The Way Is The Goal

Tag: couchsurfing (page 2 of 3)

Picking Cherries

Lying in a tree, picking cherries. How wonderful life can be. One day earlier, in Belgrade, I didn’t even know I was going to be in this place as I was trying to hitch out of Serbia, to Macedonia. But there I was, a day before departure to Istanbul, in a cherrytree in the beautiful and extremely relaxed countryside of Serbia.

Before arriving in Istanbul, I had my last stop close to the city Niš, the third largest city in Serbia. I stayed with a family who hosted me through couchsurfing in a nice and self-build house on one of the hills around the city. Staying here turned out to be one of my more distinctive experiences during my four months of traveling.

First of all, I arrived in Niš totally unexpected. In fact I was on my way to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia which is 200 km further south. However, while hitchhiking you surrender yourself to a higher level of randomness and you cannot always arrive at your destination. With over 20 hitchhiking days during these four months, this was nevertheless only the first time.

The road from Belgrade to Niš is only 233 km but it took me ages. I left Belgrade at around 10 as I was dropped by my host at the highway, and I even woke up at 8. I arrived at Niš at six in the afternoon. No more than 30 km per hour, my highest low-speed record.

I thought that Serbia, like all other Balkan countries, would be a great hitchhiking country but it was not. The people are less friendly on the road and there are not many cars driving very far in fact. My first hitch was an old hitchhiker himself who owns a bar. He dropped me at a minor exit, where I had to wait in the burning sun for at least 2 hours for a truck that was bringing me just 20 km further down the highway. But this was the ride I needed.

As a pretty common thing already in the Balkans, the truck-driver dropped me at the highway where I was lucky enough to find a quick ride with an older marijuana smoker driving 60 km per hours. He brought me to a rest-area where after an hour and a half I finally had a ride with a young guy driving a dutch Unilever van towards Niš. So I decided to stay in Niš.

Sometimes you just have to surrender yourself to the moments or the randomness, so I thought. Arriving in NiÅ¡ at six would give me enough time to contact people in that city and since it is not a very popular city, it shouldn’t be very hard to find a host. And who knows what comes up?

I was picked up by my new host several hours later, which gave me enough time to discover some nice elements of the city like the old fortress. Finally I was sitting in a good old Yugo car while we were driving through an old dirt road leading far up the hill some hours before midnight. Where was I going I was thinking for a moment.

But some time later I had a wonderful diner and the next day the couple invited me to their land to pick sherries. And there I was, one day before departure to Istanbul, in a cherrytree in the beautiful and extremely relaxed countryside of Serbia.

The same evening I was introduced to the rest of the family at a birthday party of a new young member of the family, while the whole neighboorhoud came for a visit, and later to the daughters of the family, when they showed me the cosy inner city of Niš. Just like my stay in Belgrade, it was one of my first real distinctive couchsurfing experiences where I was immediately part of the local culture.

Le Grand Finale

Hitchhiking in the middle of the night! Never had I really done it before. Always do I calculate my travel in such a way that I would be sure to arrive at my destination or to have my final ride, within the last hour after sunset, just before it really gets dark. But there I was, some hours before midnight at the Turkish border and 350km still to go for Istanbul…!

Some actually thought I had already made it when I wrote last week I finally arrived in Turkey. Nothing was less true. I still had over a thousand kilometers to go but Wednesday night at 3 a.m I arrived. Le Grand finale you could say. One of my most exciting hitchhiking adventures as I was traveling from Niš in south Serbia to Istanbul, Turkey, through Bulgaria.

I was given rides by smoglers, salesmen, truckdrivers and refugees. It took me over 12 hours to drive 750km. A relatively good day with 60 kilometers an hour as half of my road were no highways, and half of trip was done with slow trucks. I crossed two borders in one trip, both by foot. Continue reading

To Beer in Graz

– There are only two countries with good beer: Belgium and France.
– France, really?
– Yes, you can find Belgium beer everywhere in France.

It could be because I hadn’t been drinking beer for a while but I believe Austrian beer can be excellent too. The beer I was served yesterday, organically and locally brewed, tasted like a goddess for the tongue.

Good beer doesn’t come from a country. It can be found everywhere where small and independent breweries are based. But that truth would kill my jokes. What you do want to hear is that Austrian beer tastes so bad you can only find it in Austria, because that’s what makes you laugh.

Austria. I love it for its diversity. Salzburg was nice but the people grumpy. They look depressed and seemed to be only friendly in a forced formal manner.

I was afraid that the whole of Austria would be as grumpy. But now I arrived in Graz, I see a nice, free and open culture. Parks are full, people talk to strangers and share fun and joy with each other.

I arrived here Saturday hitching from Salzburg. My route went through thirty tunnels, several lakes and white mountains. I will leave the story for another day but it involves a sexy law-student, a communication advisor for a famous politician and a chemical guy.

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