walking

Adaptive topography and the small-city effect

(Self-imposed challenge of the day: pick a title so ridiculously pretentious that the colleague in charge of SEO-ing the blog will sigh audibly in frustration. Achieved, I’d say.)

Back home, in the sprawling city of Bucharest, I’d wake up at 6.30 to get to work by 9.00. Part of that was, of course, due to my great affection for the snooze button, but the other part was due to the distance. I’d get out of the house, walk for a kilometer and a half, get on the subway, get squashed by the morning rush for 9 stops or 45 minutes, then walk another half of a kilometer and enter the office building looking like I’d gone hiking for a fortnight. And still, I’d tell people, “I’m so lucky I don’t have to change metro lines – THAT would be murder”.

About a month after I moved to Maastricht, an American friend mentioned he’s “on my continent” and dropped by for the weekend. We woke up rather late on Saturday and went out to explore the city. He seemed a bit concerned that we won’t have enough time to see everything. I laughed heartily when, at the end of two hours, we were back in the Vrijthof, having seen just about everything and considering whether to try another city the next day.

Alright, big deal, you used to live in a larger city and Maastricht is small, what else is new?

What’s new to me is how quickly I’ve adapted to the short distances in my adoptive hometown. It seems perfectly natural now to walk everywhere and to see way more bikes than cars going around the city. Taking the bus to the MECC seems like a small trip, which I’d enjoy more if it weren’t prompted by exams. Even worse, though, I find myself reluctant to make plans on the other side of the river, since it seems so far. 20 minutes walking? Might as well ask me to pack a suitcase.

So it’s weird. On the one hand, I can’t see myself living here after I graduate, partly because the city is so small and lacking in my usual standards of night- and cultural life. On the other hand, I’m starting to rediscover the joy of walking everywhere, headphones in ears and thoughts wandering alongside.

How is it for you guys? Are your hometowns similar or are you also adapting to Maastricht’s travel-package size?

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