29 April 2016 Cluj, Romania
The ice bear calf seemed to be more attached to us than the other way around. On the day we left from the end of the world, the white colossus was galloping happily in front of us. With the three of us, it would be hard to catch a ride, even in Poland. Luckily we were saved by a whistle from Koniec Świata, which caused our third wheel to storm back home. Shortly after, we were already rocking back and forth comfortably again in the cabin of a Polish truck driver.
The driver of our next ride explained a bit gloomy that from the 5 languages he spoke, we could not understand a single one. However, with a smile and a few hand gestures, it wasn’t hard to figure out what just had happened at the Slovakian border. Our driver had left his papers at home, but as soon as he whipped out his black and white collar (it turned out our driver was a priest), we immediately got a green light and were happily cruising down into Slovakia.
Where hitchhiking in Poland seemed like a breeze, in Slovakia we had to put in a little more effort. We did net some smiles after taking out our secret weapon, the ukulele, but even that didn’t make up for what was probably just a bad location on our part. Because just one village further down the road we caught a ride almost immediately and were even invited to sleep over.
That is how, after four days of wilderness, we ended up under a warm shower and with some pizza and Palinka. Lots of Palinka. An uncle across the road had his own distillery and showed us, while consuming lots of Palinka, the fine art of distilling alcohol from fermented fruit. During breakfast, we struggled to get down our yoghurt and tea and realized that we were still in need of much training before we would get to Russia. Equipped with a liter of Palinka and some homemade blueberry jam stored in our backpack, we even got a ride to the nearby Prešov. The only favor we were asked in turn, was to come back after our journey to tell about our stories.
Prešov was a jump away from Košice, where we decided to recover from the night before. Two nights in a hostel gave us the opportunity to work on our blog and led us to discover the surprisingly nice city of Košice. A member of staff from the hostel gave us a tip about an underground bar, the Collosseum, a superbly well-hidden punk-metal bar, with a confusing amount of stairs, doorways and backrooms. A beer for one euro per pint was a welcome change to the Palinka the night before.
We continued towards Romania with a longer stopover at the Hungarian-Slovakian border. After a slight hesitation, the friendly Roman backed up for us and then even drove an hour in the wrong direction to drop us at a good petrol station to hitchhike further to Romania. There we could make good use of our cardboard sign with the letters “RO” which we laughingly held up high, while smiling at Adi and pointing at his Romanian number plates with the same letters. Adi, seemingly amused, agreed to take us in, which made cross Hungary within a day.
Before we even got to our senses in Oradea in Romania or could point our thumbs in the air, Nelu approached us and asked whether he could take us to Cluj, our final destination for that day. Slightly swaying from left to right, with his thumb on his smart phone to proudly show us pictures of his rooster, we drove towards Cluj in record time. We couldn’t help but notice the gypsy palaces with the beautifully and fragile metal decorated roofs in the nearby Huedin. A statement of an excluded community with the necessary social problems, because despite all the outside glamour, the houses were neither finished from the inside nor inhabited. After a final coffee, instead of a Palinka (Nelu still had to drive), we headed towards what was to become our most special stay, in Cluj.