We saw lots of sights during our recent two-week trip to Germany: for example, the murals on what’s left of the Berlin Wall, the DDR and Toy museums in East Berlin, the Albrecht Dürer Haus in Nüremberg, cathedrals in every city we visited, an incredible beyond-baroque palace in Würzburg, and in Heidelberg, a museum devoted to outsider art.
However, what might be my favorite sightseeing excursion was a sedentary anthropological expedition to Würzburg’s Marktplaz where Caroline and I sat sipping beer on the periphery of a café and observed for a couple of hours the to-and-fro of pedestrian traffic.
I’ve always been a people-watcher and enjoy contemplating my subjects’ private lives, picturing them at home. For example, I can imagine the pear-shaped widow now waddling past bent over a sink dying her wispy grey hair that bright eye-singing chartreuse. Tent-like floral tops hang in her closet. A black-and-white photo of her dead husband sporting 70s sideburns stands on the sideboard. The odor of sausages and potatoes waft through her small apartment.
What distinguished this particular session was the number of pedestrians who suffered ambulatory issues, folks in motorized wheelchairs, blind people, passersby utilizing walkers, stroke sufferers, and those with what appeared to be congenital defects, the Ratsos and Quasimodos of Francona.
In the two hours we sat there, I counted thirty-four men and women with walking issues.
Caroline is a theorizer. When I wondered aloud why there tended to be so many more disabled people on the streets of Germany than in the US, she conjectured that Germans’, given their alpine hiking heritage, simply walk (and bike) more than North Americans. Therefore, you’re bound to see more limping and shuffling than in the US where even in a small village, we hop in the car instead of walking three blocks to the store.
In fact, during our stay, even Berlin’s auto traffic was light. In Würzburg and Nüremberg, navigating your VW through the crowds thronging the squares would not only be nerve-wracking but also slow going. Why not take in the gorgeous solstice sunshine on foot before Ol’ Herr Winter casts his frigid gray cloud bank over the will to live?
I really admire these disabled walkers, admire their pluck, their lack of self-consciousness, as they wobble or shuffle their way to their destinations. They certainly seemed more serene than the middle-aged dandy I saw haughtily strutting in his outrageous paisley blue suit (matching jacket and pants), glancing right and left to see if he was copping any attention as he crossed the pedestrian bridge over the Main River.
In fact, he was the only angry person I remember seeing during our stay, and if he and I both live long enough, we’re both likely to end up hobblers, which, beats, in my opinion, the alternative.
 Seems as if many of these women who dye their hair neon shades of red have unhealthy-looking hair. Hmm.