Posts Tagged ‘zurich’

Trip Part III- Annecy to Munich

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Day 10

On the road again. It’s surprisingly hard to give up the comforts of the place you’ve been staying, the company of a family member, to get out of the car and wave as it drives off with absolutely no idea what will happen next, or where you’ll spend that night.

Zoe drove me into Geneva, about 20 minutes from Annecy, to a petrol station which was apparently the best spot for hitching out. It was still quite an urban area, which means pedestrians walking past and a high percentage of local traffic.

Geneva is a very rich city, and the vast majority of people driving past ignored me completely. I’d been waiting for about 90 minutes when a chap walked up to me from a minibus that had pulled in. He was from Kenya, in Geneva for a conference on the environment, if I understood correctly. He asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was trying to get to Munich to visit a friend. Why didn’t I take the train, he asked. I said I couldn’t afford it, and that I enjoyed travelling this way. He nodded to me, and went back to his group.

Ten minutes later, he returned, and gave me 20 Swiss francs, saying he hoped it would help. I was blown away by this generosity, and struck by the irony- in what must be one of the richer cities in Europe, the locals ignored me, but the guy from Kenya wanted to help me. In fact, I had great experiences on this trip with people from all over Africa. I don’t want to dwell on it too much for fear of getting into positive racism or anything, but I mention it for what it’s worth.

About 30 minutes after that, someone pulled in and offered to take me to Nyon, just up the lake. It was a very short ride, but this was the first car that had stopped for me in two hours, so it definitely seemed like the right choice. I was dropped near the motorway, which meant some slightly sketchy on-ramp hitching, but I waited less than 10 minutes for a ride to Lausanne, with a guy who was meeting his friends there and then heading into the mountains for some camping.

In Lausanne, I was in a tough spot, with a lot of traffic but not much space to stop. At this point, the day having been very slow so far, I was seriously considering taking the train to Munich, or at least to Zurich, since my confidence was still somewhat shaken from the trip down. After about 30 minutes, however, Nicole picked me up. She was heading to Basel, but could drop me off in Bern. After looking at the map, I decided it would be better to go all the way to Basel. It was north of where I wanted to be, but still broadly in the right direction. The first thing I noticed on this ride was that Nicole was playing music that was not electronic. I asked her about this. “No,” she said, “It’s only reggae in my car”. After the constant electro of France, this was a welcome relief.

As we approached Basel, Nicole offered me her spare room if I wanted to stop for the night. Inititally, I turned it down, since it was about 4.30pm, and I thought I could still make some good headway to the east that day, but then I thought- no, that’s not what this is about. This is about taking opportunities and having experiences I wouldn’t otherwise have; with that thought, I took her up on the offer, and we headed into Basel. We met her boyfriend there, whose name I have forgotten (sorry about that, if you guys end up reading this!); he was from Gambia, and they’d met at a reggae night in Basel.

The apartment was beautiful, in a very pretty part of town.

The view from the balcony.

The view from the balcony.

After we’d got everything up from the car and relaxed for a bit, they offered to take me out to see something of Basel. We crossed over the Rhine here, which is an incredible river.

A large amount of my pictures from this trip are motion blurred.

A large amount of my pictures from this trip are motion blurred.

Basel is a funny town, with dozens of ring roads and a very sudden border between industrialand rural. We headed across that border, to a park with a river running through it, crisscrossed by road and rail bridges. The whole thing was kind of sci fi, really.

If any of you are familiar with the album artwork of Systematic Chaos by Dream Theater, you may have just done a double take.

If any of you are familiar with the album artwork of Systematic Chaos by Dream Theater, you may have just done a double take.

There, we met up with some of their friends (who I think were also Gambian), and they shared their barbecue with us- it was lamb, cooked in a whole bunch of spices and such. I was given a beer, too, and again was blown away by the generosity of people towards a complete stranger.

At the amazing barbecue with the amazing people.

At the amazing barbecue with the amazing people.

I started to think about hitching and this style of travel now. At times, it seems awfully one-sided. In England, I can offer company and entertainment. Anyone who knows me will know that I rarely stop talking, and so hitching anywhere that I speak the language seems… not exactly fair, but a but less one sided. Basel is in the German speaking part of Switzerland, though, and my German is more or less nonexistent. It felt a bit rude to expect rides when I couldn’t offer much in the way of company, and I felt kind of bad about the generosities of others which I was unable to repay.

At the barbecue, one of Nicole’s friends, Cosimo, started talking to me, and said he used to hitch, and that the next day he would be heading to Winterthur, which is just near Zurich. He gave me his number in case I was still waiting for a ride at about 2pm.

I realised that I’d been constantly tempted to take the easy way out, to give up and get the train or use rideshare websites and such, but that that was the wrong way to think, that in fact hitching IS the easy way if you approach it in the right mindset. Your ride is always out there, you just have to wait for it and it will come. I also decided at this point to give up on asking for rides at service stations. It seemed too pushy, and given my guilt about generosity, and my inability to speak the language I was asking in, it didn’t seem right- the thing to do is to wait at the exit with a sign. People who want to help will walk over hot coals to do so, and it’s better to get a ride with someone who wants to give you one than to persuade someone who doesn’t.

I spent that night on the floor of a spare room in Basel, with WiFi and a place to charge my phone, and in the morning Nicole gave me breakfast and drove me to a service station on the motorway.

I made a habit of taking pictures of my beds on this trip. In a few posts time, this will be hilarious.

I made a habit of taking pictures of my beds on this trip. In a few posts time, this will be hilarious.

Total distance: 250km

Total wait: 2:40

Day 11

I waited about 90 minutes for a ride from the service station with some hippies in a VW campervan. This trip has left me SO well disposed towards hippies. They took me about 80km to a service station just before Zurich.

Sorry it's blurry. It wasn't much more interesting in focus, I promise.

Sorry it’s blurry. It wasn’t much more interesting in focus, I promise.

This was a good spot. I got set up at the exit, and waited. It’s a funny thing- when I’m in a good spot, I can wait hours and feel fine, but when I’m in a bad spot, I freak out after about ten minutes. My mindset was better now, though, and I was much more relaxed in general. It was also here that I saw my first hitcher graffitti.

I wish the destination wasn't obscured, but the fact that it was in Germany encouraged me.

I wish the destination wasn’t obscured, but the fact that it was in Germany encouraged me.

While this was a good spot, it was also slightly brutal. No shade, and a very hot day. There was a crash barrier to sit on, though, which was something, and it was right next to the main road- the volume of traffic allayed any doubts I’d had about hitching on a Sunday.

I could see the entrance from the motorway from where I was, and after maybe two hours of waiting, I saw a VW campervan pull in. Oho, I thought, maybe this will be my ride. Frankly, if you’re not going to pick up hitchhikers, you don’t deserve such a cool van. The van parked up, and the owner went into the service station, and was gone for a long while. I kept hitching, and I swear every fifth car here was a supercar. Some people looked at me with disgust, in the same manner as Geneva, but the vast majority waved, offered peace signs, thumbs up, in some cases stopped just to say that they were really sorry but they were coming off at the next junction. It was like this all day, which really helped my morale.

Suddenly, I realised the VW camper lady was walking over to me. She wasn’t going my way, but she’d bought me an icecream, and wished me good luck, and gave me a big wave when she drove past. Again, I was just blown away by the generosity.

There isn’t really an obvious route from Zurich to Munich. For a start, the Bodensee is in the way, but in addition, the main motorway in Switzerland swings down to the south, avoiding the main road to Munich which comes in from the east and swings North. My difficulty was in picking a direction to go around the Bodensee, so when, after 5.5 hours (my longest single wait of the trip), a van pulled up, saying he was going to Winterthur (to the North) I decided to go for it, and be decisive about picking a route. Winterthur was only 15 minutes away, but I figured I’d waited long enough, so off we went.

At this point, it was about 7.30pm. The area around about was mostly forest, so I was pretty relaxed about finding a place to sleep. My driver dropped me off at a tiny service station, and I headed for the exit. I decided I’d give it 30 minutes, and then call it a night. Three minutes later I had a ride to Munich.

Once again, the late night Sunday ride. One again, I couldn’t believe my luck. This was Brip and Isabella, two magnificent hippies on their way from Biel in Switzerland to Regensburg, north of munich. They said they’d been thinking of stopping for a swim in the Bodensee, and of course I was on board, so off we went. Once we found the lake, we couldn’t find a free place to park, so abandoned the car at the side of the road and headed for the lake. We couldn’t get to the lake proper, so we swam in the harbour of a yacht club. The sight of three people taking off all their clothes and jumping into the harbour caused a few funny looks, but it was worth it.

This was probably my favourite single experience of the trip.

This was probably my favourite single experience of the trip.

This was one of my favourite rides of the trip, with fascinating conversation and electrical storms. The journey to Munich seemed to go incredibly quickly, even though it was getting on for 350km. They drove me literally to Sophie’s front door, and we exchanged email addresses, so it’s possible they will see this too. Hi, guys! Hope you don’t mind that picture! I love you!

Total distance: 400km

Total wait: 7 hours

Total distance Annecy to Munich: 650km

Total wait Annecy to Munich: 9:40

Total distance Saltash to Munich:2020km

Total wait Saltash to Munich: 1 day, 10 hours, 40 minutes