What do you do when you meet a man with a gun who asks you what you are doing in the compound he guards the entrance to? A guide to this and many other typical questions that come up in the average few days of a hitchhikers journey.
What should you do when you arrive in Padova?
After reading in the park, get lost finding your couch host and take some pictures of the street art that you find. After this, you can spend the first evening eating pizza in a piazza and trying local Italian drinks. Then you wonder from piazza to piazza using both feet and bicycles. In one large area, there will be a show where most members of the EU have a representative group of performers that will be dressed in the traditional clothing of the country and perform traditional music. Don’t hang around long enough to see if your own country has a representative; simply remain unsure of what it would be anyway. The Germans will be rather distinctive in what will appear to be a cross between an elf outfit and something that either Hansel or Gretel might wear.
What should you do with your couch host?
Take them hitchhiking for the first time in their life. Find two fairly quick rides as you move from Padova to Venice. Move away from the crowds and spend time getting lost in the quiet streets, at which point you will decide that Venice is absolutely beautiful. You will pass through deserted streets beside the sea and along the canals.
The post boxes in Venice will look like faces.
You can eat lunch by a canal, set amongst an almost fairy tale world of candy coloured buildings and hand drawn streets. A man in a boat will sing as he passes under you. You will think that he is most impressive. You can then indulge in more delicious gelato and take a photo of a girl holding an ice cream that will turn out to be your best photo of the day. The girl will be dressed in dark clothes with an excessive covering of tattoes.. but she will eat her ice cream like a young child. It will make you smile. You can then drink bubbly wine on a bridge before finally deciding to hitch back. The man who takes you back back will tell you that he used to date a girl in the house next door to your couch host. Because of this, he will drop you at the door.
What do you do when someone drops you on a motorway without a side path (it is illegal to hitch on the motorway)?
Stand on the railing and walk down it. Balance well; your backpack is heavy. One side has fast moving cars. The other, prickly bushes. Ignore the cars that beep at you.
What do you do when you drop into a compound to get off the motorway and find that you are greeted by a man with a gun at the exit (entrance) asking where you came from?
Tell him that you dropped into the compound to get off the motorway and you are quite happy to leave now. At this point he will become very lovely by the end of the conversation, in which he will tell you about his time living in England and America, he will shake your hand and wish you good luck with your journey.
What do you do when your next lift drops you at the pay station, where once again, it is illegal to hitch and ‘security’ turn up to tell you this after someone viewed you on the security cameras which you thought no-one checked?
First of all play the non-Italian card until you realise that one of the two vehicles sent to collect you has an English speaker. Then look around to see which camera spotted you, as you thought you were standing in a hidden place and try to remember where it is so that it doesn’t catch you out in a similar situation next time. Then explain to the man what happened and get into his truck, hoping that he is taking you to a good place, not the police. When he lets you out, be grateful and accept the two ice cold bottles of water that he gives you because Italy is hot, then wave him goodbye. Be slightly pissed off that you stand at the service station for three hours without a ride before climbing another few fences, walking into town, failing to get a ride in a new location, walk between the motorway railing and a fence to find another unsuccessful service station, cross four parts of the motorway at the roundabout on the advice of a helpful Italian, and then walk down the dual carriage-way before finding another lift. Be more pissed off that this took around six hours. Then enjoy the ride as you set a new ‘youngest ride personal record’ when a twenty year old Italian girl picks you up. She will leave you in a quiet service station where you can cook some pasta and eat it dry before deciding to put up your tent and sleep for the night. Call your couch host to tell her that you will not, unfortunately be arriving in Austria until the following day. This time there will be no trains to wake you up, but you can put your headphones in just in case.
Enjoy the music.
Watch out for badgers.
Below is my favourite image from Venice.