Last Pentecost it was already the tenth time the hitchhiking contest of improvisation club Ulteam was held. The previous editions took us to Berlin, Bruges, Trier, Lille, Århus, Brussels, Cologne, Gent and Heidelberg. Where we end up this year was to be revealed Thursday night at midnight during the traditional hitchhike drink in the local cafe. The organizer of the weekend, Liesje Lift, couldn't make it. But Marco and Anneke, her helpers, were present. After a exciting quiz this year's destination was guessed correctly. We were going to Poznań (Poland)!
Together with fellow hitchhikers Chris and Kim we decided to first try to catch a few hours of sleep and start at 6 AM at the hitchhike site. Kim stayed with a friend and I spent the night at Chris' place. The alarm clock went of at 5 AM. Way to early, but okay. We put our stuff in the car, picked up Kim and headed for the hitchhike site. At first we wanted to start at the bus stop at the Europaweg in Groningen, but there were road works. So we decided to start at the ramp headed for the beltway. After about 45 minutes we saw a car coming around the corner with in that car another team. Not much later a second team passed us. We decided to go back to the original site at the road works. We didn't stayed long, because the police told us to go way or get a 250 euro ticket, each. So we headed to the Emmaviaduct at the official hitchhike site. Anneke and Riemer were already standing there for a while. In the meanwhile we got some coffee and Anneke was very happy with that. So happy in fact that 5 minutes later the had their first ride.
A while later we were also on our way to the first gas station (Dikke Linde) on the A7 towards the German border. Guess who we saw there? Anneke and Riemer. So, 5 minutes later we 'pushed' them ahead with the next ride. And also our ride didn't take long to appear. A jolly husband and wife with a love for Dutch music and driving cars. The past part appealed especially to three hitchhikers. At first the would drop us off in/at Leer, but the guy liked to drive and dropped us of some 65 kilometers further (at Oldenburg) that they intended. Hurray!
Getting off this parking spot (not a gas station) proved to be more difficult that we thought, but we found a camper willing to take us to the next gas station. There we found another team (Marloes, Maarten and Pieter) waiting for us. They were there for some time and asked a lot of people for a ride, but no luck. We tried our luck on the parking lot and soon we had a great ride of around 400 kilometers, just before Berlin. But the rules state that you have to give a ride away to the other (actively) hitchhiking team. Our opinion was that the were not actively trying to get a ride so we took this one. Fortunately we saw that they had also got a ride. They were heading for Hannover (some 160 kilometers). We did much better.
The ride to Berlin was nice. Monique (our driver) was on her way to a bachelor party for her friend. She was also interested in improvisation theater and asked us if we were for hire. Sure! We had some traffic at Hamburg, but with some music and fun in the car this wasn't such a problem. Eventually we were dropped of just before Berlin at a big gas station with some restaurants. Seeing that it was already past noon we decided to get something to eat. Shortly after two other hitchhikers joined us. Ellie and Bernd. Together we at something at the McDonalds and I arranged the final lift of almost 250 kilometers directly to our final destination. It was a Polish man who was living in Poznań. He didn't speak a word German and even less English. We arrived at 10:59 PM in the Frolic Goats Hostel. Right downtown. We signed up, kicked back the lemon vodka and stayed until almost 3 AM in shorts and t-shirt outside on a terrace.
The next day it was Saturday and at 8 AM I was up and awake. I took a shower and had some breakfast. Slowly the rest of the hitchhikers woke up, except for the team of Marloes, Maarten and Pieter. They were stranded in Berlin and found a hostel to stay for the night. This morning the would take the train to get to the final destination. We went, with a small pitstop at the Starbucks, to the train station to pick them up.
Once back at the hostel it was time to announce the winners. Everyone, starting at the last team, had the opportunity to tell a short story about their hitchhiking experience. There was even a team that got a police escort with flashing lights. They were dropped of at the edge of Poznań. After that it was time to hand out the award to the winning team. The group of Marco, Frank and Judith finished first. The prize was of course the usaual challenge cup, but also a nice backpack with goodies, offered by the Polish Organization for Tourism. I am not surprised that they wone because of the 9 times Marco participated he won 6 times. Next time he can join me, so he knows what it's like to finish 11th.
At 2 PM Liesje had a surprise for us. Thanks to the initiative of POiT Amsterdam we recieved a tour thourgh the city by the Poznań Tourist Organization. Joanna, our guide, was doing a good job. She took us under her wing for a couple of hours and showed us different places in the city. From the old center to the modern buildings. In the end we went to an old beer brewery which now serves as a shopping mall. On the terrace outside we had a local beer. Poznań is a very nice city with all sorts of things to do. Do you like nice buildings, churches, folklore, culture, music, the nightlife or something else? Poznań, has got it! The weekend was not half finished and I already liked it.
In the evening we went into town and had dinner in a typical Polish restaurant. Beet soup and dumplings... hmmm, yummy! Afterwards we went into the old city hall and visited other museums. It was some kind of cultural night where you could visit all museums for free. Nice! Finally we went to a square where we could just catch the last song of Kraftwerk (Das Model). We ended up in the chocolate shop/cafe. We had only 20 minutes until closing time so we had to eat fast. The hazelnut-, chocolate-, cheesecake and warm liquid chocolate were all very delicious. A perfect ending of another beautiful day.
Sunday morning I did some shopping in the supermarket across the hostel to get rid of my last zloty's (Polish currency). The food and drinks is really cheap in Poland. A night out for diner is around 10 to 15 euro's and everything is included. At noon we were all waiting in the big town square to see the goats (a local legend) headbutt each other above the big clock.
The rest of the afternoon we went to KonterArt, a artificial beach, to relax. The had some old containers and a bunch of sand with the occasional tree, car tires and pallets laying around. Very nice! A number people had bought some food and we had a terrific lunch. We also played some games and Eelke even became an aunt. Her sister was in the hospital at the moment giving birth to twins.
After an afternoon in the sun (it was around 25 degrees Celsius that weekend) I freshened up and we went to the neighbors to have a nice meal in the restaurant. This time no dumplings for me, but a big piece of meat. Snitzel! A bit tummy full of food and relaxing on the terrace afterwards. As a final event that evening we went to a underground cocktail bar where we found the smallest dance floor ever.
Monday morning 7:30 AM. Get up. And you don't need a alarm clock or something. It sounded like someone had emptied a glass container or a big box with cutlets inside out in the alley. The guys from waste disposal were up and early. Breakfast with toast, sausage, cheese and jam for the last time and then 9 hours of sitting in the train on our way home. Back to Groningen. The ride went by quickly because of the many games and other kinds of distraction. On arrival in Groningen we went by Pappa Joe's for a greasy burger and then went home. Sleep...
PS. 'Na zdrowie' means something like 'cheers' in Polish. We shouted it once in a while because we were enjoying ourselves. It was one of the few Polish sentences we knew.