This is Åsa (pronounced Osa), from Sweden, although for me, Argentinian Latina at heart. She lived for years in Argentina and the first time I heard her speak I simply thought she was from there. To put it simply, she’s crazy, and when she realized we had a week of Fall Break in October, she told me we should hitchhike to Romania.
The idea of hitchiking in Europe had always been in my mind, but I always thought it was something that I’d do in a veeeery long time, and very hesitantly.
The day came closer, and when I told my mom I would do it, she said, “Okay, I don’t give you permission to do it, but ask Mae (my wise stepdad)” He told me it was simply an unnecessary risk, but he didn’t want to control me from afar, because now we live thousands of kilometers away.
Over many talks we finally decided we’d go to Budapest and then see where life would take us.
And so the day came. I met Åsa at Altglienicke, a place in Berlin where the road leads to the highway where there’s no speed limit :O. It was a cold fall morning that seemed more like winter. And then we stood at the highway for around 40 minutes with our fingers raised for someone to take us closer to Budapest.
Our first ride was a nice guy with his two little German daughters. He was on his way to Dresden to leave them with their Opa and Oma for vacations. It was an enjoyable ride, they didn’t speak much english so I was happy to get the opportunity to practice my German :D. He left us at a gas station close to Dresden and we were lucky enough to get a ride to somewhere close to Prague in less than one minute. This time, it was two Czech girls who spoke like 10 words of English, but were really nice and told us they were heading to the Czech mountains for some days of hiking. They left us in a McDonalds and gas station stop, where we had to wait for around 2 hours to finally get a ride. This time it was a Slovakian Economics teacher who was in Berlin for the weekend at a coin show, because he was a coin collector, his name was Branislav. We talked the whole way until we finally made it to a gas station at the end of Bratislava.
On the road
Coming from Chile, the long country, where you can ride your car for 20 hours and still be in the same country, these rides kept amazing me. It’s so weird that in Europe you can be in another country in a matter of minutes, by land. Also, language changes as soon as you switch countries.
It was already dark, but luck kept accompanying us. We were at that stop for around 30 minutes, till we found two cool women from Budapest who had gone to Prague for the weekend to celebrate one of their 40th birthdays. Although language was also a barrier, we shared some nice conversations, listened to awesome lit music like Madonna (when you call my name it’s like a little prayer), and gave us chocolate and cookies until we had a chocolate coma HAHA.
As we crossed the bridge over the Danube river and gazed at the beautifully illuminated city we were left speechless, and realized we had made it to Budapest. There, we did couchsurfing for a couple of nights.
Our couchsurfer’s apartment
And our breakfast
Unfortunately, the weather was sooo bad that it didn’t let us witness the magic of Budapest at day, but we met up with our friend Mila, and had fun hiking up a small hill at the Buda side.
I must say, the biggest highlight of Budapest was the food
After 3 days, it was time for us to get on the road again. We decided to go to Belgrade, just because we could. We took a bus to a small petrol station at the outsides of the south of Budapest. After 2 hours without any luck, we decided to just go to Prague, thinking it’d be easier, but just as we made that decision, we found a ride to go to Belgrade :D. This time it was two businessmen who gave us the best compliment: “you guys look so free”
We made it to Belgrade when it was already dark, and since it was a last minute plan to go there we didn’t know where we’d sleep. Thankfully, we saw a Marriot Hotel (I think) close to the highway and made our way there to get some internet and try to find a couchsurfing host. This time we weren’t lucky, so we just booked a 6 euro hostel where Åsa thought she got bed bugs.
Going to Belgrade after being in the European Union for so long, specifically Germany, a very developed country, was at first a shock for me. Specially because we got there at night and walked through places with people sleeping in the streets, and through deserted streets, I thought Belgrade was an abandoned, unhappy place. But, I was proved the opposite the next day, when we met our friend Marta,
who showed us the beauty of the city as she walked us through the fortress. (More photos at the gallery)
Åsa had worked at a hostel in Turkey, and when she put a picture on Facebook showing that she was in Belgrade, her ex boss texted her saying we should go to the hostel where he was staying, Akrabarka, a floating hostel in the Sava river. For 12 euros we got a room in the best hostel ever with breakfast, dinner, and an open-bar included!!!
It was really cool because Åsa’s ex boss was there for a meeting with owners of the best hostels in Europe. So, the hostel was full of really interesting, successful hostel owners, and we arrived on the night of their good-bye party!
Our last night we couchsurfed at a crazy musicians house, and went to eat dinner while we discussed the magic of not being normal.
Belgrade was an extremely interesting city, full of history. At the 6 euro hostel, we met a Serbian woman who told us her experience during the Yugoslavian war. You learn so much from talking to locals of the city you visit while traveling. The two most interesting topics for me there were, the Yugoslavia war and the many Syrian refugees that came to Serbia as a last stop before entering the European Union. (Too much to write in this post)
Then, it was time to leave Belgrade and head back to Berlin
Our way back was a whole other story, but in summary, after around 15 cars, hours of walking, and amazing people, we made it home :D. (It’s funny because after just 6 days being away from Berlin, I had already began to miss it.)
We passed by Bratislava on our way back, to meet Branislav again (the guy who took us to Bratislava on our way to Budapest), who had invited us to have lunch at his house on our way back to Berlin.
This was just a small portion of all the super-mega-delicious food he gave us: duck, dumpling, and purple cabbage.
Literature accompanies you through the different phases of your life, you interpret it the way you must in order to understand yourself in a precise moment. Like literature, travelling helps me understand myself better, realize what I want to do, and find my track again. When I travel, I happen to meet the right people or happen to live the right moments to help me refocus and rediscover myself. This trip happened to be incredible because everything was unexpected, and with Åsa we were open to any opportunities.
and of course, it was even better because I travelled with one of the best travel-companions!
- Hitchiking at gas stations is safer than just standing in the road, because you actually get to talk to the people you ask to take you beforehand.
- Trusting your instinct is vital.