Do you remember Mindunai? The bus stop and the small shop? Do you remember the sun tickling your face and all the happy people dancing, singing and playing guitar? Every few minutes more or less irritated drivers brought more people to this small bus stop in the middle of nowhere somewhere in Lithuania. The joy, when old and new friends exited the cars was overwhelming and added to the irritation of the drivers. And just like that the phenomenal Tramprennen 2017 came to an end. For two weeks over 120 crazy people were standing on the roadsides of Europe and hitchhiked to the bet. Now, as Christmas and winter have caught up, we want to look back on our journey from Erfurt and Lüneburg to Mindunai in Lithuania.
After years, in which the Tramprennen aimed to stay in warmer areas, some of us already got the chills by just looking on the northern part of the map. But the Kaltikum (sorry but there is just no proper translation for this bad pun) demanded our appearance and as we are always looking for a challenge we bravely packed the warm sleeping bag and fitted next to all the juggling stuff and a large variety of guitarish instruments more than one warm sweater in the already overflowing bagpacks. To get to the Baltics, we had to crisscross through Poland. This was not a problem, as Poland is still one of the hitchhiking friendliest countries in Europe. So, all the teams spent at least 2 stages between Piwo, Autostrada and Pirogi, before crossing the just 100 km wide border to Lithuania. And even if we traveled this year far away from the known refugee routes, each border crossing comes with an uncomfortable feeling. For too many people, that were not so lucky to own a European passport, these lines on maps are too often obstacles, that seem to be impossible to overcome. We want to emphasize: No one is illegal!
Once we arrived in Lithuania, we were greeted by a warming sun instead of the arctic winds, that some of us had expected. The lifts were super friendly and the landscape breathtaking. Again, everything done right! The last evenings were spent together with the route, the past days were elaborated, and everyone took a close look at the ranking. “It’s still a race! “ even if the first team already claimed the overall victory long before. For one or another team there was still the first place on the route possible or they wanted to get in front of another team. To make it short: ambitions were high on the last stage. And so it happened, that on the short last stage a few overly motivated teams already arrived in Mindunai at noon.
What happened the next 48 hours is hard to describe. So much of this adventure will be remembered by the people that stood next to European roads this year. Again over 120 people showed that hitchhiking works and that it is not just an extraordinary way to move across a continent but that it makes a dialogue possible, despite all language, economical, social and cultural barriers.
Next to all the wonderful experiences our participants made, which make the Tramprennen something truly special, there are all those amazing people that contributed to this years Tramprennen as team-sponsors and team-owners. Through your support, we are able to donate over 10.000 Euro to Viva con Agua and Pro Asyl! Thank you so much! You are the best!
But there are more people we need to thank. All those that supported the organization and planning of this years Tramprennen. At the premeetings or the final ceremony, designing and layouting, printing t-shirts or packing the hitchpackages, without your voluntary work organizing the Tramprennen would not be possible. If you want to support us next year and contribute your own ideas to the world of Tramprennen contact us at gro.nennerpmartnull@ofni and stay tuned.
At the very end: Thank you! Děkuji! Dziękuję! Ačiū! Paldies! To all the drivers, that shared short or long distances of their journey with us.
Germany lost to Spain in the European football championship and Karl Marx would have celebrated his 190th birthday. There was one or another surprise in 2008. In Lithuania, there were 9 children born per 1000 inhabitants and the Finnish javelin thrower Tero Järvenpää made the unlucky 4th place in the summer Olympics. On the 3rd place was his namesake and fellow countryman Tero Pitkämäki. So, while the world was going crazy, around 12 young people hitchhiked to the bet to the world exhibition in Saragossa. On the way, they wanted to raise awareness for the work of Viva con Agua de Sankt Pauli e.V.
Today the team “Käpt’n Karacho & seine Crew” will answer some questions about hitchhiking and, of course, the Tramprennen itself.
Ahoy, please tell us. How did you get to participate at the very first Tramprennen?
Janina: At one of our first VcA-meetings in Kiel, Hauke came with the idea and had already prepared a poster. At first, it just sounded crazy to me. I remembered the pictures of my childhood, when we passed hitchhikers but never took one, because they could have robbed us. I thought a little about it, but I had no plans for the summer anyway and decided to join. I randomly met Franzi on the street and so we had our crew.
Have you had any hitchhiking experience before?
Janina: Not really. I got lost in Sweden once and used the thumb as a last way out.
What kind of crazy experiences did you make during the first Tramprennen?
Janina: I was impressed, that we slept almost every night at hosts place we met just that day somewhere on the way. This spontaneous hospitality to take some strange hitchhikers into your home was a really great experience. The rest of the nights we slept on playgrounds until the police woke us up. In most cases it was time to get up anyway.
Do you still hitchhike now? Why?/Why not?
Janina: Still sometimes. Every now and then, when I need a small adventure and/or save money. Also, to get out of your own bubble and listen to the stories of other people. I get a lot of inspiration out of this, but not as often.
Do you have a favorite car to hitchhike?
Janina: It was really nice in Romania to ride in open cars and to feel the wind blowing around your head. In trucks, I really enjoyed riding as well. Truck drivers tell the best stories. They are the sailors of the road. Even, when they are too slow for a race…
Are you coming with us to Lithuania this year?
Janina: Unfortunately not, I have to finish cutting a film and also, I have the feeling that it is alright, to let the following generations live the race.
What do you say about 10 years of Tramprennen?
Janina: Goosebumps! In the first year, we were able to cook noodles for all of us in just one pot. Today you would need a huge kitchen. When I think about how this journey changed me – I expanded my horizon, I learned what you can achieve as a group; how to get so incredibly close to people, you found unlikeable at first, in a short time just by being in this microcosm car; Hitchhiker became friends and friends became hitchhikers… – then I just hope for as many people as possible that they experience the same! Oh and I’m fascinated, that there are, despite all the warnings, just really few incidents in all this 10 years. This shows that world is not that bad at all. On top of that all the donations that the World Hunger Aid could use for their projects. Chapeau and to the next 10 years!
What do your mothers say?
Janina: I think, she is more open minded towards hitchhiking now. She was always happy, that I had such an amazing time. But secretly she is also happy, that I don’t spend most of my summers hitchhiking anymore…
For Hitchhiking: Thumb or sign?
Janina: Heart and soul ????.
Do you have any hints or tricks for people that hitchhike for the first time?
Janina: Turn on your gut feelings to lead you the way and try to strengthen it on the journey. The one trick, that works always at gas-stations: Ask, with a map in your hands, if they drive to … and when they start explaining you the way, just ask if you can ride with them. You are happy to take bagpacks and groceries on your lap. And the baby on the backseat can play with you as well….
2008, Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” was 8 weeks on the top of the german single-charts and Barrack Obama is becoming in the middle of the big economic crisis president of the United States of America. And between all this madness about one dozen hippies hitchhiked from Hamburg to Saragossa. Of course they made a competition. And boom, the Tramprennen was born.
2017, the 10th edition of this amazing event will take place. It’s time to ask the first crazy participants how and why all this works. Today team K.O. will give us answers to questions we always wanted to ask.
Hey Team K.O.
Tell us something about you. Who are you? What’s your favorite vegetable?
Ja moin, I’m Ole. At the first Tramprennen I was 22 years old. I liked and still like carrots but I’m wearing glasses anyway.
What was the craziest thing that happened to you during the first tramprennen?
Uhm well, most of the time we were standing in villages and it took forever to get a lift. So we spend hours driving back and forth between two spots that locals recommended to us. We were really unexperienced hitchhikers and very trusting. In Siegburg, somewhere around Bonn, we drove back and forth three times. On-ramp to the trainstation back to the on-ramp to the supermarket-parkingspace and on-ramp again. The procedure was always the same. Presenting your thumb for half an hour to the dashing cars. Then “Damn it, this is not a good spot either!”. And so on. After several hours in Siegburg Kai just said: “Ole, let’s take a taxi!” We drove to the next service-station and after 5 minutes we were heading with 200 km/h to the finish line. Felt good.
What was different in 2008 and is everything better today?
First of all it was just new. Of course. Like it is today for everyone, that hitchhikes for the first time. For the first time you were sitting in some businessman’s car right next to the driver, you spend the night for the first time at a host you just met. It was also the first night we spend a night next to a toll-station somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Italy and it was premiere of suddenly getting a lift even though you already planned on spending the night on the side of the highway.
There was nothing like google maps on the smartphone in 2008. When you got stuck and the small village was not in your map, that had a scale of 1:30 million and was more and more tattered with every kilometer, then you were somewhere in terra incognita. You printed the Hitchwiki articles before you started and you hoped that your lift did not drop you off at some place that you had no information about. There was no liveticker and since roaming was so incredibly expensive you turned your cellphone off most of the time anyway. Some would say: amazing time. But you have to admit for hitchhiking, especially when you want to arrive in a given time, smartphones have great advantages.
Are you still hitchhiking? Why (Why not)?
Every now and then. I just spend a week in spring hitchhiking through France. That was really cool and the spirit of this way of travel is just amazing. Meeting new people, of which you probably hadn’t taken any notice before. It’s a slow but conscious way of travelling. But to be honest, in the daily life I’m not hitchhiking as often as before. I prefer to jump on a train and arrive at a set time and not trying to keep a cardboard-sign dry for hours. And of course I rather spend the nights in a bed than somewhere next to the Autobahn.
What are your mothers saying?
In 2008 I told my mother: “I’m going hitchhiking to spain now.” Knowing, that she couldn’t change anything, she replied: “Ok, but come back safely.” I did. Today, I believe, there is nothing, that would shock her.
This year we are heading to the baltics. Will you join us?
No, unfortunately not but maybe next year. Or maybe I will come to the final destination for a few days. We will see.
What would be your favourite destination for a Tramprennen?
Gibraltar? Istanbul? China? Maybe too exotic but that would be nice.
Do you have some expert-advice for newbies?
Just try and do it! There is basically not a lot that can go wrong. And even if, normally you learn from your mistakes.
Just two weeks of waiting until up to 120 motivate participants roam the streets and hitchhike in a race to lithuania. We closed the registration and can’t hold us together because of all the anticipation. A lot of teams are done with the registration process and collecting hard-working donations for our partner organisations Pro Asyl and Viva con Agua and also the liveticker is in use already.
But we are not lazy as well. Slowly we figured, how many participants will hitchhike together with us this year and we had to recognize, that there are not enough participants for 3 starting points. To ensure, that we can give luck a chance and draw every team to one of 2 Routes starting at each starting point, we closed Kiel, which had the least teams at that point of time. But be assured there will be still wonderful routes from Lüneburg and Erfurt, which will bring you to Lithuania. And there will be the free route, as well. We are incredibly excited!
What else is happening? A lot, for sure! We are busy printing the T-Shirts with an especially awesome motiv, the hitch packages will be packed and the participants can be extremely excited for one or another surprise. The preparations at the starting points going to roll on as well. At the start in Erfurt (18th of August) there will be a small soli-party with 3 Bands and a bunch of cool people. Soli-Party? Yeah, that’s right!
This year we will support, next to Viva con Agua and Pro Asyl, a third organisation. For a long time we thought about giving the people that overwhelm us every year with their hospitality something back. Unfortunately we are not able to support foreign organisations via Betterplace. Since our donation-tool doesn’t work for the third organisation we had to get creative and thought about some cool ideas how to collect money. To keep it short and simple: every donation at the bar this year will go directly to the third organisation. Next to the Soli-Party in Erfurt there will be some more going on this year, stay tuned!
But on to the third organisation we choose: Marta a latvian NGO, which supports women and non-citizens, that have been affected by domestic violence or human trafficking. For more information look up: http://marta.lv/.
We also have some news regarding the Liveticker. Last year a lot of requests reached us for a comment function on the liveticker-messages and we took it to our hearts. This year everyone, who has an account on tramprennen.org will have the chance to comment on the hitchhiking skills and liveticker-messages of the participants. If you own a team, you can give them funny tasks to do on the road.
Well that is about it. Just keep on donating. We are almost at 1000€. And feel free to try out the new liveticker function.
See you on the road!