Monday, September 23, 2013

Postcards from Holland: Trail Running at 's Heerenberg

I don't subscribe to bucket lists and here's why: I am convinced that my mind is limited relative to the infinitely beautiful possibilities in this vast universe.  I can only imagine what is comprehensible to me, what is already known, by myself or others.  But what about those incomprehensible, unimaginably exhilirating things?  I certainly don't want to exclude myself from those.

I had that exact thought when The Dutch and I went trail running in the forests of the east of Holland, almost at the German border.  I never could have come up with that in my bucket list (just like this European sauna highjack last year) but after the amazing experience, I tell you, it's definitely bucket list-worthy (just like this European sauna highjack last year).

I run in my neighborhood which is at 4500 feet elevation with some steep inclines so doing some high intensity trail runs at sea level was easy breezy, even with some climbs.  The clean smell of the forest makes you rush with adrenaline.  There were mossy paths and odd mushrooms sprouting in unusual spots.  Although the trails were sometimes shared with mountain bikers, other trail runners and even some horses, it still felt isolated and removed from everything I knew about Europe.  It was an utter delicious way to experience another continent.  In a land where I am an outsider, an alien, a stranger, where language still is a barrier sometimes, here in the forest I suddenly belonged. I was estranged no more.  

We ended our run after about an hour and descended into endless corn fields, the corn ready to be harvested any day now.  The air was quiet, the sky a bit somber that day (as it is most days in the fall in this side of the world), but that just made the green hues of everything around even greener.  I can't help the silly grin on my face.  I can't believe I was just running in the forests wedged between The Netherlands and Germany!  

Travel means so many things to many people, but for me, this is a huge and important part of what it means to travel - to find exhilaration in surprising experiences.  

Bergherbos in the map


The next day was another day of firsts.  First time in Germany, first time on the Autobahn.  We crossed the German border and jumped on the Autobahn for Berlin, which is about a five hour drive.  Yes, we were driving 112 miles per hour (and maybe even more, when I wasn't looking).  So that's what no speed limits feels like!  It was honestly a little disconcerting to be going that fast.  I thought the Autobahn would be desolated but I was surprised to see that it was just like any freeway in America... well, except you can run as fast as you can in certain parts and ideally on a German vehicle (which we didn't).   

The scenery when driving through the German countryside was so pretty, especially when we drove through rolling hills.  Everything was so green and quaint, windmills were everywhere.  Who knew?

What also distinguishes the autobahn from the run-of-the-mill freeway is that great espresso is not hard to find along the autobahn.  There were Illy and Segafredo cafes on almost every gas station.  As well as the German Ritter Sport, which is the German Hershey's (but better!).  I love it how Europeans won't stand for mediocre coffee or chocolate!

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