Sunday, 8 September 2013

The return to Holland: some thoughts on Hitchhiking on the mainland.

After our adventures in Hamburg we returned to Holland for another week or so. Firstly a couple of days unplanned camping close to the Dutch/German border, followed by a couple of nights in a swank hotel we blagged cheap last minute in Groningen and concluded with a final stopover in Amsterdam, this night sleeping at a 'Botel' - but more on all this later on.

Firstly there was the hitch. The ride from Amsterdam to Hamburg had been a challenge for us, a new venture, a step into the unknown, and, as already detailed had proven itself to be more than a little nerve-wracking. It was however successful. Armed with the lessons we had learned on our maiden voyage it was with a confident step we walked down to the petrol station close to Mia's flat, which was still several KM inside the boundaries of Hamburg city and started asking random commuters for lifts to a destination several hundred miles away. Our PMA seemed to prevail as well and the first man I asked in pidgin German, agreed, begrudgingly, to take us to a service station on the motorway, we were on our way! Lady luck stayed by our side once we arrived at the service station and after about 5 minutes standing with our sign we had a lift from a Portuguese guy who couldn't speak English all the way to Holland, all though quite where we had agreed to go we weren't sure. During the 5 hour journey with this lad we conversed in broken German about our lives and loves, and i felt really chuffed with how well I was managing with my crappy German. Everything was cool until we stepped out the car at another petrol station and watched our friend drive away - we were at the service station on the opposite side of the road from the one we had been stuck at 1 week earlier!!

And much like our previous visit the minutes very quickly turned to hours. The traffic flow was zero and each request for a lift was met with a look of disdain, a flat no or an embarrassed excuse. No one was going our way anyway, and we were a long way from Groningen. After around four hours we were getting close to rock bottom, and contemplating pitching our tent behind this grim monument to the automobile industry when we were once again offered an olive branch. Not this time a lift, but some sensible advice from a young truck driver who was off for a kip in his truck, "why don't you walk to the town its ten minutes away?" And that's exactly what we did. Though the town was not ten minutes but ten miles away. Still we came across a farm with a campsite after only two or three miles and got settled down. The farmer played 60's dutch pop music to the cows when he was doing his milking, pretty cool I thought.

very happy to find this sign

cool old dutch architecture

This trip made up my mind for me regarding hitchiking in Europe. If you've got nowhere particular to go, don't mind how or when you get there and don't mind asking people for lifts then I reckon its a good way to get around on the continent but if you have places that you want to be at within a certain amount of time then I'd say look into cheap busses and trains. They might cost a little but at least you'll be where you want to be, or enjoying a relaxing trip rather than being stressed out and sun-burnt at some shitty German petrol station!

outside the Vera

The rest of our trip to Europe was pretty straight forward. After the last hitching we decided to take the train to Groningen which worked out quite cheap, like £25 each. We had booked a hotel through a last minute website and it turned out to be quite posh which was a nice surprise. We spent a lot of our visit just walking around enjoying the city but we also went to a concert at the famous Vera venue and caught cold wave act Modern Witch who was pretty good, if a little unintentionally funny at times. the support band Sweat Tongue are also worth a mention. The singer had a nappy on and used a stepladder as a stage prop, and the drummer could barely play, but it all kind of worked, much better than 4/4 chaos punk anyway.

Back in Amsterdam we went to the Van Gogh museum again and visited the red light district which was pretty weird/depressing. Selling your body, no problem. Paying for sex, no problem. Crowds of leering, jeering drunk men, problem. No secret vegan snacks were discovered on our second visit, and an ill advised return visit to the Maos falafel chain left us feeling bloated and tired. One novelty we did enjoy was staying on the Botel, a boat which has been turned into a hotel. That is a bout as far as the novelty stretched however and it was actually just a shitty cheap hotel, the Easy Hotel was much better.

me and a new pal

On the whole then, a pretty cool summer experience, very different from going on tour with the band, which has what has filled most of my free time for the last ten years. saw loads of stuff, hung out with some cool people, read 3 or 4 books, all in a cool trip. The craziest thing for me is that this was only a little over a month ago, it feels like a year with how fast life is moving at the moment. Where will I end up next? probably in hippie commune in Fife or somethin' daft like that.... FORWARD!