Backpackers and students traveling across Europe would no doubt be aware of Mitfahrgelegenheit. The German based car-pooling service is one of the cheapest ways to travel around in the Schengen zone, and also one of the most entertaining.
I used to ‘mitfahr’ pretty often a couple of years ago, but since then short trips to Germany have been few, and for longer distances airlines are anyway more convenient. However, this week finding myself low on cash and needing to go to Berlin, I decided to look up for a carpool on a convenient time. This is how I landed up with ‘Mario’, an Austrian-Berliner (what does this mean? I tried asking him, but he just repeated that he was an AUSTRIAN-Berliner), driving in a car that, according to him, was previously owned by the Chinese embassy in Brussels. Along the way we picked up an occupational therapist from Vienna, going to meet family in Berlin, and two Catholic priests from Bangladesh, traveling Europe on a holiday.
This promised to be an entertaining trip, however prospects of conversation were cut short by a nerve-wrecking traffic jam that had us stalled for two hours, barely outside Vienna. When we finally left Vienna for Berlin at 9pm, there was the wearisome prospect of driving for at least 8 hours, and the logistics of finding our friends/hotels in Berlin when we arrive in the dead of night.
I was nevertheless very interested in the Bangladeshi catholics. They photographed everything, empty fields of grass by the highway, or even the drab gas station near Brno where we stopped to re-tank on LPG (the car ran on LPG). I asked them if these places were really that exciting and picture-worthy? They replied that although it was nothing spectacular, we were passing through the Czech republic and they would be able to show these pictures to their friends and claim that they had been there as well.
I also asked them if it was dangerous or difficult being Catholic priests in Bangladesh? I was a little surprised when they replied that being a Catholic in Bangladesh has a lot of advantages. They said that they were associated with the Notre Dame college in Dhaka, an elite educational institution established by the Catholic church, which produces a lot of the country’s higher ranked civil servants. The alumna network makes sure that wherever they go, the state, far from being discriminatory, takes good care of their well-being. Having attended a similar institution in Delhi myself, I could well imagine that this would indeed work, although for a privileged few.
Mario, in the meanwhile, was driving at 220 kph, eager to make it to Berlin, and I think all of us were happy in some way that there were god-men in the car. He was a member of the reputable ADAC, the German Automobile club, which he said got him more passengers as people felt safer that he was ‘recognized’. The occupational therapist, who was on passengers side, made sure that Mario stayed awake by finding peppy numbers on the radio, and urging him to sing along.
It was 4am when we reached Berlin Ost. My friend Manuela had stayed up waiting for me, and was so nice to come and get me all the way from Wedding. The Bangladeshi priests had alighted close to Berghain, a cathedral, in its own right, to techno music, leaving the rest in the car chuckling. On the train to Wedding, I came across a Ghanian electronics technician and we together helped a very badly drunk South Asian guy figure out the route to his hotel.
Although the trip hitherto had been fascinating, I decided that mitfahr-ing back the next day would not be something I could handle. So I chose the next cheapest option-taking a bus. After spending a day at the Globalistan Music Album release party with Johannes Heretsch, and the next bargain-hunting at the Mauermarkt, I boarded the bus just in time to catch Germany pummel Australia, over the radio.
It was here at a random (i had assumed non-existent) check that I realized how soon my visa was running out. This has been the cause of much stress, and also for the slow blogging, over the past week. Hopefully, things will return to normal very soon, and I would have more time to spend in Globalistan. Stay Tuned.