WIESBADEN, Germany - Dierdre and Rufus Tinsley listened attentively as Irmgard Goebel answered questions about buying train tickets at the Wiesbaden Hauptbahnhof.
The couple had been stationed in Wiesbaden 10 years ago, but since a lot can change in that amount of time, they decided to sign up for Culture College, a three-day course that introduces people to the Wiesbaden community and German language and culture.
This was day two of the class, when the nearly 60 people enrolled took Goebel's Aug. 7 walking tour of Wiesbaden. "We wanted to see what had changed," said Dierdre Tinsley.
Goebel said she enjoys taking people on the walking tour because it helps U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden community members feel more comfortable off post.
"I think it's important to put them at ease so they know they can do it on their own - so they don't spend the whole time on post, too afraid to leave," said Goebel, who is German and contracts with Army Community Service to teach Culture College.
The first day of the class teaches people about German culture, the second day features the walking tour and the third day is a garrison orientation that includes information from local organizations, Goebel said. ACS offers the class once a month, and the next one takes place Sept. 10-12.
The tour started in front of the Bookmark at the Hainerberg Shopping Center, and from there people walked to the train station, where the group split in two because of the size. ACS volunteer Jennifer Kuhar led one group and Goebel the other.
Next to the train station at the Lilien-Carre Wiesbaden shopping center, Goebel took her group into the Tegut grocery store. There she showed people how to unlock the grocery carts by inserting a 1 Euro deposit. Next she explained about bottle deposits and showed everyone how to use the bottle recycling machine.
Then the group walked briefly around the mall, and Spc. Cefferycol Hines found it a good time to ask Goebel a question that would make his life in Germany easier.
Hines asked Goebel the words for water without bubbles in German. "Stilles wasser," Goebel replied. After Hines successfully repeated the words, he nodded, thanked her and walked away, pleased with his new knowledge.
From there, the group left to walk downtown toward the Kurhaus Wiesbaden. On the way, they passed the Museum Wiesbaden and the Villa Söhnlein, also known as the White House because it resembles the presidential residence in Washington, D.C.
While walking, Goebel pointed out the Marktkirche steeples and noted that people can keep from getting lost downtown by looking up and finding them.
At one point, Hines stopped and snapped pictures of the historic Villa Clementine with his cell phone. The tour was very informative, he said.
In particular, he appreciated learning how to use the parking machines and buy train tickets, said Hines, who had been in Germany for three weeks.
K.K. Bobbe, a military spouse, said the tour helped orient her to the downtown area so she would not get lost. "It's always good to have someone show you around and answer questions," she said.
The tour's teens, who had bonded and walked together as a group, were particularly excited about the tour and being in Germany.
"I never knew half this stuff existed," said Ellen Tafoya, 14. "Did you ever know about schnitzel before coming here," she asked a friend.
Tafoya said she has lived in Germany for a month now and looks forward to also traveling in Italy and the Czech Republic while her family is stationed here.
Tyler Cordonai, 16, said he enjoyed seeing all the sites - particularly the architecture - during the walk downtown.
Jeremy Colon-Rios, 16, said he learned a lot during the tour. "The most important thing I learned was how to buy tickets for the train," he said. "I think that's going to be good."
His brother, Jonathan Colon-Rios, 14, said he liked learning about all the different buildings in Wiesbaden. "I didn't even know they were here until today," he said.
After stops at the Kurhaus and the Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden, the group headed to lunch at their choice of an Italian or German restaurant.
Kuhar said the tour is also a good way to meet people and make new friends. Goebel agreed, and said she often sees people exchange phone numbers during the tour. "It's a great opportunity to make new friends," she said.
To learn more about Culture College or sign up call ACS at mil 335-5254 or civ (0611) 4080-254. Or stop by Building 7790 on Hainerberg Housing Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.