I completely dreaded hitchhiking up to Frankfurt on what was said to be one of the coldest May days on record, but I got very lucky. In Switzerland it wasn’t raining, just cold, and I got my first ride out of Zurich in 5 or 10 minutes, but somehow my USA flag came off from its velcro in the guy’s van as I took out my backpack and that was that.
I feel naked without my USA flag on my backpack. No one understands why an American would travel with an American flag on their pack, but I have almost always done it while hitchhiking. Canadians often sew a flag on their pack to distinguish themselves from being American, and I do it to distinguish myself from everyone else. In other words, I don’t do it to show I’m American, I do it to show I’m not from somewhere else (does that make sense?) while taking the mystery away and showing that I am a traveler.
And then it works for me because a hitchhiking American is a very rare curiosity. People want to talk to me, tell me about their trip to USA, to ask my opinion about politics, vent, hear my condensed life story–whatever seeing that flag stirs in them. As I mentioned before, even if people who pick me up hate America, they can still separate the man from the country. It’s never a problem. I put velcro on my flag and backpack for easy adhesion and removal because when I am not hitchhiking I want to keep a low profile. Now I need a new flag. How can I buy a small American flag in Europe?
Just outside of Zurich I stupidly turned down a ride that I should have taken to Basel, but I accepted another much later, and then just before Basel I got a very lucky ride. It rained all through Germany, but I was in a warm, toasty car the entire way from Basel to Frankfurt, which is a good 350km. In fact, the driver encouraged me to sleep since he wanted to listen to his audiobook. I got left in Dreieich Buchschlag (“Three Oaks Book Whip”!) and took the train up to Steinbach.
How many times in my life have I crossed the border into Germany? 100? 150? 200? It’s been plenty, and 90% of it by hitchhiking. Germany for me is the middle of Europe and I’m always passing through it. Get ready for some inflammatory comments about Germany being the USA of Europe. Coming soon!
I am visiting a family outside of Frankfurt. I met Cordula 23 years ago in Australia–and then she met her future husband there 3 weeks later. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.