There are few things in the world that can exceed the expectation of what is known as the most magical place on earth. But locations such as those do exist. Southwestern Germany boasts one of them; a place of excitement, adventure, fun, food and... shopping.
After a near 10 hour drive up to this giant playground, I had a heart stopping moment when they performed ID checks at the door. It wasn't my age that prohibited me from entering, it was my lack of official status. Military Post Exchanges, like the one we were visiting, are sticklers in that regard. A lady at the door looked at my card and then looked at my mom. "You're her sponsor I take it?," she asked. After a nod from my mom she continued, "Well General so-'n-so* has instated a mandatory class whatever* ID check. Only permanent military ID holders are allowed in today. She," pointing to me, "can't come in." She tried placating things by stating I was welcome in the following day, which wouldn't have been a problem had we not booked an overnight train into Amsterdam that evening.
At that moment my dreams were shattered. My willingness to play along with a winter wonderland Christmas vacation, without complaint, was in vain. Discouragement filled my soul to the point I couldn't find my voice to exclaim my disbelief. My mom explained our situation to no avail. Then she asked if I could at least use the restroom. I was about to hand over my purse to leave with my mom, when the lady looked at the both of us and said, "Fine... go. And don't come back."
She didn't have to tell us twice. We booked it away from the entrance as fast as we could. Over the next few minutes I composed myself enough to again see the magic in the air. We spent a delightful time filling my hands with a Mac-book Pro, wireless router, new camera, clothes, food, etc... all paid for in dollars. Tax free.
To top everything off, there was a Macaroni Grill too... a real, American restaurant. I used to drool over their rosemary bread, so the entire drive up I envisioned devouring the whole thing on my own. In the end I could barely eat a fourth of it. Apparently European bread has ruined me. All I could taste in the bread I used to love was salt. And a lot of it. Now I don't know if I can ever return to the States. Not unless I can take European bread (and chocolate) with me. And especially not when I have a family member who can provide access to Military Exchanges to get a quick (American) fix.
* The words "so-'n-so" and "class whatever" were not actually used. But, because this is my story (and I really can't remember everything she said in the exact way she said it) I took the liberty of improvising.
Hmm... maybe I should have added a bit about how much she loved my outfit, or how envious she was that I could look so refreshed after spending over half a day driving.