2:25 am the owner of the gas station woke me up. Don’t know what he said but I guess he said “don’t sleep in here punk”. I staggered to the counter to buy myself an
2:25 am the owner of the gas station woke me up. Don’t know what he said but I guess he said “don’t sleep in here punk”.
I staggered to the counter to buy myself an espresso to keep awake. But all coffee in the world would have been chanceless against the last 19 hours of hitchhiking so I had no choice but to get out and let the cold keep my eyelids up.
I went back to the truck lane. I had had a few nice talks there, and some trucks stayed there for a while and you could catch them when they came out of the customs with their papers. After an hour or three the police came and told me that I couldn’t be there, so I went up to the gas station and thumbed until sunrise. When the sun came up I thought about that parking place they had been talking about. Most truckers I had talked to had said they would sleep a bit further into Romania, so if all of them were at that parking place 1 km from here, then there must be a 100 trucks there. And perhaps they’re all brushing their teeth right now, perhaps I should hurry.
With the light disappeared the fear of dogs and border mosquitoes and I walked and walked and walked. After one kilometer I saw a road sign indicating a parking place after another 3 kilometers. After those 3 kilometers I found the parking place. It had 4 trucks on it and was big enough to accommodate 4 more. Thanks a lot for your wonderful advice, assholes.
2 trucks were sleeping, the other 2 weren’t going anywhere and I bought 2 packs of cookies for breakfast and found it better to walk the 4 kilometers back to the border rather than staying at this meaningless place. After 1 kilometer I saw a truck parked by the roadside; its driver seemed to be taking a piss. Keeping an eye on the pissing man I walked as fast as I could, ready to start running if he started to shake it and put it inside. Then the truck started moving; it wasn’t the driver pissing but somebody totally unrelated. I saw it was a Turkish truck, started running towards it, waved my arms and shouted “hey!” “hey!”
He stopped and made the “what-the-hell-do-you-want-from-me”-gesture. I opened the door to the cabin, climbed up and said “ich faren nach torkai”. He looked very suspicious: “really?” “where are you from?” “Sweden” I said. “Passport” he said. I showed him my passport and he shone up. He was driving a Swedish truck and working for a Swedish company, transporting Volvo parts from Göteborg, Ericsson stuff from Stockholm and chainsaws from Småland, so picking up a Swedish hitchhiker just made his Swedish life complete.
He didn’t go very far, only to a restaurant where he would rest for 8 hours. But I guessed that the restaurant would be a place full of Turkish truck drivers and that I could get another ride from there, so I broke my principle of waiting for someone straight to Bucharest and joined him. One doesn’t have too many principles left after 11 hours.
“Do you like Romania?” he asked. I hesitated, thinking that I shouldn’t draw any conclusions about this country from my night on the border. “No, you don’t!” he said and laughed. “Do you?” I asked. “Yes”, he said “very much”. “Romania Bulgaria komplett madam sex keine problem” he continued. Those 7 words came in various constellations during the ride.
He also asked me if I was Christian and I proudly declared that I was a third generation atheist and he said “Satanist? Hahaha.” and then he started complaining at France sabotaging Turkey’s membership negotiations with the EU because of their religion.
After an hour or so we came to his truck stop, which was full of trucks. The first one I asked was going in the Hungary direction. The second one as well. The third one tried to sneak away in the opposite direction and I thought that might be Turkey so I ran towards him and waved my arms and my sign. He stopped and also made the “what-the-hell-do-you-want-from-me”-gesture, I opened the door to the cabin, climbed up and said “ich faren nach torkai”. He looked very suspicious: “Really? Where are you from?” “Sweden” I said. “Passport” he said. I showed him my passport and he shone up. Sweden seems to be a good nationality with Turkish truckers.
He was going to Istanbul. I had a very good appointment in Istanbul and I was afraid to jeopardize it by letting go of this ride, so I sent a text message to Adina in Bucharest and said that I had been unlucky hitchhiking and wouldn’t make it in time. Then I passed out. He woke me up at a Turkish restaurant. “Kollega” he said, “eat”. We got in and I had a big kebab. He knew everyone in there. The food was very real. Tasted like home but with more food and less sauce. It was very guzel. When my belly was full like a balloon and we had drunk our tea I tried to go up and pay but Ahmed was faster than me. “Teshekur” I said and we got in the truck.
Transylvania was very beautiful. Every time I woke up I just sat back and enjoyed the river on our left and the green mountains on our right. After a few hours we stopped at another Turkish restaurant. “Kollega” he said, “eat”. He knew everyone in there. He ate another breakfast but I was still full like I’ve never been before and only had some glasses of Turkish tea. Then we got in the truck again and continued through beautiful Transylvania. We couldn’t talk much; he only knew 10 words or so in German. Our communication consisted almost entirely of him pointing at girls on the street saying “madame guzel” and I made a gesture to comment his comment. Sometimes I joked with him by saying “guzel” while pointing to a man and he thought that was very funny. We stopped at another Turkish restaurant and had some tea. He didn’t know anyone here. We didn’t eat so we didn’t have to pay anything, the tea was for free. That’s civilization!
After a while we were out of the mountains and the landscape got flat and rather depressing. As we approached Bucharest we got caught in a traffic jam and he got a problem with the truck; it sounded “ssskrinkaklong” every time he made a right turn. Luckily there was a Turkish restaurant outside Bucharest where he could get some help. There were about 40 Turkish trucks parked here. I thought that if I could get into town from here, and back here tomorrow morning, then I’d probably be able to get another Turkish truck soon enough to be in time for my game session in Istanbul. I sent an sms to Adina to see if Bucharest was still game but she replied that everyone had made up other plans now that I had cancelled on them. Damn. Well, well, next time. One day I will come to see the good side of Romania and then me and Adina and all her strategy game-loving Japanese-studying friends will play board games.
But the Turkish restaurants were also a really good side of Romania, would have been of every country. The friendship that these houses were built of instead of stones and plank and that poured over oneself was only matched by the neverending streams of Turkish tea, so strong that I needed sugar to get it down. My friend Fredrik would have liked the tea, he always wants it “black as death”. He was in a bit of a hurry so we didn’t eat there. We drove until night fell and we passed the border to Bulgaria, where we stopped at a Turkish restaurant.
And now I would like to add the statistics from Romania into the lists. Unfortunately I stopped counting cars, but I guesstimate that roughly 400 cars were – one way or the other – given the offer of my company on their ride. As for the time, 11 hours is quite an accurate estimation, I did spend some time inside the gas station, but on the other hand I spent some time at the first Turkish restaurant. The figures from all the countries are to be interpreted carefully of course (if at all), but this Romanian observation especially so. Remember that it was dark for most of the time. On the other hand, I was at a border loaded with trucks, which should be a prime location. Here is the statistics for whatever it’s worth:
- Switzerland 10 / 270 = 3,7%
- Spain 28 / 1188 = 2,4%
- Hungary 14 / 716 = 2,0%
- France 15 / 1222 = 1,2%
- Romania 4 / 400 = 1,0%
- Portugal 3 / 1516 = 0,2%
- Switzerland 45 min / 10 offers = 5 min/offer
- Spain 413 min / 28 offers = 15 min/offer
- France 237 min / 15 offers = 16 min/offer
- Hungary 239 min / 14 offers = 17 min/offer
- Portugal 192 min / 3 offers = 64 min/offer
- Romania 660 min / 4 offers = 165 min / offer
Proportion of trucks
Switzerland 0/10 = 0%
Hungary 2/14 = 14%
France 4/15 = 27%
Spain 8/28 = 29%
Portugal 2/3 = 67%
Romania 4/4 = 100%
Switzerland Male: 8/10 = 80% Mixed: 1/10 = 10% Female: 1/10 = 10 %
France Male: 13/15 = 87% Mixed: 1/15 = 7 % Female: 1/15 = 7%
Spain Male: 21/28 = 75% Mixed: 6/28 = 21% Female: 1/28 = 4%
Hungary Male 11/14 = 79% Mixed 3/14 = 21%
Portugal Male: 3/3 = 100%
Romania Male 4/4 = 100%
Ahmed had said that he would spend the night at this border, and then sleep again at the Turkish border. It surprised me that Bulgaria would take a whole day to cross. I was worried about where I would sleep. We hadn’t really talked about how far I should join him. We hadn’t talked about where I should sleep. In fact, we didn’t talk much at all because we couldn’t talk. All he could say was “madame guzel” and all I could answer him was a face of approval or disapproval. The dogs were barking and I didn’t mind the cold but my Romanian hitchhiking friend had said that I shouldn’t spend the night outside in Bulgaria and if a girl who hitchhikes alone to China says that then I should comply. I looked at Ahmed’s face as he sat and wiped it after a long day’s drive and tried to figure out what he was thinking.
“Kollega” he said and gestured me to follow him inside the Turkish restaurant. It was the coziest restaurant there ever was. Needless to say, it was full of Turkish truckers with moustaches who ate a sturdy stew. We cruised the premises and he introduced me to all the guests and the staff and then we squeezed ourselves down at a thick wooden table occupied by a man who was drinking a special kind of Turkish spirits that turned milky when mixed with water while watching some exciting show on the Turkish television. I got myself a generous plate of the stew and I am sorry for all you culinaric people out there on the internet by I haven’t the slightest idea of what it was before, during or after I ate it. But the taste was wonderful, I deem say perfect. It was – as my friend Östhammar would have put it – an honest dish.
After dinner we went back to the truck and I made my face a question mark and pointed outside and inside and asked “schlafen?” and he said “keine problem” and arranged the bed. I got up in the upper one and fell asleep rather soon.