There are two flows of travellers on this road. There are the bikers and occassional walker on the "Radweg", the bike trail and there are people in canoes in the Danube. They hardly ever mix. Two seperated worlds. Different kind of people. Water people and earth people.
The man paddled up to me when I was standing on the bank. "So you are the famous walker?" He said. "They were talking about you in the village where I stayed."
I suspect people talk about me but it hardly ever catches up on me. Early today I had been talking to a man and his dog. Actually I was talking to a biker who was curious about my walk and the man with the dog walked up and joined us. The biker went on and I walked together with the dogman for a while until he had to take a left turn to get home. I suspect he was the source. I smiled. I like turning into a story. And I like it being a story about some woman who walks, somebody without a name, a story that will lead a life of its own. The main result of my walk lies in there. In bringing a new story into the world. Something I can't control. Something I won't have any documentation of.
Konrad had left from Ulm and had been planning to paddle to Vienna but he missed his wife and was thinking about returning earlier, finish at Linz. "The Danube will still be there next year" he said. He was filled with wonder about his journey. He never had the opportunity to go on a long trip on his own. Until last year he had been a farmer and a teacher, teaching about farming. "I think we create the world by moving through it," he said. He told me about the floating feeling that remained with him in the evening after he got out of his canoe. Sitting at a table eating diner, drinking beer and still feeling the movement of the waves, the body remembering the water. I asked if it was still there in the morning but being stable in a bed or on an air mattress always removed the wonderful feeling, he said. He tried to be in the moment but he found it hard to be there, he had the feeling he was always in front of it or behind it. Maybe it is the water, I wondered. On the water you are always in movement. When you walk you can stand still. Your own body determines your speed. On the water you aren't in charge. Maybe you think you are but you aren't.
My leg injury came up, he showed me the same plant I had been using. Beinheil. He used it for his back.
We talked books. His one book on the road was Marquez' 100 years of solitude. Last winter it was the first winter he was without a job. Retired. He had read Tolstoy's War and Peace and Joyce's Ulysses. He had been thinking about time a lot. It seemed to pass so much quicker now he had so much of it on his hands. "How is it possible" he asked "that I leave at 8, I paddle a bit, look around me, and suddenly three hours have passed?" "What happened in that time? Where did it go?" I couldn't answer him.
In the meantime a man from another village had joined us. He was just sitting there, listening to us. Having a break in his walk. I wondered what he would tell in his village later on.
For some reason we got into talking about the big world matters. Politics. Refugees. Borders. But we were better at the small matters, the ones that were closer to us at the moment.
One thing that bothered him was how during his life he had always been striving for recognition. And still. "Maybe even in this conversation" he said. He was a very honest man.
Maybe we always do, even when we aren't aware of it. But the border between sharing something or wanting something, giving attention or taking attention, is a thin line. I am struggling with it all the time. Even in this writing. Especially in my writing. Choosing what to say and what to leave unsaid. And do I really prefer to be the nameless woman who walks through Europe with a strange outfit over the artist in the three piece walking suit who is working on small projects on her way and talks to people about living your life in a different way?
The man from the village had walked on. We moved on too. But for a long time afterwards I thought about our small meeting.
In the afternoon I reached Passau. I found a tiny room in a hotel next to the Danube. It was shaped like a wave. All rooms overlooked the big river. I thought how wonderful it would be if at night the whole building would softly move so you would have the feeling of being on the water. Being rocked into a deep sleep.
(todays story is for Glen Stoker)