So, Gent. Land of Sarah Frecklesoup. I had heard tell of this Sarah Frecklesoup by a couchsurfer I had met up with in Orlando. The birthrighters decided we absolutely wanted to stay with her. She gracefully accepted my probably overeager couchrequest, and on Tuesday we found ourselves at her flat. Though to get there, we had to cram ourselves into an elevator that was definitely not made for three people and three backpacks at once.
We had a long, rainy day tea with Sarah Frecklesoup and another local couchsurfer. Staying with her was just as lovely as expected. She was our first official female CS host. We slept in the next morning and then set out to explore Gent. I can’t really say what I like about it, but I do, I like Gent. We had Turkish pizza, which was…an interesting experience. First, we were charged for water, which I realized would happen just as I had ordered. The woman didn’t speak English, so I didn’t rescind it, but I wish I had. Psh, €1.60 for water. Anyways, the pizza was definitely different from any I’ve had before. There were strange flavors, and my pizza was shaped like a boat, but it was good. For dinner Sarah Frecklesoup took us for Belgian fries. Belgian fries. So good. We had ours with mayonnaise and stoofkarbonaden – a beer and beef stew-type sauce. Definitely, definitely get Belgian waffles and Belgian fries (with mayo and stoofkarbonaden) when in Belgium. We ate our fries beside the river, until the sky went dark and the city lights came on.
Getting from Gent to Luxembourg took like six rides. I think the most so far, despite the relatively short distance. Our host here was a girl as well, but American. Like with Sarah Frecklesoup, I knew that staying with Ashley would be really comfortable as well as really enjoyable. She is excited about food. You can’t go wrong with people who like food. She made three meals for us over the course of two days – three absolutely delectable meals. And a cake. A carrot cake with green icing. And it was marvelous too. The latter was paired with watching The Big Lebowski, and stressing over Valerie being charged one thousand dollars for our Oslo-London tickets, rather than two hundred and change.
We had just one day to explore Luxembourg. Which, I think we all agreed was enough for us. Under the circumstances of this trip anyways. If I had loads of time there I am certain I could make good use of it, but comparatively to how long we are traveling, one day was sufficient. I really like the shape and levels of the city. There is a higher part and a lower part, lots of greenery, and lots of tall walls. One street in the lower city was filled with the scent of flowers. We followed a nature trail, saw the golden woman statue, we did not see something called ‘Bock’. I’m curious as to what that was, but it quite simply didn’t happen. Just like pizza in Luxembourg. Yes, sadly we failed the pizza challenge. Due to getting lost, countless construction obstructions, prices, and general group dynamics. I did get ice cream though, and I’m considering that an adequate substitution. Oh, and it wasn’t just any ice cream; one scoop was nutella, and the other ferrero rocher. Pretty good decision. Later we met up with Ashley and she bought us gromperekichelcher, aka Luxembourgish potato cakes. They were so good. Even to an anti-fried food preferrer.
On Saturday we should have gotten up and left early since we had an eight hour drive to Berlin. That’s what we should have done. But we had the promise of biscuits and gravy, a warm couch with loads of pillows and blankets, and a grey day outside. We didn’t leave until two. I have no regrets – the biscuits and gravy were worth every non-hitching second. Also, our relaxed morning with Ashley was really pleasant. Hitching days tend to be a bit much, but not so with this one. We made it as far as Cologne (we’ll round that up to one-third of the distance between Luxembourg and Berlin), but there we got stuck. ‘Oh, you can get to anywhere in Germany’, said our last ride. Mm, wrong. We waited until 9pm before Valerie and Christy made the decision to call it. Whereby we retreated to the twenty-four hour Burger King. But before that, sometime in our long wait, we were approached by a youngish guy debarking from a van. A fellow hitchhiker! His name was Martin, and he was from Slovakia. He had hitchhiked to France, then England, then back to France to spend time with his girlfriend. How adorable is that? Anyways, Martin was very friendly. He shared some of his experiences with us, and even tried helping us get a ride.
But back to BK. We totally slept there. The manager, I think, wasn’t especially enthralled with this fact, but he didn’t say as much. To be honest, I only slept between the hours of 4:30am and 6. The rest of the time was spent…reading, listening to music, talking, just staring into space…to be honest, I’m not really sure how all of those hours passed. But come morning we got back out and started fresh. Perhaps not quite fresh, but whatever. Close enough. We decided to accept a ride to Frankfurt, though this was backtracking for us. We just wanted as far away from that bloody traffic circle in bloody Cologne as possible. I think all of us slept a bit during that first ride. The second was with a forty-two year old Turkish man with very limited English and Valerie’s taste in music. He told us about fifty thousand bears near the black sea in Turkey while we listened to Lady Gaga, Stromae, and the like. Oh, and I forgot to mention that he was a truck driver, and therefore only had two extra normal seats. Christy and I took turns riding in the sort of loft above the cab. At the end of our lift, Mustafa presented Valerie with the CD that was our soundtrack. That was a good time.
We waited two hours for the next lift. Finally we gave up thumbing and started asking at the service station. Germany is definitely the loser for hitchhiking. We weren’t having much luck, and since it was getting late-ish on our second Berlin-bound day, we were feeling a bit defeated. I found a car that was willing to take two passengers, but couldn’t fit three. Immediately after I found an older couple that was willing to take one. A very rushed decision found our group dividing. Christy with the couple, and Valerie and I with the two younger girls. Then came the issue of where to meet up again. Christy said ‘Alexanderplatz’, and we hurried into our separate cars. Natalie and Linda were mine and Valerie’s chauffeurs. We had a nice ride – we talked with them some, talked amongst ourselves, slept. At one point they turned on an audiobook in German. It sounded to me just like an English book playing in reverse. It was during this ride that I realized, after two days of driving across Germany, that ‘Ausfahrt’ is a word, and not a city. I kept thinking as we drove past ‘man, you can get to Ausfahrt from any exit in Germany!’ Yeah…
Anyways, Natalie and Linda waited until we found a lift at the next service station. It was very kind of them, especially considering it took forever for the women to return to their car after agreeing to take us. These women drove us through Berlin, all the way to Alexanderplatz. It was well out of their way, but they insisted. It’s funny, I was thinking earlier in the day how hitching in Germany is entirely inoptimal, but after reuniting with Christy Lu and hearing her story (the couple paid for her lunch, for coffee and ice cream, for her toilet fee, and for her train ticket to Alexanderplatz!), and thinking back on the rest of our rides that day, I had to disagree with myself. It’s more difficult, it takes a different method than I prefer, but ultimately all of the people who gave us rides were very kind in various ways. It’s as though they don’t take the initiative to pick up hitchhikers, but once you are in their car, they take care to ensure you have what you need, and you get where you need to go. So, while hitchhiking in Germany remains my least favorite, I do still appreciate the people and the experiences.