Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alive and kicking (part 3): Halle - Kraków

I was expecting Halle to be cheap and indeed it was. It’s a cute city in the East of Germany, home of the biggest university in Saxony-Anhalt and one of the oldest in Germany. Cobbled stone small streets. Gothic churches, especially Marktkirche.  I walked a lot. I got lost a lot. I got lost more than I walked.  Instead of taking the tram to the place where I could start hitchhiking, I decided to walk. It was a nice day for a walk anyway. It took me about an hour’s walk. I had almost 700 Km to go. It could be done in one day they say. Well, I didn’t do it in one day. Finding a ride to Leipzig was easy. Once there, leaving was impossible, at least for me that day. I tried in two different places. In the first one at least 5 drivers stopped in a period of 2 hours. They were not going my way. One was going to Zwickau. Later that day I thought maybe it could’ve been wise to take that ride. Well, I didn’t and moved to the other place. That alone took me almost an a hour. I’ve made so far less than 50 Km. It was getting late. It was the 25th anniversary of the German reunification. There was policemen every-fucking-where. I don’t think I have seen so many policemen in one day. No less than 60 police cars drove beside me. Finally I gave up. Went back to the HbF. Ate something and stared to use the Internet in McRubbish. Yes, I did eat there this time. I was starving. I had nothing in my stomach. It was 7 in the evening. Fuck off! Asked a girl if she could translate to me some text from Mitfahrgelegenheit. We started talking. She was waiting for her husband to pick her up and driving back to Dresden. Dresden! That’s where I’m going, I mean, I was going to Dresdner Tor, the petrol station just before Dresden. I had been stuck there twice before: Berlin – Prague in 2010 and Brussel – Kraków in 2011. They drove me there. Funny: It took me to thumb for two hours somewhere without success, then get on the public transport for an hour to go somewhere else and thumb an additional three hours, also without success, to find a ride in the most unsuspected place: the top floor of a McRubbish restaurant. Hitchhiking works in mysterious ways. It was not very, very late. I tried to get a tide to Wrocław. I figured once there I could call someone I know there hoping he or she will be back living there. If not, there is always the train station. No worries. I didn’t sleep at the train station because I didn’t find a ride. In 2011 I stupidly slept outside. It was not cold.  This time it was not that cold but I just didn’t want to. I went to the restaurant and bought an overpriced bottle of water and asked in my nicest and most polite tone if I could sit somewhere inside the restaurant, the lady behind the register, maybe in her 50s or 60s gave me a motherly look, then she smiled while nodding her head. She knew I needed somewhere warm to spend the night. I lay down on the cushioned bench type seat and tried to sleep. It was utterly uncomfortable but I was warm. Finally I slept from 2 to 6. I remember exactly the time because when I turned on my iPod it still had the time from when I last turned it on.  I woke up. Started to get ready and walked out of the restaurant not before thanking the restaurant lady. She smiled back.

Went back to the pumps. I heard an engine running. Quickly grabbed my shit and ran towards the lorry trying not to spill the coffee and get burned. Marek agreed to take to Wrocław. We stopped for a pausa in the first big petrol station after crossing the border. 5 minutes after… no, not even 5, even less than 5 minutes after setting foot on Polish soil I remembered one of the reasons why I love this country so much. Marek was going to Łódź but he was going close to where I had to get off, he decided to drive the more or less 5 Km between his exit the petrol station on the A4, right outside Wrocław. From there another guy drove me to Opole. He was asking, without any success, on the CB radio every time he saw another lorry that might go on my direction. In that petrol station I had so many looks of disgust from Poles. I saw a VW kombi. Asked the guy, his car had Slovenian number plates. He worked in Wrocław but was going back home to Ljubljana for the weekend. He took me to Gliwice. There, another guy agreed to take me but we had to wait a bit for his colleague because he needed to give him something. I asked a couple other drivers walking nearby but nothing. Alright, I told myself, you found a ride anyway, don’t mind if I wait a bit more. The 30 Km between Gliwice and Katowice took almost an hour. There was a massive traffic jam at the péage, the queue was a couple of kilometres long. Finally I was in Katowice, I asked a guy with long hair that seemed nice. He was. He said yes. Speed limit was, I think 120, he was driving 180. Given the way he drove, I think he was in a hurry.

So peeps, that’s how I got to the lovely city of Kraków, the place I stayed for a bit over two weeks. The place that I always enjoy going.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Alive and kicking (part 2): BXL - Halle

photo by Rosa
But I think that the most random weekend so far was in Brussel. Me and my friends Margaux and Rosa were looking for a place to eat and then to have a beer. We ended up in this pub that I still don’t know the name when two guys started talking to the Little One and the Curly Hair One. Long story short they ended up taking us to a couple of other pubs, one club that we didn’t go inside because there was a cover charge and finally to a pub that I had been before and that I never remember the name. We had no idea where the fuck were we nor how to get back. One of them gave us a ride home. The second day was by no means less random than the night before. My friend Wim told me about a house party somewhere in BXL. The three of us took the tram to the center and were going to see what would happen next. I saw a big mess in the back of the tram, someone with a Thor helmet, people in costumes… It was Kat and Jeff and Gert! We went to this awesome house party that only God knows (and them) knew where it was. We left, drunk with a rough idea where to go, we had a hand drawn map. In the middle of my drunkeness I started to hitch… at 4 in the morning and drunk! Then suddenly, a taxi stopped. My first reaction was “we don’t have money!”. He didn’t care, he drove us to 3 or 4 street from home and of course, for free.

Wim’s flat is in the North of BXL, it’s actually on the road that leads to Antwerpen which is where I was going next. To meet Johanna, whom I met in Granada. I also met with Janne; I met her in Estonia last year whilst working in the same hostel. I spent only a couple of days in Antwerpen. Wanted to meet with other people but, well, they were busy.

There I was, standing next to a McRubbish, resisting the urge to go inside and eat some of the most delicious rubbish I have ever eaten, but I didn’t do go inside, I refused to do it. Instead, I found a ride to the first petrol after the Dutch border.  The guy was going to Rotterdam. I have never been to Rotterdam I said to myself. It was still early and I still had time.  Why the hell not stop a few hours and then continue my way to Utrecht? That’s what I did. I was very surprised about Rotterdam, it’s nothing like I experienced in The Netherlands. Everything is very modern, basically no old building. Not that it’s bad but I’m used to see really old shit in NL. The building and bridges were really nice. After a few hours I decided that it was time to leave. I was not far away from Utrecht, a mere 60 Km. but still took me a few hours to find a ride. Two good looking girls stopped for me and asked me where I was going but unfortunately for me they were not going in my direction.  Pity, there were really cute. So I stood there for a couple more hours. A couple of drivers stopped but all where going everywhere but Utrecht. Finally a Spanish speaking Dutch guy stopped and drove me to Utrecht. I mean, some drivers tell you “I need to be somewhere so I’m letting you off here”. I’m not complaining about this, they did me a huge favour bringing me there but this guy was like “I just need to make a quick phone call”, this phone call was to his colleague telling him that he was going to be late because he was driving me all the fucking way to Edy’s house! He spoke perfect Spanish with an Argentinian accent. His name is Ariel (well, that Latinoamericanized version of his name, the version he told me).

The time I spent in Utrecht, as always, was really nice. Catching up with one of my best friends. Eating a frozen pizza (like the ones I used to eat in Tallinn) while having a beer: priceless. I spent the weekend and met with Livia whom I met in Tallinn. I also met with Tami. She did a semester in Spain but we couldn’t match our schedules.  I did nothing else than relax in Utrecht. Siemen, a guy I met in Granada took one day to visit Utrecht and drink a few beers with me and Maria who was also visiting town. All in all was a great few days spent in NL.

photo by Livia
There is a place that I always use when leaving Utrecht. Is the entrance of the ring road A27; I’ve used this place to go east to Berlin and South to Antwerpen. I thought it was still the best place. It’s not as perfect as before. Before there was a broke down lane, now it’s a two lane on ramp. Still a few cars stopped before finally getting a ride with a new mum and her 8-week-old baby girl. A Mechanical Engineering asked me where I was from and agreed to take me to the next petrol station. After a few minutes of conversation he mentioned that he lived 10 minutes from where we were and asked me if I wanted to stop for a coffee and a sandwich before continuing. I had still about 500 Km to go but it was relatively early so I thought why not? After an hour we were on the road again. A couple of years ago I was on the motorway near Hengelo, stuck on my way to Berlin. It was not only before a couple of hours of asking people and thumbing that a polish lorry driver took me to Magdeburg. This time was exactly the same. Slow but steady ride. When I made it to Magdeburg it was already dark exactly like a few years ago. What was different was that then, is that I found a straight ride to Berlin in a matter of minutes. This time, eerr, well not exactly. I even scared a woman and her daughter when I asked them for a ride while they were walking to the shop, but when they came out, they wished me luck. To not make things longer, after maybe three hours, I went inside for a coffee. I heard some people talking behind me. I asked politely if they were going direction Leipzig to what they answered that they were in fact going that way. They agreed to take me but warned me that the car was small. I though they were riding a VW Golf or maybe something even a bit smaller… it was a fucking Audi A5! That’s a semi sports car for fucks sake! The 120 Km between the petrol station and Halle were done in about an hour. There were construction works that slowed us down from 180 KPH to about 80 KPH in some parts of the motorway. One of them used to work for a company that was doing business with a Guatemalan company. "I don't know any Estonians but I do know some good Guatemalans" he told me when we talked about Estonia. They took me to Halle HbF and by 22:00 I was already having a Sternie with Anna.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Alive and kicking (part 1): Leaving Granada - BXL

That’s right, I’m alive. My life has been intense since the last crap I wrote. Met some wonderful new people that I wanted to take with me. I met someone very special the last weekend I was in Granada. I am indeed the King of Bad Timing. I spent more time in my second home (or first?), oh yeah, that place is Hamelin. That pub became a very special place for me. The barmen became my friends, I did some crazy shit there. I slept at the bar more time than I would like to accept. I would be in a position to deny that but unfortunately there are a few photos of me sleeping. Since I started traveling I don’t listen to radio and I don’t what to look for on youtube, I mean new music. My music library has grown very, very slowly. But despite that fact along the years I managed to came to know some really great bands. I’m not sure if I knew them before but in Granada I became a fan of The Black Keys; and I specially like one song: Lonely Boy. I’m not sure who was it that changed the name of the song to Lonely Ron but I liked it. From then on I sang that song, let’s say a lot.  I even managed to get a shot named after me… yup, you guessed it right, the name of MY  shot is Lonely Ron. The last beer I had there, the Sunday before I left was very, very emotional.
 (photos courtesy of Syrmo Kyrstopoulo)

photo by Cristina
I needed to be in Paris fast and given the fact that hitchhiking in Spain is utterly unpredictable, I decided not to hitchhike whilst still in the country. I found myself in Bilbao 12 hours after leaving Granada. I had been there before, 4 years prior. In Bilbao I met with my friend Cristina. She spent 5 years in Australia. I haven’t seen her in the same amount of time. We talked about of love stories, about traveling, about traveling and love stories. We had a lot to catch up… a lot! Although, 3 days was not enough to get up to date for the last 5 years, but we have an idea of what we did in that time. Sometimes some people tell me “life has taken us different ways, you are traveling the world. Distance tends to drive people off". Not in this case, I felt like the last time I saw Cristina was a month ago (a 5 year 30 days ago, if that makes any sense. It does in my head).

The route that lorry drivers take from Portugal/Spain to Northern Europe “goes through” San Sebastián. So there I was, at 6 in the morning looking for a way out. I decided to share a ride to the first petrol station on French soil. The driver didn't charge me... it ended being sort of hitchhiking. Once there, 5 minutes later I was inside a Portuguese lorry on my way to Bordeaux. I think that Granada turned me uglier. I spent 7 hours stuck in that damn petrol station! Nothing was working. I was asking people near the pumps. No one was going to Paris. In December I was on the other side of the road, going to Madrid and I found an straight ride after less than 30 minutes (we had breakfast in those 30 minutes of waiting). Why on this side was different? Dafuq should I know! I just knew that no one was picking me up. I was desperate. I was anxious. I was hungry. I only had one apple, one peach and one pear in my stomach. Finally, by 17:00, a Belgian car drove me to Paris… super fast! I was very scared but I didn’t care, I was finally going to Paris, for the third time.

Paris, the City of Light. Twice before I had been there and twice before was nothing special. In fact, I’m not a big fan of Paris but I was supposed to meet someone there, someone that never came. Therefore, third time was not the charm.  I met some nice people there so it was alright. I met with my good friend Lempi and everything was alright.

Leaving Paris is always a major pain in the ass; this time was not the exception. The distance between Paris and Lille is not that much so I decided not to start as early as I normally would. After four hours of sharing the spot with four other people, I finally left and was having a beer with my friend Chloé by 17:00. The first thing I noticed when I saw the beers on the table was, where the fuck is the food? Oh yeah, I was not in Spain anymore. Summer of 2013 I met a nice Moroccan in Tallinn. A year later I was meeting Abde in Lille for a coffee.

I was standing in the entrance of the motorway. A place I had been standing twice before. The first time I was there I was going back to Belgium and I found a ride straight to BXL. The second time I was going South, I was going to Saint-Loubès and found a ride to the first petrol station on the motorway. Both times it took like maybe an hour or two. Both times I was with a girl. This time though, I was alone. This time it took me I think more than four hours. Not one single car even stopped to ask me where I was going. I didn’t remember that hitchhiking in France was that hard. I saw a lorry with Belgian number plates and immediately showed him the “BXL” sign I had been using. Suddenly, the unexpected happened: the driver agreed to take me! After introducing myself and talking for a bit he told me that he was not going to BXL but to Antwerpen through Gent… Fuck it, I was on my way to Belgium, I didn’t care. As long as Belgium was still as easy to hitch as it has been in the past, I could be anywhere and still make it before dinnertime to my destination. He offered me to take me to Antwerpen (it would’ve been as easy to go there and hitchhike down to BXL but why bother to add an extra 100ish Km) but I asked to be dropped off before Gent, right before the crossroads on the motorway leading to BXL. 10 minutes went by and I was offered a cigar whilst being driven the petrol station on the motorway. There I asked a few drivers but they were going not quite to Brussel (by the way, for those of you who do not know: BXL = Brussel = Brussels). Finding a ride in 10 minutes is super cool, especially after being stuck for 4 hours in the same place. Belgium is the country where I had the most rides in luxury cars. I saw a fancy MercedesBenz S-Class, the driver looked (and was) a businessman. He changed his name to Dries when he converted to Islam, over 20 years ago. He used to hitchhike and told me that Spain was once easy to hitchhike and that Guardia Civil had always been assholes. Oh yeah, he told me this while driving me to BXL.