Sète – Bern Wed Apr 4

Jean-Marque woke me up and we had some coffee and talked for a while before he drove me to the péage where I arrived at a sunny 10:17. After 12 min and 154 cars a

Jean-Marque woke me up and we had some coffee and talked for a while before he drove me to the péage where I arrived at a sunny 10:17. After 12 min and 154 cars a man picked me up and let me off at the péage outside Montpellier at 10:40. This one was full of policemen who were stopping cars and searching them, and I was wondering how this massive police presence would affect my hitchhiking. At 11:11 car number # 304 was a small truck of the perfect kind, big enough to fit all my stuff and yet be comfortable, but still really fast. The driver was a Moroccan who had left his family in Marseille and moved to Paris where he had got a job and we had a long and for me very exhausting conversation in French. He drove me all the way to Lyon where I walked for a while along the highway to find the road to Geneva. I had to climb fences and wade through bushes and climb up on bridges and walk between double-lined fences and things like that. A bit dirty and tired but happy enough I arrived at a service area on the road that I thought lead to Geneva.

There were one restaurant and one shop and I walked in between and calculated the food/euro ratio for each food item and finally settled for a box of 6 heavy almond cookies for 2 euro. They were sweet but so good.

At 14:30 I started hitchhiking; it had now gotten a bit cloudy. After one minute car # 3 stopped. It was a big truck with a driver that said that I wasn’t on the road to Geneva but that he could drive me to Chambery and put me on the right road from there. Confused, I looked down on the copy I´d drawn from Guillame’s map and thought “whatever” and got in. The driver was from Morocco and was living in Modena in Italy.

When I got off I could see the alps for the first time in my life. I stood at an onramp some 50 meters after a péage at 15:33. After 4 minutes car 21 stopped. The driver was an old but very muscular French man who told me that he had been working on an oil rig all his life and now did all kinds of sports to keep up his condition. He said that he was so angry on the lazy French people and that he would move to another country if the Socialists won the presidential election. One thing that especially made him furious was the 35-hour work week. Personally I believe that since our GDP/capita has already reached that level where additional production does not cause additional happiness, it doesn’t make sense to spend further productivity gains on increased production but rather on increased leisure time. But I kept my mouth shut, this wasn’t the reasoning kind of guy.

In Annecy I stood at 16:04 on a tight onramp. After one minute car # 10 stopped. It was a limousine taxi and the Tunisian driver was quite a character. After graduating as a system engineer in Friburg, he had worked for a bank in many years. One day he had had enough of it, took out some savings and bought this limousine cab. Now he drove rich people from the airport in Geneva to various places in the area. He was self-employed, had no loans and worked as many hours a week as he felt like, which seldom was more than 35 hours a week. My last driver would have accused him for being a lazy French Socialist, wrongly so since he was in fact a thrifty, Swiss-Tunisian Capitalist. In his youth he had hitchhiked a lot and told one story after the other.

The stories typically went like this: “Once I hitchhiked to Paris. On my way home to Friburg I happened to get a ride to Hamburg. ‘Whatever’ I thought and decided to check out Hamburg. There I met a racist who told me to go back to Africa and eat a lion so I punched him in the face. Later I met a Norwegian girl and stayed a few days with her. She tried to bring me back to Norway but I was like ‘hey, I hardly know you’ and hitchhiked back to Friburg instead. We wrote letters to each others a few times a year, but when she wrote she had a boyfriend I stopped writing her.”

I also liked this one: “I never bring my credit card on my travels. I only bring cash and I put it here and there on my body; in my socks and some other places I won’t tell you about. When I get robbed I pretend to be scared and give them the wallet and let them run away with a few euros. Once I got off the ship from Greece to Italy and fell asleep on the ground on a service area in Bari. When I woke up I had lost my wallet, and the thieves had even cut a hole through my shirt to get the stuff inside my shirt pocket, including my passport. ‘Damn’ I thought and needed to piss and went to the toilet and there was my passport on the floor. I still had enough cash on the rest of me to have a nice time all the way through Italy to Switzerland.”

Then we passed the border to Switzerland and it’s time to sum up the statistics for France:

I also liked this one: “I never bring my credit card on my travels. I only bring cash and I put it here and there on my body; in my socks and some other places I won’t tell you about. When I get robbed I pretend to be scared and give them the wallet and let them run away with a few euros. Once I got off the ship from Greece to Italy and fell asleep on the ground on a service area in Bari. When I woke up I had lost my wallet, and the thieves had even cut a hole through my shirt to get the stuff inside my shirt pocket, including my passport. ‘Damn’ I thought and needed to piss and went to the toilet and there was my passport on the floor. I still had enough cash on the rest of me to have a nice time all the way through Italy to Switzerland.”
Then we passed the border to Switzerland and it’s time to sum up the statistics for France:


Ratio Ride-offers/Cars-waved-at:

  1. Spain 28 / 1188 = 2,4%
  2. France 15 / 1222 = 1,2%
  3. Portugal 3 / 1516 = 0,2%

Ratio Minutes-waited/Ride-offers:

  1. Spain 413 min / 28 offers = 15 min/offer
  2. France 237 min / 15 offers = 16 min/offer
  3. Portugal 192 min / 3 offers = 64 min/offer

Proportion of trucks:

France 4 /15 = 27%
Spain 8 /28 = 29%
Portugal 2 / 3 = 67%

Gender:

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%
Portugal Male: 3 / 3 = 100%

He let me off in Geneva, on the way towards Bern. I asked 3 people on a gas station if they were going in the Bern direction but they said they weren’t. Then I walked along the road – which was very busy – and thumbed. After 12 minutes car # 175 stopped. It was an Afro-Swiss man who belonged to an old Bern family (with it’s name in the cathedral) but now lived in the Lausanne area. We passed through the neighborhood of some of the world’s most powerful people, including the IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad. My friend said that no one like Ingvar since he never buys anything. I am personally very proud of the richest representative of my country being so modest in his consumption, at least to the extent it isn’t a PR-trick.

He let me off at a highway entrance and said that if I wouldn’t get a ride there then I could always go back to the fashionable lakeside road and continue that way. But already after 8 minutes I had got 3 ride offers out of 18 cars. I accepted the third one, a man going to some village somewhere on the right side of Lausanne. Before he went off the highway he let me off at a gas station where I went to the exit and thumbed there. It was surprisingly chilly up here, a big change from the Mediterranean coast where I had been this morning. It was 18:13 and now very cloudy. After 8 minutes I got a ride with car # 20, a man who took me some kilometers in the Bern direction and let me off at another cloudy highway entrance where a woman stopped and said that she was probably not going my way. “OK” I said and then figured that she probably was going my way but it didn’t matter since car # 5 stopped after 1 minute.

It was an obese man who surprisingly didn’t speak any English, the first Swiss non-English speaker I’ve ever met. In silence we went through one shiny tunnel after the other. When he took off for his little village I got out and walked for the next onramp. The place was depressing and so was the weather and the vehicle density. I stood between 18:47 and 18:59 when a man (#11) stopped and brought me to Bern. He was working as a purchaser of defense materials for the Swiss army and he had gone to some small city for negotiations but there hadn’t been any meeting today. His job seemed nice; he travelled all around the world to buy supplies for the most redundant army on the planet. His car was full of small edible presents and he gave me chips, chocolate, cookies and a special kind of Swiss drink made by apple juice and that stuff which is left of the milk when you have processed cheese out of it. This very healthy leftover is in Sweden and Norway made into a special brown cheese of delicious taste, but in Switzerland it is mixed with apple juice into a drink of doubtful value.

The defense material purchaser brought me not just to Bern but all the way to Wankdorf stadium. Yes my friends, the name of the football stadium is Wankdorf. It is not a funny name, wank means something very innocent and sporty in German. I sent a text to Holger and went inside the shopping center under Wankdorf stadium to avoid the merciless Swiss spring wind and eat my loot of cookies and chocolate.

Holger was an exchange student in Uppsala in the autumn of 2003. I met him first time at the ground floor of our building and since he looked like a confused exchange student, and since I was a professional exchange student helper I asked him if he needed help and it turned out that he was coming to live in our corridor, in “Seventh Heaven”, which is on the seventh floor of house # 1 (to the right from the elevator). It is the best corridor in Flogsta, which is the best student dorm area in Uppsala. We had a great time with Holger that semester and he created a number of anecdotes. Unfortunately I think none of them is suitable for a weblog, not even a blog that contains place names such as Wankdorf, although I have been tempted to tell the story of “The Night of the Swiss Army Knives”.

After eating some chocolate and cookies I saw Holger’s famous silhouette run into Coop and grab a 6-pack of beer and some more chicken fillet. I caught him by the cashier (after he had paid) and he surprised uttered a “Haaarald” with that special Liechtensteinish “aaa” which always take me back to the roof parties of the autumn of 2003. It was a short walk back to the apartment he shares with Sarah, his golden love. There a wonderful dinner was waiting and as we ate it we summarized our lives since we last saw each other and talked nostalgically about past times like one does when meeting old friends. And of course there was a lot of “Have you heard from Huyen?”, “from Richard?” “Kerstin?”, ” Kristina?”

After dinner I borrowed Sarah’s bike and hit the town with Holger. It was wonderful to cycle for the first time on this trip. We arrived too late to the pub we were going to, and Holger said: “Now there are only 2 places still open in all Bern. One pub that is totally empty and one were we would definitely get beaten up.” “Well … sometimes the worst places are the best” I said, meaning that we should try the empty place, but Holger said in his holgerish way: “Ok, let’s go and get beaten up”.

The pub we came to was full of drug addicts. Holger talked proudly and at length (and in a low voice) about the Swiss drug policies, which include free heroin to addicts, keeping crime and disease rates low.

We also covered lots of other ground of course, but nothing of general interest. It was a a great great night.

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