I Was A Giant
Just when I was totally at loss in Riebau, I heard a shout and then some laughter, coming from a house not far from the road where I stood. There was basically only one road in the village. Then a helicopter flew over my head. It was a remotely controlled toy helicopter. I followed the helicopter to a farm house, knocked on the gate but no response. There was a piece of stone about 1 meter high beside the wall. I stood on it so I could see what was going on in the yard. There was a woman in farmer clothes playing the helicopter with a little boy, presumably her son. There was a deserted camper van parked in the yard. I shouted several times and finally they saw me. The woman was shocked: ‘Oh! You are so tall! Are you…… are you a giant from the forest?’
Of course, when she came out of the gate, he saw that I was just standing on a piece of stone.
She: All right! So you are not a giant. I was really shocked! You know there is the legend that ……
I had to interrupt her because she did not seem to be stopping any time soon: ‘I was looking for a gathering of hitchhikers. They are in this village, people from many countries.’
She: Ah! I know I know! You follow this road just a bit out of the village, then you will see a path on your right, follow it and you will find an old abandoned building. That’s it!
I thanked her and started walking. There were many old abandoned buildings on my right side but none of them looked like a gathering place. Like many areas in former Communist bloc of Europe, the young people all moved to Western European countries and big cities while the old people died out, so there were many uninhabited houses, villages and even cities.
I saw a big yellow concrete building, typical brutalist work from the Communist era, covered by graffiti and shrouded by tall grass. I could see some light in one window. I cut my way past the rich vegetation and arrived at the hitchgathering.
Yes, after more than two weeks and all kinds of delays and dramas, I finally arrived at the hitchgathering! 🙂
Hugs, Hitchhikers and the Kitchen
At the entrance of the yard there was a sign written on a board: Hitchgathering with the name of the commune — Traumschule, which meant Dream School in German. I could not hope for a more suitable name for a gathering of traveling dreamers. The yard was big and looked desolate, with wild grass, sheds and bicycle parts everywhere. There were a couple of people sitting on the stairs.
I: Hi guys! The hitchgathering is here right?
They: Yes! Welcome! Oh you are the Chinese kid they talked about! There was someone expecting you!
I: Yes! That’s P! He was my host in Berlin and he came here before me. Is he here?
They: Nope. He left this morning. What took you so long? It’s almost the end of the gathering! Most people already left!
I: Long story short. I should have arrived 3 days ago and of course I was hitchhiking. I told the driver to drive me to Wittenberge, which was in Brandenburg State and near here, but he drove to Wittenburg. which was in Mecklenburg-Vorpomern, totally another state…… So I took a detour through Hamburg and Luneburg and finally arrived here!
They: OK! Welcome!
They all came to hug me. One of them was Nina and another Dunia.
Nina: We are going to hitchhike together to town! This is our first time doing it together! I hope she will not kill me! You know what? I said I would be ready 4 hours ago and now we are finally leaving!
Dunia was just smiling without saying anything.
Nina: Go inside! Most people are in the kitchen!
I walked to the entrance of the building. On the first floor (for US second floor), at an open window, music came out and there were two people sitting across the window, one hand inside one leg outside, chatting casually. They saw me and shouted: ‘Hey man! Come on up! Welcome!’
The hallway was dark and there was the strong smell of moss and dust. The only places with lights were the dimly lit living room and the big kitchen. In the living room there was one computer of turtle speed. It took half an hour to open an internet browser. Then when you wanted to go on surfing the internet, you realized that there was no internet. Right! This place was free from internet and even the mobile signal was inconsistent.
Like most parties in Europe, the living room was not the center, the center was the kitchen!
I went to greet everybody in the kitchen and they all warmly hugged me. Most of them were hitchhikers coming for the gathering, except Daniel, who was a hippie living here for decades. He showed me an empty room with a dirty mattress, whose corners were eaten by rats and told me that I could sleep there. I had a look, there was no light, no electricity. There were some clothes on the mattress and they smelled like from the Cold War Era.
Nonetheless, I had my private room. WOWO! That was way too luxurious for a gathering of hitchhikers! 😉 😀
The EPIC Travelers
To be totally honest, I do not know how to exactly describe this event. I met the MOST AMAZING TRAVELERS on my whole journey there. The stories they shared, the experiences they had were beyond words. Many of them could only be described as ‘LEGENDS’. I really regret that I did not arrive earlier to meet more legendary travelers. That small place which occupied about 500 square meters had the HIGHEST concentration of amazing travelers in the world! The word ‘cool’ seem so lame for describing them. I was searching really hard for words to describe them and the best I could find was EPIC.
When I arrived, only about 25 people were still there. Many of those 25 people had hitchhiked around the world. Some younger ones hitchhiked around Europe many times already. There were two German boys, both 16 years old, hitchhiking around Europe and beyond. Everybody loved them! They were so cute! Young and brave, pure and energetic! Several hitchhiked all the way from Europe to Southeast Asia and back.
For these experienced hitchhikers, traveling around the world was not a thing, but simply an item to be crossed together with ‘take a shower in the morning’ and ‘have some tea in the afternoon’. Many of them had hitchhiked in areas like Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Africa, Central Asia, Mongolia…… Iran? Nope, Iran was one of the safest, simply THE safest country in the region so it was not risky at all. Basically all of them, except the British boy, were polyglots.
Just days before, there was a German guy in the gathering giving a workshop about how to hitchhike in Africa with 5 passports. As you might know, if your passport contained an Israeli visa, you would not be admitted entry to Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and many other countries, simply because the relationship between those governments were either tight or non-existent. Similar situations could happen in Africa. Thus, it was very helpful to have more than one passports in your hands.
Daniel showed me around very briefly. This abandoned 3-storey building was built in the Cold War Era as military barrack. As Riebau was very near to the former East German and West German border, there were soldiers stationed here. However, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, this place was abandoned and gradually, hippies took over. They remodeled the houses, repaired many things and installed electricity and water supply. This place was very off grid. There were no police or government officials ever checking it. The original hippies, or let’s say alternative community who established this community had already more or less dissolved, leaving only a few people maintaining the whole place. That was why they had so many empty rooms that could host even 200 people coming for the gathering.
In the yard there were several camper vans and simple houses. Many hippies who left the community got a stable job, got married and some even had kids, but they still lived nearby, in those camper vans and simple houses. From time to time, we could see kids running around, catching butterflies or just playing in the yard.
Daniel was a tall dude of African origin. He was always excited and once he got excited, he could not stop talking. I told him that I was planning on finding a job and settling down for a few years after the gathering, he said: ‘No no! You don’t need to find a job! You can live here! It’s free! I lost my passport more than 10 years ago and I just stayed here! Never left!’
Originally he was from the UK, but on his hippie trip in Europe years ago, his passport was stolen so he never left. He was a person without an identity, or to be exact, without a recognized social identity. He was just himself.
Daniel: Oh! Hahaha! Identity? What is identity? Is it important? Is living a life more important or to have an identity? Hahaha!
To be honest, I think he suffered from some mental disorder and he could not talk consistently anymore. By ‘inconsistency’, I meant:
I: Daniel! Could you show me where the toilet is?
Daniel: Oh Oh! So the story is the German government, the East German one of course, wanted to put more soldiers in this place, but but …… Oh! Did you see the camper van over there in the fields? The couple living there they have a big dog, big dog! Haha! I love art. Sometimes I just scribble, you know, scribble and, and I don’t think about anything……
I: Eh… Sorry man, the toilet?
Daniel: Oh yes yes! Sorry sorry! So, so politics is not really important you know, although they say it is. It is not. You got it? They say it is, but it is not. Not really! hahaha!
His laugh was always nervous and hysterical. I felt sorry for him but he seemed to be perfectly happy.
I eventually found the toilet by myself. There were two of them. Both were simply shit pits. One was in a shed, built on top of a tree. When you shit, the shit (and also pee of course) simply dropped on a pile of shit, making the stifled noise of ‘Ben’! Then you put some soil on top of it. The whole place was full of graffiti, even in the toilet, even on the toilet seat, colorful, very colorful graffiti, reminding you the beauty of the world even when you are shitting.
To be continued