Michaela Merz

Jogging in the city

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I am travelling a lot. Today in Geneva, tomorrow in London, on Wednesday in Zug. That may sound great but is very tiring. When one is travelling and working, one sees Big Ben, the Parliament and the Castle from the outside, when passing by, but one never has time to sit in a café, to process all the impression, to visit sights. One is driven by obligations and appointments.

Nevertheless I want and have to move. Usually I end up in a gloomy fitness room in the cellar, which is not inspiring at all but has a treadmill. As the rooms are usually so terrible and without daylight, I started to go jogging outside, usually in the middle of the city.

In the morning before the city awakes, when it is already light and the air is still fresh, running between the historic buildings is simply wonderful. I ran over the Charles bridge, up the stairs and through Prague castle, to the Opernring along the town hall and around St. Stephen’s cathedral in Vienna, in San Francisco up and down the hilly streets, in the castle district from the St. Mathew’s church to the edge of the Danube to Margaret island in Budapest. There I remembered how I travelled to Budapest as young, penniless student in order to see the newest west films. In liberal Hungary films were shown, which one could not see in conservative Czechoslovakia, even though they were completely harmless from a political point of view. As we travelled cheap, we did not have money left for accommodation. We had to sleep outdoors in a sleeping bag. We had chosen Margaret island as did the homeless, who I had seen on the benches when running in the morning in the city. Only then, in socialist Budapest it was not allowed to sleep outside. The police controlled the island every night and drove out everyone, who had taken shelter for the night. We had to wait until 1am when the last raid took place, then we rolled out our sleeping bags in a hidden bush and slept wonderfully.

Now I run through Budapest, two decades later and run one round on Margaret island. As it is so early in the morning, some people are still sleeping on the benches. Two or three nights outside in the summer, when it is not raining and one knows that in three days one can take a long shower, then it is a great adventure, for every night it is unbearable. Then I prefer the stress of the appointments and the restraints of obligations.

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