chapter 2 Interviewing Hitchhikers

Every traveler´s life starts with small steps.  Last week I had to go from my home town in the south of germany to Magdeburg, then Berlin to interview some hitchhikers for some university project. It would be really inappropriate to get there by train. I´s only 530 km but the night before I left I got a little nervous, why does this still happen to me, after years of hitching around Europe? Eventually I arrived really comfortably in little time, I didn´t  suffer from rain, nor snowstorms, nor got stuck half way there on some lonely highway when the night fell. Being nervous is just stupid. Doing Interviews is a very pleasant thing, it´s so nice how people open up and take time to talk about their views on life. Some of the hitchhikers I interviewed described having the same feeling of uncertainty, just before getting the first ride, especially when they haven´t been hitching for a time. When I was heading back home, I got up early, went to Nikolassee and as I stood there. I met two more hitchhikers leaving Berlin, both to Munich as me. One of them came over to talk to me, telling me I was standing at a bad place and should better ask the drivers at the same point he was, I answered that I liked my spot, as I always stand there. He was an old man, about 65, he looked like a man working on a ship, a little ragged, or let´s say somehow experienced. Two minutes later a car going to Switzerland picked us up and we drove together. To me it was very interesting to talk to him, as I had only interviewed young hitchhikers, mostly students. Both of them had really strong Berliner accent, a thing I knew only from movies. They both were workers, that grew up in the former east of Berlin, the DDR, only the driver was about 30 years younger. Soon they got into vivid discussion about what´s wrong with today’s society and economy and education, etc, typical car conversation, but really interesting as both of them had elaborate opinions and really avoided commonplaces, that´s unusual. Only for the special accent I could have spent days listening to them, it was great. Then they talked about the DDR and the things that have been good in their socialism, “we didn´t have bananas, but who needs bananas? we didn´t have homeless people!”. To me, as I don´t have any friends or relatives that have been living there and I myself was still really young when the wall came down, listening was a history class. “We couldn´t really travel freely, that was really bad, but we learnt russian language and traveled to Poland..”.  they went on and on, talking about politicians and places I had no idea about, so I did not find the time to ask him for an interview. Then we stopped for a coffee and a tank refill and I asked, of course he would do an interview and started talking, about how he became a hitchhiker in Poland in the 60´s when the hitchhikers had a kind of social insurance were they paid a small fee to become member of a “union”, so they had insurances, they got street and train maps, signs to wave the cars over, so they see their membership, then they gave kilometer-bons to the drivers with which these could participate in a tombola. He told me about his brother being a convinced capitalist “can you believe this!” and then we came to talk about german weapon exports and the collaboration of military providing companies with universities and even on this topic my friend knew more than I did. I really wanted to interview him, but when we were back in the car, him and the driver kept talking about world politics, about south Africa, the Soviet Union and the revolution of Angola in 1976. I had read a book on that topic so I could say a thing or two, but this guy knew everything. Then we had to get off and change the car, my fellow-hitchhiker asked the first car on the parking lot, the most expensive Audi you can buy for money and they agreed to take us. The drivers, an old couple looked not just rich, they looked like millionaires. I had got the voice recorder out of my backpack and was getting ready for the interview, when our drivers asked for silence because of an important phone conference with work. 80 kilometers later I had to get off, we shook hands and wished each other good luck. I wish I could have taken a picture at least of the guy with his 50-year-old leather suitcase, held together by strings, hitching the millionaire-Audi. A pity I couldn´t do the interview. I´m glad I didn´t take the train to Berlin and back. 🙂





One comment

  1. nice post! every time i am at Nikolasee there are other hitchhikers 🙂 It gives me a warm feeling, realising that there are so many of us.
    and the posh Audis and BMWs always take hitchhikers in Germany! it’s great!

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