Interested in my journey? Before you move on, read the previous part of How to Be a Hippie. This is a series of articles that should be read in a chronological order.
Having recharged my own batteries, I was ready to explore the area the next day – starting with a swim in the chilly waters of Bodensee. Parks, beaches, and nearby towns. There was only me, myself, and I. Travelling alone is indeed finding yourself. Or if not finding, at least seeking.
During that day, I put a few notes in my journal. A note to future self – Hitchhiking Travel Tips – included:
- Drink water as often as you can;
- Pee as often as you can;
- Don’t ever pay for toilets;
- Don’t walk along highways (or else pay a fine).
Short, sweet, and practical. If you ever plan to go on a hitchhiking journey, keep those in mind. Stay hydrated and don’t go too harsh on your bladder. Don’t pay for toilets, there’s always a way to pee for free.
Speaking of peeing, why the hell would you pay for that? Sure, it’s a relief, but not a pleasure! Find a tree or two, do what you gotta do, and keep going.
Lastly, don’t walk along highways. Above all, drivers aren’t allowed to stop there, so they can’t even pick you up. Instead, go for parking lots and petrol stations. Yet, waving around with banners may turn out to be inefficient. As I mentioned earlier, don’t be afraid to ask for help. A quick “Hey, are you going to [blank] and could perhaps give me a lift?” can do wonders.
There’s one more thing that struck me during my hitchhiking trip. I can imagine that I might be prejudiced in this particular area. Some people couldn’t believe that I made it Bodensee. “How did you do that?” they asked.
“You know, I just smile and ask for a lift, and the driver thinks: Well, he’s young, well-dressed, as smells pretty good too. He looks quite decent, though that pseudo-moustache kinda ruins it. And they just take me.”
Apart from that, I can be quite extroverted and reach out to people easily. Another factor is that I’m a man, and I reckon that making such a bold decision would be quite troublesome (but not impossible!) for girls.
All of the mentioned features of character and appearance aren’t totally dependent on me (maybe excluding that moustache, but I promise I won’t do that again). Ipso facto, I’m not going to apologize for these advantages. I do acknowledge them, but I’m not sorry.
I’m not going be sorry for being white, male, and coming from a decent family in Europe. I’m just a lucky bastard. Unless you’re an abominable crook, don’t be sorry for who you are. We’re all trying to figure it all out here, so whatever they tell you, just keep going.
On my way to Hagnau, a nearby village, I came across a group of Poles working at a vintage. They told me they’d been coming to work at the Bodensee for generations, that it was some kind of a tradition. Next summer, I thought, I’m gonna do something like that.
Taking pictures, reading, beholding the picturesque scenery – that’s how I spent that Tuesday. No way I’m going back to Berlin tomorrow. In my mind, I was already planning another trip. Surrounded by the breath-taking sites, I strolled around the place. I thought it was strange, looking at a mighty mountain, knowing you won’t climb it today.
Somehow the day passed and the Sun hid beyond the horizon again. Back at my host’s place, I prepared yet another cardboard banner. Zurich, it said.
Just before going to sleep, my host approached a little figure on his cupboard and put his hands together. Driven by genuine curiosity, I asked him what he was doing.
“I’m praying to female Buddha,” he said, showing me the statue. “Every day, I pray for my family – so that they’re fine whatever struggle they come across – and for myself. It’s important to send my thoughts to my people of kin in Vietnam, that’s the best way I can help them. I also pray for myself – it’s just as important.”
Before nodding off, we chatted about Buddhism, drugs, and the meaning of life. He told me about what he called the ‘20s syndrome.’ He described it as the internal struggle people go through in their 20s – the search for their own identity and the challenges of real life, having been torn away from their parents’ caregiving arms. I couldn’t agree more, but I also couldn’t get too involved in the conversation, as my eyelids were getting heavier and heavier.
Just before I left the next morning, I took a moment to pray to the female Buddha: first for my family, then for myself. To be honest, I didn’t believe it would change anything. Actually, I’m quite sceptical in such matters. Still, I did it, and I don’t know why. It was a whim, a coincidence. Later that day, I was to realize that some coincidences happen for a reason.
Around 6 a.m., when it started to get bright outside, I was back on the road, heading for the closest petrol station. A morning coffee, a smile on my face, and I got a ride within a quarter.
My driver didn’t speak English too well, if at all, and I was forced to use my brain cells and keep up a chat in German. Much to my own surprise, it went quite smoothly. Some 45 minutes later I passed the German-Swiss border in Schaffhausen.
Wait, did I mention that I’m a lucky bastard? Two hours and two drivers later I arrived at Zurich. Aware of the outrageous prices for phonecalls in Switzerland, I quickly headed to the traveller’s retreat – a fine establishment with food, drinks, comfortable seats, free internet connection, and free toilets. The closest McDonald’s wasn’t too far away.
It was mind-boggling to think about it. Two days earlier, I was in my small rented room in Berlin. Off the cuff, I hitchhiked to Bodensee for 12 hours, only to find myself here in Zurich. From your point of view – the reader – I reckon it doesn’t sound as exciting, and I can fully understand it. In order to fully enjoy a story, you have to live it yourself. Once you become like the characters in novels, your life turns into a plot. Be it with words or simply with actions, you become a writer; the present is your pen (or your keyboard) for the stories of the future.
Following one of my drivers’ advice, I headed straight to Lake Zurich. Straight, then right. A couple of minutes of walking, and I found myself looking at the exquisiteness of nature.
I barely walked out of the city centre, and the gorgeous waters met my eyes. It was a windy day, which only magnified the beauty of that scenery.
On my way, I encountered a group of monks, dressed in robes, singing their mantra. One of them met my eyes. I smiled and showed them the hippie peace gesture, two fingers raised into the air. One of the monks stayed behind and talked with a couple on the sidewalk. I couldn’t but listen to what he had to say.
As it turned out, that day they were having a celebration of some sort. Dining, singing, chanting. Free food and a new experience, I thought. I’m in. It was to start in a few hours, so I had more than enough time to enjoy Zurich and see the city.
Shortly after, I’ve come across a Japanese garden – the perfect place for tourist. “No, no,” said the bodyguard once he saw me. “You can’t walk in with these,” he said, pointing at my banners.
Looking at him, I just stood there speechless. “Deutsch, Italiano, Française, English?” He asked.
“English, if you don’t mind,” I responded.
“You can’t take pictures with these,” he said, pointing at my banners again.
“Oh no, no, no,” I declined. “I’m a hitchhiker. Look, those say Leipzig, Nuremberg, Munich, and Bodensee. I got here per Anhalter.”
Whenever people see hitchhikers, some mysterious energy lights up within them. Naturally, we began to chat all friendly, and then I went in to take a couple pictures of the Japanese (or was it Chinese?) garden.
I’ve spent the next two hours roaming around the beautiful city of Zurich.
Oh boy, was it breathtaking. Even the simplest allies had something to them – the combination of Germany, Italy, and France – that was Zurich.
Having walked for a couple hours, I ended back in my headquarter’s – a McDonald’s restaurant. From there, my objective was clear. I need to get to those monks’ celebration.
As it turned out, they were part of a movement called Hare Krishna. To be honest, I’ve never heard of them, but something was driving me there. Their temple was next to Bergstrasse, and I knew a climb awaited me (Berg = mountain in German).
Have you ever seen Kung Fu Panda? If the answer’s ‘no,’ let me explain. In that animated film, the main character – Po – climbs the stairs for hours to get to the temple and start practising Kung Fu, or something like that. Well, that’s how I felt.
Finding the temple wasn’t easy. It took me an hour or so. Once I got there, I wasn’t too impressed. I expected an Eastern temple, with a dojo and monks singing around. Nothing like that was waiting for me. It was but a big, orange house, with a name on it: Hare Krishna Temple.
I ringed the bell and waited for somebody to let me in.
Keep reading – How to Be a Hippie #4: Hare Krishna.