Madrid – Barcelona Thu March 29

I had a so-so breakfast in the hostel and walked towards Principie Pio station admiring the desert flower gardens and thinking up games. The commuter train took me the long way all around Madrid; I

I had a so-so breakfast in the hostel and walked towards Principie Pio station admiring the desert flower gardens and thinking up games. The commuter train took me the long way all around Madrid; I should have taken the metro straight to Atocha and got on the Cercania from there and I´d have saved an hour, but I didn´t know that.

East of Madrid, Alcala de Henares is a town well worth a visit for its own besides being the place to go for hitchhiking to Barcelona. By walking straight into the town center from the station I came to the central square, and from there I found bus #6.

I got off when coming to a big shopping center, which was the advice from hitchbase. I searched for the highway but it was nowhere. Eventually I found a map and saw that there was a bus #5 leading to the “La Dehesa” shopping center. “Carlos” had written the wrong bus number on Digihitch, and thereby owes me a few hours. It took me the whole day to get there; I somehow kept on getting on the wrong buses in the wrong directions and every time I changed bus I had to buy a new ticket.

But finally I found bus number 5 and La Dehesa shopping mall and the highway entrance. I stood there in the sunshine for 15 minutes. 2 trucks and 1 man in a small car offered me rides back to Madrid. 1 truck offered me a ride to some other place. Car # 31 was a small truck that took me to a service area down the road that he thought was better for me. I stood there for 7 minutes. Car number 3 was a truck that took me to a service area outside Zaragoza. The landscape on the way was wonderful; dry and with fantastic stone formations. It looked so alien to me, like we were in a desert or in a Western movie. “Beautiful” I told the driver. “No, it´s awful” he said. Maybe he was the endless-green-forest-interrupted-by-blue-lakes-kind-of-guy. Maybe he should drive in Sweden. Our language barrier prevented deeper conversations than that and I could start developing my “nice weather”-game. It will only require 4 small game boards (one for each world average temperature), wooden/plastic markers (10 each; to show who owns what train line and what ticket price they charge), player pieces and money.

I got off at the rest area outside Zaragoza. The sun was shining and it took less than a minute for the first car to stop and pick me up. I hadn´t had time to eat anything and had to take the liberty to ask him if I could eat my bread in his car. He said that he took classes in English and needed to practice with me. He was working as an engineer for a big international company and if he could just get better in English then they would send him abroad to work in some exciting country. “Excellent”, I thought and looked forward to exchanging English for a car-ride; a perfect example of the mutual benefits of hitchhiking and how hitchhiking contributes to the development of the human species and its society. Or it could have been, if I wouldn´t have got so tired of trying to understand the sentences he put together with a vocabulary of about 200 words that I fell asleep as soon and as hard as I could. I woke up now and then, such as when he lit a cigarette. Manuel took me to a commuter train station in the South of Barcelona from where I got to Diagonal where the hostel he recommended should be.

But it happened to be on the other side of town so I took the bus there. Arrived quite late and the hostel was full. The receptionist called other hostels for me but they were all full so I took the Metro to downtown “La Rambla” where there were supposed to be cheap hotels. There was nothing suiting my budget so I walked around by myself, trying to enjoy the crowds of people that were hanging out on the street drinking beer. It would have been a great night if I could just get some peace of mind and some place to put my backpack. On a small square I sat down on a small bench and asked myself if it was possible to make a good game presentation after not sleeping during the night. Maybe I could find a hotel in the morning instead, and sleep and wash during the next day. A sudden faint rain settled it. I felt miserable.

As I randomly walked down a back alley I could suddenly hardly believe my eyes; there was a hostel with available 20€ beds. It was packed with 16-year-old Americans who were engaging heavily in mommy-is-not-here-and-I-don´t-have-to-be-21-to-drink-drinking, which resembles a lot Swedish I-don´t-have-to-be-18-to-drink-drinking, which resembles a lot Danish I-don´t-have-to-be-15-to-drink-drinking, which resembles a lot what I wish I was doing. But first I had to find an internet cafe to fill my bank card and then a cash machine to empty it again. When that was accomplished I paid my bed and got to stay with an English pensioner couple. Hey, if I pay more, can I stay with those American kids?

When I felt safe and secure i went out again. I walked up and down La Rambla, which was full of young entrepreneurs who were selling beers for 1 € a can. I eventually settled for a lonely Asian guy, hoping that he wouldn´t take me for some kind of swindler. “Hi!” I said. “Where are you from?”. He was from Thailand and he was selling beer. He wasn´t selling it in the same way as the guys on the street, but by being the sales representative of Singha in Europe. It was a great job, every month he got to go to a European country of his own choice. “Singha is a premium lager”, he said, but he soon confessed that he liked whisky a lot more than beer and that he liked it straight from the bottle and not from sissy glasses like Europeans. I promised to not risk his wonderful job by telling anyone about his true preferences. Don´t worry pal, I am just writing a book about it. He had enjoyed Barcelona a lot and recommended the guided bus tour. In August he will come to Stockholm and since I´ll still be abroad by then I told him that Mumin the passionate Singha-lover in my dorm would take him on a 2-3 hour historic walk around Uppsala. Are you fine with that Mumin? I know you are, this should be an honor for you.

We went to a club together, but without asking him explicitly I felt that we might have different expectations of this night, originating from our different marital statuses. I wouldn´t talk to girls, I would just talk to him and be in his face. So when he went for a 9 euro discotheque we shook hands and thanked for good company and I hope we´ll meet again. I walked around alone for a while, fought my way trough persistent prostitutes and then found a place full of teenage- and twenty-something Spanish boys and girls with big dreads and torned-apart clothes. There were dogs inside, but I was the only foreigner, breathing the sweetish air of massive, random weekday decadence and philosophizing about their clothing style. They might have been anarchists but they were nevertheless uniformed like an army. No one had a sweater that hadn´t big holes in it; the holes were like stamped out in a factory. When I was 12 I tried to always wear brand jeans. Yet I was stressed by the need to fit in. So at the age of 13 I said “fuck it” and tried to become a punker; I shaved the sides of my head and bought a leather coat and steeled leather boots. I was the only one in my junior high school (there was one girl with the same style in the hood but she´d dropped out of school). But as soon as I had adopted the style I realized I wasn´t much of a rebel; I just belonged to another society. A smaller society, but yet a society, with minifying rules for what to look like. As society as conformistic and intolerant as the big one outside it. Before, it was required to buy expensive trousers. Now it was required to not buy expensive trousers. A cheaper requirement, but yet a restriction on personal freedom. I started to realize that confidence and freedom wasn´t found in any clothing style. It´s found in the absence of style. The only way to fit in is to not fit in.

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