On Kaisermühlendamm

The quiet of water lapping, a city oasis along the Danube

On The Town | Will Savage | October 2008

On a cool overcast day in late September, I took my first walk along the Danube. As I made my way up the steps to cross the crest of the Kaisermühlendam that hides the channel, I was altogether unprepared for what I saw.

Immediately, the drab color of cement melted into the faded green of September.  The leaves had not yet begun to turn, but it was easy to see at a glance that they were preparing for the red and yellow hues of fall.

What struck me as most strange was the silence.  The combination of the thick shrubbery and the man made hills that conceal the river effectively cut out any sound of the city that I knew was so close.  The low buzz of traffic crossing the bridges was just audible in the distance, but so low, easily drowned out by the rustle of uncut grass and growth by the river’s edge.  A few crows swooped down, searching for food amid the dying plant life.  As I walked up, they seemed to glance up at me, as though I was the one out of place in the middle of the city.

The few people about were out walking their dogs in the stillness; when one animal would stray too far, the owner would give a low whistle rather than calling out.  Even the dogs were quiet; I did not hear a bark the entire time walked.  This was startling compared to dogs back home, in the states that go wild just at the sight of each other.  A few bikers passed and one elderly gentleman pedaled past me twice; it seemed he was spending his afternoon riding along the river’s edge.  A city bus driver, still in uniform, had chosen to take his break in this quiet oasis.

As I made my way back, the sudden shock of being in the city took me entirely by surprise.  After listening to the calming, subtle noise of the water lapping along the shore, the grating of traffic almost hurt my ears.  But I knew that this feeling would also be the one to draw me back another time.

Other articles from this issue