Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Hitchhiker's Guide to Alt Urgell    

Traveling without any money? Yes, it’s possible: you don’t need anything else, just your backpack, some courage, and your right thumb…

Fortunately, I was never afraid of hitchhiking. When I was 18 and moved from Hajdúnánás to study in another town, I become to have a new friend from my hometown, who is 10 years older then me and had lot’s of hitchhiking experiences. So I started to practice this way of traveling with him. I never had any fears. I felt safety: first of all, because of his age, and of course because of my age: I was really young without too much sense of responsibility. During the 4,5 years of studying, I did it several times: after a while, sometimes, alone. But alone always just the half way or smaller distances - cause I was brave, but not totally mad. Then when I started to work and earn money I thought, I’ll never do it again. But my early career wasn’t so booming, so I decided to do an unpaid, foreign volunteer project, instead of being a slave in the „money-factory” .

So as we know, volunteerism is not about money:) And if  there is something expensive here, that is public transport. If it exist at all. It was a bit surprising for me, because of course it exist in Alt Urgell comarca, but to tell the truth, it’s not the best organized. If there is a bus to a small village, it’s rare enough and sometimes it doesn’t exist at all. So after about one month when we managed to discover La Seu and the neighboring villages on foot, we felt that we cannot stop now. So we looked for some possible travel aims, that were not too far, seemed possible in 2-3 hours, and didn’t cause problems if there was no other way just to came back by bus. Everybody can see, I act like an adult now: I have sense of responsibility.

So with this marvelous opportunity we managed to visit e.g.: Martinet, Puigcerda, Solsóna, Oliana and Ogern. Till now. Most of them were beautiful, some of them seemed a bit boring, sometimes you feel all of the villages look the same. But the real experience was always to get to now the people with whom we were traveling. I think this is a really good way to get to know more about the Spanish nation and to see and feel the differences. Here in La Seu, I work and meet with Catalan people, and I think I can say I have some Catalan friends now. But in my opinion, Catalan people are not so different from Hungarians. Some of them are opened, but usually they are a bit closed for the first time, and it takes time to get to know them better. I think it’s normal, they don’t look „aliens” for me, just because I don’t need to get acquainted with all of their life and tell everything about mine for the first time. 

But during hitchhiking we managed to got to know different people: Southern Spanish, Catalans (of course), once a French, and some Romanians also. And the difference between the nations are appreciable: the French didn’t speak at all, Catalans usually ask some polite questions, just the basic things, where are we from and what are we doing here, and then silence...or listening some music. But the Southern Spanish people…:) Talking and asking and talking and laughing…:) You can get to know their whole life without ask anything…and I think they are able to talk about problems (ok, maybe not so personal, e.g. economic or some financial difficulties) without grief. Or I just think it, because I don’t exactly understand Spanish yet?
Romanians are another topic. My feelings with them are a bit dual: I’m a little bit jealous, because to learn Spanish is not too complicated for them. And not just Spanish, Catalan also not an issue for them. But on the other hand, I feel a bit sorry. Because they had to leave their country in the hope of a better life, they have to live here so far from their home. All of them were satisfied in a way: they have job and flat here, but the satisfied sentences sounded a bit false…As they have to feel themselves happy.

In fact I don’t exactly know how it is going at home nowadays, I don’t think there are too many hitchhikers on the roads, but people are not socked if somebody does it or speaks about his/her hitchhiking plans. As I remember my parents never forbid me, in spite of the fact that they didn’t do it. And I think it’s better. They knew it, we were talking about it, never encouraged me but didn’t forbid. Of course – and now I’d like to underline – I’m not mad, I know it is dangerous for some reason, but what is not nowadays??? (Nowadays, when people are dying in terror attacks, airplane crushes, natural disasters, or just a madman shooting on the street, cause he didn’t find anything better for today…) 
But here in the Pyrenees it doesn’t have too much culture. Here people who stop are usually those ones, who had hitchhiked when they were younger. And everybody is a bit shocked when I mention, that I did or planning to do it. It’s not common for them, and you can feel it mostly when you are at the edge of the road: the huge luxury cars with one or two passengers are just passing, passing, and do not stop…It can happen (and it did) that people with a luxury cars stop, but usually "average" people stop with average cars who are not awfully rich, but more kind and nice people. For example once a Southern Spanish couple (without a huge brand new luxury car) picked us up: the women had some accident, and her head was bleeding. Not too much, but it could be painful enough. But in spite of this, they  did stop. Do you feel the difference?…
And finally: hitchhiking has a sense of humor: La Seu is a small town, everybody knows anybody else (or his/her relatives:), and everybody knows that the town has some foreign volunteers. So when we do it, the whole town knows, and people are sending curious massages to our mentors:) So, let's laugh La Seu, we keep going...:)

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