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Czech Me Out.
By Emmanuel Marshall rawsafari.com
Getting out of Paris had been relatively easy, but the weather was wet and I was starting to sniffle and cough by the time I arrived in Strasbourg.
I spent my first night in Strasbourg in a park. I found a nice quiet spot in between trees beside a community garden. There was another guy in a tent with a bicycle a few trees over. He was sitting in the doorway of his tent. I could see the tip of his cigarette glowing in the twilight. I gave him a neighbourly wave but he ducked inside his tent.
I woke up at dawn the next morning and tried to get a ride going north-east but my luck was not in. I wanted to visit my friend Pony, who lives in a tiny village near the German/French border. After standing beside the highway ramp, and hustling in a service station for hours, I finally gave up. I was wet and tired and I thought I might have more luck going into Germany on the southerly road.
For years I've been hearing from people that it's easy to hitchhike here, that hitchhiking in Germany is traditional. I haven't seen any evidence of that. The roads are set up with no shoulders a lot of places, including the highway ramps.
After another two hours in the service station, talking to drivers, smiling and waving, I finally met Mohammed.
He looked me over suspiciously for a few minutes, but after talking to me for a minute he agreed to give me a ride.
I was incredibly grateful.
We had a pretty good conversation as we went along. The traffic was heavy. There were car accidents on the highway so the going was slow.
"So you are not anxious about hitchhiking?"
"No. Especially in Europe. Europe feels very safe to me. I've hitched in some sketchy places but Europe is safe as houses."
"Sketchy?" Mohammed queries.
"Oh, sorry, sketchy means like, insecure, a bit dangerous."
"I see" Mohammed says, thoughtfully. "So you are not worried about hitchhiking, but you are worried about other things? This seems strange to me. What is it that you worry about?"
"Oh, you know, just the usual stuff. Existential dread. Dying alone. Cancer. Boredom. Compared to stuff like that hitchhiking is a breeze."
As the evening turns to night, the traffic on the autobahn crawls to a complete standstill. It's a bit frustrating being in gridlock on a road with no speed limit.
Mohammed says "Stuck in the traffic jam on the autobahn. This is your German adventure."
Mohammed drops me off in Ulm. It's late, and I feel like just rolling out my sleeping bag on the ground and passing out, but I take Mohammed's advice, and find a little clump of trees to pitch my tent in.
I gave up on trying to get to Berlin, and straight away my luck changed. I got a series of short rides through to Austria, and now I'm in Linz. My next target is Prague. I hope to get to Czech Republic tomorrow. I want to spend at least a couple of days in Prague.
I'm feeling time pressure a bit. I'm supposed to be in India in a month, and it's taken me more than a week just to get to Austria, but at least the sun is shining, so it's easier to feel optimistic. I just looked at the map, and I may be able to make Berlin, yet. After Prague, Berlin is not so far away. Going through southern Germany might not have been such a bad route after all.
Anyway, that's how it goes. Hitchhiking is a bit like sailing. You go where the wind blows, and do your best to not get becalmed.
The old city is quite beautiful, and the river is magnificent. I have no idea what the significance of the big gold statue thing is, but it looks great! Sunshine and beer are great therapy. I feel a lot more confident about the next leg of my journey.
The Czech border is very close.
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