What’s the single most important thing to bring when traveling – except your sense of humour and (not) knowing where you’re going? A passport, right? Now that’s what I forgot before going to Berlin to attend a pre-meeting for the 2010 edition of the European Hitchgathering.
I traveled in Europe without identification before and was hold at the French-Spanish border (“open borders?”) while the border-officials were checking my story (which they couldn’t – but I got released anyhow). So I know traveling without papers can be done.
But Germany is another challenge. The highways are filled with German cops and they pull over anyone that looks suspicious: a foreign license-plate, an interesting looking cargo or your profile. And if you’re with no papers, you are asking to be taken in.
Traveling from The Netherlands makes you suspicious, for no other reason than that. So, when we drove across the border I was unthrilled to see dozens of police. One officer stood in front of us. A look into the car, a break of two seconds… and we were cleared. Sigh, take a breath.
We drive through and laugh. The price of the car, a German numberplate and the fact it had a female driver, might have helped.
Though danger wasn’t over yet! She drops me at a small parking-lot just before Osnabruck. It is cold and few cars. An hour passes when a police car enters the parking and drives slowly into my direction, holding still at 70 meters. I hold my breath and then think of the story I would make up, knowing that German police often interrogates hitchhikers and do check papers, when just then another driver opens its window, offering me a 350 km ride.