Distance travelled: 796km

Time necessary: 27 hours

Number of lifts: 10

Money spent: 5,86€

As you can see I eventually took direction Germany with the intention of later passing through Denmark, Sweden and Finland. My whole poetic theory about letting the heart decide whether I would be going To Scandinavia or Spain failed miserably and I still didn’t have a clue as to which direction to go when I reached the motorway. The only remaining option was to flip a coin. It wasn’t even a real one, cause, you know, there’s an app for that. My god I’m fake. My first two days on the road have been a blast. I honestly don’t know how I even managed to reach Berlin this easily. Why doesn’t everybody hitchhike all the time? I guess the answer is time pressure. In spite of most people’s hasty lives I’m glad some people stopped to help me a little further. Actually the hitching went really smooth up till now! The only time I waited longer than 30min for a ride was just outside of Köln. Leaving home was just like I had imagined: nobody was there to wave me off, no intensive hugging or last-minute warnings about being careful and watching out for bad people. Just me walking out of my front door like I was going to the bakery, the only difference of course being the 15kg rucksack on my back. When I started off on the motorway close to where I live the first car had already stopped before I could even wave my thumb. The guy inside said he could drop me off on a petrol station a few km further. Karma was clearly with me! After him two guys on their way to test their new race kart on the circuit of Genk picked me up and left me on the entrance of the highway to Maastricht. Only 10min later a very sympathetic couple from Limburg showed up and wanted to give me a ride to the German border. Unfortunately the car broke down and our roads parted in Geleen, Holland. The next two rides were from two Dutch gentlemen, the last of which told me all about his interior design firm and was surprised to hear I’m (nearly) graduated as an architect. Just before Köln I waited for two hours in the burning heath (at this point it was 2pm and at least 30°) as there was no shadowy place from which a could thumb down cars that had filled their tanks. At last 3 enthusiastically gesticulating Polish guys shouted that I had to approach and curiously asked me what I was doing. Through a mixture of English, German and a well-received dzien dobry (the only two words of Polish I know, thank you very much cleaning lady) they understood I wanted to join them until Dortmund and agreed to this. Their trancey techno music and rapid rattling in Polish quickly made me drowsy and even though I fought the upcoming sleep waves I dozed off for a little over an hour. When I woke up we were almost in Dortmund and the guys wished me good luck and dropped me off at a parking just before the junction of two major highways. It was a small parking without anything but a toilet and I already started fearing it would be hard to get away there. Only to be picked up again 5min later by a German music teacher who told me he could drop me off at a better spot a few km further in the direction of Hannover and Hamburg/Berlin. After I got out of the car it was already 8pm and after some halfhearted attempt to thumb down another ride I decided to call it a day and started walking in order to find a nice spot to pitch my tent. After some directions from a lady who filled my water bottle I reached a huge diked canal. Perfect spot to hang out for a while listening to some well-derserved Bob Marley and cooking one of the packets of pasta I had brought with me on my gas cooker. While I was eating and taking pictures of the setting sun over the canal a girl on the other side waved and wished me a ‘guten appetit’. I shouted she could have some if she wanted and she crossed the nearby bridge to do so. She told me her name was Maria from Russia and we had a nice little chat after which she went home and I pitched my tent 100m further on the embankment of the canal. Perfect place. Only the huge snail under the tent canvas could keep me awake now, which at that point I was still delightfully unaware of. Ignorance truly is bliss. In the morning I got up early, packed my stuff, jumped in the canal as a way of refreshing myself and was on my way again, back to the same spot of the night before. Within minutes a lady on her way to work stopped and offered to take me to the next gas station on the highway, which I happily accepted. There I paid for the (superclean) toilets and brushed my teeth, filled my water bottle and did my business. A little later I asked a gentleman in German if he was going in the direction of Hamburg and he immediately recognized my accents. He and his wive were from Belgium and on their way to Berlin. They had never taken any hitchhiker but because I was from Belgium they decided to give me the benefit of the doubt. During the pleasant 180km ride we chit chatted about many things and before they left me somewhere close to Hannover they even gave me 5 euros ‘to have a drink on a terrace in the sun’. All my objections were of no avail and eventually they had to put it in my pocket themselves. If my faith in humanity had not been restored up till now, it definitely did so now. An hour later a huge Polish guy stopped and despite my sign saying Hamburg told me he was going to Berlin. In a fraction of a second I changed my plans and decided to go with it, since a direct 285km ride is difficult to refuse. He spoke just enough English to tell me that he worked in Belgium and was on his way to Poland for the funeral of his brother. After this we could both live with a relaxed 2 hour silence while we cruised through the beautiful German landscapes. When we reached Berlin he drove quite a lot out of his way to drop me off at Berlin airport, where I caught a train to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. After a failed attempt to reach Céline, a friend who lives with her boyfriend in Berlin for a month, from the McDonalds free wifi I hung around and did some sightseeing in the city center where I also met two Dutch girls who were Interrailling through Europe. In the end Céline got back to me and told me I could crash on their couch for the night. We spent the night with some wine, music and good conversation on the balcony, a perfect end to a great start of my trip.