I shut the front door to the building securely behind me and breathe in the fresh, cool air. My feet already know the way. They lead me past the local flower shop and around the corner to the right. I overtake a lady with a pushchair and dodge a cyclist. I pass the store front where all the mannequins are dressed the same, and the hairdressers that is always full of employees, but never customers.
My feet take me towards the river Main, which in German sounds like the word for “my”. In main opinion, the shops don’t take enough advantage out of its potential for puns.
When I reach the river I turn right and head upstream. The wide path hugging the river is a storey lower than the parallel main street. Acting as a buffer between the two is a long strip of grass, a wall disconnecting the two levels, another pedestrian path lined with bare-knuckled trees, and a two-way cycle path. The traffic is almost inaudible.
Instead, a cacophony of honking, whooping, cooing and quacking takes over as birds compete for noisiest animal. I have to watch where I step, not only because the birds dominate the path and strut out of the way far too slowly, but also so that as I pass, I don’t step in anything they may have passed.
Along with bird poop, I have to look out for a never-ending flow of joggers and cyclists as well as copious amounts of broken glass. I walk on the right-hand side of the path, and have to look over my left shoulder like a driver whenever I want to overtake someone. I side-step a frozen puddle with the same shoulder glance.
Benches dot the path and wall. I sneak a nosy peek at a teenage couple sitting on one of the benches backed up against the wall. Their legs are intertwined and their lips locked. I pass a purposeful elderly lady holding onto her walking aid, making slow but steady progress. I watch as a middle-aged man dressed in sports gear marches up the steps leading to the main street. On reaching the top, he turns around and marches right back down again. He does this several more times before I lose him from my view. Giggling teenagers take selfies against a skyline backdrop, and owners trail after their dogs.
I make it to my usual bridge, just opposite the new European Central Bank — a tall, lone landmark on the edge of the river. I begin to cross. Halfway along I stop, lean forward against the railing and take in the view.
I look back to the south at the Lindner Hotel standing high above all its neighbours in Sachsenhausen. Its gold spires sparkle in the sunlight, possibly its only attractive feature. It’s otherwise known as the “Hohler Zahn” (hollow tooth) or “Termitenhügel” (termite mound) to locals, both of which accurately describe its unusual, forbidding appearance.
In contrast to the south, the impressive skyline to the north is lined with high-rises bearing familiar bank logos: UBS, Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank. My gaze takes me to the foot of these skyscrapers, to the river bank.
It’s mid-winter and it’s cold. And yet, both banks of the Main are far from empty. There is life along the river. Sure, it’s wrapped up warm for the winter, but it’s welcoming. And it beckons me to finish my walk.
My feet lead the way again.