Last Saturday, when most every cafe, restaurant, and public bathroom was closed for the Easter weekend, I decided to go for a walk.
I skirted the edge of the Danube, just as I do almost every afternoon but this time, I actually took time to appreciate the famous river.
Now, don’t be fooled by the title. The Danube is certainly not blue, at least not in Bratislava, nor is it all that beautiful. The water is murky and the few plucky ducks brave enough to bathe in the waters are usually pushed aside by gargantuan cruise boats.
The Danube river may be the subject of one of the most famous classical waltz songs but most people who live close to the water’s edge find little amazement in the 1,777 mi river.
But for me, the Danube river is the grandest of the grand because it represents the most tremendous journey I’ve taken in life so far.
The first time I walked along the edge of the Danube, I was a recent college graduate fumbling around Budapest, the first country I visited on my own.
In Budapest, the Danube is perfectly accessorized with the majestic Chain Bridge and the ornate Parliament building downstream, which sparkles in the evening.
And I was awed by the beauty of it all yet equally terrified by what lay ahead. I came to Hungary on a two-week volunteer stint but after a few night runs along the Danube, I decided to extend my trip by 2.5 months and travel to ten other countries.
An introvert alone in the BIG cities for three months…YIKES!
In Slovakia, the halfway point in my trip, soul-searching along the Danube continued. Less ornate yet more contemplative, I took great comfort in the familiar river. In this brand new world consuming my senses and altering my introverted nature, I felt safe and comfortable by the water’s edge. I felt like this expansive river and I already knew each other so well. Our bond ran deep in a very literal sense.
The next time I greeted my old, aquatic friend, I was closing out my three-month trip in Austria. The river was the same but the girl who walked along it was not. She was an old friend with new experiences under her belt, no longer afraid of the infinite unknowns swirling around her.
Flash forward two years, and the Danube and I are tighter than ever. We run parallel to each almost every evening. I huff and puff while my headphones tangle around my arm. The Danube flows gently forward, matching my pace in a much more dignified way.
This past weekend I finally realized just how intertwined we are. The Danube never stops moving forward and neither do I but the memories I formed by those wonderfully murky waters are immortalized in the river’s current. They accompany me on every walk, every run in this new city, reminding me that life may move forward, I may move forward, but I’ll always have this kinetic compass pushing me towards the big, the scary, the tremendous.
So don’t be fooled by the murky waters and the haggard ducks. This is the beautiful blue Danube were talking about.
Run with the River,