Into the Wild

Brief Encounters: Tales of Everyday Life

City dwellers, as winter darkness surrounds, may easily feel trapped – even in Vienna. But moments of induced liberation can be found here. A simple jog down the Donaukanal can become a brief trip with Patrick Leigh Fermor into the wild. Fermor’s classic books, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, chronicling his epic walk from London to Constantinople, included what now seems a phantasmagorical journey along the then-wild Danube. Surprising even myself, one late November morning, I caught a glimpse of the primeval running down the road… I started my jog near Schottenring, headed south past Schwedenplatz. Stepping warily through sundry building sites along the river’s banks, I ran down the gently sloping gravel path waterside. Pacing myself for an expected 3-4 km outing, civilisation simply slipped away. There I was, at least in my mind’s eye, running free along a narrow strand of the wild river this once was. Joined by leashless dogs being aired by the housebound Viennese, below the highway and the line of cars headed for the Südosttangente, tuned to the thump of my heart, the taste of sweat, and the music of my footfalls, I went time-travelling, if for just an hour. Philip Ellison    

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