Gera River, Germany - Eva Heinrichs

As children we enjoyed playing by the water. A short street not far from our apartments led to a wooden bridge with an iron railing that spanned our river, the Gera. For many months during the year, the Gera’s was calm, narrow, flat, and quite filthy, facing the rears of houses on one shore, on the other a flat sand strip littered with poplars. This was our playground. In the spring, when the snow melted in its mountainous headwaters, the Gera turned savage. In the past it had often passed over the shore, had flooded streets and basements or set apartments underwater. But at the beginning of the nineteenth century, a resourceful city council member had a deep and wide ditch drawn around the city center, and it took a lot of surplus water away from the Gera’s floods. Playing on the riverbank and on the bridge wasn’t risk free. We climbed over the wooden bridge’s railing and walked along on the outside. This was a test of courage. We fished unusable objects out of the water with rods and branches: ruined shoes and umbrellas, broken dishes, rusting pots, everything that the locals had thrown in with the presumption that the river was a shabby garbage dump. Luckily, our bold games never caused any accidents.

Over the deep, wide trench that relieved the river, ran a few streets with bridges made of stone. One of them was part of my walk to school. On it, I invented a new game with my friend Margot. We called it ‘bridge driving’. Every day when we left school, we stopped on the bridge and looked into the water. Entirely concentrated, we took a somewhat distant point on the surface into our gaze and waited, until eventually one of us said “Now” or “Go”. We felt the bridge move with us, driving us forwards or back, depending on if the water was running towards us or away from where we were standing, which we tried on both sides of the street. It was a peculiar feeling, driving along like that, and we tried to hold onto it for as long as possible. I think we had a wishful thought about where the ride should take us. The illusion of being carried away by the flowing water, although we were firmly standing on the solid bridge, was enough for us.

Cassandra Hartmann
Eva Heinrichs

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