“Autostop” in SK
Flying on September 10/11th was actually less eventful than one might expect. Both of our flights were delayed due to malfunctioning planes. I am thankful that they didn’t try to fly the planes despite the issues, but apparently we need to be wary of American Airlines flights (you know, in case some day we aren’t forced to buy THE CHEAPEST tickets available).
So once we got to Budapest the adventure began.
We gathered our bags, headed out the door, and began holding up our makeshift, paper bag sign to hitchhike back to Banska Bystrica!
Our first pick-up was a driver who was on his way to lunch. He took us about 10 km and let us look at his map along the way.
We walked from where the van dropped us off and only had to wait a few minutes before the next car stopped for us. The driver of the second vehicle didn’t speak much English, but we did learn from him that we need to look behind us often to see if a car stops.
The next vehicle stopped for us by accident… We were on the side of the highway and a Hungarian policeman drove up with his lights flashing. He spoke to us in Slovak, and with only a few communication difficulties, he took us to our next stop! (Later we heard that it is apparently illegal for policemen in Hungary to take people in their cars, so I guess we were lucky that he just wanted to get us off the highway.)
The policeman dropped us off at a gas station just a couple miles down the road and about 50 km from the Slovak border. We saw an SK car and stood by it with our sign until they came out about 15 minutes later. We tried to flag down a couple other cars in the meantime, but when they finally came out they said we could get in.
They were a fairly young couple and the woman was very chatty. I did my best to understand everything, but it was a little like being thrown into the Slovak-language deep end. She was surprised we were married, asked if we had kids, asked if we were visiting friends, and said they had been “shopping.”
“Shopping” apparently caused a few issues because when the Hungarian police signaled for us to stop at their random checkpoint, our drivers got very nervous. They asked to see our passports and I gave mine and the woman apologized to the police and said she forgot hers (afterwards she told me that didn’t forget it, she just doesn’t have one). Burke said his was in the back and when the man opened the trunk for Burke to retrieve it, he also signaled to Burke to be quick and not pull anything else out of the back. When the police questioned the pair about why they didn’t have their IDs and what they had been doing they kept saying they were just taking this nice American couple back to school in Banska Bystrica. Eventually the police let us go, but I think we may have served as their Get out of Jail Free card.
Right before the border we came across another set of policemen and I heard the woman say to the man, “Turn around, turn around!” Undaunted (perhaps because he did, in fact, posses an ID of some sort), he continued on and we weren’t checked again. Note: Slovakia and Hungary are both in the European Union so it is actually very unusual for there to be a policeman at the border.
The couple finally dropped us off at another gas station, and, while they were quite nice, we were a little bit glad to be rid of them.
We waited the longest amount of time for the next car to pick us up. We think it was around an hour or two; regardless, we were quite disheartened when cars with Banska Bystrica license plates drove by without stopping. Eventually a college-aged boy and his father stopped by and said they could take us to another city along the way, but when we got there, they said they could actually take us even farther. We were dropped off in Zvolen (about 20km from BB) with Martin, who was on his way back to university to register for classes. Together we took a train back to our old hometown and were reunited once again with Banska Bystrica!