I woke up by the loudspeakers announcing our arrival and stepped out on car deck. When I saw everyone jumping into their cars without me I regretted my cowardliness. I was like a stone age
I woke up by the loudspeakers announcing our arrival and stepped out on car deck. When I saw everyone jumping into their cars without me I regretted my cowardliness.
I was like a stone age hunter who spent the whole night with a herd of mammoths trapped in a small cage and just sat with the spear and arrow doing nothing. And now the mammoths fled into the forest, spreading into all directions and would each require hours of tracking to get caught. A hunter like me hadn’t survived.
In the port I found a map of Rostock. There was one highway entrance starting here in the harbor, one 5 kilometers down south which took cars from a fairly large road, and a third one another kilometer South which took cars from Rostock city and seemed to be a good place to stand.
But since my legs had still not forgiven me despite a whole day’s rest and hot bath, I decided to stay for at least an hour at the harbour highway entrance.
I wondered how many of the truck drivers who now passed me asked themselves “why didn’t he talk to me yesterday? I won’t stop this truck now”. I wanted to go back in time to yesterday night and slap myself in the face.
The entrance was technically very suitable for hitchhiking and the car flow at 2-3 a minute, with a very large proportion of trucks. I started at 7:08 and the sky was grey and depressing. After 45 minutes car number 123 stopped and I asked: “Faren si richtung Berlin?” “Lieifdejidcn” the driver replied, shaking his head. “Kommen si forbie eine grosse rastschtätte?” “Nein, iojqhdejhbdchwb” the driver shook his head. “Eeeh … how many kilometers do you go?” “only 2” “Is there a good entrance over there?” “Nein, I think it’s better for you to stay here”. “Ok. Danke schön” I said and he drove away. The next moment I changed my mind. I was ready to walk from this place to the next entrance, so 2 kilometers would spare me some leg pain. I decided to join the next driver no matter how short he’d go.
The next car to stop was number 166 and stopped at 8:01, after 53 minutes of waiting. It was a Czech trailer that was passing Berlin on his way home. Wonderful!
He didn’t speak much English and I regretted that I hadn’t taken time to purchase a good Czechian text book in Uppsala. Here I had a private Czech tutor for 232 kilometers and I was to waste it on looking out the window!
He was single but had a baby daughter whom he showed pictures of.
After an hour and half the language exercise had blown both our brains out, so we fell silent and just enjoyed the scenery. At 11 am he let me off on the East of Berlin, where the highway circle crosses a main road leading straight to the center. It was far to busy and narrow to hitchhike, so I walked along it. On the way I passed a burger chain and I was screamingly hungry since I hadn’t had anything to eat but small bites of Haga’s undestroyable dark Finnish malaxlimpa that I had chewed while waiting in Rostock. But I resisted the burgers as I wanted to break my fast with something very German once in Berlin. At 11:12 I came to a gas station. Now there was no more Mr. Shy Guy; I asked every person driving up to the gas pumps if I could go with them to Berlin. The angry looks I got from the gas station staff only made it more fun; I was hoping they would come and ask me to leave so I could keep on walking.
But at 11:22, car number 16 accepted my company. It was a middle-aged couple who seemed cautious at first, but became more and more comfortable the more we tried to speak German. When we reached Berlin they gave me a metro ticket and let me off at a metro station.
I took the metro to Alexanderplatz. It is always so exciting to get on the metro in a new city, every person in there seemed like such a character. After getting off the train it took me a long time to choose an exit – I wanted my first encounter with the Berlin surface to be perfect.
And it was perfect, the first thing that met me above ground was a man selling “rostbratwurst” for 1 euro.
I found an internet cafe and called Skatar, the architect who has helped me all the way trough the graphic design of my game. He was on his work so we agreed to meet later. In the meanwhile I took a long walk around East Berlin. An amazing place, what an atmosphere!
The only stiff place I could see was a language school where they were advertising language courses, including Japanese. I thought they’d be interested in my game, but they frankly told me that the Japanese teacher had invented her own system.
Otherwise it seemed like the area has been stuck somewhere in the transition from DDR. And it seemed like a lot of people were happy about that. There were plenty of worn out buildings, wall paintings all over, tribes of punkers with dogs asking for cigarettes, “occupied” houses here and there and an “anarchist children’s play ground” complete with self-built wooden buildings, an open fire, huge pieces of scrap metal art and small children walking around on stilts like the most professional circus artists and one little boy constantly attacking an adult – also on stilts – shouting “assault! assault!”.
At 9 pm I met Skatar at Senefelderplatz subway station. He lives in a small roof apartment one block from there. 220 euro for a very central flat! If he only had spent as much time on his home as on his work then it would have been the most charming hideout in the world. Now it was just cozy.
I showed him the prototype the Czech printer had sent me, and he was delighted to see the child that he had helped deliver. He in turn showed me some work of Olauf Eliasson whom he is working for now.
Despite my tired condition I let me be talked into joining him and his girlfriend to a theatre play. What convinced was that it wasn’t a regular theatre; the play was to be performed in an abandoned house one block away in which an empty apartment had been turned into an informal bar. A squatter theatre! We walked there, entered the building through an anonymous door, paid 2 euro entrance and sat down in the audience. The play was some kind of detective story. I understood nothing, but the actors were so extrovert in their characters that they amused me anyway.
After the theatre we stayed for a while. From Skatar’s girlfriend I got to hear two discouraging stories from a hitchhiking perspective. The first was that there is a trailer right now on German television where a driver stops to pick up a hitchhiker. “I usually don’t pick up hitchhikers but I can see on a man’s appearance if he is trustworthy or not” the driver says. “Oh, can you?” replies the hitchhiker and kills everyone in the car. It’s a trailer for a horror movie about a hitchhiking serial murderer. Thank you German television, thanks for airing this while I try to get through this country.
The second discouraging story was from the first and only time she hitchhiked. They had been on a motorcycle trip through USA when one of the MCs broke down and they had to hitchhike. They were picked up by a guy who could only move one of his arms. He asked for their names and it turned out that she had the same name as his ex-wife. He took them to his house where he showed them his collection of old Nazi stuff. They had already thought he was scary and now it felt really creepy. Nothing happened though, but he asked for their addresses. Later he wrote in total six long letters to Germany. In the last letter he told that his arm was stiff from being shot during a bank robbery where he had himself killed a man and gone to prison. He wrote that “I stopped to pick you up only to take your stuff and do whatever with you. But when it turned out that you had the same name as my ex-wife, I decided to just help you.”
She never hitchhiked again.