“Why do you want to hitchhike to Samarkand in Uzbekistan?”

Well, I read some book about the history of the world and especially the Silk Roads. It briefly mentioned Samarkand, an ancient oasis of the Silk Roads, and I was hooked. Some say power is shifting east, and I think it is time to explore this area. So I decided to hitchhike to Samarkand. It is a stupid idea of course, and that is why I had to do it! So I used Google Maps to look up the shortest route. 78h by car seemed reasonable enough to book a flight back and way too quickly became this idea reality.

Michael loved the Polish, as he told me in the first car the carried me out of Berlin. I love hitchhiking! It makes me let go control and gives back a feeling of freedom and endless possibilities. I brought only a backpack, pepper spray, and little cards that explained my way of traveling in Turkish, Farsi and Russian. Two more cars got me to the capitol of the Czech Republic.

Making my way through Eastern Europe

In Prague I met up with my family and we spend a few days waiting in line with the Japanese before my real adventure began. Peter picked me up in Prague, proudly showed me pictures of his baby girl and ensured me he would let her hitchhike anytime. It was easy to get to Budapest, Hungary, but I got stuck there the next day. After three hours waiting in 6 Degree cold rainy water I decided to screw it, hit the spa, and take a night bus to Sofia, Bulgaria. Turns out Budapest is famous for its Baths!

I left Sofia with a hangover, and found myself dropped at a small gas station somewhere in Bulgaria. After more than two hours a more than shabby van came to a hold in front of me and a guy with beard and turban waved me to get in. He looked just like what some would call a man of god and some would expect to be a terrorist, but indeed he was from Manchester and spoke brilliant English. Tayyed was on his way to donate the van to Syrian refugees in Turkey, and we spend the time to Turkey discussing Allah, Merkel and irregular verbs.

“lā ʾilāha ʾillā llāh” – There is no god but God. (As Tayyep taught me)

Turkey to go!

At the border we got a little nervous. We must have made an odd couple, so they made us pass seven controls before we entered Turkey. Tayyed took me to Istanbul and we drove around the city for hours before we ended up in a Quran with students from 15+ countries, including one brother from Osnabrueck, Germany. They invited us to join for Iftar, the traditional Ramadan dinner to break the fasting. We spend hours with them talking and praying.

I hurried to the get through turkey. Often taking buses by night and hitchhiking during day to have more time to spend in Iran. One guy picked me up, than changed his mind, stopped, and got the next car to take me. At 6AM I arrived in Van, Turkey, the last city before the border to Iran.

The floor of the Van bus terminal was covered with more than a hundred sleeping refugees, many of which women and children. I swallowed hard and tried to make up what the cash I carry would mean to them. An elder refugee approached me. With hand and feet he proudly introduced one of his five kids, a smart boy, who used my phone to translate.

The refugees came from Afghanistan and Pakistan. A mother cried while her child boarded the bus with the only ticket they could afford. One man spoke perfect German after having lived with us for four years before being deported just to make his way back. They spend their days trying to make arrangements and keeping up with friends and family all over the world. Always in the center the wise elder and his smart kid.

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#refugeeswelcome I just met a group of refugees from Afghanistan sleeping in the bus terminal in Van, the Kurdistan part of Turkey. Some elder initially approached me accompanied by a young men my age that spoke a bit of English. Soon they were joined by another and a smart kid that spoke Persian. One of his five, as the elder proclaimed proudly. It was the kid that used my phone to make us communicate. I met a man who spoke German after 4 years in Mannheim before being deported. A mother was crying when her kid left with the only ticket they could afford. They were busy making arrangements and keeping track of their families all over the world. Always in the center the elder with his 2 helpers and the smart kid. And all of the sure enjoyed juggling. #refugees #travel

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Crossing the border was crazy. I took a minibus up the mountains to the border between Turkey and Iran. The Turkish built a big marble border post. The Iranians had a fence with a gate and a few containers. While hundreds of people pushed each other to get to Iran fast, groups and families were torn apart. The Iran border guards would open their gate, let a few in, and push the rest back into the crowd. One can only imagine the circumstances at borders where the people trying to cross are generally unwanted.
I was asked to cut the queue just because I am German, and I walked into Iran…