This morning, Bill and I decided to take a day jaunt to the French ville of Bitche. I will admit, part of the reason I wanted to go there is because the town’s name tickles me. But I also wanted to go because a friend of mine went there a few years ago, before she moved to Hawaii. She mentioned that the town was militarily important. I told Bill about it, and he decided he was interested. So today, we went, and we had a fabulous lunch and walked around a bit.
On the way to Bitche, I recalled an incident from 2009, when we were forced to leave Germany a year early, because one of Bill’s narcissistic ex bosses decided to fuck with our lives. Not only did we have to leave early, we also spent four uncomfortable nights in a government hotel that is now, mercifully, defunct. On top of that, one of our dogs was dying of prostate cancer, but he wasn’t quite ready to go to the Rainbow Bridge. I was upset for a lot of reasons, most of which having to do with my feeling like I wasn’t in control of my own life. I mean, we weren’t even “allowed” to choose where to spend our last few nights in Germany, and the hotel where we had to stay was not very conducive to our needs. So I wrote a review of the place on Epinions.com
I really don’t think I was that harsh in my review, although it was clearly a mostly negative report. Below is a repost of what I wrote for Epinions in 2009.
God willing, my husband Bill and I, along with our two beagles, Flea and MacGregor, will be checking into a hotel in or near Atlanta, Georgia tomorrow afternoon. After spending the past few days at the Hilltop Hotel at Robinson Barracks near Stuttgart, Germany, I can’t say I’m sorry to be switching venues. In fact, I think I would have been happy to switch venues within Germany, if we’d only had a choice in the matter.
A captive audience
Hilltop Hotel is a hotel specifically for people who have business with the U.S. government within the Stuttgart area. It’s located on Robinson Barracks, which is a U.S. government installation; therefore, the general public can’t access this hotel. On the other hand, military and government employees must use the Hilltop Hotel and other government run facilities if there is space available. The Stuttgart area currently has three such facilities; a fourth one is under construction. When Bill and I first came to Germany two years ago, the three government run hotels in Stuttgart were booked solid, so we spent six weeks living in a German hotel very close to where Bill worked.
When it came time for us to leave, there was space available on the “pet floor” at Hilltop Hotel. I was not too pleased about this development, mainly because Robinson Barracks is located quite a distance away from the other three military posts in the Stuttgart area. Robinson Barracks is a pretty area, but it mostly consists of housing, an elementary and middle school, a post office, and a small “CX”, which is a combined commissary and post exchange. There is a bus that runs to the other installations, all of which are at least 30 minutes away. Unfortunately, I have two dogs, and they’re not allowed to ride the bus. Our cars are currently on different ships bound for the USA.
Bill and I checked into the Hilltop Hotel on Tuesday, September 8th. I was in a foul mood because we’d been working all day to clean up our German house. I was tired, sore, and hungry. We took the elevator to the fourth floor, where all the other pet owners are assigned, and took a stroll to room 404. My mood worsened when we opened the door and I got a look at the bed we’d all be sharing. Covered with a cheap floral spread, the bed looked pretty small. It’s supposedly a queen, but really felt more like a full… especially with our two beagles on board.
I looked around the room and took everything else in. There was a wall unit with a microwave, coffee maker, small refrigerator, television, DVD/VCR player, and a telephone (which didn’t seem to work very well). The television carried local German channels, as well as Armed Forces Network (AFN) satellite channels, a couple of BBC channels, and a few other British stations. Curiously, there was one channel that appeared to be Polish and aired Polish commercials, yet broadcasted programming in English. There was also a DSL connection located near the TV. A cord reached the small, beat up desk located next to the door. A small clock radio sat on the desk, while a safe, iron, and ironing board were located in the closet. A ceiling fan capably circulated the air and made the tight bed space a little more bearable.
The rooms at the Hilltop Hotel have a lot of storage space, probably because a lot of people end up spending weeks at this hotel as they do temporary work in the Stuttgart area or wait for housing. Because we were in a “pet room”, our room was not carpeted. Instead, it had a faux wood-like floor covering. Actually, I liked that, since the lack of carpeting was easier on my allergies. The decor is strictly early 80s “country” style… cheap, tacky, and kind of depressing.
The bathroom had a shower, sink, a hairdryer, and a toilet. Housekeeping had thoughtfully left us a little basket of cheap toiletries with soap, shampoo, and lotion. A small mending kit came in handy when I found a splinter in my finger. When we first checked in, there was only one full sized towel in the bathroom.
I found using the shower and the toilet rather annoying for different reasons. Though the shower had excellent water pressure, it also had a small seat in it that cut down on the space available for standing up. Every time I took a shower, my elbow hit the tap, inadvertently knocking it either to an unacceptably hotter or colder temperature. I found the toilet annoying because of the way the bowl was shaped. Unlike the usual “shelf-style” toilets one finds in Europe, this toilet seemed to be rather shallow and narrow. Consequently, every time I took a dump, I had to use the toilet brush to scrub the residue from the side of the bowl where it would invariably end up sticking in a disgusting splatter.
Bill and I found the bed in our room very uncomfortable. We are used to sleeping in a king sized bed, so the bed felt very small to us. But even if it had been a king sized bed, the mattress felt too hard. Consequently, my back was killing me for the duration of our stay. I think this problem was also exacerbated by the horrible chair at the desk, which was very uncomfortable and not particularly functional.
There is no restaurant on-site, though there is one next to the hotel that is open five days a week. Breakfast is included with the room and is served in the lobby. It’s typical continental fare– bagels, muffins, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, juice, coffee, and hot chocolate. Be careful to look before you eat. Bill opened one carton of yogurt and found a couple of spots of penicillin growing on the lid.
The restaurant next to the Hilltop Hotel serves edible food to go. The best meal we had from there was the roasted half chicken with fries. However, we had a couple of less tasty meals from there, too. One night, Bill brought me what appeared to be a “fish and chips” inspired meal. The fish looked like it had been baked to the point of almost being burnt on the bottom, then frozen. It was still pretty cold in the middle when it was served.
One nice thing about the Hilltop Hotel is that there’s a laundry room on the ground floor. There are five or six washers and dryers and they can be used free of charge. A vending machine dispenses laundry detergent, fabric softener, snacks, and drinks, as well. In the lobby, there are books, videos, and DVDs available to borrow. I also heard a rumor that Lifecycle exercise equipment was available in the hotel, but I never sought it out.
There’s a little outdoor area next to the hotel where folks can smoke or have a little picnic. Each floor has a kitchen, though one must go to the front desk for a key. There’s a storage area in the bottom of the hotel where guests are encouraged to store excess luggage. And parking is free.
I thought the housekeeping service did a good job. We didn’t ask them to service our room every day. On the days we did have them clean, they did a thorough job. At the very least, they emptied our trash cans every day and exchanged our towels.
I thought the service at the front desk was less impressive. First off, Bill was supposed to pay up front for our stay. When he tried to take care of that, the clerk had computer problems. The next morning, he went down to pay, and the clerk charged him the wrong amount. A different clerk seemed to have a terminally sour disposition. When my key card stopped working one afternoon, I went to the desk with my dogs to get some help. The sour clerk was on the phone and refused to acknowledge me, until my dogs started freaking out at the sight of other dogs. He shot me a dirty look. I shot one right back to him. It was only at that point that he got someone to help me. When Bill tried to call me, he asked that particular clerk to connect him to our room. The guy ended up hanging up on him instead. Only one of the three clerks we encountered was truly helpful and good natured.
Most people who stay at the Hilltop Hotel are there on the government’s dime and paying the current per diem rate. The government is paying $68 per night for us to stay in our double room. There are also a couple of extra charges for pets. We had to pay a “deep cleaning” fee of $30 for our room on the pet floor (the fee is higher for carpeted rooms on the lower levels). Each pet also costs an extra $3 a day. Both key cards have to be turned in at check out. Losing a key card results in a $20 fee, which I think is totally ridiculous.
I really wish our last few days in Germany could have been spent in a nicer and more authentic hotel. I think the Hilltop Hotel could use a little refurbishing and shudder at the idea of having to live there for weeks on end. Alas, like so many others, Bill and I are at the mercy of the U.S. government when we travel on government business. Thankfully, the lodging at our new post in Atlanta doesn’t allow dogs, so we get to stay in a Hilton. Hopefully, we will find a new home quickly and start settling in… at least until our next move.
For more information: http://www.stuttgart.army.mil/sites/about/hilltophotel.asp
FYI: The Hilltop Hotel has now mercifully closed.
As I was reading this old review today, I was thinking that it was obviously kind of peevish. However, it wasn’t really a hatchet job or anything… I mean, I was legitimately pissed off about having to move, sad about losing Flea, and annoyed that we had to stay in a government run hotel that was inconvenient and uncomfortable. But I have certainly read worse reviews.
My write up went mostly unnoticed until about a year later, when someone– I am assuming a woman– decided I needed a good dressing down for daring to air my opinions on Epinions.com. She left me a rude, chastising response that made a lot of assumptions about me as a person. The comment made me very angry, so I wrote a rebuttal. In retrospect, I probably should have ignored the comment. If I got it today, I probably would have. But what can I say? I express myself through writing. I vent through using my words. So I wrote a rebuttal to the woman’s comment that was pretty caustic, which I also shared on the original version of this blog.
As I reread the comment I wrote, which basically took apart the woman’s critiques bit by bit, I realized that the casual reader might think I am a massive bitch. Or maybe, I’m just a little “crazy”. Below is what I wrote:
My comments are italicized while the original commenter’s are in bold.
Wow… I’ll be honest. When I first read your comment, it really made me mad. But I’ve calmed down now, so allow me to take a few minutes to address your points.
To complain about the furnishings is a bit snobbish. The toilet seat issue and the shower being too small…
My complaint about the shower wasn’t that it was too small. It was that there was a seat in it that took up space and made it difficult to take a shower. My husband and I are both short, average sized Americans and we both had the same complaint about the shower. As for the toilet, my comment wasn’t that the seat was too small, it was that the toilet was too shallow. I have never seen a toilet like the one at the Hilltop Hotel and it was a consistent issue for us.
It surprises me that you think I’m a snob for expecting a basic level of comfort in a hotel, even if the government is paying the tab.
wow…I’ll be nice!
Your comment wasn’t in any way nice, though I do appreciate that you didn’t elect to add more undeserved snark to it.
I have been around the military for 20 years.
So what? I’ve been around the military for my entire 38 years of life. That doesn’t make either of our experiences any more valid than another person’s. Everybody’s different.
I have always seen those who are spoiled by our American ways, to be the first to complain. Come on now…this isn’t the Hilton…
Oh, so now you’re assuming that I’m a spoiled American, just because you’ve seen a few of them in your day? You don’t even know me. It so happens I’ve lived in three different countries, twice with the military, and once as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was in the third group to go to where my Peace Corps assignment was, so it definitely wasn’t cushy “American style” living. We had no electricity during my first year, and though I was lucky enough to have running water, a lot of my colleagues did not. I spent two years heating up bath water in a metal bucket on a kerosene heater, doing my laundry by hand, and reading novels by the light of an oil lamp. So yeah, I know very well that not every hotel is like a Hilton.
And the fact that the government is paying is irrelevant, especially given the fact that the government wasn’t doing us a favor in this regard. We stayed at the Hilltop Hotel because the government was forcing us to move, not because we were on a vacation. For $68 a night plus pet expenses, I certainly do expect that the furnishings will be somewhat up-to-date and comfortable, or at least utilitarian. That you would actually chastise me for expecting American style accommodations when, in fact, I was staying in an American run hotel is especially ironic. I probably would have been much happier if we had been in a German hotel.
the governments paying, why are you complaining??
Why aren’t you using basic proper English grammar and capitalization? Didn’t you go to elementary school?
I realize most people are trying to profit from their reinbursement…if thats the case, then sorry for you.
This is an extremely offensive and totally baseless remark. While it may be true that some military folks try to profit off of per diem TDY payments, my husband and I aren’t in that category of people. But even if we were, it would neither be your business nor your place to make this comment. The fact is, a lot of people in the military use that extra money to make ends meet. It’s certainly not up to you to criticize them for doing that.
You made your stay miserable because you expected everything to be like America.
I beg your pardon? Who are you, Sylvia Browne? Again, you don’t even know me. You don’t know what my expectations or experiences are. You don’t know what the circumstances were during our stay. What a thoughtless remark this is.
Did you venture out to eat?
How could I? We had a rental car and my husband was using it for work purposes. And the hotel is not exactly close to the gates of Robinson Barracks.
There are so many wonderful restaurants in the area…some right there in the vineyards and they allow dogs inside!!
There are wonderful restaurants in Germany? No kidding! I lived in Germany on the economy for two years and had many opportunities to dine in some excellent locally run restaurants. But during my stay at the Hilltop Hotel, I had my dogs with me. While some dogs do great in public places, mine do not. Moreover, one of my dogs at the time was dying of prostate cancer and wasn’t up to hanging out with us in a restaurant.
I did stay in the room with my dogs, but it wasn’t because I had an attitude problem. It was because I did not want to leave them alone to bark and howl. I felt it would be inconsiderate to do that because I knew it was likely they would disturb other people in the hotel. But, according to you, I’m an ugly American and a snob because I was dismayed that there wasn’t a good restaurant nearby where I could get a good meal and still stay with my dogs to prevent them from bothering others. If I had gone out to eat and let them howl, I bet you would have chastised me for doing that, too.
I prefer diving right into the local culture…it makes the stay so much more fun…
So do I. And believe me, the three times I’ve lived in other countries, I dove into the local culture and surrounding cultures with relish. I learned a lot and now I make money writing about my experiences. I certainly don’t need you to preach to me about this.
and who cares about the size of the toilet, the bed, the old beat up desk….
I do. And so do a lot of other travelers, especially when they’re spending their own money on a place to stay and/or having to do business. Since I make money as a writer, a decent desk is important to me.
Moreover, a lot of people have read my review of this particular property, which leads me to believe that many people want to know what they’ll be getting for their money at the Hilltop Hotel. I’m surprised you’re not among them… or maybe you are? How else would you have found this review?
those things wouldn’t matter if you didn’t sit in your room and pout about them.
And once again, you’re making an incorrect assumption about what I did, how I feel, and what kind of person I am. Let me remind you again that you don’t know me. Please stop acting as if you do. It’s giving me the creeps!
Since you’ve elected to leave me such a didactic comment, allow me to leave one for you. In your attempt to shame and belittle me for writing truthfully about my negative experiences at the Hilltop Hotel, you come off as a complete busybody… you know, the type I’ve often run into in my days as an Army wife. Wait– you’re not one of those? Pardon me.
If I were to judge you solely based on your comments here, I might guess you are not very well educated, a bit of a gossip, and never actually ventured very far beyond the gates of the American bases in Germany… But, in fact, I don’t actually know you, so it would be terribly unfair of me to make that assumption about you, wouldn’t it? Especially since my assessment of you based on your comment might very well be incorrect.
I can see that you’re a driveby, so I don’t expect you’ll ever read this comment, let alone respond to it; but I do think your incredibly condescending attitude is very unfair and every bit as snotty as you claim my review is. Believe me, if we’d had the choice to stay somewhere more conducive to our needs, we certainly would have. And then I never would have felt the need to write this review and make this unfortunate and hopefully brief connection with you.
The next time you feel inclined to offer such personal comments about a complete stranger, I hope you’ll take a minute to think about it and focus on what the person said, not on what kind of person you think they are. And then, by all means, feel free to f*ck right off.
Have a nice life.
I don’t know what made me decide to put this exchange on the original blog, but sure enough, that post also invited some rather ironic criticism from the peanut galley. Two years after I posted the above, the blog commenter wrote this:
That seems like an AWFUL lot of time and energy to spend on responding to comments by – as you point out- someone you don’t even know/who doesn’t know you.
Honestly made my head spin:(
You seem like a nice woman. Why waste your words and your time??Who cares what they think?
I’m reminded of the saying” When you argue with fools….”(you risk looking like one):S
I don’t know the above poster. To my knowledge, he or she only visited me once, and it was ten years ago as of yesterday (seriously, the above person commented almost exactly ten years ago– why did this pop into my head today? Cue the Twilight Zone theme.). However, I was thinking about this today… and it struck me as kind of ironic. I wondered what made this person decide to offer their two cents on my blog, when they obviously didn’t enjoy the post. Also, the post they were commenting on was two years old, and the one that inspired it was three years old… Why take a moment to write a comment to me when you haven’t even bothered to notice when the post was written? And why tell me I’m wasting my time responding? Aren’t they kind of doing the same thing I did?
I thought about responding to this person with an explanation, but decided to leave them this retort:
You’re right. 😉
Obviously, the person didn’t see the irony of their comment. I mean, if you don’t like my post, and it makes your head spin, you can just keep scrolling, right? “Why “argue” with fools?”, and all. But, ten years later, I would like to answer the question that person asked. Why waste my words and my time?
Well, I “waste my time” because it’s mine to waste. And I “waste my words” because I am a writer, and writing mostly brings me pleasure. Not everyone enjoys what I do, but I genuinely enjoy writing… even when it’s just me “telling off” a rude, driveby commenter. I knew the above person wouldn’t be back, but I still felt it was prudent to leave a comment in case someone else decided to chime in. No one else did, by the way, because Epinions went defunct in 2014. Again, by the time that person commented about how my rebuttal made their head spin, my Blogger post was already two years old. That “wasted time” and energy was long gone by then. And what would I have done to pass the time if I hadn’t ranted? Masturbated? Mowed the lawn? Cleaned the lint out of my belly button? Are any of those things more productive than writing a snarky rebuttal? I don’t know…
I like to preserve these kinds of posts, though, because they remind me of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. For example, if I had gotten the above comments today, I probably wouldn’t have been so hacked off. But in 2010, I was still an Army wife, and I was a bit angry and frustrated about a lot of things, not the least of which the judgmental and critical attitudes a lot of servicemembers and their spouses have toward each other. I also don’t like it when people tell me what to do, especially on my own space.
Anyway, my answer to “who cares what they think?” is, in reality, I don’t so much. But I don’t like being lectured by people, or judged. And the reality is, that poster from ages ago, was really offensive. I knew it wouldn’t matter if I responded, but I just felt like I had to. Today, I don’t think I would feel the same way. I am not the same person in 2022, at age 49 as I was in 2010, at age 38.
But also, in 2009, when I wrote the original review, I was legitimately feeling upset about a lot of things. The crappy hotel was icing on the cake. We were leaving Germany a year early, and it was our favorite duty station. The “job” Bill was going to was pretty bogus, even though he was requested by name. It turned out to be bullshit, although it ended up working out for us in some ways. Bill learned how to brew beer, and we found our sweet Zane. But that move also set off the next three moves within a five year timespan. That was rough on us. On the other hand, if we hadn’t left Germany when we did, we might not be living here now.
I’ve come to realize that things tend to happen for a reason. And that move, as painful as it was, happened for a reason. It led us to where we are now, which isn’t a bad place. Still… it would have been nice if we had been allowed to choose a better hotel that suited our needs instead of the shitty one at Robinson Barracks. And then I wouldn’t have written my rebuttal to that person, who had been at the hotel five years earlier and had a better time… and proceeded to try to “school” me on Army life. Seriously? What a fuckin’ asshole. And I know it’s unfair of me to stereotype, but I totally know the type of “spouse” she is… a busybody who makes themselves feel better by belittling others. At least my initial review was mostly about the facilities, rather than a personal attack. Then, to have some other person belittle me further for responding, on my personal blog, no less, was especially rich. What makes that person think I needed or wanted their advice?
Anyway… as Dr. Phil would say, it’s just one of my psychological sunburns. But the good news is, my physical health may be about to decline, so these types of “trivial issues” that strangers like to tell me I should “blow off” may soon become less important to me.
I did get a nice comment from my friend, Smorg, who was a fellow Epinionator and occasional blog reader. She wrote this:
I was tempted to check the ‘funny’ button, but I guess I was looking more for the ‘incredulous’ button instead. :oP That’s a downside of internet comments, it seems… The anonymity it allows makes it easy for people to let their Mr. Hyde side out.
We get a lot of that from supposedly sophisticated opera fans on youtube opera clips. It still amazes me sometimes how some people can presume to deduce so much into an opera singer’s personal life just by listening to a 2 minutes clip of her singing an aria as an opera character. :oP
Sometimes we all have gotta vent a little… Just like Visuvius or Etna or St. Helena… so that we can look serene and beautiful the rest of the time (that’s my excuse, anyhow). ;o)
And I wrote this in response:
This post was not really meant to be about the inane commenter as much as it was about how I processed the comment. I don’t usually “go off” in comments the way I did with that Epinions commenter. I think what set me off is that she (I’m assuming it was a “she”) came across like some of the stereotypical spouses I used to run into a lot when I lived on an Army post. To be frank, I don’t really fit in that well as an Army wife, even though I grew up a military brat.
Anyway, the Epinions poster’s comment was just very personal and insulting and yes, very presumptuous. And yet, I get the feeling she really was trying to be “helpful” and edifying. So I decided to respond in an over-the-top way, even with the knowledge that she would probably never come back to read what I had to say. I have to admit, it was actually kind of fun to respond to her, even if the more adult reaction would have been to just let her stupidity stand for itself.
Oddly enough, this particular blog post has mostly been ignored until just a few days ago… when yet again, someone felt strongly enough about it to join Blogger just to set me straight on MY blog, no less! Hey… it’s my time, my energy, and my image on the line. If I want to go off on someone, that’s my business, right? In all seriousness, I am grateful when people read my blog and leave comments, especially since this blog is mostly me blowing off steam.
Yeah… although I would probably not bother to respond the same way as I did in 2010 or 2012 today, I do sometimes feel like blowing off steam, as we all do sometimes. And the Epinions commenter has just made me realize how glad I am that I’m not in very many of the military Facebook groups anymore. That kind of snarky and derisive attitude is so prevalent in the military community, and it’s very damaging. But that’s a thought for another post, on another day…