Hitch hiking around Europe results in some very big ups and downs. It isn’t often that you are caught in the middle area of life where things don’t really matter. It is amazing. It is terrible.
After the Kazakh-van, conceding defeat in my effort to reach Hamburg, I put up my tent behind some bushes near the road. As I finished putting it up, I found out that I was only a few metres from a train line. Apparently in Germany, trains travel all night. They are very fast and very loud. No matter how many times they have scared you as they go past, you still jump into wakefulness as the next one comes.
When morning came, I continued my journey to Hamburg, first with a button maker, then with a man from Algeria. We spoke at great length about God. It was interesting to hear his points of view and even more challenging to understand them. He was Muslim. This isn’t what challenged me. Our conversations were solely in French. This challenged me. He occasionally used Arabic to demonstrate the change in his voice and his passion for the Quran (there are multiple acceptable spellings for this word). There was a change in his whole being as he ‘sung’ the words of the Quran.
I told the man about the time in Canada where I took part in Ramadan for a couple of days by not eating or drinking during daylight hours. When darkness falls, you break your fast with a date. When we arrived in Hamburg, he drove me to his house and gave me a box of dates from Algeria. They were quite delicious.
As I travel around Europe, it is possible to visit people that I haven’t visited before. I spent three lovely days in Hamburg with my cousin and her family. It was the first time I had met the daughters who are only two and three years old, and very adorable. On one day I walked 12km along the river, pausing to read on the beaches and watching the boats go by. Another day I visited a miniature wonderland museum; the world, only smaller.
Leaving Hamburg, I waved goodbye to my family and had no difficulty getting on my way. Unfortunately I got dropped in quite a terrible place and spent almost two hours walking and failing to get a ride until I had to enter the motorway a little bit. I got a very fast, slightly dangerous pickup from a lady who was rather brave. She took me from that bad point of wondering what I was doing, to that good point of connecting a little bit with a stranger and loving the adventure.
She left me at a gas station where I met the first hitcher I have met on this journey. We were both going to Copenhagen and we decided to ride together. It turned out more than useful that he could speak Russian as we were picked up by a Bulgarian trucker and I slept on the bed, oblivious to whatever may have been contained in the conversation. We were still a long way short of Copenhagen as night was approaching and other rides had left us stranded in the middle of what seemed like nowhere, without traffic passing us. We contemplated going for a swim in the nearby sea and pitching up for the night until a thai-boxer and her mother saved our day and took us to Copenhagen. My couch host let us both stay and gave us a nice dinner and everything was great once more.
From my new hitch hiking companion, I learnt a little about the art of skipping. I will talk about this another day.
There is an area in Copenhagen called Christiania. It is almost outside the law and worth a visit to experience the almost lawless hippy culture and diverse, sometimes ramshackle way of living. I bought some hippy pants. Would hippy pants improve or decrease the possibility of getting a ride while hitching? For me, it turned out people don’t pick you up when you wear them. Back to normal clothes I guess.
From Copenhagen, I decided to head to France to visit a friend that I haven’t seen for several years. That is a journey of over 1,300km when driving the direct route. Out of Danish currency, I decided to walk to the highway. It took me four and a half hours to get my first ride, during which time I walked for around three hours, stood in awful hitch positions alongside the highway, and picked up some window frames when they fell off the back of a lorry. All that was washed away as a young Danish girl picked me up and nearly crashed her car into the back of another vehicle. I was back on top of the world as we chatted and I helped direct her into some festival grounds where she was soon to be working. I even attempted to get a job for myself. It almost worked and if I had have been willing to go onto the internet while I was there, I would probably now be collecting bottles in a festival ground somewhere in Denmark. As a 25 year old attractive female, driving alone, she demonstrated that hitch hiking isn’t dead yet. There is still a little trust in the world.
It was after this that I realised hippy pants aren’t good for hitch hiking and it had took me almost a whole day to travel 150km. I was struggling at best. Finally I got a ride, but it was only for a few kilometres and I had a chair resting on my lap. The man gave me some cans of pepsi and suddenly I was lifted. Maybe it was the sugar, but I felt quite OK. He left me in a place where the most amazing ride of this journey happened.
A Polish man picked me up and I rode comfortably in his truck as he gave me beer and biscuits from his hometown. We rode together for several hundred kilometers before he met up with his friend and I was transferred into that vehicle. His friend then drove me for nearly ten hours and allowed me to sleep in the top bunk of his truck as his wife slept in the bottom. Sleeping in a moving vehicle is one of the most calming experiences I have had. I woke up at nine in the morning, almost on the border between France and Germany. The impossible had happened. For my two Polish truck drivers, I am extremely grateful. Between them, they took me over 1,000 km and allowed me to sleep and relax. I may meet them again when I travel to Poland.
A few rides later, and after yelling at an English car to stop (which it did), I reached my destination in the afternoon. My destination was a small town in the French countryside, showing again that anything is possible. I was greeted by a cold a beer and a swim in the pool on a hot day. Life was / is quite amazing yet again.
Do you prefer to live life in the safe grey area, avoiding both difficulty and elation. Or rather do you prefer the roller coaster of emotions that come as a simple compliment to taking risks.
I leave you with the words of a famous American.
Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.
I couldn’t agree more.