The Last Leg Home: Ahrenshoop
The weather was cold for summer, typical for Hamburg. The clouds outside swept past as I hauled on my backpack, then my front pack before bidding farewell to the apartment. This is it, I’m heading home. I’m so close at this point, I could almost smell the Lithuanian fir trees a mere thousand kilometers away, or was it merely the intense longing for familiarity.
My starting point lie 7 kilometers away on the other side of town at the rotunda exiting to the A24 towards Berlin and Lübeck. I could easily get there via a 2,30 metro ticket or I could use that money to get two scoops of much desired ice cream after hiking to there. I chose the latter.
The walk out of St. Pauli towards the city center was significant only for the fact that it was goodbye. The streets were flooded with the usual flow of tourists spending their hard earned money on coffees, trinkets and fish filets at fancy restaurants. Though pretty, I was glad to leave this place behind. There’s only so much of the same sight I can take before my desire for novelty jettisons me into the unknown that I was now heading towards. I just had to weave through herds of hive mind travelers grazing on overdeveloped city streets near the central station before finding a shortcut–Hamburg city bike!
Through some stroke of luck, I found internet, the last remaining bike and I happened to have my hosts credentials to rent the bike. Now we’re talking! The last four kilometers flew by as I navigated the bikable arteries along the highway and through the neighborhood parks to where I’d stand with my sign for Lübeck.
In hindsight the following half hour flew by as I paraded my sign underneath the shade of an arching oak. Eventually a blue minivan halts at my request. Wide eyed and smiling at my successful waving I toss both bags in the car and hop in the passenger seat to acquaint myself with the driver and his destination. My chauffeur for the next 54 kilometers is returning from the train station where he dropped an acquantaince off. The talk stays light, fluffy and indistinguishable from past conversations as we exchange comments about weather, travel, work and Germany.
145 farms and fields later I find myself on a narrow street shoulder leading onto the A2 autobahn east towards Rostock. This time however, I rely on my thumb to find me a ride out of here which eventually materalizes in the shape of a sea blue sedan. As is often the case, the driver can take me two exits further. She’s headed to a Dorf (village) to visit a friend.
Ultimately I find myself at the mouth of a highway on a deserted street hovering between endless fields of farmland. This isn’t good. I can’t hitchhike if nobody comes by here and trying to flag a car down on the highway is a lost cause as experience has taught me time and time again. A chunk of time shifts past until, either a father, or just a man who happens to own a babychair, stops to let me in. I learn there’s a service station several kilometers down the highway where I’ll have better odds at catching a long distance ride eastward.
Long story short, he’s right. The next person to pick me up is a woman in her 60’s, named Christel, who’s been driving all day since Hessen, near the Dutch border. Her GPS shows 159 kilometers until her destination–Ahrenshoop, a tourist hot spot only Germans know about, on the Baltic sea north-east of Rostock on a funny piece of land resembling Maryland.
The hour and a half long car ride was consumed by a lot of the usual jibber-jabber small talk. A lot of what came my way got lost in the thickness of her accent as it barraged my ears. As is always the case in those situations, I nod my head in incomprehending agreement or perfectly timed laughs to give the illusion that I understood her joke. Why do I always do this?! Otherwise I’ve decided to stay until the end and see where this car will take me. Christel hasn’t the slightest clue about this place either, her brother told her to come so she loaded up her SUV with enough bed covers and kitchen pots to host a surprise cake baking picnic (minus the oven). I’m surprised I fit…
Over the course of the ride, Christel invited me to visit her in Gevelsberg in Dortmund. When she finally drops me off at a Lidl supermarket before Ahrenshoop, she shares with me her contact information and reinforces the invitation.
The thing with hitchhiking which I still find trouble fathoming is how the hell do these people decide that I’m trustworthy enough to not only be picked up off the road, but to also invite to stay with them for the night, or come up to their apartment for dinner with their wife? I swear I haven’t practiced hypnotism, nor any such mind tricks. It’s a lottery game you pay for with time and patience and every once in a while the triple 7’s line up. It’s a higher stakes game compared to the safety of a bus where you won’t interact with the other passengers. Here you pay the driver with your attention and thus are obligated to interact.
What’s traveling without straying off course from time to time? I knew I was shooting myself in the foot for the next day, going so far north off the eastbound roads towards Poland, yet that’s the fun of having no time constraints, no job to be at on the Xth of (insert month). It was my first time experiencing the Baltics in Germany and I would find a hidden plot of sandy dune to pitch my tent and spend the night. First I would have to walk an hour and a half along the only road on this strange nugget of land.
The cars shuffled past as I walked along with some tourists biking past me and others streaming in and out of the many pathways to the coastline just a hundred feet from the main street. I notice by now my circadian rhythm telling to hurry up and find a place to call home for the night. I eventually wander pasts the shops, restaurants and hotels that line the main road and onto a paved road for pedestrians and bikers continuously fly past me. After a few more kilometers I sense the number of people dwindling and I turn onto a pathway towards the coast and I start my search which ultimately leads to this campsite.
Aside from the flutter of mosquitoes I attract, I relish in my sneaky and illegal success in discovering a perfectly hidden site. I unwind as the sun sets and plan for the next day only to come to the painful realization, I will have to hitch back the same way I came… A worry for another day, right now there’s this!