Hitchhiking over 3000km in Europe – Part Three: Night Riders

Hitchhiking over 3000km in Europe – Part Three: Night Riders

Morning in Lviv

The third day (if you missed previous part, go check it out too) of our trip begins as we are packing our backpacks in the hostel and getting out to the town. We don’t have much of a plan, we just know we’re gonna get to Poland today… somehow. The best way to find a ride is to get out of the city centre. We go looking for a place where the minibuses (in Ukraine they call them Marshrutka) stop at the main square.

Hitchwiki says the bus stop is supposed to be next to the Shevchenko monument. We come there, but we struggle to find the right bus, which would be going out of town. Also there is a dead old woman just about two meters from the bus stop, covered in a blue blanket from head to toes, probably uhmm, “waiting” for the paramedics or something. We decide that this is probably not the right bus stop and move a little further up the square, towards the opera and find another stop there. Our marshrutka came soon.

Marshrutka ride

There is an interesting payment system in those marshrutka minibuses. You don’t buy a ticket. You just get in, take a seat and pass your money to the people in front of you. They pass the money further, until it gets to the driver. The passenger next to the driver has a special role. He takes the money, puts in the cash box, takes out the change and passes it back to you.

I was wondering how is it possible that money doesn’t get, ehmm “lost”, during this process. The first reason is that the bus is too small, so you would notice anybody who happens to forget to pass your money. The second reason I’ve thought of is that it’s something like a part of the culture in here, you just don’t steal money from your comrades in marshrutka. We get off at the last stop and make a sign saying PL, with polish flag in the background. We really played around with the crayons this time 😀 .

Getting to the border

A minivan with three older guys, probably construction workers, picks us up. They take us only 30km to a small town called Zhovkva where we get off at the petrol station. There is an asphalt road going around the town through the fields. The road is super empty. It seems that the only human beings around this place is us and some old guy working on a field nearby. He waves and smiles, we wave back. Map says there is a petrol station about 3km from our location, so we start walking.

We finally reach the petrol station, it’s rather small, but there is one truck parked in there. “Look, there is already a truck waiting to take us,” I say jokingly. The joke turned out to be true. We just came there, asked the driver, he agreed to take us to the border. He would gladly take us even further, but was afraid that the border officers would notice that he has more than one passenger (more is not allowed) and he would get fined.

The longest wait

We eventually arrive to the Rava-Ruska border crossing. Poland is on the other side. There are some cars waiting to cross, but not too many. We ask everybody for a ride, but nobody is willing to take us. It’s kinda weird, to this point, we were getting one ride after another with no problems. I guess the poeple are afraid to take two strangers over the border, maybe they are afraid of getting into trouble in case we are smuggling something. The funny thing is, you cannot just show your passport to some lady sitting in a booth and proceed to Poland on foot. You need a vehicle to do that. I think it’s absurd.

just a random pic of me, Viki and a flower peacock

There is some other guy, around 50-60 years old, waving at cars crossing the border. Every time he stops somebody, couple of young people get out of some of the cars parked nearby, get in, the old guy pays the driver some money and they leave to Poland. After two unsuccessful hours of just talking to the drivers when they’re waiting in the queue, we decide to copy his strategy. It’s already past 18:00 when some driver we aggressively wave at agrees to take us. He wants 5€ per person. We are super tired of the waiting, so we just give it to him without trying to get a better deal. This was definitely the longest wait for a ride during the whole trip.

We spend the next three hours just slowly moving with other cars to Poland. There are some spare hrivnas left in our wallets. We invest them into a bottle of wine in the duty-free store between UA and PL border stations.

The night is coming

It’s around 21:00 and we are left at a random motel in Poland, in a town called Tomaszów Lubelski. The motel looks really welcoming. It has a restaurant and we are super hungry (at least I am). To celebrate our arrival to this awesome country, we order the typical polish meal – pierogi. It’s dumplings typically filled with meat or sheep cheese, very tasty. You should definitely get some when traveling in Poland. Also, we made a brand new sign in this restaurant, just in case.

With full stomachs, our enthusiasm is back and we’re ready to move on. It’s almost 22:00, but we decide to cross this small town and get to the northern end. There we might find a good place to set up a tent. It’s friday night, but the whole town is really quiet. They have a nice, colorful fountain in the centre. Apart from that, it’s not a very interesting town.

But we ain’t stoppin’

After a calm night walk we reach the northern end of the town. The road goes further north through dark woods, so we stop by the last lamp in a cone of it’s light. I start searching for a nice, hidden place which could become our bedroom for the night. However, Viki suggests that we should just try hitchhiking for a few more minutes, maybe we get lucky and somebody takes us to Lublin, the capital of this voivodeship (district).

Yeah, we got lucky once again. After mere 15 minutes you could see us leaving our small spot of light under the lamp, running to a car waiting for us by the road. It’s a tow truck. The driver is from Ukraine. He said something about taking his friend’s broken car somewhere, but we understand just a little. He’s taking us straight to Lublin. We don’t talk much and fall asleep soon. The next thing I remember is getting out of the car in the centre of Lublin, still kinda sleepy. 

Friday night in Lublin

The old town of Lublin is absolutely beautiful, vibrant and alive. It’s friday night and there are tipsy, laughing people on every corner. I’d like to get a beer somewhere, but Viki doesn’t want to sit in a pub but walk around the town instead. We make a compromise and buy two bottles of beer and go for a stroll. Overall atmosphere of the place is very welcoming and energetic. I definitely add this city to my must-visit-again list.

It’s getting pretty late, like one or two in the morning late, and we still have no clue where we’re gonna sleep tonight. We get out of the old town and head towards our general direction – north and search for a suitable “camping site”.

Soon we enter a different part of the city with modern looking blocks, some of them were not finished yet. There are no people in here. We considered camping on some empty parcels or fields, but they had too many bushes and weeds and didn’t look very comfy. We keep on walkin’.

Camping in the Holy Land

Finally! The perfect spot appeared. We spotted a church with many trees around and amidst this small grove, there is a nice, flat spot under a birch. It’s calm, warm summer night and the sky is full stars, so we don’t bother with setting up the tent and just roll out our sleeping bags and pads. Even tho we sleep outside in a populated area, being near this big church gives us a feeling of safety. The exhaustion from a long traveling day kicks in fast and soon, we’re both sleeping tight (untill the giant church bells wake us up in the morning with extremely loud bangin’ and clangin’, as if the heavens were falling down).

This is it for part three. In the next part, we’re gonna leave Poland and start exploring the Baltics, play hide and seek at night with a stray German Sheperd and ride a Mercedes! 😀 You can pass the time ’till the next part comes out by playing around with those SHARE buttons :

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