Hitchhiking through England and Wales I

 

Day 1-2: Cardiff

It‘s always a bit strange at first, when you arrive in a foreign country. It‘ll need a day or so until I get used to being in Great Britain. At three in the afternoon on a sunny Tuesday the small Cardiff airport is surprisingly empty. After walking over the still car park, looking out for potential lifts to Cardiff, I finally find an engineer who works at the airport and is willing to drive me to the city. We speed through hilly roads, narrowed by high bushes, until we reach the suburbs of Cardiff. It‘s the first time I see these typically British residential neighbourhoods that consist of rows of identical houses, all of which are narrow and rarely higher than two storeys. The driver drops me off right by the doorstep of my couchsurfing host Pawel. After walking in, I realise that the house is even narrower than expected. A big portion of the space is occupied by the various stairs that link the seemingly randomly elevated rooms.

I accompany Pawel to the city centre and start exploring Cardiff. To my surprise I see a lot of people walking around in shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops. It is a sunny day, but still only 12°C. I, on the other hand, regret that I didn‘t put on a thicker jumper. In the park I spot a girl with a slackline and spontaneously join her for an hour. After a while two more strangers join us. Around us, cherry trees are blooming profusely. On my way to a supermarket I see a beggar who‘s haircut consists of three carrots with long green leafs. I wonder how they stick to his bald head.

As the sun goes down and temperatures fall I go to a Wetherspoons for a cup of tea. How are all these people still running around in only a light jumper? Later, I meet Pawel in another Spoons to have a pint with fish and chips.

After a nice polish breakfast with Pawel I go exploring Cardiff Bay for a few hours. It is here that I discover the famous Meal Deals with their countless combinations of main+snack+drink for £3. Equipped with these I make my way to the petrol station which I chose as my hitchhking spot to Bristol. The shop assistant gives me a piece of cardboard and I draw the first sign of my trip. After an hour or so I get picked up by a guy who wasn‘t gonna go to Bristol initially but decided to visit his friend there, when he saw my sign.

Spendings in Cardiff
‎£ 1,30‎ sandwich
£ 4 sunglasses
£ 0,80 apple
£ 1,25 tea
£ 20 beer + dinner for my host and me
£ 3 Meal Deal

Day 2-4: Bristol

There is a lot of different stuff in Bristol to see. It‘s nice to walk along the wide-spread harbour. I get fascinated by huge brick buildings in the distance that probably used to be storages and are now abandoned. The suspension bridge is impressive and there‘s a lot of parks. But the best part are the street art-covered buildings around Stokes Croft and the small record shops in the market hall. In the night I see Nubiyan Twist in The Fleece. Everyone is pretty drunk which is a contrast to the concert by the same band in the rather small Franz Mehlhose in Erfurt, a few months ago. For some people the music seems to be secondary.

Spendings in Bristol
£ 12 concert ticket
£ 8,90 insoles
£ 5,20 dinner for my host and me + breakfast for the next 2 days
£ 2,60 wrap
£ 1,80 tea
£ 2 beer + banana
£ 5,50 falafel roll

Day 4: Making my way to Leicester via Birmingham

While drawing my sign which says M5 North I‘m joined by an Italian traveller who complains about hitchhiking in England and the new couchsurfing system. The driver that picks me up tells me about the death of his wife two weeks ago. He doesn‘t seem too affected by the loss, since he has two more wives. He is on the way to his friend‘s Muslim wedding in Birmingham. When he drops me off in the district where the wedding is taking place, I‘m overwhelmed by the amount of people on the streets. I feel like being back in India and expect a tuk tuk coming around the next corner at any time. In a bazaar hall the toilet is equipped with a lota. The allegedly good hitchhiking spot at the airport turns out to be terrible. After a long, partly rainy waiting time two Birmingham girls stop who just wanted to go home from work but instead decide to drive me all the way to Leicester. Crazy people. And I am incredibly lucky. We need roughly double the estimated time because they drive us to exactly the opposite direction, first.

Great reunion with Laurence in Leicester.

Spendings in Birmingham
£ 4 bus ticket

Day 4-7: Leicester

There is a busker in Leicester‘s pedestrian zone who puts great effort into raping Bowie‘s Space Oddity. In a relaxed student bar, I have another reunion with Ieuan who I, like Laurence, know from my time in Barcelona. Back home, we return to our couches, eating sandwiches and watching People Just Do Nothing.

Day 6: Still Leicester

 

The abandoned and half burnt-down industrial building is equipped with CCTV, so we have to cover our heads and face the floor. We try it from three different sides until we find a way in. Covering my mouth to avoid potentially inhaling asbestos, I‘m relieved to see that my jacket is not ripped after squeezing out through the fence again. The afternoon football session in the park gets occupied by two kids and their multi-linguist father.

Spendings in Leicester
£ 7 Meal Deal x2
£ 10 sandwiches x2
£ 10 curry
£ 9 beers

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