A Trip Around The Baltic Sea

Adventure, Challenge, Fun

Why do I hitchhike? Because it is adventure, challenge and fun. Tourists are people who don't remember where they have been and whom they met, travelers are people who don't know where they are going to and whom they will meet. I prefer to be a traveler, and my perfect way to travel is by hitchhiking in connection with couchsurfing. http://www.couchsurfing.org/ It is the best way to meet interesting people, to be confronted with different cultures, views and opinions. My only plan for a trip is to have no plan. Expect the unexpected!

First Hitchhiking Experiences

In January 1972, I was 17 years old, a friend invited me on my first hitchhiking trip. Of course, it all went terribly wrong, and we had to take a train to reach our destination. But it was not the end of my hitchhiking carrier, it was rather the beginning. Only weeks after this first desaster, I became a real hitchhiker, even more, a hitchhiking addict.

Hitchhiking Through Europe

In the late 1970s and in the 1980s I made in average 3000 - 4000 km per year, hitchhiking in Eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and the Soviet Union, In the 1990s I hitchhiked in Germany, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Austria, Finland and France. In August 2002 I retired from hitchhiking, my last trip was from the Austrian-Hungarian border to Budapest. During these 30 years I hitchhiked about 60000 km. In April 2009 I hitchhiked about 20 km in Lithuania - the old instincts returned -, and I decided to go on another big trip. I was back on the road again!

In Lapland, Summer 2009
In Lapland, Summer 2009

A Trip Around The Baltic Sea

Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia

About two month ago I started my trip in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. I went to the seaside, to Klaipeda, the third biggest city in Lithuania, where I spent three nights in a hostel because it was raining, and I could not sleep on the beach. I met some interesting people who told me some things about their travel experiences. From Klaipeda I went on to Latvia. I visited Liepaja for some hours, and in the evening I ended up in Grobina where I met some nice people who hosted me in the Baptist church, and with whom I had some discussions about my ideas. When I started next morning, two young women picked me up and gave me a ride to the Latvian capital Riga. They told me about this couchsurfing project, of which I had never heard before and which became so important for my trip. On the same day I made it to Pärnu, an Estonian resort town, where I spent the night in the open. It was too cold to sleep on the beach, so I was walking around all night, waiting for the morning sun to warm me up. Back on the road again I made it to the Estonian capital Tallinn where I spent the first night for free in a community house. I joined the couchsurfing network, and I made my first attempts to surf couches. I sent some last minute requests to Tallinn and to Finland, but it was rather unsuccessful. The only reply I got was from a woman in Tallinn but she already hosted some other couch surfers, so she had no place for me. But we found the time to meet each other for a talk, and so I met my first couchsurfing friend, not so bad. After spending four nights in a hostel in Tallinn, I took a boat to Helsinki.

Finland, Norway

After my arrival in the Finnish capital, I immediately went back on the road to continue with hitchhiking. That day I reached Lahti, no couch was waiting for me there, so I had to spend another night in the open. On the next day I made it to Jyväskylä, no couch available there, but I found an accommodation in a Catholic church. My next destination was Oulu, where I arrived in the evening. No couch, no places in churches, so I decided to go to the police to ask for a free cell in a prison for one night. I think that it was the first time that the policemen got such a request, (perhaps they thought that I am mad) and they told me that it would not be possible to stay in a prison, but after a short phone call they found a solution for my problem. They drove me to a shelter for homeless people where I could stay for the night. Another day, another hitchhiking trip (I met Roman, the Russian cowboy) - and my first couch! What a wonderful experience to live in the forest, in peace with nature, to meet wonderful people, somewhere in Lapland, about 45 km south of the Arctic circle. After four nights in this extraordinary place the hitchhiking show went on, next destination Norway, another couch was waiting for me, in Karasjok, 250 km south of the North Cape. On the first day I traveled only a short distance to Rovaniemi (the hometown of Father Christmas) where I spent the night on a beach, on the second day everything went wrong with hitchhiking but I survived and a man living in a house near the road offered me accommodation for one night. The next morning Kille the gold digger picked me up, he offered me some wodka, but I refused, and I finally reached my couch in Norway in the evening. During the next four days I met some other couch surfers from Germany, Italy and Russia, who surfed the same couch, a good place to exchange ideas and experiences, to make new friends. I wanted to make it to the North Cape, I wanted to stay some more days in the northern part of Norway but no couches were available there, and so I decided to go back to Finland where another couch was waiting for me, in Tornio, next to the Swedish border, where I spent my last three nights in Finland. It took me two days to get there, the night I spent at a petrol station near Rovaniemi. Tornio is not a very exciting place but it was good enough to relax in the warm summer sunshine.

Sweden, Denmark

I soon realized that Sweden is an excellent country for couchsurfing (except Stockholm where I could not find a couch). I surfed eight couches in this country, two for one night only (in Tierp and Falun), four couches for two nights each (in Boden, near Sundsvall, in Orebro and in Linkoping), and two couches I surfed for three nights each (near Gävle and near Hedemora). Eight couches, eight different but positive experiences. The landscape is changing when you move from the North to the South, and so the environment of the couches is changing. I enjoyed the more rural places in the North, but small cities like Orebro and Linkoping have their advantages as well. And, of course, the greatest advantage is to meet different couchsurfing hosts, with different ideas and opinions, and with different social backgrounds. Among others, I met a Russian immigrant family, and a young woman from Iran who studied in Sweden. Hitchhiking in Sweden - the experiences I made were more or less positive. I had the longest ride of my whole trip (about 650 km), I convinced a driver (a former hitchhiker) who picked me up near Linkoping to try hitchhiking again, another driver said to me: "I hope you won´t kill me." Thanks to my couchsurfing success I had to spend only one night in a train station, and then this happened: I made a "plan" to hitchhike about 400 km from Linkoping to Ystad and I had no couch to surf for the night. A lady who had picked me up offered me a couch late in the evening, but then a truck driver picked me up and gave me a ride for 270 km. I made 410 km that day but I ended up at a petrol station near Lund where I spent the night in the open in my sleeping bag. Next morning I made 70 km from Lund to Ystad from where I took a ferry to Denmark where a couch was waiting for me. I had a lot of fun and interesting conversations with this lady, the truck driver and some people I met during the night at the petrol station (including 2 policemen) but I arrived 17 hours later on this beautiful Bornholm island with a wonderful couch. Everything went according to "plan", and I spent four nights and three days in this extraordinary place!

Germany, Poland

After taking a ferry from Bornholm to Germany, I made a short hitchhiking trip to my place of birth, a small town in the Northern part of the country, where I met some old friends, and where I stayed in the house of one of my school mates for almost a week. It was a good time to relax before I moved on to Poland. My first couchsurfing destination was Kolobrzeg, more than 250 km to hitchhike, and, once again, I did not make it. I still had to go about 60 km when darkness fell. An elderly lady who spoke German stopped, and first she asked me some questions about alcohol, drugs, crime. Then she took me 4 km to her village and offered me food and a place to sleep in her house. Next morning I arrived in Kolobrzeg, another example that everything went according to "plan". After two days in this coastal town I moved on to Gdansk, the biggest city I visited during my trip, where I stayed another two days, and then I went to Elk for the next two days, the last couch before returning to Vilnius.


What Comes Next

A good question! After this trip I am looking for the next adventure, the next challenge. I have some ideas for the next hitchhiking trip, to New York through Russia, Alaska and Canada, or through some Balkan countries? Who knows what will happen next year? I am only sure that there will be fun - maybe somebody wants to join me? I hope to hear from you!

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Comments 18 comments

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 7 years ago from South Africa

Great Hub - thanks for sharing your interesting experiences!

Love and peace

Tony


itakins profile image

itakins 7 years ago from Irl

Good read,I did Norway,Sweden,Finland,Denmark in the late '70s,ended up spending a night on a bench opposite Stockholm opera house...scary night ,good fun though.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 7 years ago from US

wow, very nice...


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

I did a ton of hitchhiking back in the day. Oh, what fun. And I set out many times not knowing where I was going. But 60000 km!!! WOW! That's incredible. I had never heard of couchsurfing. That's interesting. You have seen a lot of couches in your days. I sleep on the couch at home. I just like it there. Thanks for the great Hub.


Beth100 profile image

Beth100 6 years ago from Canada

I haven't hitch hiked myself, but know many who have. What an adventure!


loriamoore 6 years ago

My bucket list country to visit is Germany as it is the only other language that I can speak with semi-fluency. I've been to several of the ones you've mentioned: Estonia, Sweden, Finland, and Norway. Good hub!


bonny2010 6 years ago

well I haven't hitchhiked, but Ihave train hopped around the outback (cattle trains) ridden an old push bike from Townsvile to Rockhampton by myself and walked acamel from Darwin to Adelaide, not much, and for seven years of my life was regularly crawling around the hills and valleys in Tasmanis as part of my daily work. but hitchhike no - would love to join you but alas I am now tired to my animals , actually right now I have a very spoilt young kangaroo asleep on my lap - simply refused to go into his bag - and why not when there is a nice warm lap to snuggle up on, plus it comes with an automatic back rub )me) - anyway if you ever get to Australia can offer a couch and maybe find you some others - by the way I thoroughly enjoyed your hub - cheers


Petra Vlah profile image

Petra Vlah 6 years ago from Los Angeles

I just came across this one and all I can say is WOW. I guess this type of traveling is indeed an adventure and is probaly a great way to meet people. I know I can never do it myself, but I admire your spirit


irenemaria profile image

irenemaria 6 years ago from Sweden

As a Baltic sea Swede I thank you for sharing your trip wih me. Many smiles and recognizing places you talk about.


winnie 6 years ago

what a rich experience. wish i had the same or even similar experience


parduc profile image

parduc 5 years ago from Kos island, Greece

Great hub, thanks for sharing your experience!


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan

What about crossing the ocean? How did you do that, did you do it the regular way? I was thinking of seeing if I could get a job cooking on a freighter for free passage.


nextstopjupiter profile image

nextstopjupiter 5 years ago from here, there and everywhere Author

Brie, one possibility to travel from Europe to America is to hitchhike through Russia, and then take a boat to Alaska. I never did it, but it is possible. One of my couchsurfing hosts told me recently that he got a job on a yacht to travel from Morocco to Latin America.


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Gosh. You've sort of made me want to just take off on foot.


max neumegen 5 years ago

bernd u are quiet famous in here on the web.

"oh what we could have done if we had the web 30 years ago when we set out to walk Africa"

thought had to add a line here. i see more people are adding pictures from the european hitch hiking gathering

and our stories are being passed on by word of mouth

I wonder what they will sound like in another 30 years....

max

www.couchsurfing.org/people/mxnnz/


GNelson profile image

GNelson 5 years ago from Florida

I thumbed from San Francisco to LA in 1966. It was great fun. I don't know if I would do it now. You do get to see all the places and people that you miss driving by at 70 MPH. Your hub brought back some good memories. Thanks.


Amy Becherer profile image

Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

As I was reading your brave adventures, I wondered if this would actually be fun. I realize this piece focuses on the "couchsurfing" aspect with hitchhiking, but I think I would worry without knowing if I'd be under cover for sleeping. Hitchhiking itself seems so trusting and full of the unknown that I don't know if I could ever feel it was all out "fun".

Another thing that struck me, nextstop, is the fact that you must be very healthy. My autoimmune disorder relegates my health to "unpredictable". I take several Rx meds daily.

My yearnings are leading me to consider moving out of the States and to the slow paced, beachy life of Belize. The American $1 is worth $2 and property/rent is cheap. The climate is beautiful as well as the wildlife. That is about the limits of my fearlessness, unlike you!

Have you ever checked out nomoretrucks? He traverses many countries on a bicycle. His articles are, like yours, full of exciting, risky business.

Reading your well-written piece has been a trip! I'll be back!


PurvisBobbi44 profile image

PurvisBobbi44 4 years ago from Florida

Hi,

This one of the most interesting hub I have read in a while. You must have super-human strength and know the right vitamins to take for all the walking and sleeping in the open.

I have to tell you this sound great, and I just know you will write a book about it. And I hope you have a camera with you.

Good Luck in your journey but be careful of wild animals and evil humans.

Your Hub Friend,

Bobbi

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