Trip 1, 1980 (and as a bonus, trip 103, 2011)

This is a story I wrote way back in 1989, when I decided that it would be a good idea to write down the memories of my first few trips. I've left the text virtually unchanged, although I corrected some spelling errors. Italicized text in square brackets dates from now.

It's June 16th, 1980 and I'm about to set off for my first hitchhiking trip abroad. The idea of going to Sweden took shape in the beginning of the year after hearing the stories of some fellow students. During the next months I collected information and made a rough draft of the route to follow. My main goals were Stockholm and Göteborg and I planned to stay for about a week in both of them, but in the end things turned out a bit different…

It's 7:47, the odometer reads 41051.0 and my place of departure is De Bilt, the first three lines in my notes…

I'm on my way. Five minutes and 3.2 kilometres later my mother drops me at the junction in the direction to Amersfoort and further up north. After waving her goodbye, I cross the road and put my card with Enschede in the air. Twenty minutes later a car stops and, believe it or not, the driver, a middle-aged businessman is actually going to Enschede! When he sees me making notes about the odometer reading, he asks me why I'm doing it. I tell him that I want to keep track of all my rides, so that can someday tell my children what their father has been doing in his younger years. After this explanation, which I have since repeated several hundred times, the conversation turns to his work and my studies, until he finally reaches his destination, and drops me somewhere in the outskirts of Enschede. After a short wait driver two stops and when he tells me that he can drop me at the border, I'm delighted. However, after a short stop at a saw-mill, he takes me back to Enschede, explaining that the border-crossing he had in mind is only used for local traffic. He drops me at a spot which is supposed to be OK, and I suppose you can agree with such a statement when you have to wait for just over twenty minutes!

The ride is with a young German guy, just as the next. Both rides are short, not only in distance but also in time. Then at a 12:45 I get a really long ride, or so it seems at the time, all the way to Hamburg, or rather to the Raststätte Hamburg Stillhorn. It's the first time I'm on a Räststatte and at that moment I don't realize what they can do for hitch-hikers. I won't find out until two years later, in July 1982.

Not knowing what I know now, I walk towards the end and the slip-road back onto the Autobahn and soon find out that I'm not the only one heading up north, seven others are also going that way! During the next hour five of them get away, some new ones arrive and all the time we talk about the reasons for hitchhiking, politics, music etc. Finally, after some two hours, hitcher number six is offered a ride by a truck and to my surprise he asks the driver if he can also give me a ride, as there is plenty of room. Together we get a ride to Lübeck and after a wait there for well over an hour, we get another ride to Oldenburg, where he lives.

At that moment, it's around 20:00 and getting quite dark, I'm getting a bit worried, shall I go on or should I try to find the youth-hostel in Oldenburg. I decide to try to get another ride, but it will have to be in the next thirty minutes. Five minutes later the next car stops and 33 kilometres closer to the border, but still 10 kilometres from the border, I get out. The next driver stops half an hour later and drops me off just 2 kilometres further. I decide to walk up to the ferry, but I keep trying to get a ride by sticking out an arm when I hear a car approaching. Well, it works and I get my last ride of the day. After I sit down, the Danish driver asks me were I come from. When I tell him I come from the Netherlands he surprises me by saying "Dan heb je er zeker geen bezwaar tegen als ik mijn kennis van het Nederlands weer eens wat opfris?" (I suppose you won't object if I refresh my knowledge of Dutch?) It turns out that he had been working in Belgium for several years, and still likes to practice his Dutch whenever the opportunity arises! On the ferry between Puttgarden and Rødbyhavn he tells me that I should get out in Guldborg, because there is a small municipal camping place and that's where I sleep that first night.

The next morning I calculate that I have covered almost 640 km, a very nice distance, even compared to today's [This was written in 1989…] standards. Even more remarkable is the fact that I never succeeded to get further than Puttgarden on the first day during my next four trips to Scandinavia!

The next day I get three rides, among them the first with a female driver, which took me to Købnhavn, where I stay for two days, visiting the essentials, the little mermaid, Jens Olsen's world clock and Tivoli…

After taking the ferry to Malmö I get my first ride in Sweden from two Dutch guys driving a Citroen 2CV. They are going to Kristianstad, which means that I have to change my plans, because I had planned to cover the entire coastline. During our conversation they tell me that they had also been hitchhiking in Sweden and that it is very hard, and looking back I think I made the right decision to skip the southernmost part. Later that day I get three more rides, the last of them with a car loaded with a family, I end up spending 45 minutes with my backpack pressing holes in my legs. They drop me off at the youth hostel in Ronneby. In it I find a map of the area around Ronneby. It tells me that there should be a cave.

The next day I try to find this cave, I even get a ride from the police. The police-officer contacts his office by CB, but to no avail, we cannot find the cave. Later that day, back on the road again, I meet some more very helpful Swedes, a young couple, that picks me up near Brömsebro and takes me to Kalmar, give me a tour of this city. Unfortunately, both the castle and the very futuristic water tower are closed, so all they can do is to drop me off at the camping site. On the camping site I end up with another bunch of people and we talk until late at night. The next day I visit the castle and the water tower.

I leave Kalmar a day later, and even though Stockholm is only some 400 km further it takes me two full days to finally get there. Once there I go to the "Af Chapman", the famous youth-hostel ship, and even though all guidebooks had told me that advance booking is absolutely necessary, I end up in the last free bed.

I stay in Stockholm for five days, visiting most of the places worth visiting. Among them the "Vasa", the famous warship that sunk in 1628 on its first trip. It was discovered in 1956 and lifted in 1961. During my visit [the first of many] it is still undergoing preservation treatment, but it is already very impressive.

After my five day stay in Stockholm I head for Göteborg. I expect to get there in two days, but end up needing four days and twelve rides. Only two of them are worth mentioning, both on the first day. The first is a short ride from Ervalla to Örebro, with a 70 year old lady driving a 17 year old Fiat 500, the only Fiat 500 I have ever seen in Scandinavia. The second is from the centre of Örebro to the camping site and it is my second ride in a police car! Apparently the policemen had nothing better to do.

Because there is a big open-air swimming pool, with 10-meter tower, next to the camping, I stay there for an extra day, during which I teach a number of children how to make somersaults from the one-meter boards. It is quite a surprise to see how fast they learn, in the afternoon all of them are capable of making full somersaults and two of them even succeed in making a somersault from the three-meter board!

After this stop I continue towards Göteborg and the next two days are the worst [again, I wrote this in 1989…] of my entire hitch-hiking career, I cover only 99 and 77 km. The fourth day I finally cover the last 176 km to Göteborg, but at that moment it is clear that I have to change my plans as a lack of time prevents me to stay there for the five days I had planned. Instead I only stay for two days, spending most of the time in Liseberg, the amusement park.

I leave Göteborg on Sunday the 6th of July and based on my previous experiences I expect to get home around the 8th of July. Once again reality turn out to be a little different, because it takes only 19:50h to get to De Bilt:

I get my first ride at 7:25, to Fjärås, where I end up waiting for more than 5 hours to get another ride, to Varberg. In Varberg I have a drink and when I walk back to the road, a car with Dutch plates passes me, only to stop at the traffic lights some 50 metres further. I run after it, reach it before the lights turn green, and ask the driver if he can give me a ride. He opens the door, lets me in and 13 hours and 34 minutes later I am home, after a ride of 924 km. The driver is a Norwegian football player [the late Roger Albertsen], who is at that moment playing for FC Den Haag. He drives us out of Sweden and through Denmark, but once we are some 50 km in Germany, I offer to take over, without telling him that I have passed my driving test just over a month ago. He agrees, near Wildeshausen we switch back and at the Dutch border we switch again, and eventually he takes over again, before finally dropping me off in De Bilt, no more than 300 metres away from home after a ride of 924 km!

When I look back on this first trip, it still remains an unforgettable experience, not only because it was my first trip abroad, but also because it was a trip that took me off the straight line connecting De Bilt and Stockholm. I also like it because there wasn't any pressure to cover a certain distance each day, unlike most of my later trips I traveled to see things on my way and not for the sake of getting from A to B as fast as possible to spend my holidays in B…

A third aspect that could be mentioned is the fact that this first trip gave me a good feeling about hitchhiking, even though waiting times were sometimes quite long I really fell in love with this means of transportation, not only because it is cheap [in 1989 I was a "poor" student], but also because of the heaps of interesting and helpful people I met.

And what about the bonus, trip 103?

I'm not sure if I can call a set of three rides near the Lago di Como a trip, it's more a triplet. However, I will remember it for two reasons, one, it was for the first time in almost seven years that Audrone and I hitched again as a couple (the last time we did so was in 2004, returning from a visit to the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece) and two, it contained the shortest ride (and day) of my hitchhiking career, a breathtaking ride of 800 metres, from the railway station outside Stezzano to our hotel in the same town…

Last updated on 24 July 2016 for move to Neocities