birthright backpacking breakdown

I find statistics fascinating. Therefore:

DISTANCE
17,490 kilometers
-or-
10,868 miles

DESTINATIONS

16 countries

Ireland
Northern Ireland
Scotland
England
The Netherlands
Belgium
Luxembourg
Germany
Poland
Czech Republic
Austria
Switzerland
France
Denmark
Sweden
Norway

32 cities
Clara, Ireland
Loughrea, Ireland
Dungloe, Ireland
Gortin, Northern Ireland
Glasgow, Scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland
Felixkirk, England
London, England
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Utrecht, Netherlands
Brussels, Belgium
Bruges, Belgium
Gent, Belgium
Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Berlin, Germany
Warsaw, Poland
Krakow, Poland
Prague, Czech Republic
Vienna, Austria
Salzburg, Austria
Überlingen, Germany
Kandern, Germany
Lucerne, Switzerland
Bern, Switzerland
Pontcharra, France
Paris, France
Hamburg, Germany
Copenhagen, Denmark
Charlottenberg, Sweden
Ås, Norway
Bergen, Norway
Dublin, Ireland

DURATION
May 16, 2012 – September 5, 2012
16 weeks -or- 112 days

EXPENSES
total: $1,650

TRANSPORTATION

hitchhiking lifts
125 total
91 men
23 women
5 couples
2 police (ha!)
2 forgotten

planes
Orlando – Dublin
Bergen – London
Dublin – Orlando

trains
Amsterdam – Utrecht
Brno – Prague
Arna – Bergen
London – Dublin

ferries
Northern Ireland – Scotland
Germany – Denmark
somewhere in Norway – somewhere else in Norway
England – Ireland

buses
London – Amsterdam
Gortin – Omagh

rideshare
Paris – Utrecht


ACCOMMODATION

couchsurfing hosts
23 total
18 male
4 female
1 couple

helpx host
Charlottenberg, Sweden

friends
Glasgow, Scotland
London, England
Utrecht, Netherlands
Kandern, Germany
Lucerne, Switzerland
Pontcharra, France
Ås, Norway

hitchhiking lift
Felixkirk, England

ferry port
Larne, Northern Ireland

Burger King
Cologne, Germany

camping
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Bruges, Belgium
Udevalla(ish), Sweden

 

Advertisements

everybody loves Vinze

I’m not sure how to convey why Salzburg was one of my favorites. Despite spending several days there, I only really glimpsed the city. Perhaps that is why. It was a naturey mountain retreat. We were hosted in a large house by four guys. Chris, the housemate claiming the couchsurfing profile, had just started a new job, so we weren’t actually able to spend much time with him. Rich was his official stand-in. It was Rich who took us to the supermarket and patiently translated various items for us, who took us hiking to the top of a mountain, who dropped us off (twice, and collected us once) at our hitchhiking location, and who generally donated countless hours of his holidays to us.

The first day, now that I think about it, was almost entirely uneventful. We went to the supermarket. And made dinner. And then lots of people came over and we hung out until late into the night. Day two we conquered a mountain. I thought it was wonderful to be amidst trees instead of buildings for once. It’s probably a good thing our itinerary was planned by not-solely-me. I suspect we’d be spending most of our days in the forests, fields, and riversides of Europe, rather than seeing anything historical or whatever. That’s actually quite an exaggeration, but I have really missed the natural part of the world. Anyways, we climbed a mountain, signed both a guest book and a petition against the government installing a giant power line on the mountain, and watched the world below bustle with activity from our slow and quiet perch. This took place on the fourth of July. I was content to let it pass unceremoniously, but Christy and Valerie were intent on celebrating. To this end, we made breakfast for dinner (I agreed to this because it’s delicious). We had biscuits and gravy (despite being in a country know for sausage, their options for making sausage gravy were über questionable), scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes (not hash browns, as I was informed), and monkey bread. After setting all of this on the table I realized we were consuming no color in this meal – it all ranged from whitish to yellowish to brownish. Well it tasted delicious and lardacious.

After dinner the house again filled with loads of people. We asked more than once if this was a nightly occurrence, but I still don’t know what the answer was. If so, I can certainly understand why. Our hosts were just that awesome. Or maybe it’s because Vinze, the mysterious flatmate, makes endless cocktails in Ikea vases with loads of straws. Vinze is the man who gets you things. He’s the guy people are talking about when they say they ‘know a guy’. Needless to say we were all very impressed by him.

There wasn’t meant to be a day three in Salzburg. Soon after 10am Rich dropped us at a service station on the highway to Constance. To avoid a lot of descriptions of boredom, I’ll just skip to the end and say we didn’t get a ride. When another (far more enthusiastic) hitchhiking couple showed up after 5pm, we decided to call it. We texted Rich and he unhesitatingly came and retrieved us. Vinze provided a large tub of ‘sausage salad’ (sounds weird, but smells like pizza and tastes like good food) for our dinner. Only half of the housemates were around, and the usual suspects didn’t show up. We had a quiet evening with Rich sitting under the stars.

In the morning we made pancakes, and Rich drove us closer to the German border. Let me just say: we all adore Rich. He was so much fun to be around, and seemingly his generosity was limitless. But we said our second goodbyes. Within ten minutes we had a ride with a trucker as far as Munich. It took several more rides, but we made it to Überlingen thanking God.

a native American, awesomely

We got stuck in Prague. Our destination a mere three and a half hours away, an easy hitch for us veterans, and we were stuck at our starting point. The beginning of the day’s hitching venture was exceptionally entertaining. We made it to our hitchwiki-recommended spot and found three other group/individual hitchers. It was humorous seeing literally a line of hitchhikers. We took our place at the back and set up shop. It was difficult to say what would work best – we had never encountered contenders before. We opted not to use the sign, as a couple ahead of us was going to the same place. Before an hour had passed we were striking one ridiculous pose after the next, in attempt to stand out from the other hitchers, and to entertain both ourselves and the passing drivers. We definitely received more reactions than usual, but ultimately failed in the ride-acquiring aspect of our antics. It was a hot and sunny day, and I’ve come to the realization that heat is my personal kryptonite. My mood was hanging on by a thread.

Surprisingly enough, it was the police who brought hope. A patrol car pulled up to each group (to what I assume was a symphony of groans, and in one case was a stealthy fleeing). But they weren’t there to reprimand us. They reminded us to drink plenty of water! What wonderful people. I asked about walking to the nearest petrol station. It was a two kilometer walk. After hours and hours, the birthright team decided to make the trek. It was a miserable walk. I was literally dripping with sweat upon arrival. With no hesitation, my normally ‘umm…thrifty’ brain purchased a ginormous bottle of peach green tea. Best decision ever. We ping pinged about the place. From the petrol station, to the McDonalds, and back. Hitchers we had seen at our earlier spot were here, too. Once they disappeared we took their place at the exit. And waited. For hours. In scorching sun and light hail. Today was not our day. We discussed plans for camping in the field behind us. We pretty much reserved ourselves to that and hitching was a mere formality when finally, finally two guys stopped for us. Two blessed Czechs and their dog. They could take us to Brno, more or less our halfway point. It was a pleasant ride, and they were really cool guys. Unfortunately I needed to use the toilet before we even got in the car. Curse that overly-large green tea and my liter of water. It’s times like this when I fully understand my phobia of needing to use the toilet while traveling. They dropped us at a shopping center seemingly in the middle of nowhere important. It was still light, but it was getting late. I used the toilet and purchased bread, cheese, and a tomato at Tesco. For some reason this has become the most delicious food combination in my mind. I find myself craving it. Weird. Anyways, there was no decent place to hitchhike. The so-called petrol station had a car or two every fifteen minutes, and the cars on the highway were going far too fast to stop.

At 10:30pm it was determined that we would sleep under the stars in just our sleeping bags. It was a nice night for it, warm and dry, though with no promise of remaining as such. Still, in no hurry, we sat outside of our pseudo-gas station with our sign for ‘Wien’. It was the most casual of hitching, with a very infrequent flow of traffic. Earlier I had what I called ‘a freak spurt of hope (which doesn’t always come to fruition)’, but now I wasn’t especially hopeful of acquiring that ride. We had no way of knowing if the few cars that passed us were even going to Vienna. And if they were ordinary, non-creepy night dwellers. Wouldn’t normal civilians be hesitant to pick up hitchhikers nearing midnight? Still, we sat. Praise God, a non-creepy and in fact, entirely normal couple hesitatingly slowed and stopped. They would be passing through Vienna, did we want a ride? Yes. We squeezed into their tiny, non-air conditioned car and rode to Vienna in the dark of night. We passed a moonlit lake, and villages dotted with glowing specks that were ever so reminiscent of the E.T. ride at Universal Studios. The windows were down and the conversation ebbed and flowed comfortably.

It was 1pm by the time we arrived and met up with Onur, our Turkish host. I wasn’t a fan of this last minute, late night city arrival trend that was emerging. But despite our exhausting day, we joined him and his friends, flatmates, and additional couchsurfers in a museum courtyard where dozens of people were enjoying the summer night. I was glad for it. It was a nice evening, and we had arrived.

Our only day in Vienna unfurled lazily. We slept till midday. Onur took us for a casual tour of the city, along with his Croatian friend, whose name I can’t even attempt to spell, but sort of rhymes with Vladimir. It was a humorous and relaxed afternoon. We had amazing ice cream. I got poppy seed and elderflower, but the goat cheese was also incredible. We also visited multiple Starbucks for free water, interspersed throughout our [what I suspect was almost entirely fallacious] tour of Vienna. Well, our guides were Turkish and Croatian, I guess you get what you pay for. But it was honestly as enjoyable, if not more so, than some of our official walking tours. And why do I need to know the actual history of some random building in Vienna?

That night was the Euro 2012 final: Italy vs Spain. We went to a public viewing beside the river. Well, Onur and I did. Valerie and Christy went off in search of food and didn’t return for almost two hours. It was lovely weather, and there were tons of people watching the game. Everyone was happy and energetic. Onur was…thrilled about Spain’s victory. I didn’t mind either way. Afterwards, after we accumulated his flatmates and my travelmates, we all chilled back at his place.

We made it to Salzburg in two rides, sans ado. The difficulty came after arrival, because I had forgotten to get our host’s number and address. But in hindsight I don’t mind. If I hadn’t neglected to get Chris’s contact info in advance, we wouldn’t have spent a portion of our time in Salzburg quietly reading by the river. I wouldn’t have written these exact words, for pleasure, and not for the sake of writing before four days go by and I forget everything because a slew of other events and faces have filled my brain.

It worked out, as these things do (by God’s grace and not at all my effort). Chris messaged us back, and we speed-walked to the bus station just in time to catch the last bus to his place. So began our epic days in Salzburg.