Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Day 316-332 – Solidifying friendships. (Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium)

We didn’t realise it at the time, but our last night in Poland was also the last night we would camp on this trip. We found a good spot in a pine plantation which had become one of our favourite camping locations as they usually have all the prerequisites of a perfect spot: a good network of tracks to drive on, the ground will be relatively flat, always plenty of firewood, and other than a couple of trucks every couple of months, no traffic whatsoever. It was a bit bitter sweet crossing the border to Germany, passing the old buildings that are now empty but not so long ago would have been writhe with guards and officials, police and military. On one hand it was a relief knowing we wouldn’t have to worry about the bureaucracy involved in border crossings again, but actually we have greatly enjoyed the challenge of playing the game that these crossings are, and knowing that we had none more between us and Scotland brought home the feeling of the end of the trip.

We got straight on the autobahn heading to Berlin where we would stay with Edgar, who along with his friend Andreas, we had met many months ago now in Uzbekistan. We spent a small amount of time one evening with Edgar in Samarqand, but it was amongst a group, and it wasn’t until we stumbled across each other in Tashkent a couple of weeks later that we got to know them much better and realised that these were blokes we definitely wanted to be friends with. We hadn’t made very specific plans before arriving in Berlin, but Edgar knew we were coming and we had his phone number. Unfortunately we just didn’t have a phone to contact him on, so our first hour or possibly more after arriving in Berlin was spent trying to get in touch with him.

First of all we searched for wi-fi, hoping to get in touch with him via the internet, but after wasting a bunch of time trying to log on to various servers, and waiting whilst horribly slow connections ate into our afternoon, we decided just to bite the bullet and look for a pay phone. We were pretty cynical about the chances of just stumbling across one, but fortunately we passed a couple just after deciding to look. We rang Edgar, really unsure of whether this was going to work out, and in the two minutes of conversation before the 12 we’d scrounged together in coins had run out and we were cut off, he gave us an address, but we didn’t manage to establish anything else.  We went straight there with no idea of when he might come to meet us but hoping it would be soonish, and couldn’t believe it when he was already there. After all the hoo-ha and our concern for lack of planning it all worked out perfectly. Andreas wasn’t able to host us, but between Edgar and his friend who lived around the corner, they were able to put us up and we couldn’t have had a better time with them.

The thing about meeting people when travelling is that whilst you may get on like a house on fire, you might see eye to eye on every subject you can think of, you never want to stop talking to them and you consider them to be good friends, it is much different to getting to know people when they are amidst their real lives. The reason we used our short time in Europe as a chance to visit a few of the people we’d met on this trip wasn’t for free accommodation or because they were necessarily on our way, or even for the reasons that we like to use Couch Surfing. Our purpose for visiting these people several months after having met them in various “exotic” countries was to solidify the friendships and move them from the category of “some cool people we met travelling” to “really good friends”. The peculiar thing about this was that whilst they had been home and had resumed their lives several months ago, we were still a group of rogue travellers who had been on the road ever since. This was funny to think of from both our point of view and theirs. Another interesting thing is that whilst we have now witnessed their regular lives and seen how they go about their day to day business, their impression of us still doesn’t include that aspect of who we are.

After Edgar and Andreas in Berlin we headed to Nurnberg to stay with Chrissie and Daniel who we met in Cambodia (Blog Day 59 - Seven guys in a car). From there we shot through to Amsterdam, stopping in Aachen on the way to have lunch with Farnas, an Iranian girl who we met at the bazaar in Shiraz. In Amsterdam we stayed with Priscillia who oddly enough had never met Trevor before as we met her in the Philippines whilst he was being shipping to Malaysia. During our days in Amsterdam, Sven who we met in Belgrade, bumped into on the streets of Budapest and spent New Year in Prague with (Blog Day 281 – Youdon’t always get what you pay for), made the journey from his nearby hometown to spend an afternoon with us in the city. Our next stop was Gent in Belgium to visit Josje and Remco who we picked up in a remote village in Kazakhstan, travelled through the desert for a week with (Blog Day 138 – How an afternoon searching forflamingos became six days in the desert with some hitch hikers), and met up with again a couple of weeks later so we could explore Kyrgyzstan together (Blog Day 148 – Beer and shashliks on thebeach gone wrong and Day 152 - Life as a nomad).

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