132,06$ The alarm went off at 7 am. I could hear it raining outside. The last guy I hitchhiked with yesterday had said that today would be even colder than yesterday. Close to 0 degrees.
The alarm went off at 7 am. I could hear it raining outside. The last guy I hitchhiked with yesterday had said that today would be even colder than yesterday. Close to 0 degrees. I could hear it raining outside. I did not want to go out there. I wanted to stay in this big warm hotel bed for the rest of my life. Please let me stay in this bed! Forever forever forever.
Breakfast cost 2.3 euro and was served in the huge restaurant in where they had laid three tables only; two for the other guests and one for me. Mine was far from the others, next to a window. I could feel the cold from the window. Don’t make me go out there. Three breads with honey and jam were served with a jar of tea. On top of that I got to choose one out of eight breakfast dishes. I sat for a long time trying to calculate what dish would keep me warm the longest time. Eventually I chose rice pudding with butter, cinnamon and cocoa, which after some time came in a huge bowl. It was a little bit like what we have for breakfast on Christmas and it made me warm as if I had had a sauna.
The town was completely empty at this hour. On the map I’d seen that there were two roads leading to the highway. I figured that the Eastern one must be for cars to Praha, while cars to Plzen should take take the Western one, and I tried to get on that one. When out of town I started hitchhiking, it was 8:45 and cloudy. After 8 minutes car number 8 stopped. It was an old man who took me almost to the highway. Between 9:04 and 9:09 I walked the last part and 4 cars passed by. The wind was now blowing extremely hard, so fierce that I thought my glasses would fly away each time I turned around to look for a car.
At 9:09 I stood at the entrance for Plzen and hardly any cars came. All this time wasted on waiting for cars! I wish I had a small computer with headphones and language-learning software. I’d be fluent in every language by now. After 31 minutes the 5th car stopped and a young man with bad breath took me to Plzen.
I walked to the city centre and passed the Pilsner Urquell factory on the way.
The museum of the world’s first lager wouldn’t open for half an hour so I kept on walking, eager to get to Heidelberg. The city centre was well worth a few photos.
I found the road to Germany and started hitchhiking before the city border. 9 cars passed during 1 minute at the first bus stop. 9 cars passed during 2 minutes at the second bus stop. At 11:35 I started walking backwards, holding the thumb up. After 15 minutes #80 stopped. It was a young truck driver who drove a truck full of industrial textiles from Czechia to Holland and who had a daughter and girlfriend at home. He drove for 2 weeks in a row, spent a few days with his family, drove for 2 weeks, spent a few days at home, drove 2 weeks etc. He earned 1400 euro a month. Before he used to drive to Sweden, but now a Polish firm had that route. He said that they were bad for business, that they were driving for months at a time and for 800 euro a month.
At the border to Germany he had to stop and wait for Monday. I love borders. Especially this Plzen/Nürnberg-border. Here one can really stand and be picky about what cars to take. Last time I got a ride to Frankfurt by a guy who worked for the European space project. He was sitting making his calculations in Praha and then every other week he drove to Frankfurt with a CD full of figures that were too sensitive to be sent by email or by post. This time I also got a ride to Frankfurt; after 5 minutes and 38 cars. The guy was from Budvar, city of Budweiser. He spent a good time condemning the American theft of the Budweiser trade mark for their – as he said – “bottled piss”. He got very emotional about this, driving 160 km/h, cursing American Budweiser. I tried to lead the conversation into something else to calm him down but whatever he talked about he got all aroused. IKEA made him furious; “I buy only quality! No I don’t buy, I make myself, it’s the only way to get quality!” I tried to ask him about his job, but he was very passionate about that too, which was to control the quality of automotive parts. His work was in Brussels, but every weekend he drove home to Southern Bohemia since he needed forests and lakes to relax in. In Belgium there was such a high population density that it made him bananas.
As we flew the autobahn across Germany at light speed I started checking the map for where to get off. Since he drove this way every weekend he knew there was no Raststätte south of Frankfurt. The only place to get a car southward was at Würzburg in the midst of Germany, from where I could try catching a ride in the Stuttgart direction. I went off and started asking at 15:00. It was practically storm and raining cats and dogs. Quite a bad day for running around between the gas pumps. To not get all soaked I stood inside the shop and asked people there. I don’t like harassing people inside shops, but what I could I do. The only person in the Stuttgart direction was a single woman who declined to take me along. Some other people told me that the road to Stuttgart was in the other direction. Never believe such people, 50% tell you such things because they are mean, and 50% because they are stupid. After 35 minutes and 35 cars I accepted a ride to Wiesbaden with an American soldier. Wiesbaden wasn’t better than Frankfurt, in fact it was worse, but I was tired of this place and the American soldier looked nice and had a comfortable and dry car. We had a very interesting conversation all the way. We couldn’t avoid talking about Iraq, where he had been for a total of 2,5 years. Now he was stationed in Wiesbaden, which he found pretty boring. I didn’t asked about his age, but he seemed to be much younger than me but still much more an adult. He thought the train from Wiesbaden to Heidelberg was only 5 euro and took me to the train station and gave me 5 euro. I accepted the bill, not because I am desperately low on money, but because it made taking the train hurt my pride less.
But the train was 17 euro. Shocked, I staggered out of the ticket office and into a bookstore to look on a road map. I saw the extremely dense and complicated autobahn system between the two cities and realised that there was no way I’d get to Heidelberg before nightfall. I’d end up in between somewhere, standing in the middle of a highway labyrinth with speeding cars going to so many different places but mine. I put back the map and went back to the ticket office and forked over the 17 damn euro. Sometimes people ask me if I am not afraid of getting robbed when I hitchhike. But I’ll tell you that it is when I don’t hitchhike that I get robbed.
The train was much slower than a car, and it stopped everywhere. The most exciting thing that happened was when the conductor threw off two teenagers who didn’t have any money left for tickets after spending their life savings on stupid hip hop gear. The conductor didn’t throw me off, I would never dream of travelling for free.
A weird old man in front of me stared at me with eyes popping out of his head and talked to himself in German, making circles with his jaw. In some forest, where there wasn’t even a station, the train stopped for such a long time that we’d miss the connecting train in Darmstadt. We sat there in the forest. An unbalanced person was peering out the window with binoculars and screamed “FUCK” (in English). Damn, I knew it was dangerous to not hitchhike. Personally I handled the frustration by taking photos on the sun from the train.
In Darmstadt the connecting train was disconnected, but I found a local train to Heidelberg that stopped at every single house and hut along the way. I got restless and started walking through the train to see if there was anything interesting anywhere and ran into a big group of ice hockey fans celebrating Mannheim’s victory against Frankfurt, 6-2.
I hung out with them the rest of the trip.
In Heidelberg I called Dittrich who was a Gutish exchange student in Uppsala for some years. Me met up at the bus station outside his beautiful new-built dorm building. He lived on the 7th floor and the view from his balcony, over the river and castle and city, was the best view I’ve ever seen.
Together with his corridor mates – including a Japanese and Arabic-studying environmentalist, his friend the 16-year old musical genius already studying music at university, and a bunch of Italian exchange students – we hit the city. It was a calm Sunday night with a tall Weissbier.