Hitchhiking Through Germany to Berlin

The morning in Amsterdam was spent writing “Munster” on a piece of cardboard and walking towards the freeway with Rada, a Bulgarian girl I’d just met who was excited to hitchhike for the first time.

She had a friend in this German town some two hundred odd kilometers away, it was more or less on my way towards Berlin so I was happy to lead her on her first hitch. We headed down the streets until reaching the freeway, discovering that this particular entrance to the ring road madness did not lend itself very well to hitchhikers like us, there were few openings in terms of places for us to be seen and cars to pull over.

We tried anyhow, soon opting to stand alongside traffic before they turned into the giant round about. Kasey came wandering up, he too was hitchhiking, but in a different direction back towards Brussels. The three of us stood there with different signs, he managed to get himself a ride after a short time from someone heading his direction.

Rada and I waited more, then I lead her down the ramp and almost on to the freeway itself thinking I’d found a decent spot where cars could pull over. We waited a while there and I could sense her lack of patience which was becoming regret and a change of mind, she began talking about train schedules and things.

At last it was too much for her and we began walking back up the ramp, I tried to steer the thought from “train” to “another spot”, I knew there’d be no train for me, perhaps no Munster now. Right as we were about to turn the corner away from the freeway, minivan. The guy told us to hop in and we were off.

He wasn’t initially going too far, but was happy to go a bit out of his way to get us further on ours. I was happy Rada’s first attempt at hitching hadn’t ended in despair and we were cruising. The driver was a sea captain and a squatter, he threw parties at various houses there in Amsterdam and seemed to know some of the same people that we knew.

He left us at a gas station along the freeway where we quickly got the next ride from a couple guys wearing suits from Ghana, they were bound for Italy. After a decent ride and a bit of confusion we ended up getting dropped off slightly off the more direct route.

We held up our sign for a while, but the lack of cars and threat of rain finally got us walking towards the next town towards a different road for us to try our luck on. I kept her laughing even when the rain came rolling in and we at last got to town and a gas station for temporary shelter as the rain subsided.

Soon enough we were back on the road walking and got a ride from a Russian going a little ways to the next town, we were getting close to Munster by now. As he let us out we spied a store and were already ready for a beer after the day so far. Before we could cross the street, another ride, and this one was going all the way to Munster.

We happily cruised along with the guy, a police chief from Dusseldorf who talked like a tour guide and acted like one even more as he cruised us around the city, finally parking and then continuing to walk us around. Rada was able to call her friend and arrange a meeting spot and the police chief took us into the windy broad alleys and open squares of the city to point us in the right direction.

“Buchen”, that’s how I pronounced it, meant “shop that has beer” in Germany, that’s what I’d gathered anyway, so we found one and got some beer and waited for her friend. He showed up and we were off to his home where we met a roommate or two and drank some more beer while catching up.

After that it was into town, finding another good beer spot, then off to play some darts and foosball. Later in the night we wound up at a club, girls grinding and dancing, no air to talk, just groove. Somehow I stumbled into a strange backroom with different music and an empty vibe despite the slew of people. I bounced between it all and the outside where people smoked and chatted through the drunk.

The morning we woke up slowly and in stages and had a long session of coffees and toast as we attempted to reach a fully awoken state that never quite came. We wandered into the city, lead by Rada’s friend to a dark restaurant with good beer and schnitzel we shared.

The rain was still light and intermittent by the time we got back to the house, but the road was calling me. I said my goodbyes and started walking the good walk. Eventually I got a lift from a German girl in her camper van. She’d traveled all over Europe and we shared a bunch of stories, happy to be dry and moving.

At last the part of road came where she was heading one way and me the other. I hopped out thanking her and headed up the ramp to try and thumb another ride in the last hour of misty sunlight. That ride never came and I headed towards the overpass I’d spied earlier, the perfect, and virtually only, spot to camp for the night dry and hidden. I climbed up and tucked away, getting some much needed sleep.

In the morning I got sorted and climbed back down to the road where I was able to catch a ride from a happy old German guy who didn’t speak much English, but got a me a little ways. Walking along the road where he left me a cop buzzed by and honked at me, but I quickly caught a ride from someone heading towards Poland who dropped me off at a petrol station up the way.

A trucker picked me up there, he’d been all over the world and we were able to talk for a while, but soon I was nodding out again, by bridge sleep hadn’t been as solid as I could have wished for. He got me into Berlin, which I quickly learned is a pretty broad statement, the city is huge.

I managed to catch an open internet connection on the street and get in touch with my friend George who was in town, the same friend who’d told me about his friend’s big Romanian wedding which was to be my next destination. I’d met George at the North American Hitchhiking Gathering in Colorado while back, an event where we’d accounted for half those in attendance, but had plenty of fun at all the same. He gave me directions to where he was staying and I walked a far ways to get there. It was a nice walk though, some streets windy, some straight and to a grid, old bridges, benches and buildings to stare at, food in windows to drool over and signs for beer I hadn’t heard of and knew I’d eventually drink.

I got to where he was staying with his friend, another guy who’d be heading to the wedding. They were in the process of booking plane tickets while George tinkered with the idea of hitching with me instead, but ultimately pulled the trigger on the plane ticket. We ate good food and I made a beer run to honor the signs I’d seen and give my taste buds what they so desired. Along with some champagne and a joint, we rounded out the night talking about travel, the wedding, gadgets and the past months of our lives.

My Berlin stop was brief, I figured that just like Amsterdam, I’d be looping back to give it a proper visit later. The next morning I’d have to be getting a move on if I wanted to make Romania by the wedding, no plane ticket for me, just my thumb as usual.

July 23, 2011 to July 25, 2011