Deep Chats in Croatia

Sometimes when your hitchhiking around people will see a chance to burn some built up steam with you. They see someone who relies on karma and instantly trust you with their stories secure in the fact that your merely a traveller passing through. Their words will never be repeated in the town by a travelling person they reason.

I have been an ametuer psychologist at times by simply not speaking just staying quiet and strangers have offloaded their life stories on me. I don´t offer any opinión or judgements and why would I? Sometimes people just want to hear themselves talk.

One particular conversation will stick with me forever, it was early in my travelling days and the first time a stranger had confided in me with an extremely private and emotional story. I don´t think anyone had ever spoken to me so nakedly before, I say naked because I can´t think of any other suitable description for her words. To the point, it intimidated me. Conversations were not meant to be so deep and blunt, especially not with strangers.

I was sitting outside at a picnic table by a bar, a band was playing some Croatian music and I was thinking over the days hitchhiking and contemplating my next move.

Find a hostel, sleep, then head on towards Bosnia I figured.

I took in the surrounding crowd, a lot of young Croatians smoking. Even the teenagers huddled in circles sharing cigarettes. A lady, probably in her forties stood over the table I sat at and said something in Croatian.

“Excuse me”

“O you speak English, do you might if I sit beside you”

“Of course, not”

I lifted my backpack off the seat and shuffled over politely.

Brunette, very thin, an aged but energetic face with yellow teeth from years of chain-smoking. She pulled out a pack of cigs, Marlboro Gold. I never refuse a Marlbaro Gold.

We got to chatting, though she talked more than I. She learnt English while working in a call center and always wanted to visit Ireland she claimed. She questioned my hitchhiking habits with an intense curiousity, everything was intense. She kept strict eye contact and never allowed a break in the conversation, always talking like silence was dangerous.

Rushed sentences quickly followed, born in Split, how the stars in Split are beautiful, a daughter about 15 who liked One Direction, have another cigerette.

Trust is important she claimed, trust is all that matters. When she lived in Split she would leave her car open and never lock the door of her apartment. She didn´t care that her boyfriend would complain and tell her to lock the door. Never, she needed to trust she told me. I was apparently trust worthy, I was a listener she said.

We got up and walked around the town a little, she continued to talk about her life and dreams lots of private stuff.

“You sure trust a lot” I said

“I know I can trust you, I want to tell you something”

“Go ahead”

“I was raped”

How do you respond to that? I didn’t, stuck for words I just returned her eye contact, completely shaken by her words, I wished she hadn´t said that. I felt awkward, like I had to say something, we had stopped walking.

She began telling me the story, 17, near her family’s apartment at night, he came from behind and had a knife to her neck. She didn’t hate him though, she hates nobody she told me. Even while it was happening she told him it’s OK, I don´t hate you´. She spoke the entire time, that’s why he never killed her she said, because she didnt hate him.

But you should, the bastard I replied, but she interrupted me. He isn’t all people, people aren’t bad she said.

How could she say this? The cunt wanted to kill her. She told me about her struggles with depression and boyfriends after it happened. Cnversation that went beyond my knowledge of conversations before. 21 years old and I had never heard anyone speak to me like so, raw. A night that had changed her life forever, that she had replayed in her mind countlessly for years but possibly only ever shared the story with one or two people, and I was one.

I didn’t need to get a Hostel, why not stay at hers she suggested we could have a few drinks, her daughter was at a friends, she could call her and tell her to stay the night there.

I knew what she was hinting at, she had just told me stuff she needed to say out loud. Private information. Some people might know you all your life and you will never have an intense conversation like we had, two strangers but not really now.

She really was a nice lady, sure old but the shadow of the beautfiul girl she used to be still remained. A good figure and piercing eyes.

“I better go to the Hostel, I have an early start”

I pussied out, to intimidated by a woman who wanted to tell me everything and spend a night together then wave me off in the morning never to speak again. I know if I was back their today as I write this story things would happen differently. I had much maturing to do on the road, and still do. I really regret not going back with her place though to this day. I know she is one of the most kind person I have ever meet and that conversation will leave her image imprinted in my mind forever.

I wanted to share that conversation because it was a big moment in my hitchhiking life, the strenght of her caracther has influenced me a lot on the road. I always am honest and never jump to conlusions about someone, who knows what they have suffered in the past?

 

 

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Facing Arrest in Turkey

Facing Arrest in Turkey

I was surprised to see an SUV switch lanes and pull in a few yards in front of me. I hadn’t been even looking at the traffic never mind thumbing as I walked along-side the main road from Istanbul to Silivri. It wasn’t a motorway but the traffic still had been speeding by quickly for the last hour.

I stopped by the window of the SUV, a fella alone probably in his mid-thirties with a tidy beard and serious yet friendly face, he wasn’t on the phone he had pulled over to offer me a lift even though I hadn’t signalled him.

Some people are just on the look-out in life for chances to be sound human beings I reckon and I love it when they spot me on the road.

“Autostop?”

He nodded in reply so I opened the back door and wedged my rucksack in between the passenger seat and the rear seat. Then I left my tent-bag, camping-bed-bag and my plastic-bag with food and water on the empty child’s car seat in the back.

There was the obvious language barrier between myself and himself but he gathered I was Irish and hitchhiking to Bulgaria via Edirne.

He brought me further than Silivri to a busy crossroads near Corlu where I had to jump from the car in a hurry since he wasn’t allowed to pull-over. I grabbed my rucksack plus the bags from the child’s seat quickly and let them drop to the ground as he took off again. When I looked down I felt the blood drain from my head.

“Shit, how the fuck?, o no”

I could see the guys fanny pack, you know them sort of wallets that tie around your waist on the ground with my bags. It must of been on the child’s car seat and had fallen out when I pulled my bags out in the hurry to get out of the car.

Might aswell see what’s inside sure I thought as anyone would.

About €320 in Turkish Lira, the guys driving license, some prescription medicine and a set of keys. Well that’s enough to land me jail time in these Muslim countries I figured.  A loaf of bread or a car? Isn’t all the same to Muslims I thought once you steal then your a thief and you get fucked into some overcrowded jail for years.

Arrested in Turkey.

I can’t go a year without a bacon sandwich I nearly cried.

I wasn’t thinking rationally in my mini panic.

OK lets sort this mess out I thought, one things for certain is I can’t hang around here. I got to move, if he realises his wallet is gone and comes back here then he will probably just drive straight into me, or at least get the police involved.

No way will the police believe some smelly hitchhiker with about €100 to his name accidentally robbed the law abiding citizen by accident. How can I explain myself anyway without Turkish?

I had to get out of here fast, then make a plan.

I began thumbing immeditaly and the third car to pass pulled over, thankfully hitchiking in Turkey isn’t difficult.

I jumped into the back of the old Citroen Xsara, there was two local guys in their twenties in the front who spoke English, it took me a second to regiister the potent smell of marijuana because of my panic.

“Where you from my friend?”

“Ireland”

“Aww, nice. You want a smoke?”

Just to calm the nerves I thought, then a plan will come to me. Weed dosent get offered to me that often when hitchhiking but what a potentially disastrous time this could be for a joint to be passed around.

We talked for a bit then the guys pulled over at a petrol station, they wouldn’t go further. I ended up explaining the situation to them.

“Fuck it man, do what anyone else would do and keep the money. Sell the ID to some fucking Syrian”

“But he knows I’m Irish and on my way to the Bulgaria border, supposing he called the cops then I can’t get out of the country because the border police will be waiting on an Irish hitchhiker”

“Shit your right, hmmm well don’t go to the border then just, well fuck I can’t help I’m stoned man. Don’t leave the country for a few days, just disappear for like a week. Don’t go to the police either, they won’t understand you and will definitely put you in a cell tonight, that story won’t check out with them man. Turkish police are shit they can sometimes be bastards. Good luck though”

“I can’t keep the money of someone who offered me a lift too, I’m not a suspicious person but that would be completely shitting on Karma. Thanks anyway for the lift”

I began hitchhiking again and got collected soon in a small hatchback. The guy looked like a young father and a good guy. Don’t you know when you see a guy and just know that he’s an honest, decent guy, well an honest, decent Muslim will always try to help anyway they can.

“Hey do you speak English”

“A little”

Good a plan had come to me by now.

“I have a problem”

I explained everything right from the beginning and he (Givi) believed my story about the accident. Now I wanted to find the man who owned the wallet on Facebook using Givi’s phone to find out if he had contacted the police yet.

Givi found him on Facebook using the drivers license and messaged him in Turkish asking for his number, no reply though.

Givi then rang the doctor who wrote out the prescription for drugs in the wallet. The nurse provided a contact number he could use.

The man’s wife answered the phone and Givi chatted for some time. The police had been contacted, the border police at Bulgaria were aware of my Nationality and description. She said however that her husband had remarked to her that he wasn’t sure if I was a thief. We needed to go to the nearest police station and her husband would clear my name.

First though we had some Chai (Turkish Tea) then went to the police.

They didn’t quite like my story, there was four of them in the station, luckily they only spoke to Givi. I became uncomfortably aware that there might be a smell of weed off me too so I kept my distance.

When the wallet owner did call and declare the inventory of the wallet and exact amount of money it matched up perfectly with the contents of the wallet. He told the police he believed I made an accident too and they did clear my name.

They had actually been driving the roads I hitchhiked looking to arrest me!

Givi dropped me off near the main road and I hitchhiked one more lift to Edirne before camping there. I will forever be grateful to that guy, I couldn’t of gotten out of that messy situation where I had no Turkish or internet without his help. All I had was my word that the wallet had been an accident and he believed me.