It was easter time, and I had holidays. I had to get to Rimini, in Italy, to play an ultimate Frisbee tournament by the beach. I had no clue how long it would take me to get there from Luxembourg, since I wanted to stop along the way. I gave myself 10 days. So time to start:
I asked my dad to drive me to a roundabout near the train station, where I knew that there was a good spot to start my journey south. I thanked him, and we said bye with a big smile. He was getting used to me doing my thing. And he understood that it was something very positive for me, as it allowed me to get to know the world, push the boundaries of my knowledge, meet great people, and above all, to have fun.
So I stuck my thumb up with a panel which said Metz. After about 5 minutes, a Portuguese guy stopped and invited me in. He had the back filled with loads of veggies and plants for a reason I cannot remember as I’m writing this over 2 years after it happened. We talked about work, rising prices, and he dropped me off at the highway exit that would lead to the road to Strasbourg. After about 20 minutes, a old car stopped. I hopped in. It was a interesting black man who had moved to France with his parents when he was still young. He worked in the naval industry, building boats. He told me about the different stages of the production a boat needs to go through, and about things are when he goes back to his country of origin (I forgot which one). He told me that in his country you can get away with almost anything for a small fee. It was interesting talking to someone who had lived in a very different setup as the one we are used to. I got dropped off in the outskirts of Strasbourg, and decided to go to the city centre to buy some food and see things around. There were being huge riots at that time, and some cars had been burned, and Molotov cocktails had been thrown at the police recently. If I remember correctly it was the NATO summit that caused them. It is hilarious that I always seem to go to where the action is without having a clue about it. Somehow I just end up in the spotlight.
After visiting the city and buying a few kg of apples (really cheap as they were in season) and a few other fruits and milk and bread, I was off. I got a lift from a woman in a crossing quite near the centre, and she drove me until the exit to Mulhouse. There I walked for some time to find a good spot, and a family picked up, and drove me until Mulhouse. I was sitting in the back seat, as if I was part of the family ☺ I got dropped off at the outskirts of Basel, as they went In another direction. I walked and walked in the French part of Basel until the border with Switzerland, and I crossed it by foot. Funnily enough, there was a tram that started just at the Swiss border, so I took it. I also took a newspaper to pretend I was a local, and to find out what the hell was going on in the world. The usual. I did a tour around the centre, and found it to be very beautiful, with its particular style of building. The people on the street were quite arty. I kept walking until I found a good spot to get a ride towards Lausanne. I wanted to go there because my cousin lived there then. But as I had no clue when I would arrive, I hadn’t told him yet that I was coming. I didn’t have any luck at all. So I changed spot. No luck neither. I kept walking until I found some kind of truck exit and parking from a warehouse. Perfect place. A truck picked me up. Trucks are always so comfortable. The drivers appreciate the company, but make you understand that you don’t have to talk to much as they appreciate company in silence sometimes. The landscapes were damn beautiful around there. Switzerland is such a great country. Everything works as planned, and people are always committed to whatever they do. I got dropped off at a crossing, and as I stuck my thumb up, the first car stopped. He was a 30 year old guy working for some kind of steel (if I remember correctly, otherwise it was other metal) manufacturing company, and he thought it was really cool what I was doing. Unfortunately he didn’t go all the way to Lausanne. He was going back home, in a village next to the highway. He dropped me off there, and as the sunset was coming closer, he gave me his business card and told me that in case I wouldn’t find any car, I could go have dinner and sleep at his and his wife’s place. Happy times. I thanked him for his generosity, although I was determined to find a car.
And I did: A woman who had travelled a lot, and worked in a quite good job picked me up in a nice BMW 4×4. She was with a woman friend of hers, and they told me a lot of funny stories, and talked for ages. It was fun switching up the routine and being the one to listen for once. I finally arrived to the outskirts of Lausanne, and I took a tram until the centre. I walked around for quite a while. It was my favourite city in a long long time. I fell in love with it. Lausanne is built on a hill, that has a splendid view over the Léman lake. Behind the lake, you could see the majestic mountains, rising high with snow on their tops. The buildings looked really cool, and the city centre was arranged in some levels. Also, there are bridges that go all over the bottom (and new) city parts, and it’s a fantastic sight. You can also get lost in between beautiful roads. I talk more about Lausanne on this post. I decided to go to the older part of the city, and to go to the top, where there was a cathedral. I’m not the religious type of person, but sometimes the places with the most positive energy is where the cathedrals are built. I was there in 5 minutes. My cousin still hadn’t answered so I decided to find plan B. I saw some punks/anarchists around, and I decided to go talk to them. They accepted me in the group, and we had many laughs. The were strong supporters of anarchy. To be honest, this guys seemed a bit of a society waste, living off benefits, and getting drunk and drugged, and promoting a concept which they obviously did not really understand. Anarchy is much more complicated and interesting subject than just fuck the police and fuck the rules (in my opinion). But there was this guy in the group who seemed different than the rest, a bit more intellectual and well behaved. I started talking with him, and we got on well. Later on, we went to some bars around Lausanne, and they all got very drunk except me and this other guy. I told him about my trip, and he offered me to sleep at his home. I thanked him, and told him that if my cousin didn’t answer, that would be the plan. The barman suggested me to hitchhike through the col du St Bernard between Martigny and Aosta. He said that many cars went that way, and that it would be an amazing scenary. I decided to do that the day after. My cousin called, and we met up in an irish pub with the anarchist guy. At this point, he started sharing with my cousin all his points of view. I looked at my cousin and started laughing my ass off in my head. My cousin clearly thought in his head that this guy was mad/crazy. And he indeed was a bit, since he started taking loads of things out of context. But that was just another point of view, as valid as any from a given reasoning. Anyway, I was really happy to see my ‘’primo de zumosol’’ (my big cousin) again. We talked and talked, and went back to his friends place, and we slept there.
The morning after, they drove me to the highway entrance, and I got a ride from a woman. The views from the highway were simply amazing. On one side there were this big mountains, and in the other there were beautiful vineyards leading to the lake, and more mountains behind it by the French side. A few more trucks and cars and I got to Martigny and later Orsieres. There were many less cars going through than I expected, and almost none of them went to Italy. But the landscapes were amazing so I had no choice but to keep rolling. I met a girl who was hitchhiking in the opposite direction, and we had a few good laughs until we both got picked up almost at the same time. The car that picked me up was only going up in the mountain and not through the tunnel. Up there, on my road, I sat down on the floor and waited a loooong long time. There was about 1 car every 10-15 minutes. I waited about an hour, and then I started walking towards Italy. If no cars would take me, I’d walk it. The views kept getting better and better. As I was walking through the tunnel with the right side open I could see a almost frozen lake to the right, and a damn. There was snow all over the place and I didn’t even have a jacket. Only a pullover from my Frisbee team. It felt quite surreal walking there along the most ancient pass through the alps, alone in the middle of the mountains, with a Frisbee in hand. After about an hour walk, to my surprise, I arrived to the border. I talked for a bit to the policemen, and they asked the car that just arrived if they could drive me to Aosta. And so they did! On the way there I think I remember some people skying or having fun with sledges. The road towards Aosta was worth all the trouble. You could see the shiny white mountains covered in snow, with some pine trees breaking through it. The guys in the car were a really nice couple that owned a farm. They invited me to go visit them one day. I told them that I’d like to work in a farm one day and they gave me their addresses and phone numbers. The man also told me that in Rimini’s harbour (I would be going there in some days) there was once a boat that arrived filled with horses not fit for riding that would be slaughtered for meat. He told me that you could buy very cheap horses there and then for that reason. But he wasn’t sure if it was still going on. The first thing I did in Aosta was to go to the supermarket since I was starving, and bought 2 local bottles of milk. Back then it used to be a hobby of mine to try the local milks, and the one I tried then became one of my favourites.
I managed to get a ride in a white van to Torino. The guy drove through smaller roads since he did not want to pay the highway tolls. I said hasta la vista and fell asleep. Woke up in Turin’s city centre, said thanks, and went to visit the city at dawn. The center somehow seemed square shaped. I saw an irish pub that looked fun, and I went in it, met some locals, and we had a pool match. I lost. But I also won, since I got to play for free, and met some fun people. One of the guys whom I met told me that he had been living in London for some years, and that he was in charge of the tallest tower in canary wharf, which is pretty cool. He told me how he had a chauffeur, and was the boss in the building. He also told me about the London underground terrorist bombing attacks in july 2005. He told me that he was the boss of one of the teams that went in to try to rescue people and sort out some of the mess. He told me that there were high voltage electrical wires hanging from the ceiling, and that it was really dangerous to go in, but he still ordered his team to enter the tube, to which the team responded by telling him to go first. And so he did. I forgot this guys name, but who cares! Some of the locals told me that I could go to some kind of refuge for homeless people to spend the night, which was no very far from there. (Let me say that I do not have any necessity of doing this, but never the less I do it because its always fun, I always learn something, and it makes it more challenging! Oh and its always a good laugh telling the stories afterwards!) I told them that maybe I’d go there, and left the pub. There was a park nearby, with a parking underground. I saw some raised bushes that lead to the roof of a bus stop, and decided to camp there for the night. The roof of this thing was made of some kind of rubberboard, perfect for thermal isolation. Good night. I woke up a few times during the night, as there were people and cars going by. It was a good experience! I was happy. When I told some Italian friend of mine about it, he started laughing his ass off. The reason of this was because he owned a flat just in front of where I slept!
The morning came, and I crossed the river by a bridge, and hitchhiked until the highway entrance. I don’t remember much, I just know that that afternoon I got to Florence. As usual, wandered around the streets. The only things I can remember are the Duomo, and a intimissimi shop nearby 😛 I went out in the night, and met soo many Americans! The streets were filled with them, and we shared some good laughs. I changed groups a few times, and at about 1am I decided to go find some locals with who I could stay. So I followed the noise and got to the cathedral’s stairs, where some youngsters like me were hanging about, and started socialising. I told them about my trip and asked if I could stay at their home, and 2 guys from the group invited me over. I had a shower and slept on the sofa, and in the morning, I left early (they had to do some stuff too). On the road again! I don’t remember much, just some bits and bobs of my hitchhiking journey. I remember that in a van, the guy pointed to a town that we were going past and told me that it was Massa di Carrara, which was well known for the high quality marble obtained in the mines/quarries. I remember this town because the friend that I was going to visit in Rome was nicknamed ‘’Massa’’. Well, if you ask anyone born between 1987 and 1991 living in Luxembourg, they will know him cause he is a legend! ☺
Oh I also remember that I was always getting free breakfasts and lunch and loads of sandwiches from people in the cars. 😀 Maybe it’s because they were happy to have someone so positive and eager to learn about everything, or maybe they were just sorry for me hahahh.
However it was, I got to Rome that afternoon on some guy’s van, who was transporting luggages from Japanese tourists from one city’s hotel to another. Awesome guy. He dropped me off at a hotel near the Vatican, and I helped him unload some bags, thanked him, and left. I met Massa that afternoon, by a bridge in front of the Vatican, both of us doing some stupid things. Rome was such a fun experience with this amazing friend. Although you may love his scooter driving skills, unless you voluntarily embrace high risk driving aka being half psychotic, the most common case scenario will be that you have a heart attack while he’s driving. We had an awesome time. He introduced me to many of his good friends, and we also went to church with an awesome character. We had some fun going to parties in huge luxurious buildings from some of his friends, and at other times we chilled on his terrace, occasionally talking to his grand parents.
Next we took a train to Cecina (west coast of Italy), to chillout by his house (palace? :D) I forgot a lot of what happened there.. I just remember the swimming pool and badmington in the garden, going to the beach, going hiking around, and going into the olive fields and into the olive oil factory. Oh I also remember going to some beautiful magnificent castle and tower owned by Massa’s family’s friends.
After some really fun days with him and his family, I had to go to Rimini by the east coast, to play a Frisbee tournament on the beach. So be it. Massa and Nicolo (Massa’s brother) dropped me off on the road with a hitchhiking panel. We took a picture with Nicolo’s other panel which said: Attenzione No Autostop. Funny guy ☺
I jumped into a oldschool convertible owned by this young couple. They were actors, and it felt like all 3 of us we were in a movie. I got dropped off at a city in the middle of nowhere, which was charming. I just remember a few other snapshots of me in some van, and stopping at a restaurant and talking to the owned (and he even offered me a job!). In the late afternoon I arrived by car to Siena. I hadn’t achieved a huge distance, but there was no need to, since my tournament would start in 2 days. Also its nice to take smaller roads as opposed to highways, and you get to see so many more worth seeing stuff. I called Tancredi, one of Massa’s friends that I’d met in Rome, and he came to pick me up somewhere in old Siena where there were some inspiring quotes being projected against the wall.
Tank was a really cool guy. He was a basketball player, and he was huge for his age. If he would also work out he’d be a beast. His home was by the city centre, and he could watch the palio (through town horse race) from his balcony. The view was JamesBondic, and it felt again like being in a movie. We went out to an irish pub for food and drink with some of his friends and had an awesome time. His family were really nice and open.
The next morning, he dropped me off his cool motocross motorcycle by the entrance of the highway, before going to school. I thanked him for the really cool experience. Next, I put my panel out and started going from car to car. I remember some woman in a car who gave me a free breakfast at a restaurant. That’s nice ☺
Somehow I got to Rimini some hours later. It had been much easier to hitchhike on the motorway because Italy has paying tolls before the entrance to the highway, and it was the perfect pickup place. I visited the city, and got some directions to the hotel/hostel where I was going to meet my friends.
They’d come by bus from the UK, and they were astonished when I told them how I’d ended up there. Fun times! We met all the other Frisbee teams, and had some great laughs. But the best moments were by the beach. Rimini’s beach was very wide and flat, and it was perfect for chucking around Frisbees. I mean yeah sure sometimes the wind was a bitch but that made the distinction between random throwers and true players ☺
We stayed there for 6 or 7 days, and came second in the tournament. Man we had some awesome times all together. One day I felt like being on my own for a while so went for a long walk. There was a duathlon race going on (the Italian championships actually), and I arrived when it was finishing. (When the fast ones were finishing should I say). I asked some guys what was going on, and we started talking. They were triathletes, and had just participated in the race. They invited me to join them a the celebration with food inside a building, and I went there. They had an extra ticket for me, so I was lucky. Inside there, loads of du&triathletes and high up coaches. I sat on next to the Italian duathlon champion for 45-55(or something like that) age group, and it was fun being surrounded by true sportsmen. The food was buffet style (someone must have warned them that I was coming!) 😛 and it was amazing. After that a group of us went around town and ended up in some bar. I exchanged emails, and they told me that I should go to Brescia to visit them one day.
Back with my friends, we went out and partied hard, for a change ☺ Oh btw I party hard without drinking, cause I love it that way. On the morning, I went for a walk on the beach with some friends and then went to a playground to have a workout! After some days of having insane fun in the rooms, beach, and streets, the tournament was officially over and it was time to go back home in Luxembourg to see Ebba.
I woke up really early, after having slept 30 minutes (last night big night), and walked until the highway entrance. There was almost no one going past, and it started raining. I didn’t have anything waterproof, but that was an advantage since people would feel sorry for you and pick you up 😛 But anyway I went under the toll’s roof. I got a lift from some old ladies until somewhere further north. I fell asleep and got woken up upon arrival to near Bologna. I tried for ages getting a lift but nothing seemed to work, so I started walking towards a better place. I got quite lucky from then onwards. An amazingly kind woman picked me up. She was going to Milan, and we had a really cool conversation. Just before Milan, she told me she’d keep on driving just so that she could drop me off on the right road. She did it purely out of kindness. Respect. She dropped me off at a petrol station, and I asked a couple with swiss numberplate if there was any chance I could go with them north.
I told them some of my adventures and then fell asleep (30 minutes sleep in the night is not enough!). I woke up observing that we were stuck in a traffic jam somewhere in the alps. Even so , the landscapes surrounding us were amazing. They ended dropping me off by a petrol station somewhere in Switzerland. It was soon going to get dark, so I had to be quick. There was a car with Luxembourgish number plate, and I waited patiently until a woman with 2 small children came. I asked her but she refused. I understand that she wanted to protect her kids and respected her decision. I wished her a good trip back to Luxembourg and kept on asking. I ended up in a dutch white van, the renault kangoo type. We had such a great conversation, and got on very well. He had been travelling all around the world many times. He’d done some long ass travelling journies in his van, because he said that it was really convenient, since he could just sleep and live in the spatious back. I somehow remember him telling me that a good practise to have when travelling in poorer countries is to have a disposable camera instead of a shiny new digital one. I followed his advice on some trips. He dropped me at the suburbs of Strasbourg, and gave me some quick concise and clear directions towards the city centre. Man I love Strasbourg. It is just such an relaxed but full city. I wandered around, and hanged out with some people that I met on the street.
A few hours later I wanted to do something fun and new, so I went to a IBIS hotel in front of the train station. The woman at reception was busy doing something, so I went past it, and started looking for a nice place to sleep inside the hotel. The only thing that I found was at the end of one corridors on the top floor. I dropped my stuff, took out my sleeping bag and fell asleep ☺ In the night, a couple woke me up by trying to gain access to their room (I was blocking it by being in front of it). With a big smile on my face I moved a bit and fell asleep again. In the morning, as I was walking out of the hotel, the man in the reception asked me suspiciously in which room I’d been sleeping. It was kind of clear that there was something strange. I was too young to book a room like that, and I had a backpack on me. The first room number that came to my mind was the room in front of which I’d been sleeping, so I gave him the number and went out without waiting for an answer. Once on the street, I started running away from the hotel. I went to the entrance of one of the roads towards Luxembourg, but after an hour and a half I’d found no luck. I went somewhere else a bit further north by the entrance of the highway, but after almost 2 hours had found no luck neither. I was anxious to see Ebba again, and so went back jogging to the train station. At some point I was jogging on the rail line for fun, and I heard a voice in a loud speaker asking the guy with the red backpack to stand clear of there. Yep it was for me. Arriving at the train station I got my ticket for Luxembourg, which was actually quite cheap. That has been the only unsuccessful hitchhiking experience I’ve had. Eventually I guess someone would have stopped, but I didn’t see the point anymore after gone through all the cool stuff since about 2 weeks before when I left Luxembourg hitchhiking. Another awesome experience for the record!