After a short stopover in Berne, I found myself once again at the mercy of fate. Taking the tram all the way to the furthest stop, which had been decided the previous night after google mapping the entire city. This time however I did not have any Swiss money, so their was no reason to even try the ticket machine. So the usual feeling of rebellion swept through my thoughts and as every individual got on I couldn’t help think they were a member of the Swiss anti-crime acts group, out to get me. And I really wouldn’t put it past the Swiss to have a group like this, such is the efficiency of the entire countries transport system and I dread to think what punishment I would be given, perhaps made to consume the oh so famous swiss chocolate until I became allergic…imagine that…allergic to swiss chocolate. Anyhow, I was not caught. My life had been spared. Well at least a credit card bill and I found myself at a roundabout being shouted at from across the road by a man in a van.
This man in a van spoke very good English, common amongst the younger sort in Switzerland. Their comprehension of the English language puts our nation’s ability at speaking others to shame. Or maybe it is just my ability!
Henry owns his own removals business so is frequently driving all over the surrounding areas, and as he mentions ‘giving a lot of people a lift’. Dropping me off at a service station I had to walk back about 2 miles along the banks of a corn field to an underpass where I could walk underneath the motorway and return to another station the other side, which should put me in a good position for catching a lift northwards up to Germany.
1 hour of confronting passengers and drivers, an SUV approaches, a big American looking vehicle which would be a shame not to be shared with all that space. Out gets a stocky man, quite short with a beard and once I shoot him the typical question he comes out with a squeaky South African accent. Is he going to a city across the border in Germany. Yes he is. ‘Great’. ‘Get in’. ‘Thanks’.
On the autobahn, formality of meeting a new face begins. Where am I from, where am i going and unusually the question ‘why’, which co-incidentally I didn’t have a reason for, should I of?
As we progress into our journey, Ant (the driver) starts looking on his sat NAV for my required destination and after admiring the streets and fast roads surrounding the town, he hesitantly informs me that he is not actually heading in my direction and is turning off the autobahn on the next slip road. He is heading to a small town just over the border where a lot of Swiss nationals have a habit of visiting as shopping there is tax exempt.
A sort of panic ensues and Ant and his wife discuss what they could do with me, it was almost like hearing a discussion about what they should do with a body which had accidentally died on their watch. So at border checkpoint they stop the car in the middle of the road blocking all traffic whilst contemplating and rechecking their sat nav. A nock and some screams from outside the car can be heard. A Police officer disapprovingly grunts at us waving his hand for us to get out of the road.
Pulling up at the side of the road, the police man begins his inquiry into the sudden flurry of panic. I’m made to leave the vehicle, made to collect my bag and release it along with my passport to him and his colleagues.
Waiting next to the drivers side door, I apologies to the South Africans, who offer their apologies back which leaves me feeling a bit guilty about delaying their journey.
The policeman returns, now more at ease after establishing I am not some wanted tearaway and in our wait we have agreed to drop me off at the nearest possible petrol station.
There is one petrol station in this town according to the Sat-Nav. A small town and thus a small petrol station, with a small number of pumps. One actually. And after waving away the South African’s, a clear decision to not even contemplate waiting encouraged me to walk in a what appeared to be a northern direction, well Germany was north right!
Noticing a few cars zooming past in the distance further hope had been established, but on putting a foot down on this hopeful road, the traffic had clearly been diverted to stay clear of my foreign thumb. Without a word of complaint I did the only thing you can do….just keep walking (northwards). Walking what felt like ‘out of town’ an autobahn sign popped its head out from beneath a sea of branches. 15km. Great.
I continue on that route as the autobahn symbol did offer some hope I was heading in the right direction. But if there is supposedly an angel for everyone, mine came in the form of a bus. A bus shuddered to a halt 50 yards to my north, an electronic strip on the back revealing its destination. The destination the same as that on the autobahn sign. I ran to the bus. I Got on the bus. I paid 50 cense. And I arrived in Lorrach not more than 1 hour.
One hour after getting off the bus in Lorrach I was back standing by a junction that connected the motorway with the quiet country road I was on. In one hour, the same amount of opportunity past by. The second opportunity however was all I needed. As a friendly middle aged lady stopped dead in the road and gave me the motion with her hands for entering her vehicle. Once in side and the car was moving I was curious why she wanted to pick me up and in her courteous and thoughtful English ‘ you looked safe, young, friendly and I like the company on long journeys’. So there you go, I have a trust worthy appearance.
This lady was leaving the autobahn near Freiburg, so at the latest possible opportunity she parks up in a resort sized roadside rest stop. Pulling out an old map from the boot of her car, she tears away the front cover, handing it to me ‘This will help you, if you’re stuck for words you can always point’. Wonderful, a thoughtful driver as well, concerned for my lack of German comprehension. But would I really be needing that map?…