It was in a considerably more sober state that I continued on my hitchhiking journey. My Slovakian friend took me and my fellow hitcher into Bratislava for long enough to sit on a leaky beanbag and look out over the river. From here we were taken to Vienna so that he could acquire his visa for his upcoming hitch to India via Iran and Pakistan. A journey I am envious of.
Austria is not a country that has ever had had any lure and I never much had an interest for visiting Vienna, the capital. I presumed it to be industrialised and uninspiring. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was quite wrong. Vienna is a beautiful city full of interesting architecture. It’s also rather clean. It’s the sort of city in which you can entertain yourself simply by walking into churches and admiring everything around you without having to pay for the privilege. As if that wasn’t enough, there is also a nice duck lake by which one can sit and eat hummus.
The downside of Vienna was that I let my phone go dead and lost contact with my host for the evening, meaning that I spent quite a while waiting outside their house before walking for several hours to pass the time. Between us, although not actually involving me, we managed break a kindle by dropping it. I presumed that they would have been somewhat stronger, but even in it’s protective case, the drop from chest height destroyed it’s screen. Fortunately it wasn’t my kindle so I still had the pleasure of reading. For the days that followed, I was constantly bugged every time I wanted to read because my companion was no longer able to read and thought it appropriate to stop me from doing so. Thus, we effectively broke our kindles. Although these unfortunate events happened in Vienna, one can safely assume it wasn’t in fact Vienna’s fault.
As a hitchhiker, I don’t need a lot. I like my kindle to read and I like having my toothbrush to clean my teeth. People I meet appreciate it when I have a spare change of clothes too. One thing that I do enjoy having for the great pleasure it gives me, is my camera. I have a Nikon D5100 which is quite an expensive camera for someone who claims not to need a lot. I had been taking photos during an evening as I wandered the streets and decided to rest for a bit. After sitting down in a park, I forgot it. I simply got up from the bench I was sitting on and left my camera there. It wasn’t until many minutes later that I realised my mistake.
A few months before, I thought I had broken the rather expensive zoom lens that I have. Things happen that you can’t do anything about and you have to let them go. I had shrugged off the lens damage almost instantly but realised that my camera might possibly still be salvageable. Arms and legs flailing, I ran like a kid all the way back to the park. I’ve always had a rather unusual, energy inefficient run. It’s one of the reasons I don’t run in cities. Funny run aside, I got back to the park and found the camera at the park bench, right where I left it. Thank-you Vienna.
One of the best free attractions in Vienna is walking in the castle grounds. They are well kept and the building itself is quite beautiful. It’s the sort of attraction that I can’t work out if you have to pay for. By walking through the ticket area and into the gardens, you don’t have to pay. By mistake or not, I very much enjoyed the fountains and the views of the city that you get for free. Standing and looking over the city, watching the world pass you by, everything feels a little bit more than OK. The world is very big but it is also right there in front of you and it is waiting to be explored. You don’t have to see anything and you don’t have to go anywhere, but you know that the opportunity is there if you chose to take it.
Getting out of Vienna proved rather more challenging than anticipated. Against my wishes, I was going back to Prague. A city I love, but preferred not to return to.
I took a bus to the outskirts of the city and tried to hitch a ride to the motorway. No-one wants to take hitchhikers in Austria. I pushed it up to the top of my list with Italy as one of the worst countries to hitchhike in. Eventually a UPS driver pitied us and after seeing us standing in multiple places over the span of an hour, he said he’d help us get to the motorway. The catch was that we’d have to go on his delivery run. We weaved through villages for many kilometres and over an hour later, were dropped a few kilometres from where we had been waiting in a much better hitchhiking spot. He was another little part of my story who helped to demonstrate that the world isn’t such a bad place after all.
Grabbing cardboard from bins at a service station, we quickly flagged a lift from two Czech guys who had driven into Austria in the search of higher paying jobs. They were in a happy mood after their successful job hunt and were happily blazing away on joints as they drove. We agreed to meet them in their home town of Brno upon our return and as we left the car, the guy who didn’t speak a word of English grinned and pulled out a huge jar filled with weed. He put a sizeable amount into a small plastic bag and handed it to me. I thanked him and as they drove off, I crumbled it into grass on the side of the road. Foreign law enforcement officers fall into the rather small group of people I don’t enjoy associating with. I was reading about the Kabbalah and the different levels of giving. Without offering too much detail, one level details the act of receiving for the benefit of the giver. You take something not to please yourself, but rather to please the giver. Thinking back, this receiving would fall into that category. You might have to put your prejudices about illegal products away before acknowledging this idea, but the guy had the best of intentions and it pleased him to share with me. I argue that by taking what he gave me, despite not intending to use it, my motivations were good.
I’ve never really had green fingers and I don’t know much about growing things. I know that once they have grown, I do rather enjoy eating and observing them. Thus I am unsure of the outcome of my actions and most probably nothing happened. However, I like to think that on the side of a road somewhere in the Czech Republic, there is now a new plant for the amusement or pleasure of passers by. This thought never struck me at the time, but it is one of those little things that make me smile when I think back on it. If I don’t know where it is or whether anything grew, how can you? For the benefit of the story, let’s say that it grew and that there is now a healthy young plant on the way. The truth is relative of course. Relative to where you’re standing and what you can see.
I once heard a story about a man who fed five thousand people with only five small loaves of bread and two fish. This seemingly outrageous story is widely accepted and believed as a miracle in many circles across the world. I might be so bold as to interpret that it was the main person in this story that had only five loaves of bread and two fish to share with the 5,000 people who were following him. At his suggestion to share the food, everyone participated. Although he only offered the small token of food in his possession, everyone else took the food that they had prepared in their packs and shared it with the others. In this sense, the man did indeed feed five thousand people with only five loaves and two fish. However, it wasn’t a miracle, simply a demonstration of human compassion on a large scale. Science is the art of looking into why something happens, while faith is the art of blindly believing it without need of further explanation.
I am a scientist. I also have a little faith. Just not in any religious texts. Truth is relative because you can stand wherever you like. And so can everyone else.