Running Barefoot in Berlin Germany and Krakow Poland
On Thursday June 2, 2005 we set out
from Kansas City to cross over the pond, once again. This was our fifth trip to
Europe in the past eight years. However, this was the first time that I have ran
barefoot in the "Old Country". As a descendent of German stock, I take certain
security in structure, discipline, conduct, and manners. These traits are very
characteristic of Berliners. Actually, Saxony (my area of descent) is not too
far from the German capital. So, I felt a bit out of place on my first barefoot
run down the sidewalks of Kunferstendam Strasse. The young eyed me with surprise
and the old either ignored me or gave me that familiar, austere look that is so
common in northern Europe. However, as soon as I started to go out of my way to
say "Guten Tag" (Good Day) and to smile, I started to get a few smiles and nods
as I passed by. (Of the five days we were in Berlin, I managed to get in three
On my last run in Berlin, I was about at about mile 5 of 6 when a young man started running with me. He had on sweat pants and a running shirt. He spoke a little English and I asked him how far he was running. He said, "Oh, just to the train ... I will miss it if I don't run". I told him he should try running barefoot sometime and he asked if I was coming back for the Berlin Marathon in the fall. I told him I might, but probably not this year.
Spending three days in Krakow Poland, I only took
time to run once but it was a nice 6 miler from the city square down to and
along the Vistula River. A very scenic city with many surprised locals to be
seeing a barefoot runner. But, just as in Berlin, if I took time to say "hello",
people would smile or at least nod.
Running in European cities strike me as more barefoot-friendly than American cities. It seems that space is at a premium in Europe and people don't seem to take it for granted. Therefore, they keep their little corner of the earth tidy, meaning they sweep their sidewalks and streets regularly. Even the 500 year old cobblestones that I ran in Krakow were smooth and clean. I saw very little rubbish and never saw one piece of glass in either my Berlin or Krakow runs. It was a very barefoot-friendly environment!
Sidebar: I am a HUGE WWII history buff, so traveling to Berlin and Krakow was a great experience for me. Auschwitz and Berkenau (outside of Krakow) were even more sobering than our trip to Munich's Dachau two years ago (thanks to Misha our Jewish guide and driver!). It makes me grateful to be alive and able to freely travel and run in whatever manner suits me!
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