I am sitting on the riverbank, somewhere along the German-French border and it’s completely silent except for the rustling of the trees in the wind and the excited afternoon chirping of the birds.
The river flows calmly along, not minding my presence, as if I’m just another part of the German landscape. I look across the river to the French side, so close I can almost touch it, and I can feel the irony. I’ve been waiting to come back to France for three long years, and here I am just staring at the border. But I am here now and that is what matters…
That day was one of many I have spent running and biking the trail that runs along the border between France and Germany, near where I live (it’s nice to stop for a little snack break).
I have been here barley two months, but I have already seen the trees along the trail change color and shed their summer leaves. I have seen the trails transform from the dry clay of late summer to a quilt of colorful autumn leaves and now to the muddy, rocky sludge of early winter.
Every time that I go for a run out there, I wish that I could run forever. The trails are never-ending, winding amongst tiny villages in both France and Germany, and the people that I pass are never lacking in smiles, whether their greeting is “Bonjour” or “Guten Tag”.
A few years ago, I had this impression that the French do not like exercise, especially running. I was told that if I go running in the streets, people would look at me like I was crazy. This is a completely incorrect theory (at least for where I am). There are many people here who enjoy running, and a lot of them also compete in it.
The first weekend I got here, there was even a competition that included running, biking, and kayaking. I had no idea I was coming to such an endorphin-loving city, but I’m really happy that I did.
I feel that the best way to get to know a new place is to go out for a run and explore. Running can get you places a lot faster than walking. I like to choose a new path each time and venture to places that are either too far to walk or where I know I will be able to appreciate the new environment around me.
Running in a new place also takes away from the fact that you are getting exercise. You will be concentrating so hard to remember where you are, how you got there, and how to get back, and so deep in your thoughts about how big that house is, why in the world someone would actually paint their door that color and why the streets are so much smaller in France than in the US, that you will be back at home in no time wondering why you didn’t get out for a run earlier.
I have just started running with a group and I hope that I can keep finding new corners to explore and new turns to take along the paths through the forest. That way I won’t have to feel bad when I have that second Tarte aux Fraises.
All images © Julie Gourichon