Werner Herzog on Walking

PAUL HOLDENGRÄBER: You bring up so many of what one might call your obsessions, though I’m not sure you will take well to that word. One of the interesting clusters of ideas that come up in my mind as you speak is the importance walking has for you, and you have sometimes likened walking to filmmaking and seen a relationship between the two.

WERNER HERZOG: I would be careful to call it walking. There is no real expression in English. I would call it traveling on foot. And traveling on foot is something that we have lost out of our civilization. But we are made for traveling on foot—physically we are made for traveling on foot, and in our minds to move at a certain pace, and seeing things with intimacy and seeing the details and having en route, you have only substantial encounters. If you run out of water — I had a canteen, and on a hot day and no creek, nothing, and so I had to knock at a door of a farmhouse and ask whether I could fill my canteen at his tap, at his faucet, sure, he would allow me and would ask me, “Where do you come from?” And I said, “I come from Meiningen,” he said, “How?” And I said, “I came walking, well, a thousand kilometers,” “Really?” From that moment on you only have an exchange of very, very fundamental human things. He would tell me the story of his very last day in the Second World War, where he was captured, that he has not told his family for thirty-five years or forty years and you would have only, only, only the most essential encounters, and I have walked around Germany following the border. I have walked once to Lotte Eisner when she dying, and I would not like her to die, I wouldn’t like to allow her to die.

Taken from a transcript of a talk at the New York Public Library. Many thanks to the lady in Upstate New York who sent it to me.