The best part of living in Germany is the access to affordable travel. Some cities and sights are just a day’s drive away, while other regions are only an hour-long flight. But now, in the midst of a pandemic, you can’t enjoy any of that!
Luckily, however, you can still explore your own neighborhood. So while you can’t really travel outside of Germany, this is a great opportunity to learn what your host country has to offer.
Tips for New Arrivals
If you just PCS’d to Germany, I just want to review a few quick tips about living and traveling in Germany:
- Bring cash: Most places in Germany are cash only, so remember to grab some euros before sitting down for dinner.
- “Frei” does not equal free: If you drive past a parking garage that has “FREI” in green letters displayed, that means there are spots available. You will still have to pay for parking before you leave!
- Make a reservation: Even during the week, small German cafes will fill up quickly with reservations, which means that you won’t be allowed to sit. Call ahead to be safe!
Traveling within Germany is easy, but remembering these small tips will make it even more enjoyable.
Explore Your Local Area
Grafenwoehr and Vilseck may not seem like exciting destinations compared to Prague, Paris, or Barcelona, but there’s still plenty to do!
To start, you can visit all the restaurants that could really use your business these days! The same goes for supporting military spouse home-based businesses, check out local Facebook pages (such as Bavarian Food Businesses) to learn more about home cooking options and creative products/services for sale.
Angelo’s Soul Food Joint in Vilseck is a must if you haven’t been there yet. They have all the classic Southern comfort foods, including mac and cheese, fried chicken, collard greens, hush puppies, and sweet tea (with ice).
Many restaurants in Grafenwoehr are still serving lunch and dinner for take out. Check out Bohm for a healthy soup and salad combo, or stop by the Chicken Man to bring home a whole roast chicken with sides.
If you live in Weiden, I highly recommend Wam no1 for the best burgers around! And if you want some homemade Italian food, Trattoria Bologna has what you need – depending on what they can get freshly delivered.
But beyond just eating your way around town, you should also go for a walk. There is so much green space throughout the Oberpfalz that you can easily hike through a wooded area and never come within 6 feet of another person!
Doost is a great option for a socially distanced activity. It’s a 30-minute drive from Grafenwoehr and an easy, scenic hike in the woods. And don’t worry if you can’t find a parking lot. Just drive down the dirt path and park off the road.
It’s common for people to drive down any of the major B-roads (like 299) and then pull over on a side road to wander for a hike. Download the app Komoot for guides and ideas on where to hike in Bavaria. And who knows – maybe you’ll stumble upon a zoigl stub’n or a biergarten!
Another great spot is the Kuhstallcafe in Illkofen. They’re only open on Sundays and Fridays, but it’s worth a visit! You can hang out with the cows, enjoy cake with coffee, and hike around the area.
Looking for open Christmas markets this year? Although most German Christmas markets are closed due to the pandemic, check out what the city of Landshut is doing this holiday season with their “Drive-Thru Christmas Market!”
Explore Outside the Oberpfalz
There are plenty of amazing day trips you can take that are just within a 2-hour drive of Vilseck and Grafenwoehr. Again, this is a perfect opportunity to explore Germany when you can’t go anywhere else.
Nuremberg is a 70-minute drive from Vilseck and just 90 minutes from Grafenwoehr. If you’re not a big city person, Nuremberg may be a good destination for you. It’s not nearly as big as Munich, but still has enough things to do and see in a day.
Regensburg is another popular day drive. You should definitely stop by Walhalla for the view and then head into the city for lunch and exploration. If the weather is nice, I recommend renting a bike and cycling along the Danube river.
This is also a perfect opportunity to visit Munich. Whether you want to explore museums and sites or simply shop around Marienplatz, there’s plenty to do over a weekend! But a day trip can be just as enjoyable.
If a college town is more your vibe, visit Bayreuth. It has a younger population because of the universities, which also means it has trendier restaurants that don’t necessarily serve traditional German fare (although you can definitely find it if you want).
For anyone who wants a nature retreat, visit Garmisch! It’s the farthest destination, but absolutely worth the drive for a long weekend. You can go skiing, hiking, or just explore the quiet town.
Plus, you can stay at the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort, which is run by Armed Forces Recreation Centers (AFRC). In other words, you’ll have access to American laundry facilities and large rooms!
Go Everywhere in Germany
You can spend your lockdown being bummed about travel, or you can explore a bunch of places within Germany! Pass the time every weekend by visiting a new place within a 2-hour drive of USAG Bavaria Grafenwoehr. All you have to do is GO!
About DT Daniel Taylor is a US Air Force Academy graduate, veteran, and videographer. He’s been blogging about travel and living in Germany as an American since 2014. He and his wife moved to USAG Bavaria Grafenwoehr when she was hired to be a teacher at Netzaberg Middle School. They travel HARD, and they think you should too! If you want to learn more about life at USAG Bavaria Grafenwoehr, check out DT’s website DTV, subscribe to his Youtube channel, and follow him on Instagram.