22-27th July 2012
Berlin is vegan heaven. Nomadic Pete and I hitchhike there from Cologne and all I can think about the whole way is Yoyo’s pizza, Yellow Sunshine burgers and vegan ice-cream.
On the way we stop at a gas station to hitch another ride. While our driver unloads our bags I approach a man standing by his car – “Excuse me, do you drive towards Berlin?” He does, but he doesn’t have space for us. The back-door of the car bursts open and a familiar face pops out – “Jo!” It’s Theo, from the Hitchgathering in Bulgaria last year – the guy I almost travelled with in Turkey. “He hasn’t got any space because we’re here!” Theo indicates his girlfriend who is sharing the back seat. The driver who has just dropped us off and Theo’s driver are speechless – what are the chances? But it gets better, Theo is on his way to “A Flat”, Lisa and Clemens’ nomad base in Berlin, which is exactly where Pete and I plan on staying.
A nomad base is basically a house or flat that’s open to long-term travellers. They run on voluntary donations, meaning people give what they can, when they can. Everyone is considered a host, nobody a guest. Each should play their part in keeping the house clean, cooking communally and sharing what they can.
On the night we arrive there are 19 people sleeping in the one-bedroom flat. Lisa and Clemens sleep in the bedroom and everyone else sleeps in the lounge, on the small balcony and wherever else they can. Pete, Jasper and I lay out our mats on the kitchen floor. Apparently, this is normal.
Th following day, Pete and I go to visit his old university friend Dominic, who works at The Jewish Museum. He not only gives us his bedroom, moving out that very night to his girlfriend’s place across town, but he also gives us a free, private (anarchist!) tour of the Jewish Museum.
I have another friend in Berlin – Stefan, the guy who gave me and Lisa a lift there last time we hitched together. Stefan is my very favourite hitching ride, the only one I now consider a friend, and certainly the only one to come on a demonstration with me! Of course he is reading this, so I have to get a good word in so he and his lovely friend Klaus will host me again next time I come to Berlin, and Klaus will feed me vegan deliciousness and let me doze on his balcony.
After dropping Pete at his hitching spot away from Berlin I have a very vivid dream while dozing on that balcony:
Pete and I are at the Polish border. It’s very dark. I think Stefan has driven us there. There are these giant steel steam trains and I consider getting on one, but it costs €70. They tell me I can pay €40 and just sit on the girders and hold on to the metal parts of the train, but that it won’t be a very comfortable ride. I decide to hitchhike. Pete and I are going separate ways – he home to Wales, I to Slovakia. We share a goodbye kiss and then I wake up on Klaus’ balcony with the trees rustling and the sunlight.
It feels like a real transition dream, because when I wake up, all of my UK friends have left Berlin and it’s time to think about moving on, and time to be alone again for a while.