Looking back I am not sure how Jim and I fitted in our various travels but we did. Time seems to chase young people rather than when older we seem to chase time.
On one particular trip I was still just under 20 – it was the late 80’s and we had spent time visiting the red sea and other wonders. We returned stopping off in Cyprus for a memorable week (another post) and then hopping over the islands of Greece.
It was May/June and I became brown as Marmite – and probably smelled as bad as on occasions we were sleeping on beaches and would bathe in the ocean.
Memories are funny as sometimes without realising it we fill in the gaps with un-truths but this is how I remember that time.
Hitched our first Ride
Heading back to Athens on the ferry we counted our cash and realised – even though Jim had picked up some casual work on Crete – we didn’t have enough to go to the places in Europe that we both wanted to see. The train or bus fares would be too much. So we decided to save money – and still go where we planned – we would sleep cheap and hitchhike!
We’d never hitched a ride before. But understood the risks involved. To be honest I felt quite safe as Jim was six foot four and strong. I expect if I had been with a girl friend I may have chickened out from the idea.
We picked up our first ride just out side of Athens port. A Lorry. And this became our most popular mode of transport on the journey home.
I thoroughly enjoyed being so high up. It made me feel invincible.
So this is where we bring the map into play.
Over the next two weeks – I think – we hitched a ride from Athens, right down on the Greek tip, to just off the A2 in Kent(England) where we both lived at the time. That was over 3, 160 km in total – driving.
In fact, the last ride dropped us off within ten minutes walk of Jim’s house. That is what I call convenient public transport 😉
But back to the trip. Well the bits I remember. From Athens we travelled up to the Greek side of what was then known as Yugoslavia. I remember we stopped the night in a cheap B&B type place before actually walking over the border the following day. It was notably strict and I think Jim and I were separated going through.
Once in communist Yugoslavia we hitched a ride to Belgrade – the capital and went straight to a tourist information office. We needed somewhere to stay the night and the rules in Yugoslavia were very stern.
Visitors mainly stayed with families. Not only that because we were clearly not married we had to sleep in different rooms. It seemed odd to me but the family made us dinner and welcomed us into their unit. I felt quite honoured to be their guest.
That evening we went in to the city but were warned there was a curfew for 11pm. I think. Sounds a bit like some kind of lockdown 😉
I vividly remember the streets being very clean and everyone seemed on their best behavior. The difference to walking around in London was noticeable. It was a very educational experience.
Italy and Austria
The next day it was time to move on. Somehow over the next few days we reached the Italian border and stopped in a cheap room in Trieste moving on to Venice the following day. Both these places are right in that top right tip of Italy and close together. We probably got the bus on this occasion.
I have been to Venice a few times since. It is OK. I much prefer Florence.
We both wanted to go to Innsbruck. For some reason I see it covered in snow but that is very unlikely at that time of year. I must be clouded by picture post cards. But how to get from Venice to Innsbruck. Well we were incredibly lucky. A couple of German students picked up up in their VW camper van. They were wonderful young men with long hair in their mid 20’s. Germany used to have a system where after school a young person would work for a few years before going to University. This was why they were students at their age. Dropping us of on the outskirts of Innsbruck they gave us a phone number and told us when we left Austria we were to go and stay with them in Munich.
We found a hostel in the middle of Innsbruck for a couple of days and did a lot of site seeing. I remembering really liking it and vowing to return one day.
We actually got a cheap train to the out skirts of Munich and called our new friends. They picked us up and the fun began!
They lived in a fabulous large flat with a green door. We had our own room and were told to make ourselves at home. These guys were so hospitable. Taking us to clubs and beer festivals. We had a hoot. And I developed a little bit of a crush on one of them. On the way back from a night out he picked a rose and put it in my hair. Oh how my young heart fluttered…
We managed to stay about 4 or 5 days with them but knew once we left we would be heading on the fastest track home.
Somewhere on our homeward journey we slept the night in a German underpass. Remember we had rucksacks with us with sleeping bags.
When hitchhiking we discovered if I stood at the curb and Jim slightly out of sight we got a lift very quickly. This is the cheeky method we adopted on the last leg of our trip. From Germany through Belgium, mainly getting picked up by lorries. One night we alighted at a cafe and the lorry driver allowed us to sleep in the small cab as he had other arrangements elsewhere. In fact it was this memory that fed my inspiration for one of my stories that is coming soon to my blog…
When we arrived at the port we were on our last bit of cash. And I mean that. In those days there were no other ways of getting money abroad unless it was wired to you – I think that was the term – and that could take days. I really think Jesus was on our side because we got talking to a couple who had bought loads of booze and needed to occupy their car with two more people so they wouldn’t have to pay extra for the amount of alcohol they had. They took us on the ferry and then all the way up the A2(like a motorway) to where we lived for free. It was lucky they were heading to London.
I vividly recall them pulling over and dropping us off. It felt so strange to be home. There was definitely a sense of achievement but being home felt odd. I was a little lost for a few days, missing the adventure.
Jim and I split up a few months later but we shared something we both remember to this day.
PS. Way back in 1972 Lou Reed was singing …
Holly came from Miami, F.L.A.
Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She says, “Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side”
Said, “Hey honey, take a walk on the wild side”
Header Image from Pixabay.