Day 137 and 138: Merano to Innsbruck

The weekend in Ostiglia was my last stop with Ros. The next day she was heading South and me North. Saying goodbye was sad for a number of reasons. Obviously, she’s one of my best friends, I don’t know when I’ll see her again and I love her. That’s Olmert reason to be sad but aside from all the lovey stuff, I will miss her simply because she’s a very good travel companion. She loves sport, eating, art, talking, dancing – all the things I love! Also it’s so rare to find a companion eager for adventure and comfortable with uncertainty. Almost everything we’d done and everywhere we’d been was accidental. It’s exactly how I like it and she’s the perfect companion for it.

The other reasons are much less romantic. I’m alone now, everyone driving past doesn’t see the security of a couple. Now they just see a dude with a weird hair cut and dirty clothes, smiling through the worlds most unevenly spread beard. Better shave and wash then.

“Hey pick me up. I’m a lost school boy.” That’s pretty much my strategy now.

Also, accommodation (when I actually pay for it) is fucking expensive when your alone. Hitchhiking takes you to a lot of random places and not every small town and backwater city has a hostel or even a motel – how about €40 for a single bed sandwiched between a wall and cabinet you can’t open. Well I don’t wanna sleep in the rain, so I guess so.

I had such an average wait on Monday. It didn’t take long, only half an hour but it was fucking miserable. It was raining like buggery, cars were splashing me, my sign had dissolved into cardboard porridge and I couldn’t see shit – all the rain was flossing into my eyes because I refused to put my raincoat hood up in case I looked dodgy and no one picked me up. About 15 minutes in my arm started freaking out. A combination of feeling cold and weeks of strain from roadside thumbing had turned it into a cramp factory. Every 30 seconds CRAMP. Long cramps, little sharp cramps, cramps like Viennese discotheques. After ten minutes of trying the various products of cramp factory my shoulders went all loose and I got light headed. I remember thinking ‘maybe I’m going to faint, fall on the road and a big truck will squish my head’. Of course that was just ridiculous catostrophising coming from a miserable idiot but it was obviously time to call it a day. Just as I was picking up my stuff a car stopped.

“Where do you need to go?” Young woman with a teacher’s smile.

“ANYWHERE IS FINE.” I hope I didn’t actually yell.

I have such a big regret. My next ride was with a peach farmer named Helen. She was vegan, elastic skinned, ambiguously aged and responded to everything with the enthusiasm of an eight year old who’s just tried sugar for the first time. She was massively eccentric and I really liked her. We talked about angels, our animal friends and how silly it is that people still live in castles. Helen was going to her hometown Merano and asked if I wanted to come. Sure. We went to the centre of town and I was left at the hostel.

“Here’s my address. I live behind the palace hotel. If the hostel is booked out or you have any problems come to my house and you can sleep in my campervan.”

The hostel was booked out but for some reason, I still can’t understand, I didn’t go to Helen’s house, I went to a three star hotel and spent €41. How unlike me. Well maybe it isn’t unlike me because I did it – I must of wanted to at the time right? I’m obviously having a crisis over this.

The best thing about three star hotels – breakfast.

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I’ve stayed in a few hotels with breakfasts like this (not quite as good as this one) and now my diets fucked. I have these huge breakfasts, absolutely gorging myself on every dish, condiment and drink. Doesn’t matter if there’s five kinds of bread rolls, sixteen varieties of jam and enough cakes to kill a country of diabetics – I have to try them all! I leave the hotel feeling uncomfortably pregnant. I’m usually not ready to eat until 4 or 5pm but if I eat then ill spoil my dinner. I wait out the hunger and then eat, guess what, for dinner – left overs from the hotel buffet. So instead of being a normal human and eating three nice meals a day. I have one ridiculously enormous meal, spend half the day feeling incapable of doing anything, a few hours incredibly hungry and then I eat the exact same thing I had for breakfast for dinner.

I’ve been traveling through mountainous paradise. On Monday I stayed in Merano, a getaway town for politicians, celebrities and other stupidly rich people. It looks like his:

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It used to be a part of Austria but Italy got it as a reward for switching sides post WW1. Now it’s got a funny mix of German and Italian*. A lot of drivers I met in the area told me it’s a perfect example of how to mix cultures and nationalities. There’s perfect harmony they said. Pizza, pasta, rye, cured meats, cheeses, weird languages and a fuck told of beautiful castles and golf coursey mountains sounds fucking good to me.

I’ve just left Innsbruck. More mountain paradise. I was actually here in 2007 but I’d forgotten how ridiculous this place was.

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Maybe as an Australian I’m too easily wowed by big mountains. So many places I’ve been on this trip I’ve thought ‘wow this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been’. They all had mountains. Do Europeans think the Blue Mountains are beautiful? Do Tibetans think the alps are boring? Or maybe mountains are inherently beautiful. Who knows.

Hitchhiking summary
Rides taken: 7
Distance travelled: 198km
Average wait: 28 minutes

*there’s also a third community and language called Ladin. It’s one of the oldest existing languages – kind of a street version of Latin. It only exists in the mountains of North Italy because the people there have been relatively isolated.

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