The USO Discover Germany program is designed to help orient newcomers to their new home. With programs such as tours, trips, wine education and social gatherings, the staff hopes to help people become comfortable living, dining and exploring in Germany.
Their tour of Wiesbaden and Mainz is perfect for those who want to get to know the cities and have yet to use public transportation. The group meets at Wiesbaden’s main train station, or Hauptbahnhof, and takes the train to Mainz, learning how to purchase tickets and read the arrival boards. “We’ll take your first train trip with you, so you’re not taking it by yourself,” said USO Center Manager Robert Gilpatrick.
Then, when the group returns to Wiesbaden, they take a bus downtown for a walking tour and learn how to purchase tickets and use the bus. The program is a great way to get an introduction to these cities and public transportation and take some of the fear of the unknown out of the process, Gilpatrick said.
The train and bus tickets are free, along with the tour. Participants should bring money for food or souvenirs.
“The whole idea is to get people comfortable with public transport,” he said. “We’re there to help facilitate people; show them how easy it is.”
Wine enthusiasts will learn about Germany’s 13 wine regions while sampling wines during the wine education program, which happens once a month. Participants receive a brief history of German wine, talk about wine etiquette and test their knowledge with wine trivia.
The last Saturday of the month, except June and December, a group travels to Frankfurt on the train and goes to a museum. Some of the museums visited are the Archeological Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, the Historic Museum and the Children’s Museum. Train ticket and museum entrance are free.
While all the outings are social and a great way to meet new friends, the Stammtisch may be the most social of all. Every other month, a group goes out for a meal together. During this gathering, typical German dishes are brought to the table for a chance to learn about the local cuisine. A different topic is discussed each time, such as shopping, dining out, traveling or driving. The meal is covered. Drinks or dessert cost extra.
“If it’s your first time overseas, the language barrier, culture and traditions can be a little intimidating,” Gilpatrick said. “Our intent was to come up with different ways to introduce service members, Family members and civilians to life in Germany. And we wanted to do it in as many ways as we could.”