22 November – 6 December
Leaving Granada – it’s hard, cause there many reasons to stay here. I do love this place and it’s people! But still, there things to do in Holland. And my budget is now down to about 10 euros so there’s not much room for staying any more days here. It really is time to hitchhike the long way back.
One night at the hotspring I met a group of friendly young people at the hot spring – we shared some food and music at a campfire, took a bath, and then about one hour later they already had to depart. Just before leaving though one girl, Penelope from Granada, spontaneously tells me that I’m welcome to stay at her place if I want to. Well, it’s a nice invitation and I’d like to use it someday, so we swap phonenumbers. My last day in Granada I call her and we make an appointment to meet in the city center near the fountain at Plaza Nueva. When I get there, she’s not there, but I bump into Roy, whom I also know from the hot spring. He’s quite unlike the Israelians I usually meet – he’s a hippy traveller. We sit down near the fountain and play some guitar and djembe with quite some attention from the tourists around us. After a while Penelope and her friends show up and we go to see a Russian movie. When we get into the dark cinema room somebody greets me quite heartily – it turns out to be a Scottish dancer I met a couple of days ago in one of the city’s many squares! I’m suprised to run yet again into a familiar face in this city with it’s 200.000 souls, but he’s even more suprised because when we met 3 days before I told him I’d be hitchhiking back to Holland starting that very day. Well, I tried then, but not so hard and not as serious as I’ll be trying tomorrow (Saturday). So when we exchange goodbyes after the movie has ended we really expect not to be meeting again. Funny thing though – as our group navigates for about 20 minutes through the labyrinth like streets he keeps following us every turn. In the end he even goes into the same building as us; it turns out his girlfriend is the neighbour of Penelope! It’s a small world… These encounters make me realise again how well I already now this city. It would be really just a small step to start living here… Make friends, find a house, get a job, learn Spanish – no problems there at all!But instead of staying in Spain there some things which pull me towards Holland. So finally I find myself hitching out of Granada on a Saturday afternoon – it’s not the best time for hitching, but I’m definetely not going to procrastinate hitchhiking to Holland until the weekend is over. Anyway, although there’s not much traffic the first lift comes easy. It’s an balding, gray-haired man with his son. The man tells me they actually live quite close to the caves in Granada. I ask him about his opinion about the people living there and he answers: “These people are not at all troublesome. In fact I like it that people use them! There used to live people hundreds of years ago, so why not today also?” Just a little bit later I get out of the car on a nice sunny spot, with a very good view of a pine forest and some towering snowy mountain tops in the distance. Somewhat closer I notice a hill where apparently a forest fire raged not too long ago – all that remains on the sides of the hill is charred ground and some blackened skelets of trees.
I continue hitching for a while and for the first time get a lift from some Columbians. They are really excited and happy today and especially one woman is talking with a lot of very energetic movements. Of course they notice the djembe which is tied to my backpack and they ask me to play. This, of course I don’t mind at all! A lot of laughs later we pass by the gasstation where I want to get out – the driver doesn’t want to stop though and instead turns of the road a couple of kilometers later and drops me at a gasstation way of the road. Well, it’s a lousy place, but giving up never works so I just motivate myself by buying some refreshments and start looking around. Then somebody starts talking to me in Spanish. Apparently offering me a lift! Good – let’s just hope he doesn’t go away when he notices I speak just a poco Espanol. But it turns out the guy speaks perfectly fine English. He’s really pleased to meet me and offers me some hot chocolate, but then already announces that we’ve to rush off, because he has to catch a plane. Okay, so I just gulp down the chocolate jump in the car and off we go. Then this Greek guy suprises me again by starting to talk in Dutch – it turns out he has studied in Holland. He drops me in another desolate place and there I find a nice place under a citron tree to pitch my tent, in the hope that the tree will trap the warm air in this cold night.
The next night I’m near Valencia on a busy gasstation as I meet Guan-Carlos. He doesn’t mind taking me, but actually has to drive back 50 kilometers back to give some carkeys to a colleague and only then will go into my direction. Well, he seems like a nice guy, so I just jump into the car. Some hours of chatting later he asks me: “It’s late already, where are you going to sleep?”. I tell him: “I’ve a tent with me, I’m just going to pitch it somewhere.” Then, very carefully, so as not to be offensive or pushy he says: “Well, if you want, and only if you want, you’re welcome to stay at the place of me and my girlfriend.” Brilliant! Of course I’d like to stay at their place! So later that evening I meet his girlfriend, an interior designer, and she has even prepared some food for us. I tell her the food is really enjoyable, and she answers: “I guess he asked you to tell me that. I know I’m a really bad cook.” Well, it’s true that Juan-Carlos asked that of me, but I do think the food is really enjoyable. Still, these two days I’ve avoided spending my last euros, so I ate white rice, only white rice and then more white rice until my burner ran out of fuel, so perhaps my standards are not really high anymore. Later, as they show me my sleeping place I can’t help but laughing – all around the room there are cuddly toys, and there’s one particularly large Winnie the Pooh bear right next to the bed. The three year old kid who lives here is now staying with his mother so luckily for me this cute room is available tonight. Suprisingly the bed is to big for me – without to much hassle one could stuff ten three-year old kids into it!
The next day Juan-Carlos drops me off on his way to work. Quite quickly thereafter I’ve to practise my French again and I spend a night under a hallogeen lamp on a closed gasstation in Lyon. It’s a really, really terribly cold night and the next day I’ve to make a decision – onwards to Holland, with a promise of another night on the road, or go to Paris to enjoy the warm company of some of my friends. Well, being a hitchhiker there’s only one way to decide: let my drivers decide the route – just take the first oppurtunity which presents itself. The first person I ask is a Dutch trucker going not to Holland, but to Paris. He takes me, so Paris here I come again! In Paris I stay and meet different people, I explore some of the student life with Myriam, a girl I met the last time I was in Paris, and again visit the crazy, hospitable people in the suburb of Sevran. I’ve to move onward though and I’ve heard something about a meeting in Bruxelles, where some friends will be who I haven’t seen for a long time now. At Friday morning I’ve breakfast in the house in Sevran with Anaelle who’s one of the six people living there. She asks me; “So, what are you’re plans in Paris today?”. I tell her: “Actually I’m not staying – I’m hitching to Bruxelles today.” She looks at me suprised and then says: “Ah – toi aussi?”. It turns out she has exactly the same plan for today, so of course we hitch together. This time hitching out of Paris is a breeze – Anaelle knows a good spot in the middle of the center and we’re on our way in just a matter of minutes.
In Bruxelles we split up and I go to the meeting. It’s great fun to be in Bruxelles before Christmas time again. There nice decorated small stalls everywhere, and in many places you can buy the famous waffles which are covered with a ton of whipped cream. The best thing though is the warm gluhwein which gets the warmth back into my chilled bones. Early in the morning, after the necessary partying and before going to bed, I’m talking to Frank, a friend I know from some crazy carnaval celebrations in Maastricht. He’s going to hitchhike back to his city the next day with his guest, Cintia from Brasil. I’m invited to come, but there will only be time for at most 4 hours of sleep before we’ve to go on the road again. Well…. hitchhiking with other people after all these months of hitching alone is good fun, but I tell them that I’ll think about it – first thing is to get some sleep. Even before the alarm rings I’m already awake again however, so apparently we’ll be hitching with the three of us this morning. We stand beside the road, tell each other stories and play some djembe. Before long an middle-aged Belgium couple stops and we’re on our way again. The conversation is really funny – together we speak many languages, but there’s no language everybody speaks so we switch back and forth from English to French to Dutch to Portuguese with even a little German thrown in! The driver sings some Portuguese songs to us and then asks me to play the djembe. It’s a really fun ride and I’m very sorry when we’ve to get out at an highway entrance. There, before we’re even hitching a car slows down and the people inside are seizing us up – I show them my thumb and they stop. The first thing the driver says is: “I love hitchhikers! I’ve never hitched myself, but I love it anyway.” Well, today it’s an great day for hitching, even with three people and before long we’re in Maastricht. Although we couldn’t possibly have gone any faster, perhaps only when we’ve met a Porsche, we’re just in time for an appointment Frank made with about ten other people at the central station. It seems one of those good days where everything is just going our way. I guess it helps though that we where having so much fun that all the people who saw us beside the road couldn’t help but smile back!
It’s strange to be in Holland and continously I’m amazed by all these typically Dutch faces and the many Dutch numberplates. The timing is perfect though – it’s around Saint Nicolaas, I just have to get an invitation to one of the parties. It’s not difficult though – during our gathering in Maastricht I meet Reeta from Finland and she tells me she’s going to hitch to a St. Nicolaas party in Eindhoven the next day and moreover that I’m welcome to join her. So my second day in Holland we go to the hitching spot in Maastricht. Last time I was there I met some 8 students who where having a hitching contest to Koln – the concept was quite funny; the couple to make the greatest detour wins. Today again I meet some hitchhikers here. One of them looks strangely familiar and I realise I’ve met him before – he was playing guitar at a party in Poznan in Poland. What a funny coincedence! Of course we know the hitchhikers etiquette, so we take a thumbing place behind them, which means they will probably get the first ride. It doesn’t take to long though before we get a perfect ride from an adventurous Isrealian. It’s yet another ride where I only regret that there’s just so little time to talk before we’ve to exchange goodbyes already. We’re nicely in time for the party though and that evening we have a party with gluhwein, Italian cake, Finnish torrtu, sweets from Afghanistan and more exotic food. In fact, it’s the strangest St. Nicolaas party I’ve ever had! It’s very international food and there are almost no ‘pepernoten’ or any such typically Dutch December treats. There are some presents though and we’ve to put our shoes besides the fireplace to get them….