Monday, October 5, 2009

Hitch-hiking in Europe

Growing up,  I was taught to be scared of hitch-hiking by society in general and, of course, those horror movies like "The Hitch-Hiker".
Therefore the very first time I tried it, I was very scared. It was in Germany, on the outskirts of Cologne, with a "seasonned" friend. She did all the "work".  Gabriele & I also hitched our way to Amsterdam to meet a sweet Swedish friend of mine.

Call me crazy or adventurous but I grew to love it. Yes, I loved it. It was the best way to meet locals and experience the country from the inside.  
I've hitched mainly as a pair. From London ( where I lived at the time.) to Dover &amp back, just for something to do. I was with Carol, my American friend, shown on this photo. We did get to Dover and back to London in just one lift!  The same guy, a TV repairman, he bought us ice-cream in Dover and drove us back all the way uo to our local pub!
Carol & I made a longer trip, hitching to Amsterdam & Germany (visiting friends) & back for a couple of weeks.

With my travel buddy, Sara, we went from London to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, in search of a cheap ferry across to Norway. Not possible, so we hitched back to London. The next day, we made our way to Dover, took the ferry across to Oostende (Belgium) and hitch-hiked all the way to Oslo via Hamburg (Germany), the ferry crossing in Denmark, somewhere on the west coast of Sweden (spent a couple of days with 2 guys that were selling hot-dogs on a Swedish island to drunk pub goers, at closing time.). We finally arrived in Oslo 4-5 days later, exhausted but happy. We hitch-hiked all the way to Bergen. Despite what my Norwegian friends says, we found the Norwegians to be very hospitable.

Along with hitching extensively in Europe, we also did  it  all over the world: in New-Zealand, Gran Canaria (the biggest island of the Canaries),Jamaica, Canada (Ottawa-Montreal) & Hawaii.
By myself, I hitched in Ireland (all over from Clare to Donegal  and into Northern Ireland back to Dublin), South Africa (mainly in Kwa/Zulu-Natal) and Zimbabwe (alone & with a friend).

Sure it's a risky business, but most rewarding. Along the way, we refused a few lifts with dodgy drivers but mostly people are a generous & hospitable lot. Many times, we were offered a roof for the night, food, gifts, a day by a magnificiant Norwegan lake, even a trip! (see my entry called Amal Kabli). I always followed my intuition, no matter how silly it may seems.  Thankfully, nothing bad ever happened along the way.

I must also point out the difference in terminology between North America and English-speaking Europe. A "ride" in Canada is when someone picks you up when hitch-hiking. In the UK, Scotland or Ireland it has a sexual connotation and to mention the same thing one says "lift". I found out the difference the hard way!
I remember a young red-haired Scotish lad on his bike saying to Sara: "I'll give you a ride Baby!"  It was rolling-on-the-ground funny!

I could ramble on for hours, just about my hitch-hiking experiences and if you're curious you can read more details in the book I'm writing.

This photo is of Carol holding up an Europeen phrase book near Aachen, Germany, 1989.