In Germany, Sunday is a day you can eat like a pig and drink yourself into a coma at restaurants and bars. But don’t expect to buy a pair of pants, or shoes or even a quart of milk at a store on Sunday.
Germany’s steadfast rules restricting Sunday shopping persist despite the country’s fascination with it — on the rare Sunday the government allows it, Germans pack mall parking lots hours in advance. When the stores finally open, they push their way in as if their very lives depended on it.
It’s probably the novelty that draws them, since Sunday shopping options are usually limited to bakeries, convenience stores and newsstands.
For shopaholic Americans who are new to the country, this can come as a shock. On Sundays, on-base Exchanges are about the only thing standing between them and a full mental breakdown — unless they are willing to drive.
About four miles over the German border in the Dutch province of Limburg, the Designer Outlet Roermond is open all but two days a year — a rarity even for the Dutch.
A little under three hours from Kaiserslautern and just over two hours from Wiesbaden, the outlet’s 150-some stores cover a good part of an old military base, which was demolished and replaced by a mix of modern and traditional facades meant to evoke a Dutch street. If not for the architecture, it would be easy to believe this is America.
Three of the outlet’s four main entrances are dominated by American brands: Nike, Ralph Lauren and McDonald’s. Inside are more signs of America: True Religion, Zoo York, The North Face and at least a dozen more. Just follow the signs; most of them are in English.
Like a stateside mall, no two stores are so different that they can’t share the same neighborhood. Black & Decker, with its leaf blowers and cordless drills, is just down from Salvatore Ferragamo and its expensive shoes and handbags. Eco-minded beauty store The Body Shop is across from the food court, where there is a brisk business in pore-clogging burgers and fries.
Most of the names here would be right at home in stateside malls — brands like Levi’s, Converse and Timberland. But on the whole, Roermond trends slightly toward the higher end. There is no dollar store or Spencer’s, but it does have Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Gucci.
Discounts on all these goods (not including food) range from 30 to 70 percent, making the pain of paying in the local currency with a 19-percent value-added-tax tacked on tolerable. Even with taxes and the poor exchange rate, a pair of trail runners at the Asics store rang up to within a dollar of the same shoes on Amazon.com. Those stationed in the Netherlands can avoid VAT with tax forms — though check with the vendor before buying — and those just visiting from the U.S. can get a VAT refund (go to global-blue.com for more info).
But the main reason for coming here isn’t the deals; it’s because it’s open Sundays. The only problem is parking. The outlet has a massive lot, but most of the spots seem to be taken up by, wouldn’t you know, Germans.
From Kaiserslautern, take the A63 toward Frankfurt and Mainz, then exit onto the A61 toward Köln/Koblenz. From Wiesbaden, take the A60 toward Trier/Koblenz/Bingen, then merge onto the A61. From here on, the directions are the same for both starting points. After the A61 merges with the A1, stay slightly right to stay on the A61. Continue onto the A1.Then take a slight right onto the A61.At interchange 9, Kreuz Mönchengladbach, keep right to exit onto the A52 and follow signs toward Roermond. After crossing into the Netherlands, the road becomes N280. Continue on N280 for just under 4 miles; the outlet will be on your right. For those with GPS, the address is Stadsweide 2, 6041 TD Roermond, Netherlands.
Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. all other days of the week. Closed each year on Christmas and New Year’s Day.
The outlet advertises free parking on its website, but signs at the lot indicate parking costs 3 euro per day. Pay if you want to be safe, but it doesn’t appear to be necessary.
The food court has a McDonald’s, Bufkes sandwich shop, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese food from Asia Cocos and a Piet Friet French fry stand. A handful of other cafes, waffle kiosks and small eateries are scattered throughout the outlet.