinkan

    You are so lucky getting so many chances to move around and travel the world ? It must be a lot of work, but I’m sure its worth it. Thanks for sharing a look at a military base, as a civilian I have never had a chance to visit one.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Doesn’t surprise me, the military is the real 1% with less than that actually serving. It’s just a inside look at one I thought everyone could appreciate.

  5. Rebecca Swenor

    This is a great post for those military families and beyond going to Baumholder Germany. It doesn’t sound bad at all and you shouldn’t dismiss it til you try it is something I have always thought. Thanks for sharing the awesome information.

  6. Candy Rachelle

    Glad that you shared your story. I didn’t know about military bases in Germany. but I had a lot of friends and they say that they truly love the foods there.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I love overseas stations, its a great experience to live in another culture with the foundation that makes it less difficult.

  7. Anosa

    wow! Thank you for sharing your experience. I have never heard of this area in Germany! that image of the guy in the military uniform is so powerful! it really brings it all home for me.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      He is a German man who was so grateful to the troops who died recently. Thank you for taking the time to share your support.

  8. Blair villanueva

    Thanks for sharing your story. I heard similar story from a friend who is also a military wife who was stationed in Baumholder Germany She also loved it and all the travel she was able to do because Baumholder is very central to many countries in Europe. I hope you get a chance to go back again one day.

  9. Jen Walker

    I am a military brat, and we never had the opportunity to live in Germany. This sounds like a really fun place to live, and that says a lot coming from me since I do not like cold weather! I’d still love to check it out and maybe I’d get used to the cold!

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I am fron upset New York and I have had enough of the cold too, but I enjoyed traveling around Europe so much I’d chance it. We had the opportunity to go tumor than 40 countries in three years.

  10. cynthia bowman

    Never even heard of Baumholder but it looks great! I think Germany is the best place in Europe to be stationed.

  11. Aishwarya Shenolikar

    It’s good that you have a positive experience to share!! Loved reading through all your housing, food & other arrangements. It’s always amazing to get to know about culture as well! Hope you find a job there. 🙂

    1. duffelbagspouse

      There aren’t as many military installations as it used to be. MOF most of us were kicked out of Baumholder because it was closing but the mission changed and the number of soldiers decreased sharply. Fortunately, the military “changed its mind” and there has been an uptick at Baumholder, but many bases have shut down in that country.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I will pray that he stays safe. My hubby did two tours in Iraq, one of which was done when we were stationed in Germany. It’s never easy and I truly appreciate those that serve.

  12. Michael Killingstad

    My oma and we’re forty clicks down the road in Meisenheim. I was born at Neubrucken army hospital in 1960. Left at 13 months for ft Lewis. We were in Paris from 1964 to 1967. Mom said at least once a month we drove to Baumholder and to see oma and opa. In 1973 we went to Nuremberg. Until 1976 we visited Baumholder at least once a month. We also went to garmische and rotenberg. The old joke was even the trains backed into Baumholder because it was so hard to get to. Miss Germany.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Wow, you have moved around just as much as I have, lol. The train station reopened a couple years ago which is awesome. I know Meisenheim, there was a bakery there I liked.I miss it too.

  13. Janice Bailey Harper

    Thanks! Was in Baumholder with my husband from 69 -71. Would love to visit again some day! I am going to share this with my children. The two oldest were born in Germany. Their Dad is deceased and I love to share stories about our experiences in the Army.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Thank you Janice. I appreciate that you’d share my article with them. I loved my time there and have been feeling very nostalgic lately realizing I left a lot of topics on the table because I was having so much fun. I hope it brought back some fond memories about our time in Baumholder. I too would love to go back.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Brianne, please share my blog and Facebook with her. I love interacting with my military sisters. And thanks for your support too.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      You’re welcome. Baumholder is an Army post. There is also Wiesbaden which is awesome and much larger. There are other military installations in Germany for other branches of service.

  14. Joanna Everyday Made Fresh

    My first husband was in the Army. We were station in North Carolina at Ft. Bragg…I wasn’t fond of it at all. When we divorced, and he remarried, they both chose to go overseas at that time, and lived at all sorts of bases, the photos were beautiful.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      My hubby almost came down on orders to Bragg and I told him he’d be going alone. He go them changed the next day. LOLZ

  15. Aryanne Padilha

    First of all, 23 years?! Wow. Thank you for the education. I always wanted to know what goes on with the spouses/children specially when you have to go overseas. I have been to Germany many times but not Baumholder!

    1. duffelbagspouse

      23 years in December. Some days it doesn’t seem as long, but like anyone else that’s married– it feels like a lifetime. It’s funny, but most of the people who think Baumholder is awful, generally get a bigger base in Germany. The thing is I met lots of people who were assigned to places like Wiesbaden or Ramstein that didn’t enjoy as much travel because they were so comfortable.

  16. DeAnna Riggs Bragg

    I was a military brat for 18 years. I was lucky enough to go to Baumholder American High School from 1970-1973. My dad was stationed at the Borfink Bunker and we lived in Birkenfeld in the US housing. We, too, got condolences for many people when we heard where our new PCS was. The entire experience was awesome. The “kids” that I went to high school with plus many of our German friends were able to find each other through facebook. I wish we could have stayed longer!

    1. duffelbagspouse

      My son made some good friends at BAHS that he still keeps in touch with, one is his best friend who has spent the summer with us. We tried to stay until he graduated but they sent us stateside. He really hated his last year of HS because of his time in Baumholder. There are a couple of very active Fb groups where ppl connect. Baumholder!! and Missing My Baumholder if you’re interested.

  17. Rose

    Nice to know! I was never stationed overseas but always wondered how they were. It’s nice that they not are appreciated but really enjoyed.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I love the Overseas military, so much more fun, more money, travel and medical bennies like free braces for kids. You also make deep friendships because you tend to depend on each other because you don’t have family, may not know the language and husbands are deployed.

  18. Jen Temcio

    I would have been so scared after hearing the horror stories but you really saw the best in so many things! It would be fun to live in a place where the culture is so different than what we are used to…only with a bigger home!

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Jen, you’d be surprised how much you don’t need to be happy. Traveling with the military has made that abundantly clear because we couldn’t always decide on where we lived. And over the years, I have cut back on things, concentrating more on people and experiences and I am more happy than when I had a huge home. You’re right though, its all about perspective and state of mind.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I’m sure you have come across people that are narrow-minded. Imagine if I handed you a plain brown paper bag and said, OMG Dina– this is the best meal you will ever have. Wouldn’t you be at least curious to open the bag and see what’s in it? Some people aren’t and that’s why they said Baumholder sucked. You do have to at least open the bag.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      It’s funny because I think they like that stereotype to a certain degree. Of course I can’t speak for all but I noticed they were very efficient. Say the store closes at 5pm. If you walked up to the door at 4:45 it might be locked and you can see people inside. Well its because they have some things to do before they close, so you should have come earlier, because they are leaving at 5. lol

  19. Aditi

    Wow.. 23 years is a fairly long time. You seemed to have had a very beautiful life full of experiences. I hadn’t heard of spaghetti eis – it sounds interesting. Cheers!!

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Thank you, its been a charmed life of constant movement and aha moments. Spaghetti eis is just delicious ice-cream put through a machine that makes it look like spaghetti. lol

  20. Amber Myers

    This sounds like a great base! I lived in Germany growing up since my mother was in the military. We were at Rhein-Main (now closed) and Ramstein!

    I’m married to a military guy now, and we’ve only been to England so far. The rest have been stateside, which I’m happy about. I like Europe, but I prefer to be in the States!

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I remember you saying that, thank you so much for your positive support for duffelbagspouse travels. Lol, we both prefer overseas assignments and hope our very last one is back in Europe.

  21. Shannon

    We haven’t had the opportunity to go to Germany yet, but my husband is hoping for orders there someday. I have to say that my least favorite base so far was in Virginia. I never want to go back there!

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Lol where in Virginia? I was just about to work on my 2nd favorite assignment and its between our tours in Colorado, Virginia and South Korea. We were in the Hampton Roads area, Fort Eustis/ Fort Story.

  22. sherry

    I was Livin in Baumholder around the Years 1969 and 1974-78 an one Thing I missed– No Us- Soldier like to learn german— just this is importend to understand they others- Ok I had Jobs in this Time witch one nobody likes, I was Manager from different Bars and Disco silverdollar. possible that was a different

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Hi Sherry, you know what is funny. I actually learned more German than I thought and it was something that just crept up on me.

  23. Angela

    If you liked Baumholder when you lived there, you would’ve loved it before the troop numbers dwindled. I grew up in Baumholder in the 70s and 80s. I lived there when the base was at its highest with 24,000-30,000 troops and the town was filled with shops. I left in 1986 and have made trips back. It’ll always been home.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I’d go back in a minute because I really enjoyed the lifestyle more than anything. They are ramping up again, woman see it become just as vibrant as it was.

  24. LadyInRead

    this is certainly an informative post for anyone who would be posted for sometime in this part of the world (whether military deployment or just as part of any other work).. i just learned about the speed limits on the autobahn a couple of weeks ago when my dh had to travel there for a business trip

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Yeah, a lot of people think the Autobahn is unregulated. I can testify personally since I have received a couple of speeding tickets. The problem is the speed limits aren’t always posted, you have to remember from the driving regs that the speed limit drops when you enter townships.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Thanks Tara, I try to do just that no matter where we are sent. But it wasn’t;t hard to do in Baumholder Germany, I loved the area.

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