By John Reese, USAG Garmisch Public AffairsMarch 18, 2008
GARMISCH, Germany - A stroll through the winter wonderland of the Armed Forces Recreation Center campground here reveals a bucolic setting that seems straight out of a travel book.
Patches of snow and ice shaded from the sun resist melting under thick stands of pine trees. Joggers follow a cleared hardtop that winds through campsites, as bundled-up children clamber about the playground. And the smell of coffee and bacon wafts from one of the cozy cabins found on Artillery Kaserne.
"Just another perfect day at Vacation Village," said campground ranger Kristine Ratza, making her rounds on a sunny morning.
The retreat is part of the nearby Edelweiss Lodge and Resort, where guests check in before moseying over to their cabin - or a campsite in warmer weather.
During colder months, campsites are bypassed in favor of the 11 small or eight large heated cabins. All 19 rentals, which sleep up to six people, come with bedding, refrigerators, microwaves and satellite television/DVD players. The larger cabins add the luxury of a bathroom and kitchenette. The bathhouse with restrooms is a minute away from the smaller cabins.
A few moments inside one of the smaller rustic cabins allows guests to quickly realize the entire layout. Located inside is a compact common area furnished with a table, chairs and bench seat. A ladder leads to a double loft bed. Below the loft is a room with another double bed and a set of single bunk beds.
"The rustic cabins are small and comfortable with enough space for a young family, a retired couple or a small group of Soldiers to relax and enjoy," said Ratza. "For Valentine's Day (weekend) ... some people were barbecuing because the weather was mild."
For those who enjoy the stars overhead, the camping area opens in mid-May. All total, there are 50 tent sites - including some that are graveled and outfitted with electric outlets. Plus there are a few parked caravan spots where long-term guests, like retirees, can stay for up to 30 days. Campfires aren't allowed in the densely wooded areas, but every site comes with a simple iron charcoal grill for barbecuing. Pets are allowed at gravel and tent sites, but must be leashed.
A favorite activity for many winter guests is the great skiing found on the Zugspitze, where conditions at the higher elevations are still good for skiing thanks to recent heavy snowfall.
But there's even more to enjoy for those who love the outdoors or simply want to relax, Ratza said, referring to mountain hiking, river canoeing and white water rafting - as well as Edelweiss services such as an indoor pool, hot tub or hot stone massage.
She also suggested that people try paragliding or taking an English-language guided tour with experienced guides
The adjacent U.S. Army Garrison Garmisch library - lined with books and DVDs - is located in the Pete Burke Community Center, which also features a ski rental shop with full winter sporting equipment and bicycles.
For food choices, there's the option of grilling or cooking your own groceries. A trip to the Garmisch commissary or exchange for supplies is a five-minute stroll through a shortcut near the bathhouse. A stop at the sandwich shop or shoppette can solve an immediate hunger. The Expresso Coffee Bistro near the commissary is a good place to check e-mail while enjoying coffee or tea and hot, fresh beignets.
Plus there are a couple of eateries inside the Edelweiss.
For the adventurous folks who want to explore downtown, Ratza has handouts of local spots.
Overall, Vacation Village is a quick and easy getaway for military families, and will become more popular as winter turns to spring.
But for now, in the slow season, "You have the feeling its all to yourself," said Ratza.
For more info go to http://www.edelweisslodgeandresort.com/vacationvillage.html