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!
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.
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.
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!
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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