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Saturday, 4 April 2015

Hitchhiking Story #12

Looking out the window of my friend's flat in Warsaw, morning presented a ceiling of grey clouds, with the occasional piercing of a sword of sunlight into my bedroom.

The sky sent an ominous warning, but my determination to hitchhike the 570 km to Berlin did not wane or wax against the upcoming obstacles of the day.
Warsaw was completely levelled by the Nazis for its attempted uprising. Today the old town is beautifully restored
I set off by metro and bus to Warsaw's outskirts by 8:30 am. The first obstacle awaited - the highway was guarded by a thin metal wire fence, then protected by solid sound walls, and no ramps to access it. I found a hole in the wire fence to crawl through, then tried the emergency door of the sound walls. It could only be opened from the other side. Fortunately, someone punched a small hole where I put a wooden stick through it and pulled the door knob on the other side. Voila, I'm on the highway!

About half an hour of thumbs out on the highway, some cops pulled over and asked me to come with them. They drove me to a gas station and rest stop about 10 minutes down the highway. They took down my information along the way, let me off with just a warning, and told me if they see me along the highway again I would "go to prison!"
The calm morning before the dreadful storm
I'm not a big fan of asking at the rest stops, so after about 20 minutes of trying, I stood back on the side of the highway anyway, where the on-ramp merges. It was quite cold and windy out, so when a vehicle stopped about 20 minutes later, I was happy for the ride (and also to get farther away from the Warsaw cops), even though it was only about 30 km. After that, I picked up yet another short ride to the next rest stop, happy again for the spell of warmth.

That's when the weather turned. A mix of rain and snow began falling. I hoped that I could get a quick ride from sympathetic drivers seeing me shivering and getting wet on the side of the highway. The wind picked up and the conditions blew up to a big bad blizzard, snow beating my face and jeans, and trucks whipping up mists of spray, soaking me to the skin. And after waiting over an hour I was still eating pavement.

I went back to the gas station cafe to warm up. Asked a few people for rides. The wind dropped a little and I went back to the side of the highway. It didn't take long for the wind to pick back up again, and half an hour later, I was soaked to the bone, and cursing out loud at every passing vehicle for ignoring my plight!
Hitching from Krakov to Warsaw, by the distances to other cities sign
The view from a truck while hitching in Hungary
Thoroughly tired and desperate at this point, I walked back into the cafe and, taking advantage of free Wifi, searched refuge and advice from the Facebook group "Tribe of Hitchhikers", as well as messaged a few friends for support. Immediately an old friend, Nicolas, world traveller and hitchhiker extraordinaire, replied and reinvigorated me with spirit.

I began asking again in the cafe and within 5 minutes found a decent ride. The driver had done some yoga retreats in India, was very inspired about my travels and philosophies, and impressed by the journey I was taking towards actuating my beliefs.

I arrived at a rest stop near Poznan at 4:30 pm, now just 250 km from Berlin. I stuck my thumb out once again and, thankfully, for the last time. A trucker picked me up at around 5:15 pm and took me the rest of the way to Berlin's outskirts by 8:30 pm.
Welcome to Berlin! A section of the Berlin Wall
I managed to find a station for a regional train to the centre. One German speaking girl there wrote a translation on her smartphone to me that the "train is falling off again." This is the German literal translation for the "train is cancelled." This is the last thing I expected after arriving in punctual Germany - a train cancellation!

So I waited yet another hour in the darkness and biting wind of my new destination, for the next train, and finally arrived in the centre, to my friend's place after 11 pm, relieved and hugging the blankets of my warm and comfy bed tighter than ever.

On this hitchhiking journey I took 11.5 hours and 5 rides, including one police car, to go 570 km from outskirts to outskirts of Warsaw to Berlin. It took 15 hours to go from door to door. But I paid just 3 euros total on the day!

This is how, through my blog, I seek to redefine the term "rich" - I hitchhike because I am not rich in money - I am rich in time, and invest a wealth of trust in people. I am rich in gratitude - for the kindness I receive in return for the investment, for the simple things in life such as offerings of food from truck drivers and my friends/hosts, and a warm comfy bed at night.
Blogging in bed in Berlin
A tasty and cheap Polish meal at a classic "milk bar" the only restaurant in Communist times

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