Starting in Vienna, nervous because 6 hours late. Ivan does not want to rest because of it and wants to rather continue, and if he will get tired I could drive, deal.
I got up at 5:30am , thinking of leaving soon I said my goodbye to Dani, who was sleeping until around 7:30am and went to work while I was still at home waiting for Ivan. I had rolls prepared, and some cheese and ham so Ivan and I could have a breakfast before we leave (Ivan planned on arriving at 2:00am) but late as we were I only pushed cheese and ham into my backpack, left the rolls and jumped into the car – full of joy!
Upcoming: around 870 km through Austria, Hungary and Serbia, all borders passed safely we ate something of our food in Serbia, Ivan knew some Srpski because of his bulgarian origin. He is on his way home back to Sofia, Bulgaria, where he is going to live and work from now on, he lived 12 years in Hamburg, Germany. We get around pretty well, laugh much, joke and have fun talking about my trip, and our past. Close to Belgrade, Serbia, the engine of the old Mercedes overheats and we have to put the ventilation on with the heating on maximum and with an outside temperature of around 25 degree celsius we continue having a “warm & cosy” ride.
Ivan dropped me around 5 km to Nis directly at a toll station but my luck of missing the rain that had passed over the area 15 minutes before as I still sat in the car was equilibrated by the police that pushed me of the highway instantly in the moment I got out of the car. Being far away from home and full of motivation not giving any fucks I went along the highway with a tiny ‘GR’ sign to the next Gas station, took me only 15 minutes. At the gas station I was a little nervous, feeling alone in the middle of Serbia, so I got me a coffee, took a look around, asked some tourists if I could join them on their way, but most of them were going to Bulgaria and the few on their way to Greece did either have “no space” or did not want to take me with them.
So I got a little creative, made some signs, tried to talk people into taking me to Makedonia, talking to truck drivers, having more coffee at the shop, but that was not doing the trick. One of the drivers I asked spent me a coffee, but thats all friendliness that I received for some hours. Additionally it was getting cold, not COLD cold, but fresh but with pullover and jacket everything was fine.
After a while 2 hitchhikers dropped out of a small truck but they did not compete with me in getting further because they were already at their goal. They came from somewhere in France to visit (pity I forgot all the names) a friend of them, a famous hitchhiker who went through middle east dressed like a local pretending to be deaf mute and got through (I hope I remember correctly) Iran and Pakistan without his identity being revealed. That hitch hiker came to pick them up and we had a nice chat and I got many hints on how to get off locations when I am stuck and how to decide what to put on signs.
I had arrived somewhere around 7:30pm, and it took me until 2:00am – so I am thinking – until a big Jeep from Czech Republic drove towards the gas station, and same as with all the other drivers I opposed the car with a good spirit on my side. Inside the car “Vangelist” (I hope I got the name right, I was freaking tired at that point) going to Thessaloniki (TesNiki) and since he was driving since around the same time as me he looked glad to have someone at his side, keeping him awake and to have company on the long ride.
Getting more and more tired we rolled through the night, the highway ended, the road got worse, and fog was coming up. Vangelist is born in Greece but was raised in Czech Republic and is provider for horse balsam, one of the few (from his point THE only) ones. Usually he is going by plane, but he is on a trip to some island with some relatives and friends or something about fishing and sailing, I kind of mixed it all together what he said and created my own Vangelist in my head, but in my head Vangelist is a nice person, friendly and calm, I hope this is parallel to the real Vangelist. He is driving since 11 hours, started somewhere 200km north/behind Brno. We pass all borders (SRB/MKD and MKD/GR) safe despite the fact that Vangelist has no passport, an ID is doing the trick, I have no clue why, but seems to be an equivalent to the passport. After around 24 hours of driving somewhere in Makedonia I drop into a wake sleep that feels like some kind of extremely strong high, including the problem that the shadows of the wooden sticks alongside the street become shadows of running people that suddenly jump onto the street, trying to cross it. The first time this happens I scream “WOOHOOOAA!!” shock on my face, eyes wide open I look at Vangelist who seems kind of scared and I try to explain myself but I don’t really remember all of it. So we “whatever” that case, stop for a coffee at a very dark and creepy gas station and then the sun starts to lighten the fog from black grey to a dark blue and minutes later to a brighter grey, this wakes me up quite a bit, I did not know the strength of light in that matter before.
The fog is slowly clearing and being a concentrated passenger gets much easier as we get closer and closer to Greece. The area we go through I passed 2 years ago on my bike as I was doing “Urlaub im Jenseits” and I remember some parts of the highway. Makedonia is a really beautiful country, many nice rock structures, flat fields of golden and wheat, opening valleys and the first sign of oasis-like arrangements of houses, palm trees and fields.
Arriving in at the border to Greece the fog is gone and sun is bathing us in light, the feeling is great, I don’t feel any tire any more just feel myself being, at here within the now, everything else is closed, past and future are on holiday or rather not existing, there is no later, there is no plan, there are no memories to catch strength or fear from, its only me, my surroundings and the sun, swinging from left to the right. I feel a little ease coming over me when I remind me that now I am back in the Euro-zone, don’t have to think about money ‘n stuff, It really felt like the possibility to get into problems decreased by half, I have no clue why.
I got off the car on the highway where the A1 crosses some other highway because Vangelist continues to ThesNiki and I want to go to Athina (Athens). I had researched the best possibilities on my mobile phone and there was a short road to another highway crossing not to far away and I thought of walking there, get some fresh air, since I had no sleep I wanted to move a little. after 10 minutes of walking I felt like crushed, no sleep, no real food… I could have seen that coming. So I hung out my thumb and kept swinging my feet to freedom.
I had put my solar charger onto my backpack just to see if it was working, it was brand new and I built a very nice fitting to have it sitting on the top of the backpack. Next City: Chalastra. Next ride, I forgot the name of the guy, was a short and funny trip. It was an old truck owned by a catering company, they had set up a breakfast for some guys from BASF at some farming plant and the driver invited me to join him for a coffee. He told me of his first love that he met on Kriti in the times where the hippies were there, he had joined them and had a funny youth there I suppose. At the breakfast-place he gave me some coffee and some cake, we joked around and then he said he would bring me to the next ramp for the highway that is going directly to Athens, it is only 5km but I was glad he had the Idea and so he dropped me around 600 Meters after a toll station and wished me luck, so did I.
Checking my GPS I figured that I was on the highway and the toll station seemed to be further away than expected, so i went the other direction hoping for a parking lot or some kind of gas station. Tired? Naaahhh… Its only 26 hours behind me and 600 km to go, I can deal with that. On my way to the parking lot that was my next spot I found 15 Euro next to the highway which made me happy because I was thinking of food and could now spend 15 Euro more for it. Said and done, grabbed 2 peace of “food that you get at an old caravan from an elderly lady that looks like out of your nightmares” for 2 Euro each and enjoyed the hot sun, the stinky and smoggy surroundings of the highway, the unfriendly people who looked like they wanted to spit on me when I asked them if I could catch a ride, the guy that wanted to sell me sunglasses and plastic toys, the children and dogs from the second food producing caravan and finally the truck with Dimitris sitting inside on his way to Athens that agreed to take me with him. The 4-5 hours I stood on the parking lot were really exhausting, the sun was burning like hell, my water bottles were warm and the water stinky and to be saved, the people really unfriendly and sometimes little offending since I had my white shirt wrapped around my head to save me from the sun which made me look like an arabian. As Dimitri agreed to the ride I was so glad and thanked everyone and everything that exists for my luck, got into the truck and enjoyed Dimitris cursing as he had to do a full break before he even was on the highway as another truck passed us honking like wild with about 1 cm distance and 90 km/h, loaded full with tomatoes. I knew I was on the right truck!
Dimitris is very nice, he gives me water out of his fridge, lets me smoke in the truck – and he is always on the phone. With his wife I suppose. He is doing a mixture of screaming, cursing, laughing and normal talking, I only understand the emotional message he gives and I like interpreting it, creating my own story in german to his greek words. He also wanted to invite me to eat something at a gas stop, but thinking of my situation as a rich European tourist compared to his hard live as a trucker I thankfully said no only to realize later, that he is collecting the receipts of all expenses to get the money back from his company. Pity – one more free meal that I missed.
At around hour number 28 of my travelling I drift into semi sleep for some time, maybe 30 minutes or an hour and wake up with a great pain in my neck, because the suspension of the seat and the broken roads to Athens are so bad, same for the whole truck. An hour later Dimitris goes for a sleep in his cabin on a parking lot and I walk around and get myself a burger and orange juice. While eating on the table next to me I overhear a discussion about how to change things in politics with a lady at the age of around 50 stating that it would be best to just go there and blow up the parliament, there is no use in lighting yourself on fire in front of it if you are gonna die anyway. As I leave I leave a short “I share your opinion” with a smile and receive a smile back. Might have been a nice conversation if I had stayed, but Dimitris was awake and we wanted to continue, the goal was still far away.
Sometimes while driving the ocean shows up and I try to feel something for it but all this hours of “no sleep ‘til Athens” made my brain so mushy that I hardly feel anything. Dimitris tells me about his wife, his son and that we will reach the ferry to Chania, Crete, on time. Well, in fact, he called his wife and handed me the phone and she spoke perfect English so it was easy to get the information I needed and she must have told Dimitris about my plans because he dropped me at the metro close to Piraeus, the harbour-part of the town. So I went, fully braindead around, driving one station to far in the metro, it looks like I stink, at least thats what I get from the conversations around me, they must have been in Greek, but I understood everything since my brain was not myself anymore, but the brain of a no name lonely stranger somewhere on this planet within a big city and the wish to get out.
Path is an average recreated on Google Maps, not a real time tracked path!