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We asked the team at The Used Car Guys in Kaiserslautern & Ramstein to share their local knowledge with us. Most of the team have lived in Germany for over 12 years, or were born here, so they have quite a few suggestions of things to do within an hour’s drive of Kaiserslautern. Here’s their list of ‘Local Secrets’ which we are sharing with you…
James loves the Pfalz. The Deustche Wein Str and Rhineland Pfalz is popular for two things – wine and walking. But is it possible to both at the same time? Well, this area is famed for it (and so is James).
“Along some of the most amazing walking routes in the area you will find small rustic wine huts or larger community based huts. Local wine, beer and food is available in abundance. Almost all routes are suitable to do with kids and they will simply love the freedom of being able to run around in the open air.”
Three of James’ favorites are:
The Wallberg Hut, Deidesheim
Parking is available between Deidesheim and Rupertsberg (follow signs for Pflaz Blick restaurant). The Wallberg Hut specialty is high quality grilled pork steaks. Available Sunday from 11:00 (but get there before 15:00 not to be disappointed). This is a great area for children to play in the forest. See www.wallberg-huette.de for more info.
Pfalz Hutten Tour
This is one of Germany’s best kept secrets – a fantastic walking route which includes stunning views overlooking the Rhein Neckar Valley, the middle of the Pfalz and even the Burg Trifels (see below). One of its most famous features is having seven walking/wine huts along the route serving a fantastic selection of local foods and wine at very competitive prices. James’ particularly likes Gleisweiler and heading up to St Anna’s Chappel. See http://www.wanderportal-pfalz.de/praedikat/PfaelzerHuettentour.htm for more info.
Burg Trifels, Annweiler
Just one hour from Kaiserslautern this is a must see for all castle and history fanatics. Situated on a rock at 500m (1,600 ft) it towers above the area. Its history dates as far back as 1081, so you could spend hours or even days admiring the architecture and landscape that was created in the Roman Empire. It is also famous as the site where King Richard I of England (AKA Richard the Lionheart) was imprisoned after he was captured by Duke Leopold V of Austria near Vienna in December 1192 on his return from the Third Crusade. You can park in their carpark and walk the final 20 mins if you don’t fancy a long hike to the castle. See http://www.trifelsland.de/en/regions-activities/highlights/castles/ for details. There is also a museum you can visit – entrance price to the museum is €3 per adult, €2.10 per child, kids under 6 go in for free.
David loves to combine city life with the great outdoors, and finds Mannheim (where he lives) offers the best of both worlds. Despite its reputation for not being the prettiest of Germany cities, it actually has a lot to offer and is less than an hour’s drive from the KMC.
“I’m training for the London Marathon, so I like to be able to run in the woods and along the Rhein near my house. But I also like the cosmopolitan vibe of a city like Mannheim and enjoy the shopping and restaurant scene.”
David’s top tips include:
Luisenpark & Herzogenriedpark, Mannheim
This is a great day out for the family, especially small people. In the large park there is a small zoo with penguins (easily the most popular attraction), a farm zoo, a tropical butterfly house, a terrarium, a lake with automated gondolas (no effort required), huge open spaces for kids to run around in and not least, a beautiful Chinese Tea House situated in the middle of a Koi-carp pond. Plus in the summer you can rent a bbq pit and spend the day with with friends and their families too. Summer entrance prices to the park are €6 for adults, €3 for kids over 6 years. Family tickets and annual tickets are also available. Discover more here: http://www.luisenpark.de
Herzogenriedpark is a bit smaller and less expensive but a good alternative to Luisenpark. There is mini golf, outdoor table tennis, giant chess, tennis courts and a farm zoo – and of course a park for the kids to enjoy. Find out more here: http://www.herzogenriedpark.de
John Deere Forum, Mannheim
If you are in Mannheim for the day and you have little tractor fans in your family then you can easily spend an hour at the John Deere Forum. It’s situated in Lindenhof (behind the Mannheim train station) and is on the site of the factory and European HQ of the huge green and yellow agricultural giant. Discover the history of the brand and its machinery, take a look at some old timers and discover the kids corner with some activities for small people. Of course the biggest draw here is the shop, which sells all things John Deere – so bring your wallet for that! If you call in advance you can also combine with an English tour of the John Deere factory. Free entry (closed on Saturdays, open Sunday – Friday). Find out more here: https://www.deere.de/wps/dcom/de_DE/our_company/forum/forum.page?
Shopping & Lunch, Mannheim
Mannheim is pretty well known for having some great stores in the city center. It’s a fairly affluent city due to the numerous international companies that are based in the area, which means you can find some very nice shops downtown. The most popular is a the family owned department store, Engelhorn. Stocking all the top brands, the store is actually situated over several different sites in the city – Engelhorn Sports being David’s most visited! After a spot of shopping there are plenty of options for lunch in Mannheim. David’s favorite restaurant is Zentrale – which offers very good German food at great prices.
Die Kartoffel & Carl Benz Museum, Ladenburg
For a treat why not head outside of Mannheim to the beautiful old-walled town of Ladenburg and try die Kartoffel for dinner? Despite the name (it means Potato) the specialty here is steak cooked on a hot stone at your table – delicious! Expect to pay around €25 for your main course – which comes with two baked potatoes and a selection of dips. It’s worth it.
As a car dealer Ladenburg holds a special place in David’s heart! Ladenburg is situated on the Bertha Benz Memorial Route (the site of the world’s first long distance journey by automobile) and is home to the Carl Benz Museum (inventor of the petrol-powered automobile and co-founder of Mercedes Benz). Most of the museum is in German language but if you enjoy the history of the automobile and gazing at old-timers then you will appreciate this regardless. Entrance for adults is €5, children €3, family tickets are available. Discover more here: http://www.automuseum-ladenburg.de/index.php
Anke loves to shop, so her tips are mainly about retail therapy and some post-shopping relaxation.
With eleven shoe shops under one roof, it’s easy to see why Anke is so fond of this shopping center! Find it by jumping on the Autobahn A6 towards Mannheim. Continue past Mannheim towards Weinheim and exit at the A659. There is plenty of free parking and lots of restaurants for lunch. There is also a cinema onsite that shows at least two English movies each week. Discover more here: http://www.rhein-neckar-zentrum-viernheim.de/home/
Rhein Galerie, Ludwigshafen
The Rhein Galerie has only been open a couple of years and is a little closer to the KMC (approx 40 minutes drive). Parking is cheap and plentiful, as are the shops and restaurants. As the name suggests the center is situated along the Rhein river and has a rather lovely view across to Mannheim on the other side. But you will probably be too busy shopping to notice it. Reach it by driving on the Autobahn A6 towards Mannheim, exit the A650 towards Ludwigshafen, then the B44 towards Mannheim – its well signposted. Find more here: http://www.rheingalerie-ludwigshafen.de/home/
Alex Bar & Lounge, Otterbach
After a hard day of retail therapy, Anke likes to kick back in the evenings at the Cocktail & Whiskey Bar she runs with boyfriend, Alex. She promises great beer, fine cocktails, good music and a relaxing atmosphere. They stock a fine selection of cigars and there is a smokers’ lounge so you can enjoy them on the premises. Who could ask for anything more? Find Alex Bar & Lounge at OtterStraße 13, 67731 Otterbach. Tel: 06301-1451. Open Wed-Sat 18:30pm-1:00am.
When John isn’t selling cars from the location in Ramstein, he prefers to be on two wheels – with no engine!
“Enjoy Germany from a different perspective. See it on two wheels and in the saddle. I have been here on and off for 12 years but I can honestly say I am seeing a different world since I started biking around in Sep 2013.”
Family Bike Routes, KMC
Germany is a cyclist’s dream. There are thousands of bike routes and most are extremely well signposted. “R” routes (Radfaher routes) are sign posted in green and often will share paths with pedestrians. Many cyclists prefer to use the roads as some times they are more direct and you can go faster. These cyclists make sure they are always clearly visible day and night.
For a more leisurely family friendly day out stick to the green “R” roads. There are several in the KMC area. You can bike from Ramstein train station to Einsiedlerhof through the forest and not need to use any roads at all. Along the route you will find some restaurants tucked away within “Kleingartenverein” (small gardens) and even a dog racing track.
From Einsiedlerhof you can bike into Kaiserslautern and only see a handful of roads and again there are restaurants, parks and lakes along the way. If you are feeling energetic you can then bike back or “cheat” as I like to call and take the train back. This is a good if you are with young children or if you stop for food and wine.
There are also many mountain bike areas on the outskirts of Kaiserslautern and in the surrounding forests – all very well signposted. Each area has a “Radwander-karte” (Bike riders map). It shows all the “R” Routes for the area and lots of “Freizeittipps” (free time tips) in that area.
“For anyone wanting a little bit more of distance I will on most weekends bike from Ramstein to Heidelberg. Depending on whether we can add a few “detours”, its usually a 100 mile trip. Please do get in touch if you would like to join me for some road rides. I am happy to do smaller rides and some “Gran Fondos” as well. The train ride back from Heidelberg to Kaiserslautern/Landstuhl and Ramstein is 9 euro per person and at weekends bikes are free. The food at the end of the day tastes exquisite – after all you will have earned it! “
To join John on a weekend bike ride, email him at email@example.com
By day Jabby is one of the good guys at The Used Car Guys. But by night he’s a House Music DJ! He rates Saarbrücken as a top spot for nightlife.
“Saarbrücken is a beautiful city with a great vibe. All in all a fantastic place to shop and go out at night, there is plenty happening on weeknights as well as weekends.”
Bars & Clubs, Saarbrücken
There are many lounges and bars to try on a night out, but these are Jabby’s recommendations
Home Cocktailbar (opens 8pm – 4am) is a lounge along the saar river and very near to town center. Blau is a House Club that plays electronic music and has a very nice ambience (usually opens 11.00pm – 6.00am). LUV it is a club boat on the river Saar which also plays house music (opens 11.00pm – 6am).
Italian Restaurants, Saarbrücken
If you need somewhere to eat to prepare yourself for a night of clubbing, then these are Jabby’s favorite Italian restaurants in the city.
Ristorante Enoteca Il Gabbiano, Trattoria Toscana, Ristorante Roma, Italia, Da Toni. Ciao!
Josh is a sun and sea worshiper so his local secret involves a lot of both!
Bostalsee is a beautiful 120 hectare lake situated in the Saar-Hunsrück nature reserve – just an hour north-west of Ramstein. Families can enjoy two large sandy beaches and lots of grassy banks for relaxing, sun-bathing, or even beach-volleyball. Water activities include swimming, wind-surfing, sailing, and pedal-boat hire. The area is also super for hiking and cycling. If you would like to stay longer there is a great camping area, plus a brand new Center Parcs holiday village. Discover more here: http://www.bostalsee.de/en/
Gary was reluctant to share his local secret with us in case he can no longer get a table!
Zum Kääser, Erzenhausen
Zum Kääser is a beautiful traditional restaurant with great ambiance. The food is very good, especially the fried sirloin strips with crayfish tails and pasta, but the prices are reasonable. In the summer the beer garden is a fantastic way to waste an afternoon in the sun. Its only approx. 3km’s away from Weilerbach so an easy drive from Ramstein AB or a very nice bike ride. Book here: http://www.kaeaeser.de/
Nathan is from Wales, UK so being outdoors is second nature to him.
Lichtenburg Castle, Kusel
Lichtenburg Castle is the biggest castle ruin in Germany, so is well worth making the trip while you are stationed here. Not only that but your efforts will be rewarded in the form of a fantastic restaurant that serves excellent German cuisine. Make sure you climb to the top of the tower for a superb view! But if you long for more than a tour of some ruins and a nice view, there are also two museums here that you can visit to learn about the geology of the region and the history of the castle. There is a picnic area and a playground for children if you come for a summer visit. Learn more here: http://www.burglichtenberg.de/en/Author profile: The Used Car Guys are not biking, hiking, shopping, DJing or swimming, they offer quality used cars to military members in the KMC. They are located at the Hacienda Plaza, Einsiedlerhof and just outside the West Gate of Ramstein Air Base. Check them out, they’re the good guys!