When I lived in Germany, I used to go running along the Donau. Which we call the Danube. Donau sounds better, and I never talked about the Donau in english, and so I continue to think about that river as the Donau. Why do we “translate” names anyway? It isn’t like Danube has an actual meaning, to me. I know there was a waltz named after it, but honestly, the original german sounds MUCH better – blaue Donau. Blue Danube. I mean, really.

I lived in the altstadt, which is the old part of town. Cobblestone streets, ped only, much of it. I lived in a building that had been built as a family home in the 1400’s or so. And yes, that was student housing. Goldener Turm. The golden tower. It is on the tours, they walk right through the little courtyard, and the guides point up at the window where one of my best friend’s room was. It isn’t a student dorm anymore, but I’ll never forget the odd little bathroom with the arched doorway so short even I had to duck to get through it, and the long narrow room with the toilet in the back. Very odd. But fun. We don’t have things like that here!

But the running. I’d set off across the cobblestones towards the bridge, always hoping that I wouldn’t twist my ankle. The bridge itself had quite the history, tales of trickery and soul selling and ancient rivalries. Along the Donau were dirt paths, and as crowded as they were, I was almost always the only runner. And boy did I get some looks. Running for exercise, for Sport, wasn’t popular then. I hear it is pretty commonplace now. There were small lochs, and I’d get curious stares from the boat captains as they patiently waited for the slow passage through the lochs. Once I went running while it was snowing, and that earned me a small wave from one of the captains.

I always looked to the bridges in the distance. “I’ll run to that bridge, the fourth one there.” And I would. Sometimes I went running for 2 hours, slowly, I wasn’t actually in very good shape, but 2 hours didn’t seem like a big deal to run. I didn’t have that much going on in my life, classes were a very different kind of thing than I’d experienced in the past.

There were always a lot of bikers on the dirt paths, but they weren’t necessarily the bikers we see on paths here. They weren’t racing on road bikes or attacking hilly terrain on mountain bikes. They were just riding to town, very often on those old looking bikes with baskets on the front and bells on the handlebars.

People did that kind of thing – they rode their bikes from the outlying villages into town. They didn’t seem to need to hurry, and it was clearly part of their routine. Old, young, everywhere in between. Men, women, kids, families. Everyone rode their bikes it seemed.

I didn’t have a bike to ride, I walked everywhere. 45 minutes up the hill to school, and 45 minutes back. It didn’t seem like that big a deal. I took the bus at first, but deciding to save money on the bus fare so I could spend more money on bier, I started walking, and found that it took about the same amount of time. And gave me a chance to walk off some of that bier.

I wonder how much different life might be for many of us if we lived in places where we felt like we had more choices. Where riding our bikes to the market or to work was just a matter of slightly more time, but much less parking hassle, instead of the death-defying experience riding bikes on american roads generally seems. What if we had dirt paths that led most everywhere we wanted to go?

Me, I’d ride everywhere I could. I’d like having that option.

I miss being able to run 2 hours, as well. I’m limited by both time as well as chronic IT Band issues. The time is much easier to deal with. The IT Band…I’m working on it.

evening sky