Martin and the German Speed
The two German teachers who hosted us in their house drove us to a gas station on the way to Osnabruck. We thanks them again and again.
Now we were back on the road again, with new adventures ahead. OK, compared to hitchhiking in Pakistan or Eastern Africa, hitchhiking in Europe is much safer but the beauty of hitchhiking does not solely lies in the potential risks. It lies in the unpredictability. You never know who is going to stop and when somebody is going to stop. Hitchhiking is full of surprises. More often than not, it is nice surprises, surprises that make you believe in love, in the bright future of mankind again.
Of course first we really needed to get a ride. After 40 minutes we were still stuck at the gas station. There were some roaring farming machines on the road, but I did not think they were going to Osnabruck or Berlin. I felt clearly that hitchhiking in Germany was obviously more difficult than the Netherlands. To be fair, Germans were less open-minded than the Dutch.
Just when I was asking around in the gas station, Vicky shouted ‘Wei’, I saw a truck stopped by her side. She came back to ask me: ‘Do you speak French? I could not understand him.’ I went up and saw a truck with Polish licence board. The driver was a stout guy. He spoke broken French. Obviously he regularly transported cargoes between Poland and France. I said in French: ‘Good morning sir! Where are you going?’ Turned out that he was going just a few kilometers ahead and not in the direction to Osnabruck. Too bad.
Vicky and I eventually found a driver who took us. His name was Martin. He was a happy guy about 40 years old, stout and relaxed.
He was driving fast, very fast. As my German was somehow better than Vicky’s, I was sitting in the front conversing with him.
I: So Martin, where are you going actually?
Martin: Anywhere! It’s Friday (Freitag in German, Frei means free)! right? So I am free! I went to work but because of some reason in the office today I don’t need to work, so now I am taking you for a ride!
Then I realized that he was actually not going to Hanover or even that direction. He was just happy to give us a ride out of his way. What a great guy! He laughed and sped up.
Do you know that in most German highways there is no speed limit? Yes! The German autobahn is so well built that one can even drive 200 km/h (56 miles/h). That was exactly the speed we were on. He was a simple guy. I liked this kind of people. We passed a memorial of the last German Kaiser Wilhelm II on top of a hill. After losing the first world war, he fled to the Netherlands and died there. A few years ago, there was a dispute over it. The Dutch wanted to give back his body and possessions to Germany, but Germany did not want them. Yes, the Kaiser was such a loser that nobody wanted him, even after he died.
He dropped us at a gas station. Happily waved us goodbye and fast as thunder he drove away.
The Grandma and Her Angry Son
The gas station was big and there were even shops and restaurants next to it, we asked around, trying to find a ride to Berlin. I would look at the license boards first, if it’s a German one then I would speak German to the drivers. If it’s a Dutch one then I spoke Dutch, if it’s a Polish one then I would try my broken Polish. Cars of these 3 countries were the most common to find there. However, none of them were going to Berlin.
‘Seriously? It’s the capital! There must be a lot of people going there!’ I thought. Unbelievable it might seem, we got seriously stuck. It was high noon already and we were still in that gas station.
Then Vicky ran up to me with a big smile: ‘Wei! Come! I met a grandma and she is going to Berlin!’ I was just about to jump 40 meters above sea level when she added: ‘but she is hesitating whether to take us or not.’ What? Seriously? We were such nice people!…… 😀
We went up to her and that was a grandma about 70 years old at least.
We: We are not bad people! We hitchhiked all the way from the Netherlands to here. We have friends in Berlin, whom we would like to visit. Vicky is a student in the Netherlands and I did my PhD there also.
She was still hesitating: I…… I don’t know. I have never done this.
We: Look at us. Do we look like killers? I can show you our IDs and you can take photos of them. In the gas station there are also security cameras……
She: All right! I will take you, but but we have to make a stop in the middle as I need to rest.
We (jumping 40 meters above sea level): No problem! No problem!
Off we went. As you can imagine, as the Germans were not as multi-lingual as the Dutch, we mainly spoke German during our hitchhiking journey in Germany. Grandma’s German was a bit difficult to follow but we somehow managed.
She was on her way to visit her son and daughter-in-law in Berlin. They live in the northern part of Berlin.
Although minutes ago she was still doubting if we were serial-killers, we soon started talking like we already knew each other for a long time. That was what I loved about Europe, especially the north of Europe. It was so safe there that the trust between people was rather easy to establish. I really hoped it would remain like this forever.
Grandma made a stop at a shop and invited us for a drink. We had a cool drink on the terrace under the sun. The only thing she asked for was a photo with us. Just before we were enjoying our cool drinks, Her son called to check where she was. She told him that she took two hitchhikers. Then the other side started shouting, again and again. Her son was not happy. After trying to calm down her son for 5 minutes, she finished the phone call and told us: ‘He was very angry and was asking me “Mom! why did you take them? Why?!!!” and I was constantly saying to him ‘They are very nice people! Very nice!” Then we all laughed.
She then said: ‘Seriously, if I do not take you, I am also worried that bad people would take you, then you will be in danger. It’s also very boring to drive alone for such a long way.’
How kind! How touching! 🙂
We were approaching Berlin. I could feel it because the traffic became much thicker and eventually we were stuck in a traffic jam……
She dropped us nearby a metro station and we thanked her again and again, kind grandma.
We were now in Berlin, the final destination of our joint journey. After Berlin, I would go hitchhiking to Poland, to reach the Baltic States if possible and Vicky would hitchhike all the way south to Bulgaria.
Berlin is a very special place. I know, you might think ‘special place? Hey, every place is special!’ No no, Berlin is REALLY SPECIAL! Let’s compare Paris and Berlin. Culturally speaking, Paris is the most French city in France. I can not think of a France without Paris, while Berlin is most ungerman city in Germany. The Berliners always say ‘Berlin is not Germany. Berlin is another country!‘ While the Germans are organized, punctual, serious and honest, Berliners are deemed chaotic, lazy, sloppy and hippie. Other cities always complain about the laziness of Berliners. Every year the German federal government has to pour loads of money into Berlin, because Berlin can not generate enough income for its own spending. On the other hand, Berlin also has enormous public spending. The whole city seems to be a huge eternal construction site. To be honest, couchsurfing in other cities of Germany can be a bit boring while in Berlin, you always meet interesting, alternative, crazy and weird people.
If you come to Berlin without seeing any bikes, then you have not been to Berlin.
If you come to Berlin without seeing any graffiti, then you have not been to Berlin.
If you come to Berlin without seeing any construction, then you have not been to Berlin.
If you come to Berlin without seeing any drunk people, then you have not been to Berlin.
If you come to Berlin without seeing any weirdos, then you have not been to Berlin.
Berlin, the hippie capital of Europe, without any doubt!
To be continued