Hitchhiking: from Dresden to Prague

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Dresden was a surprise on my itinerary. I hadn’t planed on going there in the beginning, but after being told good things about there by several people I started to think more about going there. There’s no need to speak much to convince me to go somewhere new, and as soon as I realized that Dresden was on my way from Berlin to Prague, I decided to make a quick stop.
I arrived in Dresden with no place to stay, thus I posted on a “last minute request” group on Couchsurfing, and while wandering around the city, one guy answered my request. He told me he would be busy with a meeting on his house and wouldn’t be able to give much attention, but I would have a place to sleep. It turned out he didn’t have time at all and I only slept there. If the famous “couchsurfing experience” didn’t happen, at least his house was close to the spot I wanted to hitchhike to Prague. I don’t mind walking a lot, in fact it’s my favourite way of visiting a city, so with the sun shining on my back, I walked for nearly one hour and a half to get to that spot I wanted.

State Ministry of Finance, Dresden (Sächsisches Staatsministerium der Finanzen)

State Ministry of Finance, Dresden (Sächsisches Staatsministerium der Finanzen)

I hope you also don’t need much to visit Dresden, as it’s an amazing small and charming city with beautiful monuments. I want to go back there one day to enjoy the night-life (I’ve heard it’s great) and to explore it’s surroundings.

From Dresden to Prague

By that time I already had some experience hitchhiking, so my idea was to try a long lift for about 30 minutes and if there was no sign that someone was going there, I’d try short lifts. Therefore, I putted on a sing to Prague and my thumbs up on the road. After waiting with no sign that somebody was actually going to Prague, I’ve change my sign to Pirna, even thought it wasn’t my intention to go there. My idea was to get a lift with somebody going o Pirna so they could drop me off on a service station on the road to Pirna. This service station was only 15 minutes away by foot from where I was, but it’s forbidden to walk along a motorway in Germany, so I figured it would be easy to get a lift until there, and from there I would certainly get a lift to Prague.

Best hitchhiking spot in Dresden

Best hitchhiking spot in Dresden

Less then 15 minutes after I changed my sign, a guy stopped and agreed on dropping me off on the service station. I got into his car and we started talking, even though the service station was less then 5 minutes away. Perhaps that I was my mistake, ’cause while talking he overtook a truck right in front of the service station’s exit and we miss it.
He apologized for that and told me he would drop me off on the next service station. The problem was that there wasn’t any other service station before the exit to Pirna, and he couldn’t let me on the road, as the only lift I would get there would be from a police officer.

Once in Pirna I had two options, either take smaller roads until the Czech Republic and once there try to get to Prague, or go back to Dresden and try again. I decided that’d be easier to get back to Dresden, as there I would get more traffic going to Prague. Thus I putted back on my sign to Dresden and in less then five minutes I guy stopped. He didn’t speak any English though, so after some miming he got that I wanted to go to Dresden and from there to Prague. What he didn’t get is that I wanted to go back to the spot I started, and just like that we drove around there and he didn’t stop. He ended up dropping me off near my host’s house, letting me again one hour away by foot from where I wanted to be.
So there I was, walking back to that spot. I thought that this time I wouldn’t wait for sucha short lift, I would take the risks and walk along the motorway. I thought I wouldn’t be so unlucky to find a police office on my way.

I wasn’t unlucky indeed, and nothing happened during this short walk. And as I approached the service station, I saw a car driving in. I told myself: “This is gonna be the car that will get me to Prague.”.
Once in the service station, I saw a guy standing right beside that car I had just seen, smoking his cigarette. I walked by and asked if he was going in Prague’s direction. He told me would pass around Prague, and that he could drop me off somewhere around there.
I was fucking happy, we got inside his car and he told me: “I never give lifts. I saw you walking along the motorway and when I saw you coming to me, I thought: “It’s not gonna be today that I will give one lift.”. But you came and started speaking English and then I changed my mind. I’ve been studying English and my teacher will be very happy to know that I’ve practise English for almost 2 hours.”
We took off, driving over 200 km/h in his Volvo. I had never been in a car that fast and it was a bit scary in the beginning, but after I short while you get used to it. The strange part was when we reached Czech Republic’s border and suddenly we were driving around 80 km/h. It seemed as if I was walking again!!!

That’s the sort of things that can happen to you when hitchhiking 😀

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Travelling to non touristy places: Bradford

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There’s something special about going to places where tourists usually don’t go and I discovered that while travelling to the snowy Bradford in mid-February. Before getting there, most of people I had met would tell me: “Why are you going there? There’s nothing to see, nothing to do.”. Well, they were wrong.

Snowy Bradford

Snowy Bradford

But I’ll be honest, there was something I wanted to see in Bradford. I am a football fan (not fanatic, at least not anymore) and I really wanted to visit the local team’s stadium. By that time, it’d be a fantastic opportunity as the usually terrible team (they are playing in the 4th division in England) were in an important final cup, had beaten first league teams on their way to the final. Ok, enough with the football fan bla bla bla, let’s get to the points.

Visiting Bradford

So I got there, I visited the store (couldn’t by a jersey due the “final cup” situation, the stock was gone) and then I tried to visit the stadium. I got to the reception and I was told that the “guide” wasn’t there, someone in his family was sick. But if I wanted, I could get inside by myself and see whatever I wanted to see. It was ok for me, not having to pay to get inside and no crowds annoying my experience. If someone had told me two years ago that one day I’d be there, I’d say they were crazy. But there I was, completely amazed.

Bradford Stadium

Bradford Stadium

When I was leaving, the guy asked me if I liked what I’d seen. Of course I had and we started to talk. He asked me where I was from and a really surprised “what are you doing here?” when I answered: Brazil. It was funny talking to the father of the president of the team. Very nice guy, he gave me one of the player’s internal magazine and showed me the original letter that Dalai Lama had sent them. He would ask all the staff who were passing through “You can’t imagine where this guy came from. So guess?”. Most would say Australian. Anyway, I spent almost an hour talking to him, and I think I could write a post just about it (remind me to do it one day).

Dalai Lama's letter

Dalai Lama’s letter

Meeting people

So now what? I had nothing to see. And that’s when things get more interesting. You’ve got no pressure when visiting a place like that. You don’t have to rush trying to think about the places you can’t miss, the places you’ve got to take a picture so to show to your friends and family, no need to buy little souvenirs (I never do it anyway). So I just wandered around, taking a few shots, enjoying the cool breeze, and slowly making my way to my couchsurfing host’s house. Getting a bit lost in a city like that is fun and I’d seen a couple of interesting things, and one was a book shop inside of a old church. Really nice.

Old church that became a book shop

Old church that became a book shop

But the coolest thing that happened in Bradford, was having met Nina, my couchsurfing host. When getting to her house I wasn’t enjoying the cool breeze anymore and just wanted to get into a warm place. Plus, I was looking forward to finally meet Nina after talking by messages. She seemed to be really nice. And she was. She welcomed me with a delicious cup of tea and introduced me to her flatmate. Then she told me that the central heating had just broken and that the landlord would send someone to get it fixed, but till then, we’d have to do it with a small electric heating. It was more than enough and the living room as so cosy and warm that I could have stayed there the whole day.

Park close to Nina's house

Park close to Nina’s house

Nina and her flatmate are probably the kindest people I’ve ever meet. Really. Was so nice to talk to them, and so easy (I’m not a native English speaker as you’ve probably realised so far, and it’s much easier to understand British than Irish speaking), specially her flatmate who would speak so slowly and gently.

Later on, Nina invited me to go to a “neighbourhood//friend’s party” which they organize every Monday. That one would be at the house next door, so we wouldn’t have to commute in the cold to get somewhere. I promptly accepted. There were about 20 people in the house, I guess, and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place with so many kind people together. I was a strange there and everybody treated me so well. Got talking with a German guy who was studying in Bradford, with some of Nina’s friends and then with Lavinia. She heard me talking about hitchhiking and told me that she’d done it already. Very interesting girl, told me that she lived in France and I was amazed by what she’d done there. We kept talking and I couldn’t believe when she told me she once went to Tibet. By that time I had , and still have, this fixed idea about going to Tibet. If I had to do a “To-do list” this would be the first thing. I wish I had spent more time seating there on the floor talking to her.

Oh, and it was one of Nina’s friends birthday, so after a delicious vegetarian dinner, we sang Happy Birthday to him, plus, a really funny dance that they do when is someone’s birthday. (I can’t remember the “lyrics” but I’m messaging her and will ask about it haha).

It was so nice and when I finally went back home, the central heating was fixed and I slept like a baby in one of the best “couches” ever. The couchsurfing experience was amazing and the couch was really comfortable (maybe better than my bed.).

Yeah, things happen for a reason, I don’t think I was lucky to have chosen Nina (and Nina chosen me) among other people to stay with. And then not only Nina but also her friends. I’m so glad I went to Bradford and remember clearly not wanting to leave and wishing I could be in situation like that one more often.

What about you? Have you ever been in a situation like this, being a strange in a small/non touristy place?

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