Day 1: Hitched from Berlin to Simmern.
Taken over by Baris, who was finishing his shift at the gas-station at Hunsrück to a Turkish wedding in his town. Loud affairs where people gulp down copious amounts of chicken, cola and whiskey/moonshine that’s hidden under the table; while dancing possessed to music that’s likely to sound cacophonous and repetitive to the outsider. But super super hospitality, where you only meet cousins or uncles. The marriage is followed by dancing in the local nightclub until 6 am and then I’m on the road again.
Day 2: Hitched from Simmern to somewhere in the French Alps.
There I meet the most wonderful grandpa of a gas-attendant, who does not speak any English but is able to more than express his genuine kindness, concern and appreciation for my ways. In the end, he breaks his call of duty and offers me more nice food (that was just thrown in the dumpster) than I can burden my backpack with. I take 2 kg of it, but with all his love and concern, I am as relieved as I’m melancholic when I find a ride towards Lyon.
Day 3: Hitch from the Alps to Alicante.
The wind is off the sails in south of France and just before Parpignan it turtles a big truck, which blocks the highway for a good 4 hours. I manage to steal a wink, smile and friendship (in that order) with Corina. She doesn’t speak any of the languages I do but agrees to take me for some of the way. She drops me at La Jonquera, just inside the Spanish Pyrenees. Hitching in Spain is hard as it is and as some of you may know, it houses the largest brothel in Europe. Interesting. The wind makes it almost impossible for me to stand my ground (even with the backpack acting as the paperweight), but my thumb soldiers on. Until I meet the David, Andreas, David, and Willi. The group of ethnic Germans, whose families have inhabited central-Asia since generations and who took to their Protestant faith very seriously. Our lives may be so different but we find a wonderful wonderful connection in those 700km together. I am not a fan of religion but am truly touched with their simplicity, sincerity and how they included me in their dinner prayers.They drop me outside R’s doorstep and we all wonder how to delay our goodbye. After hugging, shirking shoulders, playing with water-bottle, exchanging wishes and plans; I walk away with a Sikh prayer for them and a hidden tear in my eye.
What does it take to colorfully hitchhike? I get this questioned asked over and over. Well for the gear, you needn’t care two hoots about maps, tent, trekking gear, credit cards blah blah blah. The only things I check in my backpack are: sleeping bag and rubber. But what’s most essential is the ability to laugh at yourself. This point cannot be overemphasized. With it you can blag your way through in pretty much every situation that the nature or its beings throw at you.
Ah yes, informing yourself about the cultural background of the place you’re thumbing to and stuff. Well flush away your lonely planets, wordbooks and contact list of friends (of friends) if you wanna colorfully hitchhike. You’d get hold of the essential and the core of the language and the culture on the way.
To hitchhike in the winter, some quick and simple pointers that may help you a fair distance:
-Try to start as early as possible.
-Have good shoes.
-You’d be needing need lots of energy and heat. Ideal things would be peanut butter, home-made hummus, and muesli mix.
-Do your very best to keep your extremities dry.
-Rather than few heavy clothes, carry more of light ones that together weigh as much.
-Carry dry twigs in your backpack. You can burn them to keep yourself warm in case it gets too cold.
-If you do not have experience, please please please do not sleep outside in subzero temperatures. Especially when it gets below -10C. Buy a bus/train ticket to the nearest city/hostel or beg the gas attendant to let you sleep inside the station toilet. I’ve slept outside in -20C and lower a few times myself, but knowing well enough each time that I may never wake up again.