After our first night in the 8 people, 1 bed apartment, we headed into Berlin with great expectations.
I was a little disappointed.
I walked the full 1.3 km of East Side Gallery; part of the Berlin wall that has been decorated in 105 images that serve as an international symbol for freedom. It it’s an interesting walk, even for someone who doesn’t understand the politics behind the imagery.
Looking for more big names, I walked around the Reichstag and sat in the gardens, enjoying the good weather before heading to the Holocaust Memorial, otherwise known as The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It is a collection of 2,711 stelae of varying heights, arranged on uneven ground. There is space between them and with the uneven terrain, at times you look across the whole installation, while at others, you are surrounded by the great towers. It’s an eerie and confusing installation. According to the designer, “the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.” In this sense, the sculpture was successful.
I’ve never been much into history. The past is the past and I prefer spending more time in the present. At the Topography of Terror however, an outdoor museum dedicated to the history of Berlin and the events that led up to the war, I was captivated. For several hours I read thousands of words until darkness fell and I was asked to leave. The one time in my life I am genuinely enjoying learning history and I get thrown out. Ironic.
Leaving Berlin, we headed for Brno and I messaged a Spanish girl that I had chanced upon in Prague. She said that we could stay at her place if we ever came that way. Unfortunately, Germans don’t like taking hitchhikers and we only made it as far as Prague before deciding to quit for the evening. Winter was closing in and you start to worry about your safety when you are stuck outside at night. Irritatingly, it meant that we had to pay for accommodation once again. Even more irritatingly, I got locked in the hostel room.
We bought a very cheap bottle of wine and before I was able to drink any, I crashed in one of the empty beds. A couple of hours later, I woke up to find myself in the dark room and in need of the toilet. The door was locked. For two hours I kicked and pulled at the door as I became more and more angry. I was a prisoner in a hostel and I very much did not want to be there. I think that it is the first time in my life that I have been locked in somewhere and unable to get out. I tried to get internet access but there was nothing in the room, so I messaged my brothers in England and told them to facebook my hitching partner. Tell her to let me out now because she has the only set of keys. Unfortunately she was drinking wine and not checking the internet. I was on the brink of climbing out the third storey window when the door finally opened. I stormed out, used the bathroom and then ended up drinking with some Egyptian guys for the following few hours, giving me just enough time to catch a second cat nap before hitting the road again.
The first guy that stopped the following morning whisked us into Brno in his pastry van, unfortunately without sharing any of his delights. We walked the streets and found delicious melted chocolate drinks that we devoured with our eyes before moving on. We were in search of the Spanish girl and my biggest problem was that I couldn’t remember what she looked like. After being directed backwards and forwards across the town several times, we eventually met our host and she turned out to be quite lovely.
We spent the evening in a local Czech bar with loud music and lots of people. I got bought a few beers and shots by a particular Czech guy who’s motives I am unsure of. Either way, he didn’t speak to me the following day when we ran into each other. The daytime was spent at the cathedral and looking over the city, once again wondering, what comes next, without needing an answer. On the way home from the bar one night, we splashed out on a falafel wrap and a cheese burger; a burger made entirely of cheese. They were absolutely delicious as we shared them, but drunken logic ensued and my fellow hitcher defended the remaining food like a wild animal when one food item was gone. In bed later than night I woke up to hear her munching on a third dinner she had made and in the morning, her hair was decorated with a fair spattering of tomato paste.
We were sad to wave our new friend goodbye and decided Romania would be our next stop. Via Hungary. Short on a bus fare out of the city by a matter of pennies, we wasted a couple of hours trying to get tickets before realising that we were attempting to purchase the wrong tickets. We had enough money for the ticket we needed. Just.
Romania was an unknown quantity. I was so excited to go there and many people had warned me not to. Supposedly it is the only country in Europe that charges hitchhikers. Growing up in England, I never heard anything about Romania. From the little I had picked up in recent years, I was excited. I had absolutely no intention of paying for a ride however.