Writing and running in Austin, TX.
I think there’s a point in every expat experience where you make some sobering realizations:
It’s not a bad thing to be a visitor. It allows for some important cultural exchanges that are enriching to both the visitor and the visitees. For example, my German colleagues can teach me about their diet staple, Rotkohl (also known as Blaukraut), and I can teach them about my diet staple, Clif Bars.
Note: Clif Bars are not generally available in Europe. I am at this very moment sitting on an email from thenutritionshop.de, wherein a very concerned customer service rep is trying to figure out why I couldn’t seem to pay for the 45 Clif Bars I ordered. In my defense, it can be extremely difficult to use a US credit card in a non-US country.
Having accepted that yes, we are visitors in this country, Handsome J and I decided to make the most of it and fill our time with, well, visiting. The plan: Every other weekend, we will take a trip…somewhere.
The crimp in the plan: This is going to wreak havoc on my long runs.
But, we are after all living in Europe, and this is after all a situation that is not likely to happen again. I can’t justifiably say, “We can’t explore the world because it will interfere with my marathon training!” (Although being–like all committed runners!–rather selfish about my running, the thought did cross my mind.)
I pride myself on being a low-maintenance partner (which to me simply means recognizing when I’m being unreasonable), so I decided to make the best of both worlds. We would travel to Berlin AND I would get my long run in…by booking us a hotel less than a mile from Berlin’s best running location, the Tiergarten.
Now this wasn’t entirely a selfish move. The hotel was also right next to the Berlin Hauptbanhof (central train station), which is a real bonus when your train arrives at 11:45 pm. Besides, if you get lost in a foreign city, you’re much more likely to find your way back if you park yourself next to a major site that every local – and most of the visitors – know. So really, the “prime running location” aspect was just a bonus.
|Posing in front of the Berlin Hauptbanhof. The building on the far left of the pic is our hotel.|
So it was that Saturday morning found me trotting toward the river with no route in mind and no plan other than “get to the park and stay there until Garmin says you’ve gone at least 10 miles”. I had considered trying to plan a route, but the paths through the Tiergarten made me think it would be a bit tough to keep straight:
|Google Maps image of Berlin Tiergarten|
At first I did what I expected to do…I followed random paths chosen on the basis of how pretty they looked. If a sign pointed to an interesting landmark, I’d head that way. Reichstag? Check. Haus der Kulturen der Welt? Check. Brandenburger Tor? Check…although that one was sort of a mistake. (Roughly 40% of Berlin appears to be under construction at any given time, and I missed a turn because the sign I was looking for was hidden behind some temporary fencing.)
|Reichstag as seen from the other side of the river.|
|In Germany, they’ve realized that runners and bikers can successfully navigate 10-foot gaps between trees, and that you don’t actually need level every oak that happens to be growing in your path.|