We had little other options. Walking past dozens of police cars we had made the right choice having to scale down a motorway embarkment then up a slip lane, through a police station then into the old border crossing station connecting Slovenia to Austria which was now used for toll booths. It payed off, and massively. The eerie huge undercover ex border crossing was ferociously busy with traffic as they all had to stop and manually pay the toll to use the motorway. We stood where a huge abandoned carpark once existed and determinedly, smiled at banked up cars which slowly crept past us. Incredibly, 90% were German and just our luck as we were making changes in course and held a cardboard sign stating Munich, 400km away. When a numberplate beginning with the letter M (for Munich) crawled by, we acted extra enthusiastic. It was 2pm and nights were now dangerously too cold (as we found out on our previous night) to camp. We needed a hostel.
We could not believe it! A German motorhome pulled across into the carpark and two younger cool guys jumped out and helped us with our bags. They said it would be no problem dropping us in Munich as they were heading to Cologne in the far mid west of Germany. As talk began fluently and we talked on all topics, we told them of our entire journey and how we needed to reach the London in 5 days due to meeting friends and visa restraints. London was 1500km away and doing the maths, and being enthusiastic about their city Cologne, they suggested we ride the entire 950km trip with them! It was a simple decision, we had no plans, no landmarks to see and only needed a city with a hostel so saying “for sure!” our longest hitchhike of 9hours happened and by midnight we were dropped in the city centre of Cologne and at a hostels doorstep.
It turned out to be the wrong hostel as we had booked it using one the the guys phones and lost in translation had told them the wrong hostel. It was a Saturday night and the city was bustling. Wifi was no problem to find and we soon located our hostel and delirious from our long day we stumbled feeling out of place coming from the quiet country side of Slovenian to suddenly in a bright busy night scene city. Our hostel was too overpriced, but with no other option. We gave no thought to what our future plans were and stumbled into our room falling instantly asleep. We had a lot of planning to do the next day as it was vital to sticking to our budget, now that camping was not possible.
Our sleep was terribly interrupted by an afterparty in our room but it was nothing we weren’t use to. That morning we had our apple and musli in the kitchen room then researched our plans. During the process we raided a free food cupboard and was amazed by the amount people through out! Enough to last us a week. Discovering an incredible medieval castle only 75kms south called Eltz Castle, it was put on the list despite how difficult it seemed to reach. The area around Cologne is the most heavily populated area in all of Europe and the highway systems are crazy! Just looking at a zoomed out map would be enough to keep any hitchhiker away.. We did not know this when happily jumping at the 9hr hitch the night before. hitchwiki.org, despite it stating it was the most difficult area, still had pointers and we followed them as we walked 8kms out of the city to a petrol station. A half a minute wait on two university students got us to the next major city, 10kms away and to the ex capital city of Germany after WWII, Bonn. They dropped us directly at our nights accomodation, a trailer park set up in a huge industrial warehouse.
It was closed for a staff party, but luckily it had wifi and thankfully something was going our way. A couchsurfer only 15km away from Eltz Castle had agreed to have us the next day. Still with no idea what to do for the night we put pleas out to couchsurfers in Bonn however the extremely late notice was governed to get no replies. It was already late afternoon and while we sat out the front of the warehouse researching opportunities, the universe sent us an answer. A lovely lady and her teenage daughter had come to look at the trailer park and seeing that it is also closed, we began talking. She offered to drive us to the nearest hostel, one which we could not find on the internet and before long we were across town and once again in a hostel and having an early night.
The next day we were up earlier and following the same tactics as always. An extra long walk out of the city to where we finally found a possible hitching spot, caught us a lift in 15minutes to the city of Koblenz. The man who drove us was a translator for the national police and upon dropping us at the headquarters, was imminent on asking all passing police officers if they could drop us closer to where we needed to go! Even asking a forensic lady holding a sealed plastic box (who knows what was in it). They did not have time. We continued walking, racking up the kilometres out of the city and to a smaller highway which lead along the Moselle river and through small vineyard villages. It was a much more peaceful walk, now into the countryside again and along the way, we picked grapes until we found an appropriate hitchhiking spot.
Our luck hitchhiking in Germany continued when a young couple dropped us 20km down the road. From here we decided to walk the remaining 5km to a tiny village named Lehmen an to where we changed routes to an even tinier road. Standing on a steep hill with a sign saying Münstermaifeld, another small village where we needed to make our final road change to reach Eltz, Iit was a 10 minute wait and the second car, driven by a friendly young father, which dropped us there. It was only 2pm and everything was running smoothly. We were dropped on the outskirts on the road which lead directly to Eltz and as traffic was very scarce, we decided to walk and hitch. The castle lay 6km away.
On all sides of us were rolling farmed hills of greens, yellows and browns without a single building. It was a landscape of Germany we had not seen, contrary to its highways, large cities and populations. As if stepping back in time, like we had felt in Slovenia. Fittingly so, we were heading to a medieval castle and while dozens of cars drove past, there were no safe places for them to stop along the narrow countryside road so we walked the entire distance. As the road lead to a large carpark, surprisingly half full, we continued to walk along a track, winding along a hill side, now a thick forrest of oak trees. Small streams flowed from many directions and lead to a shallow river, suddenly wrapping itself around the indescribably beautiful castle. It sat in a cleared gully with the richest green grass surrounding it. The time was nearing 4pm by this stage and the bulk of tourists were waiting for a shuttle back to the carpark. We were glad to have taken the track and waiting for almost all tourist to leave so we could capture the castle empty, the sun set over the trees and cast a golden shine on the castle.
We then switched to survival mode and thought of getting back to civilisation, as much as we would have loved to camp nearby. Another 4km of walking through the beautiful forest, now nearing dark brought us back to the same road following the Moselle river, only now we were further down and had to head back up 10kms. We through our thumbs out and thankfully a man picked us up and dropped us at the town we “thought” our couchsurfer lived. Having had no wifi the entire day we assumed his home was in the town stated on couchsurfing however sometimes if people live in a tinier village nearby it will locate them at a larger town. For safety reasons couchsurfing doesn’t given you peoples exact address until they send it personally, so feeling content we were in the right place and our huge day of walking almost 30km was over, we found a hotel and using their wifi, received a message stating it was another 2kms away in the town of Kattenes.
It was well and truly dark by the time we knocked on our couchsurfers door. From the beginning Denis was a welcoming host and taken into the kitchen for an array of cheeses, meats and bread for dinner, we met two other couchsurfers from Mexico. Despite our tiredness the company of joyful fun people kept us alight and all offered by Denis, we drank a couple beers and chatted easily past midnight. Talk of the region, contrasting cultures and travels were all topics and it was a fulfilling end to a long day! Thanks Denis for having us! That night we slept on a blow up bed in his empty daughters room and we had our best nights sleep in a week. The castle was worth all its difficulty of getting to!
(63kms walked, 1268km hitchhiked)