Our initial intention for this trip was to hitch hike from Warsaw to Bratislava, Slovakia. Yet, in a rather special turn of events we ended up beyond Bratislava and into Austria. We certainly weren’t complaining.
Following a few early starts we decided to take our time with our onward journey from Zilina. In fact we didn’t make it to the side of the Bratislava bound road until about 11am, far later than our previous hitch hiking days.
We stood at an entry slip road towards the main road. This meant that traffic was coming towards us from 2 directions. As was our form we decided to position Kate on the busier (and arguably more dangerous) of the two sections of road. I stood at the entry slip from the city.
Within 5 minutes we received our first and only lift of the day. For the first time I had been the one to pull it over. I felt a sense of relief at being able to do that.
Our initial worry was that we had been picked up by an illegal taxi since we were sitting in the back of a mini bus. The two middle aged men in the front seemed friendly enough though. In hindsight I always regret thinking the worst in people before understanding them.
As I tried to use GCSE German to communicate with Russian speaking Slovakians we soon managed to negotiate a drop off in Vienna. The men were driving towards Innsbruck where they would pick up their truck and offered to take us wherever we wanted, even hinting at Munich if we wanted to stay with them.
After about 30km we stopped off in a town to meet a third man. This man completed the trio and we were invited into his house before getting back in the road. He introduced us to his teenage daughter who was delighted to use the English she had been practising. The men took great joy in sharing their home made 54% vodka with me.
After a couple of shots each we were all back on the road and heading South. The three men were clearly enjoying our presence in their party bus and we stopped at almost every service station for what they referred to as ‘Schnapps Pause’ – actually meaning ‘vodka time’. At every stop I was encouraged to drink more. Each time it became a little easier and my insides became a little warmer. They were keen to share everything they had, especially Slovak specialities.
At one of our Schnapps Pauses we were offered some delicious home made cakes to soak up the alcohol as well as a delicious Klobasa; a sausage made of dried smoked goat and pork. The man who gave it to us stated that it had been dried by his parents for two months. He eloquently revealed the contents of the sausages by making animal noises, perhaps the vodka had aided him. He thoroughly enjoyed watching us eat it.
Of course these men wouldn’t let us eat cake and sausage without a beverage. They revealed a new drink, Borovicka, which is a Slovakian speciality. This time the alcohol volume was reduced to 40% and the flavour not so harsh. Kate also had a shot and appeared to enjoy it far more than I did.
We eventually arrived in Vienna and reluctantly left the minibus so the men could carry on their journey without us. They were even kind enough to drive us into the city. It had been our final and most enjoyable hitch hiking experience of the week.
As we attempted to gain our bearings of Vienna I sensed the effect of the vodka on my head. I think Kate might have noticed it too as I didn’t immediately immerse my head in the map. This called for a mid afternoon nap before an exploration of this fabulous city.
It had been a brilliant hitch hiking experience despite the solitary ride for the day. It has reinforced my desire to continue hitch hiking as I get to see, hear and taste the real character of each of these wonderful places. We certainly wouldn’t have got this on the train, nor would we be able to afford a decent schnitzel otherwise.