Last weekend I did a trip to Dubrovnik. I’ve been in Croatia before, but this time was definitely something new. For the first time in my life I went somewhere by hitchhiking. It all started about one month earlier when I was looking for a nice place to go to. I wanted to spend there a few days, maybe a week, take some pictures and go back. One of my friends mentioned something about the hitchhike race that he saw somewhere. He didn’t really remember the name, but it wasn’t hard to find.
It turned out that this was not a one time thing. They do it every year for the fifth time in a roll and the only thing I had to do is sing up. For my surprise all one thousand places were taken in 8 minutes. One thousand people going on one, two, three to the very same place? It’s going to be a madness I thought. How the hell can anybody catch a car if there’s so many people standing on the street? Now I know that everything is possible.
Preparation to the journey we were about to start didn’t take much time. We grabbed a few maps and marked the perfect way we could take. There was really not much to plan. We rather focused on what to take, because no one wanted to carry a heavy backpack for so long. We’ve cut down on almost everything and took what’s the most important. Two tshirts, some underwear, soap, food, sleeping bag, tent, a few small thing and my camera.
The start was taking place in front of the University of Economy in Wroclaw where we got by bus after staying over in friend’s place. We all met at 7 o’clock, signed up on a list again and took a blue team tshirt. We were allowed to take buses only in Wroclaw and Dubrovnik to get to the camping. At 9 everything was ready and the organizers started to count down 3, 2, 1, GO!!
Everybody started to run out of the campus so he can go out of the city. It was CRAZY! People running everywhere, screaming left, right, left! I’m never going to forget people’s faces when they saw us. I think that day almost no one made it on time to work. The buses were full of hitchhikers. We didn’t even make it to get on the first one, so we had to have our first pit stop.
After about 40 minutes we finally got to the place where we could catch a car and what we saw, I think is not a big surprise for anyone. I wish the picture below could show it better, but when it was taken at least half of the people were gone and also, because they were standing in the line you can’t see all of them.
It took us almost three hours to get out of Wroclaw, but when it finally happened everything was going just fine. We didn’t catch many long rides, but that time there was nothing to complain about. We were on the way and that was the only thing that mattered.
That day we also met the first foreign people on the road. A medicine student from Germany that has been living and studying in Czech for 2 year, took us from Kudowa to Hradec Kralove, where he lives. The very same day we started, we finally left Poland.
In Hradec Kralove we had to walk a little to go out of town, but was totally worth it. After about one hour of waiting, bottle of water and a sandwich, another team approached us and in no time I’ve caught another car. The guy was pretty shocked, because I was standing by myself and others at least 30 meters behind. When he saw 4 people he didn’t say much, but finally took us. That was out first ride in a clown car. Small Volkswagen Golf and 4 hitchhikers with a huge backpacks on their knees. We wasn’t conscious yet, that we are going to get used to it
A guy took us to about 50 kilometeres to the small town called Vysoke Myto. When we arrived was pretty late. We couldn’t catch any car so we decided to walk. Well, if you hitchhiking at night without a map and you don’t know how far is the next city just don’t walk on the road. After about half an hour of walking there were not street lights, the road was totally dark and there was no place to sleep. I don’t remember for how long we have been walking, but finally we find a gas station. We took a break, ate something and went in to buy a flashlight. We knew there might be a problem to use English in Czech, but to our surprise we couldn’t communicate in Polish either. I think the guy thought we want to buy ketchup or something..
There was no place to sleep so we decided to keep going. After another 30-40 minutes of walking we’ve reached a small village, found a nice place for a tent. The spot was hidden from the road by a lot of bushes, but there was an old railway track near by. That was our first night on the way to Dubrovnik.
The plan was to wake up early in the morning so we finally made it around 9 o’clock. Outside was so cold we didn’t even want to wake up. Besides that it was raining..
Even though the weather was really bad the day turned out to be just fine. We caught the first car very fast. An older soldier was going to work, we stopped for a second to grab his friend and we did a few kilometers together. We left us near a gas station and a bus stop so we could eat something and not get wet while standing outside. After a very good start I started to think that our luck might be over and then something funny happened. An ambulance stopped at the bus stop. I didn’t even think that he stopped for us, because I’m pretty sure they can’t do it, like in Poland. Luckily they did.
The guy was going back to a hospital from another city. He’s taking that road a lot and one day he decided to give somebody a lift. After all that time outside we were freezing, so when he went out of the car we were jumping out of happiness. He took us to one small city on the way to Brno. I don’t even remember the name, but hitchhiking in an ambulance was awesome
A good fortune was really with us that day. It took us like 10 minutes to catch another car. Thee guys going back home to Brno. Long hair, beard, drinking beer all the way. I have no idea who there were, but there were very nice actually. When we stopped at the gas station to get some more beer one of the guy bought an oscypek in a shape of chicken for all of us.
Thanks to them we did another 70-80 kilometers and finally arrived in Brno. The driver was so nice he left us at a road going out from the city. It was just next to one shopping mall, so we could go in and eat something more or less normal.
We bought a flashlight (that broke after one night) and two small reflectors for the backpacks in case we need to walk in the dark again. Unfortunately they didn’t sell makers, but the guy from the service gave us his own. People are really nice for us.
After a break we got out of the mall and started to catch car. I don’t remember exactly for how long we’ve been standing there. I remember a lot of cars with polish registation, so we hoped we can catch a ride using our flag and well.. we did. Other thing that they didn’t notice the flag so our welcome was very funny. It was something like this:
- Hi, where are you from?
- Do you speak English?
- Yes, we do. We’re from Poland.
- Oh, to dobrze
And that’s how we met Hania and Kuba. They were going to Wien to pick up a friend from the airport and took us with them. It was a very nice ride and finally we could easily talk with each other. Cheers to you guys!
And the pictures:
We did another 130 kilometers and were getting closer to our destination. Unfortunately in Wien we stayed a bit longer than expected. It’s very hard to get on the highway and there was no gas station before the city, so we were in a small trouble. We started to go into direction where the entrance suppose to be, but the place we were in, didn’t look like we’re going to make it. Then we saw two people wearing blue shirts. They are from Poland! Cześć! Co słychać?! That’s how we met Mary and Tomek. In the middle of nowhere, stucked in Wien.
We walked together thought the city, but the neighbourhood didn’t look very appealing. We knew that the highway is somewhere there, but we didn’t know how far is any entrance. After about one hours of walking we found a gas station, took a break and asked for directions. We found the entrance. Everything looked good from now on. Even the view. There were so many cars going to the highway we thought it will be a matter or minutes for someone to stop.
Well.. we were wrong. What the people told us about hitchhiking in Austria was true. The people were acting funny. Half of them were pretending they cannot see us (normal everywhere). Part of them looked like they are saying “OMG! You really do it?! That’s so crazy!” like they saw it on TV, but never though someone’s doing it for real. It was a bit irritating. We lost a few hours and no one even stopped for a second. Going out from that place took us more than 4 hours. We were exhausted and just wanted to relax. What’s more when we arrived at the first gas station it turned out we’re not alone again. There were many people on the station. There were so many people that most of it didn’t even hitchhike, just sat down and relaxed. So did we. We met some other people at the station. We’ve talked, shared some stories. Later on we tried to catch a ride, but anyway we ended up doing a small camp at the station. It was a very good evening. A small party I would say. That day I could really feel why hitchhiking with 1000 people is so much fun. I didn’t care about the score and time. I just wanted to enjoy my time with them.
The lucky day. Again we suppose to wake up early, but at least we made it around 8. Quick shower at the station, breakfast and we were ready to go. Mary and Tomek woke up much earlier to catch trucks, but no one stopped. We’ve joined them and the second car passing by took four of us.
That was one of the longest ride we had. 200 kilometers from Wien to Graz, packed like clown car again. I couldn’t even take any picture, because all of us were stucked. When we finally arrived at the station, again there were many people, but this time we didn’t have a good luck. We coudn’t catch a car for a few hours. Luckily some hitchhikers from the very same race, after they caught a car, they told us that they guy working at the station lives in Maribor and can take us after his shift is over. The only problem was we had to wait over 7 hours. That’s why we made another camp at the station. We put our backpacks, took out our foam pads and enjoyed the time.
We met some other hitchhikers that were going as a different race from Cracow to Vienna in Italy. That was a funny story. One couple was sitting with us for a longer while and then they decided to walk around, ask some people and truck drivers. When they were gone another couple to Vienna arrived. We were talking and sharing stories as always when a blue truck with polish and italian flags on it approaches us. I’ve just yelled at them to go and catch it. Fortunately they made it. They guy was driving straight to Vienna.
The only problem was to tell the other couple what happened. We had an idea how to play that game, but no one wanted to do it. Well, it’s hard to tell someone that they just lost probably the biggest chance during their race. The truck was going directly to the target city. What’s more when they came back they told us that somewhere suppose to be a blue truck going to Vienna. Well, it was going, but you are a few minutes late.
Long story short the guy from the station gave us a lift to the boarder with Slovenia. The only problem was, the place is a few kilometres from the highway and the only people going there were from Austria want to buy alkohol and cigaretts. The sun was gone and there was no place to sleep so we had no other option, but catching. And we did catch a driver going back home to Maribor. He left us at the station as everyone. We found plugs, so we could charge our phones, we ate breakfast and found a place for a tent. At the end there was a mini party with “two and a half” and then everyone went to sleep. Day three is over.
.. is a day of karma. I was catching a car with Tomek at the entrance of the station and girls near the store. After a few hours one of the girls came and said that there’s a car to Zagreb, but just for two. She said that we can dice who’s going or they can go. Then she turned around and left.
That was a very weird situation. At one moment the teams were changed.
I was standing at the station with Tomek, asking every single driver and no one wanted to take us. After a few hours one guy felt so sorry that he was going to different direction that he got us a beer.
After one time we’ve changed our plan and the pice of cartoon into Ptuf. Getting into the city is not a very good idea, but we just wanted to move anywhere. It was a good decision, because one guy offered us a lift. It turned out that he’s just going to drive by and leave some documents, but actually he lives in a different place, located on the road to Zagreb. Not only we got a ride, but the conversation was awesome as always. Every person that takes you somewhere has a different story. But more about that later.
The lucky station
We were stucked at the station.. as always. I don’t remember how long we stayed, but it was over 4 hours. Nobody wanted to take us. People were showing that they are about to turn left or right. The road was actually going left or right, but somehow non of the directions was going to Zagreb? Anyway we approached two younger people if they can give us a lift. They were coming back to Maribor, opposit dirrection. They guy asked us if we have some change for gas. Isn’t it weird? Asking people who sleep at gas stations and eat instant soups if they have some change? A friend of mine gave them 80eurocent after he realised they buy fuel for 1.40euro. Seems like nothing, but it they run out of gas? Better something, than nothing.
After this one I really started to believe in karma. 5 minutes later we found some people from Croatia going to Split. It was a miracle! With karma on our side we did over 400 kilometers in a big comfortable car. What happened to the girls? Well.. when we were at the station no truck wanted to take us what was obvious as there was an accident on the road and no truck was allowed to drive. The girls had to go out before the boarder with Croatia and we were just doing the longer ride in the whole trip!
Our luck wasn’t over that day. As soon as we got at the station 65km before Split, the very first car took us to the next station, 4km before the entrance to the city, where we met our friends from the party in Wien. One day, almost 500km behind and another great night at the station. I didn’t feel like going anywhere, just wanted to stay and have my beer.
The very next morning after we woke up no one was left at that station. It was a day of the final event in Dubrovnik. If we don’t arrive till 4pm we won’t make it on the main event.
With help came two girls that knew each other since they were children. We had two options, to go to the next station so about 33km or they could take us to Mimice where we can catch a bus. They helped us a lot, called a few places and gave a map we didn’t have, because girls took it. We’ve decided that it’s time to get to Dubrovnik. We didn’t have time to hitchhike anymore. It’s better to make it to the final event than be late, because most of the people will start going back home that time. So we decided to go to take a bus.
They left us at the bus station and we still had about one hour before the bus comes. Luckily I found a stairs going down to the beach. After 5 days of travel I could finally go into the water. I can imagine people faces when two burned and a bit dirty people with backpack arrived at the beach.
After these 5 days of travelling we finally got to Dubrovnik just when the main gig started. All the people were there. Lots of people in blue shirts having fun, dancing, partying and listening to the concert. Unfortunately girls didn’t make. They came one day later.
The trip was amazing. We didn’t do it in 18 hours like the team that won, but we had a lot of fun. All the people that I met had interesting stories, both the people who gave us a lift and other hitchhikers. The people who took us with them had different reasons. Some of them wanted to help, others used to hitchhike before, very ofter when they were younger. I met people playing in bands, working in sales, owning companies or just going back home to visit family. I’ve talk to every single person I was in the car with and I recommend it to everyone who will hitchhike anywhere. The most inspiring thing on the journey is always people.
Cheers for everyone I met on the way!