Gartenschau Kaiserslautern: A dinosaur park by Ramstein

Gartenschau Kaiserslautern -- Dinosaur Park Ramstein AFB

On our first trip after moving to Germany, we visited Burg Nanstein and Gartenschau Kaiserslautern—this really cool dinosaur park right by Ramstein.

It had pretty manicured gardens, a nice playground and a ton of cool dinosaurs. Look at the size of that allosaurus! Also soccer fields, mini golf and places to eat.

We could have brought a picnic and stayed all day. But we didn’t because we’re American; we didn’t know our country’s strict “no outside food allowed” rules don’t apply in Europe. There it’s completely acceptable (and normal) to take food wherever you go—even when you’re paying admission somewhere food is sold. How much more enjoyable would Disney World have been if they let you bring in outside food? All right, not really a fair question. Maybe a teensy, tinesy, slight little bit better?

Gartenschau Kaiserslautern -- Dinosaur Park near Ramstein AFB

Jacob saw this giant, steep slide and ran off, climbed to the top and slid down—before we saw the sign that said he wasn’t old enough to slide. Matt went with him after that.

Gartenschau Kaiserslautern -- Dinosaur Park near Ramstein AFB

There was a weird head sticking out of the ground that you can climb inside. Nicholas liked being in the dinosaur’s mouth for a very short period of time. He always hates when I put him in something to take a pic. Like here in Salzburg.

Look at Jacob’s chubby little face and Nicholas’ baby mullet. How tiny and cute they were. It was a good day.


    Pay toilets, Airpnp & the cost of poo

    We had to stop at the Winn Dixie for a poo-mergency the other night. A a poop emergency. A moaning-kid-in-the-backseat-not-sure-they-can-hold-it-in-at-least-we-own-an-upholstery-cleaner-type situation.

    That got me thinking. 1.) Thank the lord for public bathrooms! 2.) The list of things I don’t miss about Europe is short. Really, it’s this. The lack of public toilets.

    Imagine getting stuck in an unfamiliar European city in a tree-less urban area in a gotta-go-now situation. A pee or poo-mergency situation if you will.

    Logic would tell you to head for the nearest grocery store or shopping center and use the customer toilet. Ha ha. Good luck with that. In Europe, public toilets are few and far between. Odds are there isn’t one. Or it’s down a long dark hallway, in the back, for employees only. Or you have to ask for the key. Or you have to pay to use it. Or some combination of hidden, locked and fee for pee.

    Your odds are better a fast-food place, but you’re still likely going to pay for the privilege. You’d think that if you just spent 15€ on a meal at KFC in Amsterdam, you’d at least be able to wash the grease off your hands. Nope. 50 cents, please.

    While the normal charge is 20-50 euro cents a pop (or squat?), I’ve seen the 1.50€ toilet and even charges at sit-down restaurants. Crazy, right? That 1.50€ toilet was at the “TI” Tourist Information in Italy, btw.

    Side note: There is a trick to finding and/or getting out of paying to use the restroom. If you grab a kid and ask for a “kinder toilet,” their tiny bladders will get you thru locked doors and down dark hallways. Threat of a puddle is the key to a whole world of otherwise inaccessible bathrooms.

    So what is one to do in a poo-mergency?

    Enter Airpnp.
    I heard about this on NPR a while back. (And actually thought about how awesome something like this would be even further back.) Airpnp is this brilliant site and mobile web app that will connect you with the nearest available toilet. You can locate facilities, check availability, even rate your potty experience. In a world of 64-oz super Big Gulps, how did this not exist before?

    On the supply side, home- and business-owners can use the service to list their toilet, upload pictures and set a usage rate (price) if they so desire. Hello, marketing people: great, free way to increase store traffic.

    According to Airpnp, it can cost a gauging $15 to drop a deuce in New Orleans. But in Europe, where the service is most needed, the trend is toward FREE. Love, love love that. You can even pee for free in Airbnb’s Paris office. Airbnb, not to be confused with Airpnp. No relation.

    AirPnP lets you find a toilet anywhere

    Check out all Airpnp’s toilets in Europe. Most are free of charge!

    AirPnP lets you find a toilet anywhere

    How can you resist this one?

    All this has me thinking.
    What’s the cost of poo?
    Do places make money by charging people to use the bathroom?

    That 20 and 50 euro cents has to add up quick.

    Sure, some European bathrooms have attendants who fastidiously clean, but what about places like Amsterdam’s KFC where there’s no attendant? And isn’t it already someone’s job to check the toilet paper every couple hours? They have to be making money off their toilets.

    Now that we have a house and pay for water (we didn’t in Germany), I think more about ways we can conserve it. (Just got rain barrels!) We seem to inadvertently follow the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” rule. Not because we’re intentionally trying to cut the water bill by flushing less. More because boys do not know how to flush. If it’s brown, it’s probably going down. Probably. 80% of the time.

    If a KFC in Europe can make money by charging me to use their toilet, can I save money by not flushing mine? The answer, like the boys’ toilet water, is murky. You can read all about it over on The Simple Dollar.

    I’d say: maybe. But why would you? Why use your own toilet, when you can click over to Airpnp and go use someone else’s? Flush it two or three times if you like.



      A visit to Burg Nanstein in Landstuhl, Germany

      The first wave of “winter” has hit Florida. By winter I mean it’s 50 degrees. For the first time in 8 months, I may have to take off my flip flops and put on a pair of proper shoes.

      It’s overcast, drizzly, there’s a blustery wind. And I love it. It feels like Germany. Which in a lot of ways still feels more like home. I’m warming up to you, Florida, but I’d still pack it all up and trade it in for another four glorious years of cold noses and frozen toes in Germany.

      In honor of that, and since it is Throwback Thursday, here are some pics from our very first trip after moving to Germany. That first trip, way back on September 6, 2009, was to the monstrosity that is “Little America” or Ramstein AFB. Still a bit unsteady and unsure of ourselves, it was a good travel baby-step. But not a trip we repeated often. When we moved to Germany we were told most people make the three-hour trek from Geilenkirchen to Ramstein once a month. Just to go shopping. We went four times in four years. That should tell you something about how much we wanted to be back in the states. Hint: Not at all.

      So, on this first trip, we visited a cool dinosaur park and Burg Nanstein/Landstuhl Castle.

      Burg Nanstein (Landstuhl Castle) - Landstuhl, Germany

      Burg Nanstein is in Landstuhl, Germany just a few kilometers from Ramstein. Yes, we were quite adventurous to go so far from base! It is actually pretty cool. The castle was built in 1162. For a couple euros entry, you have free reign to climb and explore it. It offers a great view of the village of Landstuhl below.

      It was the first castle we visited, our first encounter with a “no peeing” sign and the first of many more adventures.

      Check out Nicholas’ baby mullet. He was bald for about the first year of life. Then when his hair started growing it was only around the sides—like a little old man. Here, he is 15 months old. Jacob is a little over 3 years old. He’s not in many of the pics because, at this age, he never stopped moving.