I was heading South.
Then I decided to have dinner with my new Polish actor friend in Warszawa where I had just left. I turned around, headed north a few hundred kilometres and had a nice dinner. Then I said goodbye to a new friend I had met in Poland as she headed off to the airport.
Two hours later I was wandering the streets and taking photos of the street art when I got a message. She had missed her flight and wanted to come travel for a bit. No problem. Except we’re hitchhiking. She turned up with her huge suitcase and we headed out to the road using a local bus.
I have ridden a lot of buses in Poland without paying for a ticket. They never check. This time we decided to buy tickets, just in case. Just as we were about to get off the bus, the ticket inspectors got on. They requested our tickets. Pleased, I offered my ticket to him and the girl handed hers over. I was less pleased when he pointed out the fact that she hadn’t stamped her ticket. I watched her put it into the machine but it hadn’t registered, thus the ticket was not validated. Despite our pleading and explanations, we were frog marched off the bus by four large individuals and taken to a car. In this car, we were driven to a bank where we had to withdraw money to pay a fine. The men were all very unpleasant about the whole experience. I was kept in the locked car while the girl was marched to a bankomat with the most unpleasant of the men. I hope if life balances out, they will be repaid for their unpleasantness to what was clearly a genuine mistake. They had rather unfortunate faces, so maybe they have already suffered.
A tip for hitchhiking. Put a small blond American girl out on the road and receive lifts faster. By nightfall, due to the delays, we were still in Poland; well short of our intended destination. A kind, non-English speaking man paid for our bus tickets when we had no money (it all went to the ticket inspectors), so that we could reach the train station. My new hitcher was not pleased by the idea of hitchhiking overnight on her first day of hitchhiking, so we jumped on a train and had a nice sleep in bunk beds as we cruised into Slovakia.
We picnicked by a castle and found an amazing toyshop where you could play with EVERYTHING. We stayed there for over an hour and the guy who owned it offered to make us badges from anything. We gave him our bus fine and immortalised it in the form of two badges so that we can prominently wear them wherever we go. We nearly organised to stay with the toy shop man as our other alternative was to stay with someone who had phone messaged me after my last minute post on couch surfing. He lived in a small village 40 km from Bratislava and we were wary. Intuition is your greatest defence and weapon. In the end we decided to visit the village mid-afternoon so that we could weigh up our potential host.
The decision couldn’t have been better. Our host was planning his own hitchhiking trip to India through Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan in order to reach India. He took us climbing up a viewing tower so that we could view multiple countries around us and then we sat by a lake drinking cold beer. We received dinner, home made goats cheese and copious amounts of wine and hurska (a spirit made from pear). So much so that the girl I was hitching with disappeared to bed several hours before me or my new host.
I am very glad that we decided to stay in the village with this guy. Later, multiple times and in multiple countries, he comes back into my story.
Communication is more than language. A Hungarian man drove us several hundred kilometres to Budapest. Despite no common language, we communicated and he bought us ice-cream and soft drinks at McDonalds after we explained that we were vegetarian. He wasn’t going to Budapest, but he drove us into the city and I was overawed.
Never before have I seen such a beautiful entrance to a city. We crossed an intricate bridge, surrounded by exaggerated aged architecture on one side and a statue topped mountain on the other. The pastel colours, the beautiful skies, and the delightful architecture was like no other beginning of a city that I have experienced. It is not possible to paint a picture with words, but I recommend traversing this bridge as your entrance to Budapest if you ever have the pleasure of doing so.
People use couch surfing for various reasons. Some to be helpful, some for company, some enjoy sharing their home towns. In Budapest, our host greeted us at the door with out allowing us in, then expressionless and monotone, took us to an empty flat and gave us a whole apartment to ourselves. We said we could meet later, but didn’t hear from him until he knocked on the door at seven am as we were packing to leave. He was, at that time, going to bed. He could have been under the experience of some strange expression / emotion draining sort of drug, but I really have no idea. In the time he was doing whatever it was that he was doing, we walked over the bridge and climbed the mountain to a beautiful citadella which offered a view of the whole city. From here we sat and watched as the sun disappeared for the day.
The following day was exciting for me. My dad, my brother, and his girlfriend would come to meet me in Croatia. We agreed to meet in Zagreb, a mere 350km away. We had until lunchtime to get there. We were first delayed with trouble finding our way out of the city as I bought a croissant which I only realised had a sausage in it when I bit into it. Being vegetarian, I spat it out and left the croissant with a sleeping homeless man in a pedestrian subway. Hitchhiking sometimes goes very well. We caught multiple rides in quick succession without problem. We waited no more than five minutes as we sped along our route for the first 200km. We would arrive long before my family. Sometimes hitchhiking goes dreadfully wrong. We were left in a bad place, walked for an hour before catching a 5km ride and waited another hour before catching another 5km ride. At this point we became stuck for more than two hours and I fell asleep on the side of the road.
Alone, with my headphones on, I was awoken by a policeman as I was lying on a road island. Confused, I looked around for my hitching partner who wasn’t in sight and took the headphones off to be asked what I was doing asleep on the side of the road. I was hitchhiking I explained. Except that there weren’t many cars, so I fell asleep. And I wasn’t alone. Even if I looked like I was alone. The policeman looked at me funnily, told me not to hitch on the motorway (where I was was a slip road so it was fine), and then drove off. Shortly afterwards, we finally got a ride, by which time my dad had had to pass Zagreb to collect us. In all we met at a petrol station 100km short of Zagreb.
Excited to see my family, I climbed up onto the railing at the side of the motorway waving my arms and shouting as my brother lent wildly at the car waving back. It was just starting to rain and I only had to wait for them to turn around at the next exit before I would be in the warm and dry. Seconds later I receive a frantic call from my Dad. “Where are you? We didn’t see you.” Turns out my brother was hanging out the window waving wildly without even knowing that I was there. Not one of the three saw me waving back equally as frantically. I promised I was there and that I saw them although I’m not sure my dad really believed me until he turned around and came to collect me. We had just lucked on peanuts and yoghurt and were excited for the better food we would soon be making. After a few more hundred kilometres of driving. This was my entry into Croatia. It is a beautiful country of beaches and ancient buildings.
Here is a new adjective for today. Puckish. It means playful, especially in a mischievous way. I like this word. Use it well.
And yes, I found a filter feature for my photos.