Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Leisure Time in Bavaria -- Germany, that is.

Snow capped mountains and miles of farmland lined the streets and highways on my way through the Bavarian Alps last week. I was on a vacation with my family in southern Germany where we spent a few days in Stuttgart and a few more in Garmisch with family who have lived there for the past six years.

What struck me most during my days was not least the cold but that despite the cold if you walked anywhere you saw at least a dozen Germans walking outside, as well.

My brother and Uncle walking up to the Neuschwanstein Castle 
(Caution: path is steeper than it appears)

Now to be clear, I'm not talking city street walking. I'm talking about middle-of-no-where walking through farmland and wide open spaces. I'd bet a pretty penny these people weren't outside to go shopping or get groceries! It seemed as though the people didn't just want to survive, or even avoid the winter and cold, they embraced it.

The American winter experience could not be more different.

I grew up in Pennsylvania, a place not unlike most of the geography of Germany as I could tell. (So if you can't make it to Germany just visit a few of the less developed places in PA). However, what I remember of winter is starting the car 5-10 minutes before you get in to "warm it up" and then rushing out and hopping in to avoid any of the bitter winter chill. A leisure time walk in the cold winter weather was unheard of! Instead, automobiles were our friend and exercise...well, cold weather may be one reason new year's resolutions always seem to fail: who wants to be outside when it's cold?

When I left for Germany, I expected the large food portions, the sausage and potatoes, and the fried veal. Even the cakes and strudels weren't much of a surprise. It's really no wonder that Germany is Europe's fattest country! However, I didn't expect to find a culture of leisure-time physical activity. Perhaps this long-held tradition is fading away with modern conveniences paving the way for the uptick in obesity in Germany that we see today.

Nonetheless, it gave me pause and made me reflect on my own winter woes. Maybe I'll brave the cold for a winter bike ride or  walk, even run, a few more times outside this winter season. If I decide to, I'll heed this advice: bundle up and bring a friend. That's what the Germans do.

1 comment:

Dana said...

You got it Kate! You have to get out and enjoy winter or the dark, cold months will drag on forever. Skiing, skating, snowshoeing, or just walking. Bonus- the extra calories burned in the cold! Being out & active in the cold makes coming inside that much better!