The Nightmare to Exit Berlin
I stayed first in the place of Vicky’s friend, a Swiss dude living in Berlin. He quit his job not long ago and was then working on a coffee-related entrepreneurship project. He went to Colombia to research on coffee farms there. He was a cool dude and cooked lovely pasta for us. Not surprisingly, he was also a registered couchsurfer. Again, I must say, Couchsurfing still remains the largest collection of open-minded and cool people of all nationalities on our planet. His place was in the center of Berlin, next to Warschauer street (Warschauer Straße).
The next day I moved to Edrin’s place. Berlin was a big city, with 3.5 million people but Edrin’s place turned out to be just 5 minutes walking away. I got to know him through Nomads group, which I mentioned repeatedly. He was a strapping Albanian dude working for an investment bank.
For his job, he had to go to many African countries. He was an adventurous dude. Once in one of the Western African states, a rebellion broke out and was spreading fast into the whole country. He had to leave the country as soon as possible. He reached the border and wanted to cross it. Nope! The soldiers told him that all the borders of the country was closed and he had to wait until it was open again. He could not wait for long as the rebels were approaching. Eventually, he paid some locals and they showed him a secret path through the jungles. Yes, he crossed the border illegally.
Another time, he was trying to reach the capital of another African state. The road was bad and there were really not many cars going there. There was much tension in the capital because the rebels just agreed to make peace and a new election was being held. A car finally stopped. It turned out that the driver was a rebel leader and he was going to the capital to observe the election. In case the election went wrong, he brought a truck of soldiers with him. Edrin sat in the open truck with the armed soldiers. It was tense and suspicious. He was a bit scared as they all were holding machine guns. At a certain moment, he noticed that the safety of the machine gun of one soldier was off. As the road was bumpy, it could be dangerous. So he kindly pointed it out to that soldier. The solider turned his safety on with a stern face. Then at once, the officer in the truck shouted something and all of the soldiers started moving their guns. At that moment Edrin really thought they were going to kill him. Nope, the officer just asked everybody to check their safety.
As Vicky parted way with me, I was trying to find another hitchhiking partner. Now to be serious (I am always an serious guy by the way 🙂 ), I am not a sexist but two guys hitchhiking together is even more difficult than one guy hitchhike alone. So, if you actually want to get a ride instead of standing along the road like a lamp pole, get a female partner. I seriously think that a male and a female hitchhiking team is the best combo. The guy can provide some safety while the girl guarantees that they do not look like serial killers. Another nomad, Kaisa happened to be in Berlin at that time and she was going to hitchhike to Estonia, her home country. We met up and decided to hitchhike together.
After some research we set out to a gas station on a morning. She was a rather silent person, which I was and still am not. Eh…… I am a quite sociable and talkative guy.
We found the said gas station. However, it was not allowed to ask around there.
We got stuck…… Nobody stopped for one hour. We walked to a better spot. Another hour passed and we were still stuck. Then another hour…… We tried several spots and walked until our backs broke, still we were stuck……
I know, it was clear that Berlin did not want me to leave. 🙂
It was always a difficulty to get out of big cities. Therefore, I really recommend you to take public transport to get far enough away from those cities and then start hitchhiking. We eventually took the tram (S-Bahn) to the train station. I felt totally exhausted on the tram and we were even out of Berlin yet…… From the train station we took the train to Frankfurt Oder. Yes, there are two cities with the name Frankfurt in Germany. One is the big and famous Frankfurt am Main and the other one is a much smaller border city near Poland, Frankfurt Oder.
The Hidden House in Poznan
We walked out of the city to the entrance of the highway, picking fruits along the way. It was almost sunset when we started hitchhiking again. We wasted the whole day trying to get out of Berlin…… 20 minutes later, two German girls in a van took us. They were students on holiday and were in a happy mood. They brought us across the border to the Polish city Poznan.
It was already totally dark. Then came the question of where to sleep. You see, I was regular couchsurfer, but couchsurfing took preparation. You should ask days in advance whether people could host you or not. It did not always work well with hitchhiking. Kaisa was more into another type of accommodation — squatting!
In case you don’t know what a squat is. Basically speaking, alternative people (often hippies or young people) take over abandoned or uninhabited buildings and start living in them. It is illegal or in grey area in many countries.
She looked up ‘squats in Poznan’ and found one which she heard of before. We set out in the dark to find this place. It was not easy to find it…… At a certain point, when we totally walked out of the city and the lights I really thought we were lost. Then in the middle of trees and deserted factories, some lights appeared. The gate was locked and covered with stickers, an essential characteristic of squats. We knocked and minutes later, a young dude came. We tried to explain the situation but he almost spoke no English…… and my Polish was rusty and shabby. He was confused but still opened the gate: ‘Eh…… Eh…’ He was obviously anxious and helpless as he could not communicate with us. I saw him fidgeting and did not know what to do, stepping back and forth. I tried German, he replied: ‘Eh… Eh…’ I tried French, he replied: ‘Eh… Eh…’ We then tried hand gestures. Then he replied : ‘Eh… OK! Come!’ We were led into a block which resembled a deserted factory. Inside the building we saw a corridor and many rooms. He opened one of the rooms and said again ‘Come’! That was a big room with a kitchen, a table and two beds. I presumed that was the living room and kitchen. Then he disappeared.
Minutes later, a girl entered the room in pajamas. She was half awake. With eyes almost closed, he said to us: ‘Hi guys. Sorry that I was sleeping and tomorrow I still need to work. You can stay here tonight. No problem. All this food on this side is from dumpster diving and you are welcome to eat it. Here is the cooker. Be careful with the water taps. They are a bit tricky. The shower and toilets are at the end of the corridor. The toilet has light but the electricity is connected with a loud speaker with heavy metal music, so please do not turn on the light at night. The music would wake up the whole building. Good night guys!’ Eyes half closed, she left. I was just about to the say the profound 4-letter word ‘WOWO’ when she returned: ‘Sorry guys, I forgot. This is the wifi password.’ Then with eyes half closed, she really left and I said: ‘WOWO!’
I was not unfamiliar with squatting. A couple of years back, I was in several squats in Berlin. However, those squats I experienced had no running water, no electricity and of course no wifi. While this squat was well insulated, had running water (although a bit tricky), electricity and the wifi was really fast! WOWO!
People in squats are often more alternative and tend to be more left wing, thus they are more generous and always try to help people when they can. That is why although we did not know anybody there, we could stay. In our hearts, we were all nomads. 🙂
To be continued