Isar River, Germany - Wolfgang Hartmann

I was in the fifth grade, maybe eleven years old, and I lived in in the centre of Munich. On my way home from school, which would take place shortly after one in the afternoon (the walk took about half an hour if I didn’t stop), I had to cross the Isar River; it was a good place to swim in the summer. On this particular day in January, I was walking with my best friend Gunther. This winter was unusual, because the weather in Munich tends to be quite warm, and therefore the river only froze over every three years or so. This was one of those special years. For this reason, the two of us decided to go onto the ice together to do some investigating, despite the fact that of course we weren’t allowed to. The river has strong currents, so the thickness of the ice varies, and it’s easy to fall through. But we wanted to see how thick the ice was in various parts of the river, so we took a stick and started chopping holes in it, bashing into it over and over. That made it easy to find out. After making the first hole, we wanted to see what the result would be about a foot away from it, so we repeated the process. And so we kept chopping holes in the ice, each about a foot away from the previous, in a circle around us. We hadn’t meant to do this at all, we just really weren’t paying attention. Of course, all that chopping made the ice around us brittle, and after about twelve holes, the circle finally gave, and we fell in. We were lucky; the river is usually quite deep, but we happened to be standing somewhere relatively shallow, and the water only reached up to our stomachs. It was absolutely freezing cold, and I was in shock when it hit me, I was so scared. When we’d recovered from our initial shock, we pulled ourselves back onto the ice, absolutely soaked. We felt cold, scared, and pretty stupid. You couldn’t really see the water because so much of the shattered ice was floating in it. At first we were too afraid to go home; we knew our parents would punish us, that they’d probably hit us. But our wet pants were quickly frozen solid, and it was horribly cold, so we decided to go home anyways because we figured that way the beating wouldn’t hurt as much. Fortunately, our parents didn’t actually end up hitting us, but we weren’t allowed to go outside and play for a while. If nothing else, this experience taught me that the ice on a river needs to always be treated with a great deal of respect.

Cassandra Hartmann
Wolfgang Hartmann

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