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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Hitchhiking in Ireland: from Glendalough to Waterford – Part 3/3

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Didn’t you read first and second part yet? Well, what are you waiting for?

Graiguenamanagh, there I was, wondering how many Irish people I know would had ever been to that charming small city.
It was starting to get colder and colder and I really wanted to get to Waterford as soon as possible. So I walked to a roundabout and putted my sign on. After 10 minutes waiting for a car, two guys stopped and offered me a drive to New Ross. An Irish and an Indian guy, both really nice. I was talking to the Irish guy who had lived in Dublin, quite close from where I lived in Terenure, when the Indian guy asked me if I wanted to listen to some Indian music. “Of course”, I said. And then I thought I would get deft in that lift. Seriously, music was great, but I’ve never listened to such a loud music. I thought my eardrum were going to explode and then he stopped to drop off the Irish guy in a shop and lowered down the music. Thanks god! I couldn’t handle that any longer.

New Ross' city centre

New Ross’ city centre

He asked me to jump to the first seat and I asked if we could talk a bit. So he told me that actually he was from Pakistan and had been living in Ireland for about 6 years. Also said that he loved Ireland, and couldn’t think about going back to Pakistan, that he enjoys drinking Guinness and that he would go to jail if he did something like that back in his country. He kindly offered me an Indian cigarette, which was pretty strong, and we were off to New Ross.

Square in New Ross

Square in New Ross

New Ross and finally Waterford

The rest of the drive was short but nice, and I really enjoyed talking to him. He dropped me off in the city centre and told me that once I crossed the bridge it would be very easy to get a lift to Waterford as it is the next city. I was a bit hungry and decided to walk a little bit around the small city centre, trying to find a place to eat. After a short walk I thought it would be smarter to try to get as soon as possible to Waterford, and once there I would have plenty of time to decide where and what to eat.
So I crossed the bridge and hoped for the best.

While crossing a bridge in New Ross

While crossing a bridge in New Ross

No more than 10 minutes later a car stopped. Really funny Irish guy told me that he had just had lunch and asked me not to mind his bad breath. It was a short lift and we went all the way making fun comparing Brazil with Ireland, from its size, to population, traffic jams, and so on. He said he couldn’t drive me to Waterford otherwise he would get a terrible traffic jam on his way back. I asked how long he would stay in the traffic jam. “Ahhh, about 15 minutes.”, he said. I told him that in São Paulo people are used to waiting more than hours on traffic jams, so that 15 minutes wouldn’t be that bad. We both laughed our asses off and he dropped off where I could already see Waterford. It took me 20 minutes walking to finally get there.

I spent a whole day to get from Glendalough to Waterford (by bus it’d take not more than 2 hours) but I was very happy anyway. I met nice people on my way, people who helped not only driving me to the places I needed to go, but also by sharing their experiences, their stories, their life even if just for a short period of time. The feeling was incredible and I regarded myself four good beers and a delicious pasta cooked by myself in the kitchen of the “hotel” I was staying. Yes, I talked to the manager and got a discount in a private room and he allowed me to use the kitchen while the cook wasn’t there to prepare the guest’s meals.

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Hitchhiking in Ireland: from Glendalough to Waterford – Part 2/3

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Didn’t you read the first part? Click here and catch up.

Kilcullen

After Daniel had dropped me in Kilcullen and gave me his map, Glendalough was behind me and I needed to keep going. I could get a bus directly to Waterford in the gas station close to the place I was about to hitchhike, but this was the last option, just in case nobody picked me up.
I headed a bit further from the gas station and putted a sign on to “Carlow”. During the 30 minutes I stayed there with nobody stopping but everybody giving signs that they were turning right or left, I guessed I was getting only local traffic there. There was no other option but to walk further on, where I’d get the intersection with a motorway, heading to Carlow (yeah, the map was already helping me). Other 30 minutes waiting on the exit and nobody stopped. I knew that it was against the law to hitchhike on the motorway, but it was cold and I wanted to move on.

Carlow

It didn’t take longer until Andrea stopped and told me that she was heading to Carlow. Great! First and only female driver who picked me on the road (I’ve got picked up by more than 30 people so far). It was a bit difficult to talk to her, I couldn’t understand much as she had a very strong accent. I told her that I had been living in Dublin for almost a year and was then travelling around Ireland and next around Europe. She was impressed and told me that she would love to do the same, but she was too scared of flying, so she had never left the island. Well, it’s not only flying that you can leave Ireland, but she didn’t seem to be very enthusiastic with the idea of taking a fery too. She said that she would love to visit Barcelona, and I hope she can get past her fears and go there one day.

She dropped me off close to a gas station, which is very appreciated by hitchhikers. I putted my next sign on, Kilkenny and waited for about 20 minutes until a local stopped and told me I was in the wrong place if I wanted to get to Kilkenny and that he could drive me to a better spot. I told him that my plan was to get to Waterford and he said I’d be fine in the place where he was about to drop me off. And also that if nobody picked me up, there was a bus stop nearby where I could get a bus directly to Waterford. Well, not the first option again, but it could be helpful.

Carlow seemed to be a tough place to hitchhike after waiting over an hour with a sign to Waterford. I thought maybe it was time to try a shorter lift, to Kilkenny and once there try to go to Waterford. Well, it was the right decision, the problem wasn’t Carlow, but my sign asking for a long lift. So only 15 minutes after I putted back my sign to Kilkenny a car stopped. I just couldn’t understand what this old fella was trying to tell me. After I while I got that he wasn’t going to Kilkenny but that he could drop me off somewhere closer. OK, let’s go, anything is better than keep waiting there. Once inside, I told him that I was actually trying to get to Waterford and that made him happy. He said he was driving to Graiguenamanagh (well he had told me at the first place, but how on earth could I get this word?), and that from there it would be easy to hitch to New Ross and then I’d be very close to Waterford. A piece of cake, according to him.

We arrived in an empty car park, where we would leave that old car for inspection and get another one to continue the trip. It was strange seeing him just let the car there, with the keys on the seat, as somebody else was supposed to get the car there and bring it to the inspection.
He decided to avoid big roads and drove us through these beautiful small roads and I was amazed by Ireland’s countryside. Weather was good (seriously?) and a bit sunny (just enough to put a small smile in your face), which made the trip even better. He would sometimes drive in the wrong way, which made me a bit uncomfortable, but nothing that scary.

We finally made it to Graiguenamanagh and I was now much closer to Waterford. Next stop, New Ross.
I had learned a couple of few important things in these lifts and was looking forward to finally arriving in Waterford. And I’ll tell how it went in the next post. See you soon.

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Hitchhiking in Ireland: from Glendalough to Waterford – Part 1/3

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March, 2013. My time in Ireland was about to end. After quitting my two jobs and spending an amazing St. Patrick’s day in Dublin it was time to start a short trip around this country.
Hitchhiking was the main idea, but it could change depending on the weather, which is very likely when you’re talking about Ireland.
So, my trip would start in Glendalough, I’d take the first bus in the morning and spend my first day there. I had seen pictures and heard a lot of good stuff about the Wicklow National Park and was looking forward to seeing a bit of it through the trails in Glendalough.

One of the entrances to the national park

One of the entrances to the national park

Glendalough

I’ve spent only a day hiking around there and I felt like I should had stayed longer. Such a beautiful and quiet place. The weather was a bit shitty, but again, that’s Ireland, so you gotta suck it up and move on. Hiking with a bit of snow in a place like this is definitely one of the most memorable things I’ve ever done. Amazing views from the two lakes and being in touch with animals in their natural habitat is such an incredible experience. I saw like a dozen of deers at about 10 meters from me. They wouldn’t stop staring at me and I did the same. When I moved further they would move backwards. Amazing. I’d highly recommend you to spend at least a whole day in these mountains, and if you can get there when there aren’t many people, your experience will be truly incredible.

Be aware of bear. This path leads to a hiking trail along the ridge

Be aware of bear. This path leads to a hiking trail along the ridge

Path along the ridge in Glendalough

Path along the ridge in Glendalough

http://www.wicklowmountainsnationalpark.ie/UpperLakeSites.html

View from the Upper Lake

People

I was sleeping in a hostel right beside the visitor centre and my next day would be on the road. I had no idea of how it’d be, as it was a weekday and there was not too much traffic going through the road I had to take. Hostel was empty too, but there was someone in the same room that I was sharing. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet them until the next morning.

Old cemetery near the visitor centre and the hostel.

Old cemetery near the visitor centre and the hostel.

Daniel, an Irish man, who had lived in the US, the UAE and in several places around Ireland told me in a good mood that he almost didn’t sleep due to the fact that I moved too much while sleeping and my bed was very noisy. We’ve talked a lot over a terrible continental breakfast, that cost me more than 5 Euros, and I told him that I was planing to hitchhike to Waterford that day. He told me that he was going to Dublin, so it wouldn’t be to much of a help, but he could drive me to the road and save me a 20 minutes walk. Well, that’s great.
Once on the road, we both realized that it’d be a bit difficult to get out of there heading to Waterford. We looked at his map, and then he said he could take a different (much longer) route to get to Dublin, leaving me in a better spot. While talking about life and how people deal with the ups and downs, he quoted someone that he couldn’t remember: “Rather light a candle than complain about darkness.”
He dropped me in Kilcullen where we had coffee and he gave me his map. He said he could get another one easily and it’d be much more of a help if it stayed with me.

Upper Lake in Glendalough

Upper Lake in Glendalough

Amazing how nice people can be with strangers. This guy who I had just met, the very one that couldn’t sleep due to my noisy bed, had offered me a lift to the completely opposite direction that he was going, and also gave me his map. Wherever you are now, mate, I’m very thankful for what you’ve done for me.

Do you wanna read the second part? Click here.

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Hitchhiking for the first time

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I know what most people think about hitchhiking: “I don’t wanna give a lift to a total stranger, they might try to rob or even kill me!!!” or “I would never get into a stranger’s car. Maybe they’ll rob me or drive me to a strange place and kill me.” Yeah, I don’t blame you if you have the same thoughts, we live in a society that tries to scare the hell out of us. But I’d rather think that not everybody out there is a dangerous person. I like to think that there are good people out there and that they are the vast majority.

So I started reading about hitchhiking and talking with people who had already done it. The more I read and talked, the more I wanted to do it. I didn’t want to get chained to buses/trains/flights timetables, I needed the freedom to decide wherever and whenever I’d go next, I wanted to have stories to tell, I wanted to hear someone else’s stories and hitchhiking would allow me that. Imagine that, you’ll get into a car and you have only a couple of hours, maybe less than this and you might never see this person again. So you wonder: why did they pick me up? Why are they going there? Where did they come from? …

Hitchhiking in the UK

When I was about to go to the UK I thought that I could start giving it a chance there. Unfortunately it was a short trip so I planned to hitchhike only one day, in order to see how things would go. There was a really good spot in Sheffield, where I could get only drivers going to Manchester and I thought this would be the perfect place to start.

I was couchsurfing in Sheffield and my host surprised me by telling that the good spot I’d seen on hitchwiki, was located within a walking distance from her place. Coincidence? A hell of a good start. Ellie walked with me to the spot and there I was, sign ready, thumbs up, all excited to be doing it for the first time, and a bit scared, of course.

After a few minutes, some cars passed by and most of the drivers would wave to me or return the thumb up. Especially when waiting too long, it really helps when drivers interact with you, it makes you wonder which one will be the one who will communicate and actually stop.

Thankfully, I didn’t wait long this day and after exactly 9 minutes a car stopped. Will was driving a blue Volkswagen and told me that he wasn’t going to Manchester but he could drop me quite close from there. Born in Gales, Will had spent a few days with his girlfriend in Sheffield and was now heading back home. While he drove us through the Snake Pass, completely painted on white by the snow, he told me that he used to hitchhike when he was young and now he tries to help hitchhikers whenever he’s able to. We talked a lot and after a while we found out that we both were software developers once (by that time I was working as a kitchen-porter and he was working in different jobs, studying HTML5 in order to get back to IT.).

Snake Pass, from Sheffield to Manchester

Snake Pass, from Sheffield to Manchester

He dropped me even closer to Manchester than I expected ( I had to walk only 15 minutes and was in the city centre) and went back to his original route. I was very happy that my first attempt had worked just fine and started looking forward to doing it again. That lead me to a hitchhiking experience throughout Ireland and later on, around Europe. I am now trying to get back to it here in Brazil and have already done it once with my brothers.

Are you still unsure whether or not you should hitchhike? Read this post from Hitch-Hikers’s handbook

What about you? Would you pick up someone as a driver? Or would you rather be a hitchhiker?

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