You meet all types on the road
Having risen early, armed with a small bag of clothes, Andreas -- my real-life Dean Moriarty -- and myself made our way to Berlin's Pankow district, where the main road becomes the autobahn. Perched on the side of the road, we waited no longer than 10 minutes before being picked up by a minivan filled with local bauarbeiter -- German construction workers. The friendly old bunch was tucking into a crate of Sternburg -- a cut-rate German beer -- at just past 9 in the morning, and they were all in a jubilant mood (the driver, I hoped, was not). The old boys were humble and gallant, and proved to be generous company for the first part of our escapade.
The soft, inebriated gents took us a couple hours, as far as the old East-West German border, and dropped us at a gas station. I was halfway across Germany, at the dividing line between the east of my youth and the west of my future, to borrow a line from Kerouac. As anyone who's even taken to the road will tell you, gas stations are a smorgasbord of ride-sharing opportunities, and it didn’t take long for us to find our next ride.
Our next lift came from a Latvian businessman in a blacked-out Mercedes with leather seats -- a far cry from how the day had started out. The young driver, it seemed, was doing very well for himself in the logging industry but, friendly as our new ride was, there was a touch less geniality than we’d experienced with our previous carpooling comrades. Departing in Hamburg, we wandered around the port city, had a beer, and briefly cast our eyes around the Reeperbahn. From the other side of the city, we took another ride up to Flensburg, and eventually on to Aarhus as the sun set.