A Cowboy In Bavaria



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–>Recently, I found myself standing (as one sometimes does) in a gondola far above the charming German town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. One does a lot of that sort of thing in Bavaria. Standing, that is.

Unlike their Austrian and Swiss cousins, Bavarian skiers eschew the comforts of placing one’s backside in a warm, cushioned seat, preferring to move about the Garmisch Classic (scene of the infamous 1934 Nazi Winter Olympics) using a seemingly endless succession of T-bars, pomas, tow lines, and bench-less gondolas. I also noticed an unusually large number of telemarkers struggling their way valiantly upward in defiance of how ski slopes are intended by God to be used.


But I digress. There were three of us in the car: myself, my father, and a distinguished gentleman of perhaps 55 or 60. Upon hearing me comment to my father on the (rather poor) snow conditions, he asked in German-accented English “Are you Americans?” We responded that we were, and he further asked. “You Americans are still here, aren’t you? There’s one of your bases nearby?” I frankly had no idea. But my father, being a cold warrior of the old school who’s spent a lot of time in Germany over the years, responded that there was a recreational facility for officers, but not a full base. (The army’s Edelweiss Lodge and Resort is on the slope. I visited: it’s nice. Not 80 million taxpayer funded dollars nice, but nice. Serves a mean schnitzel, employs pretty girls from places like Kansas.)

The gentlemen then asked “But you have other facilities still in Germany, yes?” Outside of our air force base in Ramstein I had no idea. (And, in all honestly, I only knew about that because of the German metal band of the same name.) But my father mentioned that there was another near Spangdahlem, and possibly some remaining infantry in Vilseck. The gentlemen nodded, answered with a noncommittal “Ah,” and then seemed lost in thought for the rest of the ride.

Though the economic relationship between Germany and Russia has grown very close in recent years (Nearly ever soccer match on television is sponsored by Gazprom, which uses a fetching green “eco- logo” in Europe. Because At Gazprom We Care!), I can’t help but wonder if a lot of Germans are asking themselves that question these days: “You Americans are still here, aren’t you?” And perhaps other, related questions such as “We’re still in NATO, aren’t we? Is there still a NATO? Do we still have a Bundeswehr? How big is it, anyhow?”

I bet a lot of other Europeans are asking themselves similar questions right now too.

You see Russians all over Europe these days: traveling, skiing, eating, partying. Spending government- sponsored Gazprom wealth. In Germany, you increasingly see signs in three languages: German, English, and Russian. My father – who visited the evil old Soviet Union back when such a thing existed – believes that this is a good thing. He speculates that the more the Russians get out into the world, the more civilized, worldly, and non-violent they will become. But the Germans did a lot of government-sponsored international traveling before World War Two. In fact, unlike the Soviets, the Nazis encouraged their citizens to travel, see the world, and spread the good word about their home country and it’s repulsive ideology.

So I cannot help but recall what one of our greatest authors once said: “History never repeats itself, but it rhymes.”


(Note to Rob Long: Though a Nockian, I do indeed know the difference between Alabama and Belgium. Also, though I own a ranch, I’m not really a cowboy. I just like reading books and watching the sun rise over a sea of sagebrush.)

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  1. user_1938 Member

    Well, let’s see…


    Ha, Barry! Ya?

    Indeed, it does.

    • #1
  2. Randal H Member
    Randal H

    As I have posted here before, I was a work/study exchange student in Germany in the late 70s. I later married a German and have spent time off and on there ever since. I came to feel that Germans/Europeans have a much more natural affinity for Russians (viewed by them as Europeans) than Americans. German TV and many normal Germans I met socially seldom had anything good to say about America or Americans, and this was true especially during the cold war time I was there – when Reagan was pressuring Europe to accept the Pershing II missiles.  I came away with a very similar question to the one posed by the gentleman in your car: “Why are we still there?”

    I don’t know for sure, but I can imagine that there is less consternation in Germany about Russia moving into Crimea than the revelations of NSA spying on German officials. After all, they couldn’t seem to come up with the paltriest of sanctions against Russia, but you can bet laws are being passed to eliminate German dependencies on US based cloud and other internet services in favor of German and European ones.

    • #2
  3. user_428379 Thatcher

    I was born in Germany and lived on a U.S. Army base in Darmstadt, near Frankfurt until I was 8 years old.  My Dad was a civilian, and we moved back to the States in 1966.

    I was surprised to find out 30 years later it still was a U.S. military installation.  It finally was closed about 3-4 years ago.  I did have a chance to visit it a couple of times before then.

    Whatever the people of Germany felt about those bases, the German government liked the boost to the economy they brought, much like towns in the U.S. resist military base closures.  That’s a part of the reason they are still there.  All Germany has to do is say the word, and we’ll be gone.

    • #3
  4. JimGoneWild Coolidge

    I was stationed at Ray Barracks, Friedburg,  Germany from November 1978 to November 1980. This is the same post Elvis Presley was stationed although he was in 1/32 Armored Battalion, I was in 1/36 Infantry Battalion (Mechanized). Ray barracks closed back in 2007. At the time, the German people around the base hated us. Unfortunately, the “When in Rome ..” rule wasn’t used by most G.I.’s.  But when I got stateside, to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the people around there didn’t like G.I.’s that much either. Oh, they liked the money. But we all understood why the locals didn’t like us–we caused a lot of problems. Lots of memories.

    • #4
  5. Giantkiller Member

    US military presence in Germany has been reduced significantly.  We now only have two ground combat formations in place – that’s a good deal less than a division.  Still, that small US force is probably comparable in combat capability most other Western nations’ entire expeditionary force (with a couple of notable exceptions).  It remains in Germany as the primary NATO ready force.  While much has been taken, much yet remains (to paraphrase Tennyson badly): in combination with the Brits and French, and with NATO airpower, it is a more than credible counter to Russia – at least for the present.

    Another couple of years of budget cuts, in the US and our primary NATO allies, and the situation will not look so rosy.

    In Bavaria, the local Germans are quite friendly to the US.  In central and northern Germany, and in the former eastern zone, they are significantly chillier.  Finally, JimGoneWild is quite right when he says that large numbers of troops tend to be a burden to any local community, even in the US.  Overseas the effect is worse.

    • #5
  6. Misthiocracy Member

    (Nearly ever soccer match on television is sponsored by Gazprom, which uses a fetching green “eco- logo” in Europe. Because At Gazprom We Care!)

    I could swear that I’ve seen the Gazprom logo on at least one service station in the USA, but I can’t find a photo on Google Images.

    • #6
  7. JimGoneWild Coolidge

    In Bavaria, the local Germans are quite friendly to the US. In central and northern Germany, and in the former eastern zone, they are significantly chillier. Finally, JimGoneWild is quite right when he says that large numbers of troops tend to be a burden to any local community, even in the US. Overseas the effect is worse.

     I would guess that most G.I.s who visit Garmisch are either officers or well behaved troops who know how to handle money and act like guests. Not the beer fueled barracks rat or bomb-box carrying cretins. Just saying.

    • #7
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