I’ve never really been a “sporty” type of gal, but walking is an activity I’ve always loved to do. Growing up in rural Indiana, it was tough to find good places to do this. We didn’t live in a neighborhood with sidewalks, nor was the road we lived on particularly safe. ( People basically drive like maniacs on rural roads in the midwest, just in case you ever wondered.) So I think one of the most enjoyable, most liberating changes I ever had in my life was studying abroad in Edinburgh – a city – and discovering that I could walk everywhere. It was wonderful. Not only was I getting fresh air and exercise every day, but I was seeing the city in a way you never can from a car. I was hooked. It became clear to me that wherever I ended up living as an adult, I had to keep walking.
Fast forward years later to meeting the Mr., and I found a kindred spirit who also loved to walk as a form of exercise. We bonded over exploring different parts of the city on foot. But alas – we are creatures of habit. Over the years, the Mr. somehow started narrowing down the walks he wanted to do a very specific part of the city. We always headed north.
Back in Edinburgh, we lived in Leith. For those of you unfamiliar with the city of Edinburgh, I’ll tell you a little bit about it. Back when I was studying abroad in Edinburgh in ’99, Leith was pretty much a no-go zone. Run-down and rough, it was the only part of the city center we were flat-out told to avoid. But time and investment dollars can make a big difference, so by the time I came back to Edinburgh in 2004, Leith had changed quite a bit. The harbor area was filled with new luxury flats, shops and restaurants. A new shopping mall had been built. Suddenly, Leith had become fashionable. And yet…not all parts of Leith have been gentrified. Council housing skyscrapers still loom in the sky today, as well as dodgy pubs you’d never want to set foot in, even in broad daylight (think Trainspotting…that story was set in Leith.) We lived in the south end of Leith closer to the city center, just off of the always interesting Leith Walk. It was an okay neighborhood, with a mix of all different socio-economic classes. But I always felt more uncomfortable the further north we’d go into Leith proper. The harbor itself was fine with great restaurants and shops, but it was just about everything in between – from our neighborhood until the harbor – that always felt a little dodgy. And this was where the Mr. loved to walk.
The beginning of the walk was always the same. We’d start going north through a very industrial part of the city with warehouses, vacant lots and occasionally a burned out vehicle. We’d walk along the Water of Leith, a little stream running through the city, which was sort of nice but was sadly always filled with all sorts of junk from shopping carts to bikes. You never knew what you’d see. Then we had a choice to make: we’d either continue on to the harbor area, or we’d head northwest towards a posh part of the city called Trinity. We both loved walking around Trinity, looking at the huge stone homes with immaculate gardens and sea views. And the harbor was fun, too. We’d sometimes have lunch out or stop in our favorite delicatessen for some fresh bread. But the actual walk in between where we lived and the destination always depressed me a little. And depending on who we’d pass along the quiet, remote way, it would also make me a little uncomfortable. There are many things I miss about our life in Edinburgh, but I have to admit that I’m glad we have a new walk.
In about 15 minutes’ time, the Mr. and I can walk to a neighborhood with vineyards overlooking the cityscape. What’s great about it is that the entire walk – from our doorstep to the vineyards and back – is in a beautiful, safe area that I enjoy walking through. Yesterday we had just about perfect weather – blue skies and sunshine – and walked for a few hours around the vineyards, through the University of Wuerzburg’s campus and back home again. I do miss that we no longer have the sea to enjoy as part of our walk, but I figure I’m pretty happy to trade that for not worrying about being mugged or stabbed along the way.