I originally arrived in Germany on 2 January 1977, and spent two years at Rhein Main Air Base....just outside of Frankfurt. I had a taste of travel for that two years, and repeated in 84/85, before doing a long-term deal in 1992.
Nothing much....is the same.
Businesses I remember in 1978...no longer exist. Pubs, restaurants, and bars that were "in"....are gone. Everything in Frankfurt related to the Army is mostly gone except the Abrams building. Rhein Main? Some of the major buildings from the base are around....but most were torn down for the Flughafen use. The air base in downtown Wiesbaden? A few of the larger and historical buildings are there but the rest were torn down and new apartment buildings exist.
I think a guy gets mostly shocked over the prices for things....from beer to a bratwurst. By the time you figure the exchange rate at the time, and what it all equals today.....you just shake your head. Gas? Off base.....it's almost $9 a gallon.
Every grocery pumps up bio foods now, and experts appear nightly on TV to speak on how poisons and preservatives are in the normal grocery items.....making everyone curious to buy good safe bio foods.
Beer? Well....to be honest.....they haven't done much to beer over the past four decades....except improve the taste, and push up the pricing. Well....yeah, there are bio beers, beers made with cherries, and a dozen non-alcoholic beers.....which you thought Germans would never sell.
Wine? Same way.
A walk down in Heidelberg, Mannheim, or Mainz? You'd likely notice a fair number of Muslims....trying to fit in....but it's hard to tell if it's working or not.
The cars? Sporty and fast, more than a guy could imagine from the mid-1970s. Then you notice almost everything is four-cyclinder and a stick-shift.
The fashion? Sadly, there was good and bad fashion in the mid-70s, and there's still good and bad fashion today. Oddly enough, you might actually bump into someone still dressed in 1978-attire, and wonder what the heck was wrong with them. You turn a corner and bump into some Gothic look and wonder how this developed.
The music? After a while, you start to become a fan of today's pop music in Germany. It's stuff that will never play in the US, but tunes stick out in your mind.
The autobahn? Probably twice as dangerous as one might have remembered from the 70s.
Trouble on the street? None. As safe as it was in 1975.....it's probably just as safe today. There might be areas around the Frankfurt train station I'd avoid after dark, and there might be some odd areas of Stuttgart or Berlin that I'd be picky to avoid after dark.
The German perception of Americans or GI's? Maybe it's shifted slightly. There aren't that many GI's in Germany today.....so the typical German can admit he might only bump into one on rare occasions....unless they live near posts or bases. You might hear some grumbling about NSA, or the war business, but the typical German has more important things to worry about.
Guys are sentimental. They have these memories that are so vivid. They can remember a 1966 Volkswagen Bug that they drove for two years around Germany like it was yesterday. The taste of a German beer is permanently attached to their taste-buds. Frankfurt is remembered like it was New York City. And a plate overflowing with pork and fries was two bucks....and you swore that you never gained any weight from these 4,000 calorie dishes.