Dear Princess ‘Ishka,
Sometimes I wonder what It would be like for us to exchange each other’s eyes for a couple of moments and see what the other is up to. How life is going from within. How happy, sad, anxious or relaxed we are and what troubles us the most as well as what gives us the most joy.
Social media luckily bridge the gap of the reporting: they help us keep track of what’s happening in the life of our distant friends and they hinder that we put away their memory as an idol of the past, now dead. Still, friendship is not only about the reporting. Friendship is about living together, however that life might be “gappy” and be frozen for a while in the wait for a reunion.
Social media can’t overcome this obstacle and they can’t replace a friendship. In a certain sense, our past is an idol to me and, perhaps, you feel the same. But you see, if ever we got the chance to see with each other’s eyes, maybe that gap could be reduced a little. Maybe I could feel comforted by your sight of a beautiful landscape, or by the warmth of your house or that of friends of yours and you with mine.
If last night, as I was walking home from the club, the sharp raindrops cutting through my skin as if they wanted to undress my conscience, I had seen the scattered clouds at the horizon of a far away ocean, catching fire as the sun sets, and felt your awe, and breathed your same air, I would have perhaps felt less lonely and less vulnerable. If your mountains had been my mountains for a second, and your laughter and your selflessness mine, the rain would have not felt so cruel and so desolate.
I want to learn from this experience, and attempt to make you see with my own eyes something beautiful, so that if ever the time comes for you to find yourself under an adverse rain, you can imagine another landscape and hopefully feel relieved for a while. I’ll tell you about the beauty of the Danube in summer, which I’ve discovered just recently, and thanks to a couple of friends of mine.
In the past, I was used to think about it as the unconventional beach of a big city like Vienna. But the Danube is not just an object or a touristic attraction. The Viennese Danube is a lifestyle. You start by feeling the heat, the frenzy and stress in your town and a craving grows in you.
You get on your bike and you ride steep lanes, attracted by the reigning gravity of the Danube, shaping all its surroundings. You cross the Channel and you are in Prater, the biggest Viennese park, where the Habsburgs once went hunting. You continue along the shady Hauptallee, guarded on both sides by secular chestnuts, until a couple of turns lead you to the Prater bridge, over the Danube. The sight is breathtaking. You are literally riding 20 feet over the water. The Donaustadt bridge is on your left, a majestic piece of architecture, with a huge pillar in the middle, radiating from its top a spiderweb of ropes to bear the weight of the trains running back and forth at its feet.
A wild herd of winds hits you and the message is loud and clear: from now on, you leave the city behind and you can immerse yourself in nature. You go down a spiral ramp and faster you pedal in the direction of the “FKK Gebiet”, the nudist area, which is also one of the most gorgeous traits of the Danube Island. You go past some lazy fishermen and a familiar group of cheerful, allegedly gay nudists, enjoying life both in the sun and in the neighboring woods.
One last floating bridge and you arrive. You leave your bike in a clearing next to the water. Chaining it down feels stupid, for you see only sporadic and peaceful old Viennese couples. You undress but nudism might be uncomfortable for you, as it is for me. So you approach the water in your speedo. Streaked fishes, up to 10 inches, wait unmoved, with their enigmatic glances.
You jump and the freshness of the water suddenly welcomes you, regenerating your mind. I do believe that water has such a regenerative power: when you accept its embrace, you leave the dry world behind and you enter a new dimension. You abandon your old skin and water provides you with a new one.
The Danube flows calmly. It cradles you if you want to rest, or it can assist you for a swim. The sun slowly descends and puffy clouds toddle around. When the time comes for you to leave, a playful otter says you goodbye in her own special way as the spiders hurry to repair their webs for night’s hunting.
The Danube is not the most beautiful or extravagant place on Earth, true. But it is magical to me: everytime, on the way back, I am filled with an awe and a joy for life which feels almost spiritual. And take a look at the sunset. Isn’t it an amazing life, the life through these momentary eyes of mine?