Hanover: Another Boring Western Germany City
My couchsurfing host in Hanover was Tatiana, a mother with a 4-month old baby. She was originally from Belarus but moved to Germany with her parents when she was a teenager. She got a stable job in a bank in Hanover after studying. Well, you see, those office jobs could be really boring and you would feel that you could already see how your whole life would be like, basically everyday just office, office and office. It might be the tea of some people but Tatiana got tired of it. If I had been her, I would get scared of this gloomy prospect also. The beauty of life lies in the fact that there is endless possibility. When you find out your life is devoid of possibilities and you are left with one choice, it must be stifling and essentially kills the joy of life.
Before this life kills you, you’d better get out of there.
Therefore, Tatiana quit her job and went traveling. When she was in Spain, she met her love and Bang! in a couple of months they got married and Bang! a baby was born. Then her husband still worked in Spain and could only visit her once every month or so.
The day she quit her job, all her colleagues stared at her like she was mentally disturbed. No, the people there were really not that open-minded or tolerant. They were easily scared, of everything.
When a girl dyes her hair blue, they get scared: ‘Ah!!!!! There is a punk!’
When people are talking to strangers, they get scared: ‘Ah!!!!! There are hippies!’
When there is a street musician playing, they get scared: ‘Ah!!!!! There is a hobo!’
When even there is nothing, they still get scared: ‘Ah!!!! There is nothing!’
Right, they get scared of anything, even nothing.
Her experience reminded me of my classmates living in US or China, the regular, predictable life they were having was much like the life of Tatiana’s colleagues.
Hanover was famous for one person, Leibniz, the philosopher and polymath who invented calculus, the base of almost all modern engineering and natural science. The university was named after him and one could find memorials of him in many places in the city. The current British royal family is also from Hanover. Yes, they were Germans and still are. They had German surnames for a long time. However, during WWI, since the British were fighting the Germans, it would be very inconvenient to keep the German surnames, thus the royal family changed their surnames to Windsor.
You see, unlike the former East Germany or Berlin as a whole, many places in West Germany is not that interesting. The culture there is essentially bourgeois, middle-class and there are few alternative cultural scenes. Up until that point, I had visited about 35 German cities, the people of Bonn, Karlsruhe, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Hanover were among the most bourgeois and boring. The people there are much like those rich republicans of US, just a bit more open-minded. Bavaria has its own cultural landscape and the former East Germany is most alternative. Of course, if you find the right people, you can always find the alternative cultural scenes but in these cities, it is significantly more difficult for such a search.
During my 3-day stay in Hanover, I tried to do some dumpster diving but all dumpsters I found were either devoid of anthing useful or simply coldly locked. I did do some table diving in the city center but it was not easy or fruitful.
I took some walks together with Tatiana and the baby. There were many a park in the outskirts of the city. We saw some German people having a barbecue in a park. It was almost a party except that they were all so quiet. Without any facial expression or words, they were preparing the meat, carefully grilling them and then distributing them to different plates, with Prussian precision and German severity.
Tatiana: it’s unimaginable in Spain. In Spain, even if there are only 3 people in a party, you hear them from 10 kilometers away! Here, look! there are 15 of them and you don’t hear them at all! The Germans, they have no idea how to enjoy life. Every year, they work work and work, then in summer, for two weeks they go to Spain or Italy, learning how to enjoy life from the locals there.
Netherlands: Wonderful Weather and Flowers
The day when I left Hanover for Osnabruck, it was gloomy. That was the beginning of September and autumn was gradually setting in. I would stay in Osnabruck for two days and then hitchhike to the Netherlands. Autumn in the Netherlands might just be the ugliest season in the world. The rain was so frequent that if one day it does not rain, people would be genuinely shocked and it might make the national news. However, if you think you can cheerfully tackle the Dutch rain with your pretty umbrella, you are wrong! so wrong! More terrible than the rain is the wind! It is so windy all the time that you feel in one night all the leaves of the trees are gone, blown away by the gigantic wind to Atlantis. I used to work in a hospital there. There was once a storm, not even a particularly big one. The next day, on the homepage of the hospital, there was a photo of the garbage bin in front of the hospital. There were countless broken umbrellas in it. The Dutch weather, the most massive umbrella killer in the world.
I secretly suspected that the Dutch weather god (if such a god does exist) is a secret shareholder of the umbrella industry.
OK, enough complaints about the shitty autumn weather, I needed then to find a ride before the sky turned from gloomy to rainy.
However, that was not an easy matter. As I found out long ago, the more alternative/left-wing/open-minded a place was, the easier it is to hitchhike. In other words, the more bourgeois/right-wing a place was, the more difficult it is to hitchhike.
I saw a truck with the pictures of tulips on it parked near a flower shop. I suddenly remembered my conversation with a German girl I met in Munster.
She: How did you come to Munster?
I: I took the train from the Netherlands. There were many Germans going to the Netherlands every weekend for the legal weed. They would buy them just across the border, smoke them and then pack some for home. It was an interesting scene!
She: Well, to add another aspect to it, there are not only Germans coming to the Netherlands during weekends for weed, there are also many women going to the Netherlands in weekends to buy flowers, as they are cheaper and of higher quality there.
I realized that this truck might be transporting flowers from the Netherlands to Germany and then it was just heading back! Osnabruck was just on the way from here to the Netherlands.
I went up to the truck. The engine was still running but there was nobody there.
I turned around, searching for the driver. No trace! So I put down my backpack and started waiting.
20 minutes later, a young dude in T-shirt and a hamburger in hands appeared and stared at me curiously.
He: So, let me guess, you are trying to find a ride to the Netherlands and you saw the tulip pictures on my truck!
I: WOWO! What a smart guy! Yes! Exactly! So I am obviously not the first one to make this association!
He: Nope! the 2nd actually. Come on in! You are going to Amsterdam for some dumpster diving or squatting?
I: Hahaha! No, I am just going to Osnabruck. So you know how the hitchhikers live on the road. I am doing couchsurfing in Osnabruck, a small town near Osnabruck actually.
We rolled on. He was a 28-year old fellow who had a university degree but was fired during the financial crisis and started his trucker job afterwards. He was originally from Lithuanian and his name was Vladas. He was a smart guy and knew what he was doing.
Vladas: You see, I had the office job and I was not happy. It was quite unhealthy to always just sit there the whole day. Now I have this job, better paid and I am happy! I can go anywhere! I even have a cooker with me and can make food anywhere I want! I am not reliant on anyone. I feel freedom, no worries about your boss pissed off at your last report or your colleague is envious of your achievement. I was scared when I had the office job, scared of losing it, scared of salary cuts! Now, no more! No bullshit office politics. No fear! I am free! Freedom!
I: WOWO! I really envy you for that! I have just hitchhiked around the world, in 6 continents and 80 countries. My next dream is to buy a boat and sail around the world for a couple of years, to experience another type of freedom!
Vladas was very intellectual for a truck driver. Don’t you be misunderstood. I also like those simple truck drivers. You might call them red neck but really, since they mostly stayed in the trucks, their necks were not red in general. 🙂 Most importantly, they were among the most generous and kindhearted people in the world.
We talked about the situation in different countries, complained about the Germans. He had an interesting opinion about Germany. He really liked the German silence.
Vladas: The Germans, they don’t bullshit like those Spanish or Italians. They get the job done with as few words as possible, like one unnecessary word would shorten their life for a year. Once you are done with your job, you are good! You have all the other time for yourself! Efficiency! That’s what they are after!
I: That is true! The Germans, together with the Dutch, might be the most efficient workers in Europe. How do you think about the refugee situation in EU?
Vladas: Well well, let me tell you the truth. Ever since Hitler and WWII, it has been almost impossible to discuss the refugee issue rationally without being accused of either racism or fascism. The political correctness is too much and full of bullshit. It’s like some kind of censorship in Communist Lithuania. We had that! Something is not true, but you have to agree with it because otherwise it is politically incorrect! There is a serious problem but you can not mention it because it’s again, politically incorrect! Europe, the smallest continent in the world after Australia, is simply not enough to accept the whole population from Middle East and Africa who want to move here! I just said it, although it is politically incorrect. Haha!
From the frequent use of ‘bullshit’ I reckoned that the long trucking career had roughened his tongue.
I: I agree that the political correctness in Europe is indeed a bit too much. Like every country, EU also has limited resources.
Vladas: On the other hand, those refugees are indeed suffering a lot, but hey, inviting them home and giving them free food won’t solve the problem, only the symptom! I have seen no country becomes developed because of charity! For any country, if it wants to develop, it has to rely on its own solid policy! The root of all those refugee crisis lies in the world geopolitics. If US did not invade Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Libya, there would not be so many refugees. That is the root of the problem! Solve that instead of’Oh you Americans feel free to fuck up Syria or other Middle East countries, we will feed all the refugees.’
I: Oh, so what do you think about US?
Vladas: Well, they did a great job in WWII and during Cold War, but now? The major contribution of US to the whole world are two things — war and financial crisis. It is hard to like it.
We had a heated discussion and without realizing it, we already neared Osnabruck, a small town just 50 km from the Dutch border.
We gave each other a hug and I jumped off, feeling my head spinning from the heated discussion.
To be continued