Winter weather in Germany's state of Rheinland-Pfalz is typically dreary - cold, wet, snowy, with an occasional sighting of sun.

One way to fight off the wintertime blues: ice skating.

I was feeling a bit lethargic and bloated from the recent holiday festivities and decided I needed a bit of exercise. So I headed for the Eishalle Gartenschau ice skating rink near downtown Kaiserslautern. I suspected ice skating could be a great way to have fun and burn the excess calories I'd consumed; I was right on both counts.

According to health calculators on the Web, a person could burn upwards of 400 calories an hour while ice skating, depending on weight and intesity of activity. Calorie burning: confirmed.

I arrived at the rink for its 1-3 p.m. session one recent workday, and was surprised to find it full of life. There were several groups of students and a few parents who'd brought their children to learn to skate. I'm no Wayne Gretzky on the ice, so I felt right at home and enjoyed myself among the mostly novice skaters present that day. I'm sure there were a few bumps and bruises from the carnage I witnessed, but with every fall there was a giant smile attached. Fun: confirmed.

The indoor rink can be enjoyed in any weather. It has a basketball-court-size skating area, pulsating colored stage lights and popular music playing in the background. There are large windows and a few benches along the outer walls for onlookers. Skating aids, in the form of giant penguins that help novices keep their balance on the skates, are a nice touch. Management also monitored the rink for reckless skaters, issuing a reminder of rink etiquette over the loudspeakers, or issuing a warning in person.

The rink has a small bistro inside and two booths outside offering refreshments. The rink is also next to Das Brauhaus restaurant, a convenient location for a nice apres-skating meal and socializing.

The Eishalle Gartenschau will be open until Feb. 10. "First steps" practice sessions with a licensed instructor for those 14 and under are available every Friday from 3:30-4 p.m. for a reduced price.

ON THE QTDirections: The Eishalle Gartenschau ice skating rink is about 20 minutes from Ramstein Air Base. From the air base, take the A6 autobahn toward Mannheim for about 6.5 miles, then take Exit 15-Kaiserslautern-West or the "Opel exit." From there, follow the signs to Centrum and Gartenschau. The Eishalle is located at the entrance to the Gartenschau next to Das Brauhaus and Kammgarn culture center.

Times: There are four sessions daily: 9 a.m. to noon, 1-3 p.m., 4-6 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, the rink is open until 10 p.m.

Costs: Ages 15 and younger, 2.50 euros per session; 16 and older, 3.50 euros per session. Skate rentals cost 3.50 euros; a pair and skating aids are 2 euros.

Food: A bistro in the rink offers warm and cold drinks and small dishes and snacks. Das Brauhaus restaurant is next door.

Information: The Eishalle Gartenschau's website offers information in German only, but there is a telephone number listed and the employees speak English. More information can also be found at the "Window to Rheinland-Pfalz" kiosk in the KMCC on Ramstein Air Base.

- Joshua L. DeMotts

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