The time came for myself and my friend to hitch out of Bratislava. Slovakia posed a problem, it being one of the most difficult hitch hiking countries in this wonderful place we call Europe, though we were hopeful. At the end of the day, what else could we be? After departing the Downtown Backpacker’s hostel for the third, and not the last, time that year, we set out into the baking heat to see what would happen. Happen it did.
With a head swimming with Slovakian names I couldn’t quite pronounce, we got the bus towards the airport and started hitching. Someone came along to tell us there was a better spot, so we clambered along, packs heavy, under an overpass through a hole cut into a wire fence to a petrol station. This was definitely a much better place to hitch, and we made a lovely sign for Žilina (the Ž has a funny sound that’s not in English). The heat clung to us both and ice-cream was in order after waiting, waiting.
After a while impatience set in because humans are humans, and instead of hitching at the front of the station we moved to the back exit. We danced to entertain ourselves, smiled, kept the thumbs high but nothing… A truck driver sat watching us patiently over lunch and we waited, waited. The heat eventually gets to you, the heart drops a beat and you wonder.
The truck driver eventually beeped his horn so we went over and chatted. He had no English but my friend had Czech so could understand him and it went something along the lines of, ‘I don’t pick up hitchers but I’m bored and you look alright so you sit on the single seat and your friend (me) can sit on the bed. Just duck if you see cops’. And so our first ride in Slovakia began with the most incredible air conditioner on the fucking planet and a beautiful sound-system screaming out ‘Ain’t Nobody’ as we drifted seamlessly past scorched earth and alluring fields. Life was good, man. As we say, it’s nice to be nice.
I always tried to learn a couple of words in the native language like ‘hello’, ‘thanks’ and ‘bye’, you get it. Many Eastern European languages sound relatively the same so it was just a case of (often) different pronunciations. It was also at this time I realised that everyone I said thank you to thought I was Polish. Sure look.
After driving past a cop on a speed-check and forgetting to duck to avoid being caught, this lovely gentlemen dropped us in Trenčín, which was well into our journey. At a petrol station here we watched as two seperate hitchers ran to trucks and jumped in. We clung to hope. We let the sun glaze over us and we breathed foreign beautiful air. It felt far from home, it felt wonderful and we were moving. Thoughts settled on Kerouac and what it must have been like for him, on an adventure like ours in further lands.
We decided to chill for a few moments with our sign outside the petrol station and plonked ourselves down on the curb. Sitting in the heat, a lady came over and asked where we were headed. We told her the story and she said she’d give us a lift, because she didn’t want someone else to that could be dangerous. Debatable, but we appreciated the lift. This couple had a tiny little terrier dog that climbed all around the car, all over us, and we soared onwards, East, towards the Tatra mountains. My eyes drifted out the window watching hawks hanging dead-still in the air, waiting. It was wonderful.
They dropped us off on the wrong side of town, where we met more hitch hikers. Good people. By the wrong side of town, I mean they left us at the entrance to the town, where it’s always difficult to get a ride through. Eventually, someone had the grace to bring us to the road out of the town, so we hitched again as we traced shadows falling across the road. Evening came in and we stood, thumbs out, valiant that we’d made it this far.
After a while, a guy picked us up and brought us to a beautiful little village as we passed forests full of beautiful trees. With the dropping sun, peaks of hills were dyed blue while others were illuminated golden. Reaching the village, we saw a long street leading nowhere so we walked down it where it opened up to fields. Perfect for camping. We found a spot, pitched the tent and sat down. Day one of hitching in Slovakia had gone perfect. We slept well that night, not worrying about home, jobs, money, nothing. All that mattered in that moment was the road; tomorrow would come when it felt like it.
The sun set far away, dipping into a valley between two mountains. We watched it sink slowly into the horizon as we relaxed. We lay down as our tent faced an incredibly bright North Star in the sky. Not so far away there was a party raging and we listened to this, laughing about how far we’d made it. Dark crept in and we kipped.
That morning we got up and moving, and for breakfast had a cheese sandwich that took 5 swallows to get into me it was so dry. Good times man. When you’re good, you’re good.
Until the next post, take it easy. Peace and love and hitch and hiking.
Here’s a song I associate with hitching in the baking heat in Slovakia: