You are not hitchhiking until you get your first ride. Before you get your first lift you are just some wiener with his thumb sticking out on the side of a highway. Chaya and I were patiently awaiting the beginning of our Balkan hitchhiking journey on highway 17 that runs past Dubrovnik and onward to Montenegro. We stood with out thumbs hanging out by our sides as hundreds of sour faced individuals flew by in little tiny European cars with scarcely even flashing a glance in our direction. But we were not discouraged, for the view over Gran Dubrovnik and the Mediterranean Sea was worth watching.
The sun was shining and danced glistening on a sea which rocked gently against a coastline that was beefed up with a giant medieval fortress. The waves broke upon large stone blocks that were hand worked and assembled into a sky high palisade ages ago, and Chaya and I took turns watching the splendor of the scenery as the other stood watched over the east bound traffic.
Nightfall over the Mediterranean Sea from the banks of Dubrovnik.
“Well, if we don’t get a ride we can always just return to our nice room and watch Chinese TV on the satellite for another night,” I jested about our lack of success with getting a Croatian – any Croatian – to pick us up.
Then, it happened. To my surprise, a half hour after we began trying to hitchhike a little blue car ground to a halt before us.
“Where you going? Airport?” the driver asked us.
Now, happily rolling down the highway Chaya and I were hitchhiking our way to Montenegro.
Beautiful countryside of Croatia.
Our driver and host was a fireman who worked at the Dubrovnik airport. “What do you do at work?” I asked him.
“Mostly nothing, sometimes I drive a bus, sometimes I push the planes,” was his response.
Whatever he did, it sounded like a good job to me.
“Is is dangerous being a fireman?” I asked to keep the conversation going.
“Yes. Very dangerous during the war.” They drop bombs and knock down buildings and we have to put them back up.”
This made sense.
Fortress at Dubrovnik, Croatia.
“Do you think that Croatia is better now than when it was a part of Yugoslavia?” I asked the fireman.
He answered in the affirmative. “I make at my job 1,400 Euro. In Montenegro, they make 400 Euro for same job.”
“What do you think if General Tito?” I asked to keep talking about the contrasts of modern Croatia to that of socialist Yugoslavia Croatia.
“Very good,” the fireman answered with a big thumbs up to the memory of the old Yugoslav leader. “There was no war.”
The fireman and I then went on to make a little small talk. I asked about fishing in the Mediterranean Sea and he told me that he owned a small ship and that he would go out fishing with his friends for four or five nights in a row. I then told him that my best friend, Erik the Pilot also has a fishing boat, and that we go out on Lake Ontario fishing for Salmon. I could only imagine the times that the Pilot and I could have fishing in the Mediterranean for a week at a time. Given our tendency for mishaps when together, we would probably end up on the far side of Africa.
Boat docks near Gran Dubrovnik.
Pointing up over a mountain range ahead of us while saying “Montenegro,” the Fireman dropped us off in front of the airport. The stats: 1 ride= 21 km.
Not bad, not good.
But we were hitchhiking. We were on the Road. We passed the point of no return, onward, onward to Montenegro!
Our excitement would soon wan, as an hour and a half later Chaya and I would still be standing in front of that airport. The only thing beyond us was the Montenegro border, and nobody seemed to be going that way. The highway was privy only to local traffic, who all had Croatian plates that had DU for Dubrovnik printed upon them. Nobody seemed to be going near Montenegro.
Then a group of kids in a small car roared by us and went into the airport. They honked and waved to us, which only served to annoy Chaya and I, who were beginning to get a little cold just standing on the side of the highway in Croatia. We were just about ready to give up the day and get a bus back to Dubrovnik and our warm, semi-cheap room, when the kids in the small car stopped in front of us as they pulled out of the airport.
Apparently, they were just dropping off a friend at the airport and offered to give us a lift. “Where are you going?” I asked them.
“Home,” they answered. I did not question them any further about their destination, we were moving towards Montenegro. The kids said that they were first year economic students studying in Dubrovnik, and that was about the extent of our conversation.
Hitchhiking out of Dubrovnik, I could not help looking out to sea and taking photographs.
The sky was a dark, cloudy sort of blue that could either instantaneously burst into rain or open up for the sun to warm the earth. It was just one of those days: things would either work out for Chaya and I, or we would be stuck out in the rain with no ride, no shelter, and cold.