My journey from Aalborg to Barcelona
[I write this post with special dedication to the people who kindly offered me places to sleep when I planned the original trip. The original plan was to drive all the way to Barcelona on my newly-acquired motorcycle but, in short, stupid paper work stopped me from doing that. So last minute I decided to try and hitchhike all the way instead. Hitchhiking obviously brought a lot of uncertainty to what times I would be at what places and I decided to aim for a relatively straight path down Europe instead of making stops in Oldenburg, Amsterdam and Paris. So thank you Sidsel, Barbara, Pierre and Anne-Gabrielle, Oriane and Sylvie, Thomas and Marina, and Julian.]
Quiet in this train. There’s a fluttering, buzzing sound from the wheels of the car skating along the tracks, and a guy ten seats in front of me speaking French on his phone. But there are only few people here, on our way from Lyon to Montpellier. I’ll have to wait two hours in Montpellier before I get on another train to Barcelona. Should be in Barcelona at eight or so tonight.
The past days have been filled with people, traffic, highway noise and that’s maybe why it feels so quiet here I could pop my ears. I’m wearing my trusty blue hat which helped me resist wind and rain. It also hid my greasy hair yesterday when I hadn’t had the possibilty of showering after breaking serious sweats walking up and down hills in Altkirch, a village near the French/German/Swiss border, and after walking five kilometers in tall grass along a big highway between Belfort and Besançon.
I met a fellow hitchhiker, Phillipp, outside a cheap truck hotel in Mulouse we both didn’t really want to stay at. We optimistically wrote Lyon on a sign there (300 km away or so) and eventually got a ride towards Belfort by a girl who was half-French, half-German. Phillipp is from Wolfsburg in Germany and I understand German so we spoke German with her. She had a huge dog in the back, one of those characterized as a fight dog in some countries (Denmark and Germany at least), and I had the pleasure of sitting with his drewling head just above my shoulder. It wouldn’t hurt anybody and seemed actually very friendly, I’m just not a huge dog fan. I’m slightly allergic to them too. I forget her name — the girl. It was getting late and she offered us to stay in the basement at her place with the disclaimer that it would be difficult to get a new ride from her village which she described as “conservative”. I guess “hitchhiking” is not part of the conservative vocabulary, so with this warning Phillipp and I decided to be dropped off before. That brought us to that small village, Altkirch, in the Alsace region which has belonged to both Germany and France.
We tried hard, for a good hour or so, to get someone to pick us up. We stood on a small parking lot in the side of the road, next to a military cemetery. It got dark and we had to give up. German döner was on the menu of what looked like the only place open at that point. We didn’t want to pay for a hotel so we decided to see if someone in the village would let us sleep in their garage or even couch. The village was pretty much in a valley so we had to walk uphill to get to some houses where we could knock on some doors and ask politely if they could offer us somewhere to sleep. We went to a house where we could see people were home, but they didn’t answer. That was slightly discouraging and I guess we had the feeling of not being welcome in this neighborhood. It also seemed left-behind, not many people around.
We went further up the valley and saw a relatively dark garden. To be honest we were not sure if it was someone’s garden or if it was just some available garden where we could sleep for the night, so we knew there was a chance of getting caught. There was a one-meter barb-wired fence around it but, being both tall guys, we could easily jump it and throw our bags over. I jumped over first and Phillipp gave me my bag. But as we were standing there in the light of a single distant, yellow street light, struggling to get Phillipp’s bag over (it was about three times as big as mine) a mad French man’s voice started shouting at us. I quickly jumped back to the “right” side and we started walking fast away from there, looking at each other with a kind of uneasy giggling, knowing very well that we had done something, which may have been completely harmless, but wrong. When we were about 50 m away we looked back and the man was still standing there shouting at us, now with a red dot pointed at us, we were too far away to see what it was but it was just one of those lasers, I don’t know what they’re called. Realizing we were trying to get away by going further up hill to a possibly dead end, I told Phillipp we had to go back and talk with the guy, say we were sorry and so on. It was obvious that this crazy man was an older guy, probably more scared by the situation than us.
So we walked back towards him, he was still yelling stuff at us, with our hands free saying désolée. Phillipp told him with the best of his French-abilities that we were just looking for a place to roll out our sleeping bags. We were not getting much of what he was saying to us, so, when I told him I didn’t really speak French, he asked me if I spoke German? Spanish? Russian? English? Apparently he spoke enough languages to be able to get by in many countries. He told us people had broken into people’s houses in that area three times, or so, last month. I think he must have been exaggerating but the point was that people were kind of paranoid about other people there. We were lucky, he said, that the guy who owned the garden we were “breaking into” didn’t catch us because he sold weapons from his basement. And, just to scare us away completely, he told us that he also had two guns under his bed. He told us there was a camping place on the other side of the valley we could go to and, to keep up the friendly tone of conversation, I asked him where the camping place was, how far away it was, if it was nice and so on. I thought about asking him about the nice old Honda motorcycle which was standing in the drive-way, but that would be too much… We said désolée, bye, have a good night and all that and set for the camping place. It was much further away than we expected but a half-whole hour or so later we arrived there. Beautiful, green place, but only two caravans, around which the grass had grown very tall. There was a small bar there we went into, just four guests, and the bartender told us the camping place was closed. At first he wouldn’t let us sleep there, but I guess we looked tired enough for him to give us a place, as long as we didn’t use the showers or the toilets. It was all free so that was great. We rolled out our sleeping bags on top of Phillipp’s poncho, it was completely dark there. We wanted to reward ourselves with a beer in the bar and we basically had to beg the bartender for him to leave it open just a few minutes more. A half hour later we saw what to-the-untrained-eye could only be a meteor falling down (too fast to be a plane, too long to be a shooting star, I guess it could also be superman) and went to sleep under the stars.
Wine fields on both sides of the train right now. Beautiful.
It felt like a long time the next morning before we finally got a ride a little further, with a young guy who ran his own window-cleaning business in the area, to Dannemarie. These villages were very cozy, local, very German/French, so to speak, but we had our minds set on going towards Lyon. If you want to travel relatively far by hitchhiking, don’t let yourself get too far away from the highway. It’s just too difficult getting back. As we were considering walking back into the small train station in Dannemarie, another guy pulling up brought big smiles on our faces. The guy was in his fifties. In his late teens, he thumbed it to the French island, Corsica. I think that’s something the young French do. Now he was an organizer of huge concerts in France. He took us to Belfort where we found something to eat. La baguette et du fromage, of course, and some fruit.
We struggled to find a good place to stand, that is, a place where people are likely to go in the same direction as us, and also where people are likely to be going relatively far away. Obviously, people who just went grocery shopping are not going to drive us too far towards Lyon. So we stood three places outside of Belfort. In the first place we found out that people were basically all coming from some place nearby, or they had been to Home-depot / Jem og Fix like places. In the second place a guy pulled over and told us more people would be going in the right direction on the other side of the street. We hadn’t gone there yet because it was slightly dangerous crossing the highway and all that. It’s also not legal to walk too close to those places. But then we did it anyway. At this point we felt like we had refined our technique. One of us in front with the sign saying where we wanted to go, the other one further back with his thumb out, the distance between us adjusted according to the typical speed people would be driving by us with. Of course we had to leave space for people to pull over. We tried signs saying LYON, DIJON, BESANCON, even A36 but noone pulled over here, even though lots of cars had room for us and were going in the right direction. I got my second, Phillipp his first, not-so-nice finger there. As we were discussing our options with the sign put away and just half a thumb out, a huge, empty school bus pulled over. The driver yelled that we had to get in quickly because he was on the clock. He could only take us 30 km or so, but we just wanted to go to a new place. Very friendly, loud guy. He spoke very little English so Phillipp did most of the talking here. I was listening carefully, trying to take in as much as possible. I could usually understand what Phillipp was saying because I knew more or less what he was talking about. And then I was worrying about the sun burning my face. It was very nice weather that day and I “had to” put on my shorts… Finally!
The bus driver dropped us off in a biiig round-about right there as he drove off the highway. He told us that many people would be coming from the city, I don’t know which one, and drive onto the highway from there. It didn’t take us long to realize that, unfortunately, almost no cars were driving our direction…
Now the train staff speaks Spanish, the train is of a slightly worse quality and I’m facing the back of the train. So when I look up over the seat in front of me I look straight at other people trying to look past me. I just had two hours in Montpellier. I let myself get lost in the small, cosy (and very tourist-pleasing) streets and had to ask for directions in French twice to find my way back. I was looking for a garden and perhaps a music store with some guitars, but ended up in two book stores and a cathedral I didn’t get the name of. The lady at the information desk asked me if I was a pilgrim, to which I had to respond, no, pas maintenaut. But I’m flattered that’s what I look like. I saw a guy bicycling with his daughter I think on the steer. She was holding two slices of pizza in one hand and spoke on the cell phone with the other. And they were both smiling. I went back to the Gare de Montpellier, felt slightly annoyed by the crowd and the business and now I have about two hours to Barcelona.
So… No cars driving in our direction at the round-about. We decided to walk along the highway, ate a banana each and set off. We walked about five kilometers on very uneven ground with the tall grass. There was the fence to the highway on our left side and a steep descent on our right, so all the time our feet were skewed down towards that descent. It was tough and very warm. And it was actually also pretty dirty there, a lot of trash on the ground. I joked that soon someone in their car would throw a bottle or something at us. We finally made it to an rest place, Aire d’ecot, or whatever. We had seen the sign for this place two kilometers earlier and talked about fatamorganas and this place would then be an oasis. It was a huge rest place with lots of space for trucks. As we walked up the ramp two cars came by, we put out our thumbs, mostly for fun because if we got picked up at that point we would really smell up the car. The cars went by “unfortunately”.
We came up to the rest place, threw our bags on the ground and crashed on a bench there. I pulled out my road atlas to figure out where we were approximately and, we must have looked very tired, or helpless, because a guy came up to us and asked where we were going. Lyon we said, still dizzy from dehydration and all the sun, and he basically said that we could drive with his friend and him to south of Dijon. These were the guys who had just gone by us. We thanked them, split up and jumped into a car each. They drove us for a good two hours and it felt great to finally make some significant distance again. They were car salesmen with their own business. They drove around in France and sometimes Germany to pick up cars for good prices, but they were pretty fed up with driving around alone all the time. That day they drove about a thousand kilometers. Nice guys, I forgot their names unfortunately. They appreciated our company.
We ended up at another rest place on A6 just outside of Beaune, in the beginning of Autoroute de Soleil, so that we would get all the traffic from Paris to Lyon, but in the wrong direction. After eating some more baguette and cheese, refilling our bottles with water we weren’t sure was drinkable, we walked out to the highway and crossed it. We waited five minutes or so before there was an opening in all the cars blasting by. It was getting late. On the other side we asked people, coming in to rest, if we could drive with them to Lyon. It didn’t really work out until a young guy came over and asked us where we were going. He hitchhiked and shared rides regularly between Paris and Lyon and he was happy to bring us along. He had actually also been thumbing in Eastern Europe, often driving with people he couldn’t speak with. Augustine, his name, offered us to sleep in his dorm room at his university in Vieux Lyon, the old part of Lyon. The room was, well, a dorm room with just the basics, all fine, but it had the most amazing view over Lyon. We ate some pasta, took a much-needed shower, went out to hit a couple of bars and eventually went to sleep.
For two days, I had actually aimed for a specific city between Beaune and Lyon because I wanted to stay with the parents of a good friend I made in the US. Unfortunately, when I finally past the exit it was late in the night and I felt too dirty and tired to be a good guest. I hope I’ll make it another time.
This morning Phillipp and I split up after a big hug and exchange of email addresses. Very nice random encounter I must say. He’s staying in Lyon a couple of days before going to work for an american family further west of Lyon. He’s 21, wears Lederhosen, did three semesters of mechatronics in Magdeburg, but decided to start over with his studies the coming August at the university of Gottingen to become a math and physics teacher.
Below are some pictures. Not chronologically ordered. I only started taking pictures when we were close to Lyon, sorry.
As I walked alone through Lyon towards the A7 highway, ready to hitchhike again, I felt stressed about making it to Barcelona in just a day and a half. I was about one day behind my rough schedule and I’d also like to wander around in Lyon some more, taking in all the impressions of the last days, relaxing, quietly drinking a coffee, with certainty about reaching Barcelona in time to meet my wonderful friends there. So I actually decided not to hitchhike the rest of the way…
Right now, when I look out of the window to my left, there’s a beautiful sunset over the southern part of Golfe du Lion. We were at the Narbonne stop few minutes ago and I pulled out my road atlas, page 15, to check where I was. It’s cloudy, foggy, humid probably, but the sun is breaking through a couple of places over what looks like sporadically placed islands. I shouldn’t look so much into this screen. I’m eating the rest of the dark-chocolate/raisin/almond mix my mom gave me for the road Saturday morning.
I started out last Friday after work. I went straight from the university to the highway Friday afternoon with the ambition to reach my parents’ summer house six kilometers from Rønde in the east of the mainland, Jutland, of Denmark. It took some getting over myself to get out my thumb for the first time, begging people to take me with them, that’s basically what hitchhiking is. After only 10 minutes of embarrasment a little olive-green car pulled over and I got in the back. I had a great conversation with Ulrik and Kristian, so good actually, that we missed my planned exit around Randers. They did arts and had just finished a job of Kristian’s at Aalborghus Gymnasium (a highschool in Aalborg). The walls in some of their new buildings needed some colour. They ended up taking me all the way into downtown Aarhus, which was actually too far, but they assured me they knew a good place I could get a new ride. I made my first sign at Grenaavej in Aarhus, but it turned out I was way too far in the city. There was not really a good place people could pull over and, at that point, I was too embarrased to ask people at the gas station. Also, on Grenaavej, busses are going in my direction all the time so it was difficult justifying getting a free ride there from people who were on their way to weekend. I actually got one very short ride, but I think the three guys in it were drunk, they were definitely young, and I felt pretty uncomfortable with them. So when they asked me where Rønde was, I told them I was just looking for a better place to stand. I was dropped off at the next gas station. I was hungry and it was getting dark so I decided to take the last bus to my parents’ summerhouse. And it was, as usual, very nice to spend the evening with them and I was, as usual, spoiled.
My mom drove me back to the southbound highway Saturday morning. We stopped behind a car where a woman seemed to have trouble with her car. I went overthere and asked if I could help.
In Perpignan now.
This woman was 75-year old Bente from Sønderjylland (the part of Denmark closest to Germany) who had been living in Frederikshavn (far-north of Denmark) for 20 or 30 years. She had borrowed her son’s car to go to a 75-year birthday in Sønderborg but it had automatic drive, a weird way of adjusting the seat and a weird way of pulling the parking brake. So I helped her figure this out and she offered to take me all the way to Sønderjylland. That was a wonderful start. We talked about her living for six years in Oslo, Norway, her engineer husband who was now, unfortunately, sick with sclerosis, the good life as a pensionist, her 16-year old grandchild who was spending a whole year somewhere in Mississippi. She told me they missed him because he used to come over for lunch in Frederikshavn every day. She actually took me 30 kilometers further than she had to go, to Kruså, right at the Danish/German border.
Kruså was difficult and I ended up standing two hours in a place that turned out to lead in the wrong direction, towards German places where Danish people go grocery shopping for little money and drive back to Denmark again. Standing in a “bad” place like this of course does not mean that there’s no chance someone who’s going to the right place will come by; it just means that there’s a much smaller chance you’ll get picked up. Eventually, a German woman, Inge, in her late 40s I think, pulled over and I was very happy to finally move. She worked at the dairy company Arla in Denmark, because she could get a much better salary in that kind of job there. She told me that, at Arla, she earned as much as a police officer in Germany. She switched between Danish and German when she spoke to me. Her daughter had hitchhiked with a friend, so that was probably the reason she felt sympathetic with me. She drove me just a short distance to a place where people were only going in the direction I wanted to go. Niklas pulled over and got me away from the business of the Danish/German border, Flensburg and so on. He was a young guy who serviced coffee machines in companies and he was on his way home from work (on a Saturday). He was very nice, spoke no English and thought I was crazy hitchhiking all the way to Barcelona. I had to agree with him that I would probably be surprised by how far away it actually is.
About two hours I had to wait again at a Rastplatz (highway resting place in Germany). I wandered around there unable to figure out where it would be best to stand. At the exit, at the shop where people would come in to pay for gas, sign, no sign? I was really making my first experiences with the reactions of different kinds of people to a person like me wanting to drive with them. I’ve been told numerous times that it’s a thing of the past and people are scared/paranoid about it now, because they vaguely recall hearing a bad story. Even though everyone was going in the right direction for me at this Rastplatz, it was difficult. I eventually found a good place to stand near the exit. Everyone driving out would see me. I tried writing Hamburg, Hannover, even Afrika on my sign. Then I tried without a sign and finally Ralf picked me up!
Ralf was in his late 40s or 50s. He had two nice jackets in the windows and a six-pack of special beers on the backseat. We only spoke German and I did surprisingly well I think. He had just come from a union meeting and dinner with local beer brewers around Germany. For some reason they had decided it was a good idea to meet in the farthest-north, bigger city in Germany, Flensburg. So he was driving from Flensburg to Erfuhrt and he took me all the way to Gottingen, even though we initially agreed on Hamburg and then Hannover. It’s 300 km or so, very nice of him. He had his own beer brewery in Erfuhrt. I told him I had worked close to Nuremberg, had tried Rauchbiers in Bamberg, and also that I really liked the Erdinger Weissbiers. It turned out that he had worked at the Erdinger brewery north of Munich for, I forget the exact number, 10 or 15 years. Ralf had an ungoing discussion with his navigation system. Every time he passed the speed limit it would tell him to be careful, and he would respond, “wenn es regnet”, when it rains. He was very aware of the speed measurement devices that could be placed in side the digital displays along the highway, but everywhere else he rarely dropped below 140 km/h. For long stretches he drove 190 or so. The car could handle it, and he seemed to be used to it, but I’ve never driven that fast before so I was kind of anxious and excited at the same time. I talked to him about motorcycles and he told me, when some guy past us on a motorcycle with at least 200, he had a friend who died of it last year. I didn’t fully get how the accident happened, but we agreed that it was insane to drive 200 km/h anywhere on a motorcycle.
When he dropped me off in Gottingen I was very happy that I’d gotten that far in one day. There was a bed and breakfast right there, I was sitting on a bench with my map out, eating a bit, ready to call it a day, when a guy came over to me and asked me where I was going.
Alexander seemed strange to me at first. He was a bit too friendly and just, I don’t know what prejudice in me it was, looked suspicuous. He told me he was driving all the way from there (Gottingen) to Stuttgart alone for a business meeting tomorrow and he would appreciate my company. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and go with him. He spoke German and Russian, no English again, so I had once again a great opportunity to practice my German. He moved from the part of Russia, which is now Kazakhstan, to Chemnitz in Germany back in 1999. I did notice his German had an accent. He told me his parents were German but that they had worked in Russia as building engineers around the time when he was born. We had a very nice conversation, sometimes philosophical. He told me we had to live without fear, otherwise we would always worry about what comes next. He also smoked cigars and a cross with a skeleton on it was hanging from the rear-view mirror. I decided not to ask about it. We also talked about music. I told him that I listened to many different genres, stretching from soft, acoustic folk and country music, classic rock, solid electronic music, to progressive metal music. That mention of metal probed him to pull out his phone where he had some Icelandic metal he really liked. He also had a big sound system in his car, so we put this Icelandic metal on and I don’t think I’ve ever listened to music that loudly in a car. Very impressive. I was fearing some really heavy, black, death metal, or what do I know, but this was actually very nice. I’m gonna look it up again when I get home. At one point a car came very fast from behind and Alexander let him by but made an angry face as he past. That put us in a pretty scary situation. That very fast car started harrassing us at highway speeds. He would get in front of us, then drive very slowly, blocking us, until we went past him, then drive in front of us again, repeat this over and over for ten minutes, which seemed very long. We had the metal music on, and sat in silence while this happened — metal is usually quite emotional so it didn’t make the situation less dramatic — I think both Alexander and I thought about what would happen, if we stopped the car and had to face these crazy guys. Eventually they gave up..! I told Alexander that I was going to Barcelona with three friends of mine, the whole story about how we met in Canada, and that one of them was from Stuttgart, where we were going. “Du hast ein Freund in Stuttgart!?” and, after a stop in a distant city called Riet with just 90 citizens, he actually drove me right to the address of Julian in Stuttgart. A few hours earlier, I had warned Julian that I was coming, but when we finally met at his place around 10.30 pm we were both pretty surprised I was there. A thousand kilometers by hitchhiking in one day. I was very sorry I had had doubts about Alexander when we first met, he was a great guy.
I’m in Spain for the first time in my life! The police is checking passports. It’s getting dark outside and I don’t know where there’s a hostel in Barcelona. Arriving in 20 minutes. Feeling good about writing all this down now. Could be shorter but whatever…
Made it to a random hostel in Barcelona. Got here around 11 pm.
Julian and his roommates, Nikki and Hannah, sorry if my spelling is wrong, took good care of me. They happened to have a birthday brunch planned for Sunday with all kinds of homemade food, pies, salads, snacks, and lots of cakes. Delicious! Julias Donau-Welle (waves of the Donau river I guess) was particularly good. I stayed there in Stuttgart all of Sunday, just chilling.
Monday I hit the road again. Or at least I tried to. I started out in the middle of Stuttgart. The place was quite good, as recommended by Julian, busy road leading in the right direction, and there was space for cars to pull over. I used my KARLS-RUHE sign, had no luck so I went to the train station and out to the far southwest corner of Stuttgart. There was a complicated highway crossing and I had a lot of trouble finding a good place to stand. I was on my way out on the highway to see if this direction really was right, when the police came up on my side and asked if I needed help. The police always makes me nervous even when I know I’m not doing anything wrong, so I blurted out in German that I was going over to that Europcar on the corner. I had absolutely no intention of going there but I was clearly somewhere I had no good reason to be. And I didn’t want to tell them I was hitchhiking because I was too close to the highway where it’s illegal. So they went away and I actually went over to the Europcar place to ask what a car to Barcelona would be, just so I would have a good answer if the police came back and saw me still standing there. Then I could always tell them that I thought the Europcar was too expensive. It was about 400 EUR by the way, to rent a car for two days, one-way from Stuttgart to Barcelona. I gave up standing near the highway and went back a little, walking around on two neighbouring gas stations asking people in German if they were going to Karlsruhe today. That didn’t work out. Finally after three hours a car stopped just outside the gas station where I stood with my sign. A guy in his 40s who wouldn’t really talk about his job. He had been in Barcelona for a week so we talked about that a bit. He was friendly but not the easiest to talk to. I ended up rambling about myself most of the time. In German. Also he was keen on dropping me off the best possible place around Karlsruhe.
I really thought Karlsruhe was going to be easy but I tried different strategies there again and, finally, when I went to a new place three hours later I caught a car. It’s funny with these places. You know when you’re finally at a good one and you wonder why you didn’t go there earlier. At first I thought the car drove by me but then, almost all the way down at the highway, a small car was honking like crazy, an arm sticking out of the window waving me down there. I grapped my bag and ran as fast as I could. Swiss car this time!
Trance music was in the crappy loudspeakers of this little car and the bass in the music was completely covered in the noise of driving a little faster than the car could handle. Mannfred was German but had lived in Zurich for 20 years, married there. He had been visiting his brother in Karlsruhe. With a machine engineering degree, he had been living and working in South America and East Africa, he still had a house in Ethiopia. I was of course very interested in hearing if he felt safe there and all that. We talked a lot about finding the right job which allowed you to have enough vacation. He was pretty happy with his situation. He travelled a lot and did project work for MAN, mostly on huuuge ship engines. When the project was over he attended a three-day debriefing and then (here he would make a kind of whistling, spitting sound) he was gone. Gone two, maybe even three months, spending all the free hours he had saved during the project. He knew several languages, English included, but he didn’t switch from German. I took that as a compliment. We also talked about motorcycles! Just four days earlier he had bought a BMW R1100, used, but he was very happy with it. Even at 150 it would accelerate perfectly. I told him that I’d bought an old 800cc and then the whole story about Andreas’ and my motorcycle trip. He thought it was a fantastic idea. Too many cool things to tell about Mannfred. He took me all the way from Karlsruhe to the French border down south at Mulhouse.
Here I sat down at what seemed like a ghost resting place for big trucks. I chilled for a bit and ate some candy Mannfred had given me before walking out to get my next ride with a French guy called Stefan. Unfortunately, he had to speak to me in very broken English, but I got that he loved Russia and that he travelled there several times. He was very friendly and took me into Mulhouse, that cheaptruck driver’s hotel where I would then walk towards the entrance at the same time as Phillipp. He was just coming from the other direction…
So what happened, chronologically. Friday, Aalborg to Aarhus, slept at my parents summer house. Saturday Aarhus/Skanderborg to Krusaa to just outside of Flensburg to an hour before Hamburg to Gottingen to Riet to Stuttgart, that’s a thousand kilometers in one day. I slept at Julians place in Stuttgart twice, taking Sunday off. Monday I went from Stuttgart to Karlsruhe to the southern most crossing from Germany into France, to Mulhouse to Altkirch in France. I met Phillipp and we slept outside for free. Tuesday from Altkirch to Danne Marie to Belfort to 30 km west of Belfort and, after walking along the highway, went from there to Beaune, south of Dijon, and eventually to Lyon. Slept in Augustine’s dorm room in Vieux Lyon. And then I wandered around in Lyon, took a late train to Barcelona on which I wrote almost all of this, I saw Montpellier on the way and now I’m in a hostel in Barcelona, feeling good but tired. I really look forward to Victoria’s, Katrine’s and Julian’s arrival tomorrow and the day after.
I apologize for the lack of visual documentation. There’s just no time to take pictures when you want your next ride and have to stand there and smile at every single car that passes you. Hitchhiking is a constant switching between absolute uncertainty about where you’re going to be when, even hopelessness, and absolute joy getting from A to B meeting wonderfully helpful people. It’s a really intense way of traveling. I felt like an idiot in the beginning standing in the side of the road and I felt like I really had to push my limits to actually do it. And obviously, when you then get into a car you can’t just start reading a book, or start sleeping. But you don’t want to. You want to find out as much as possible about this random person you met. And you get to talk a lot about yourself of course. In that way, hitchhiking is a great way of getting better at a language. I definitely improved my German. Phillipp got better at French because people take their time to listen to you in the car. I didn’t know enough French to keep a conversation going. I can ask for directions and I can give a basic introduction of myself but that’s it. You need more to build on before you can really benefit from talking to random people in a car. I’ve set a new goal for myself. When I go back to France sometime in the near future, I will have brought my French level up to my German level. Then I should be able to really kick it off.
Cars need to have more than one person in them. Man is good. People are great.