19) The Invisible Train Station Hero

Another train station story I remember, in that I am owing someone a lot of gratitude because of a happening a few years ago.

Again, not necessarily one of my smartest moves. Over night I drove by train from work back to home. I had between 1 and 4 am a stopover in Schweinfurt. I had expected this city to be a bit bigger and the train station not to close overnight. But exactly that was the case. It was beginning of March, not below zero degrees in the night anymore, but still cold. The first hour I could actually still rest on a bench, but afterwards it became quite uncomfortable. That is again such a story where I should say up front that I do not necessarily recommend to anyone to stay a night alone at a train station. But that is not my point, just a side note to my improvidence. My saviour for a comfortable night came in the shape of a worker on the train station, who came in the middle of the night for cleaning. He asked me what I was doing at the train station and how long I still had to wait. Then he asked me if I wanted to come into the building. He opened it and I was sitting down in the foyer. And even when he was finished with cleaning and left again, he offered me to stay until my train would come. That way I could even sleep a bit, on the floor next to the heater.

When I am thinking back, I am still thankful to the man whose face I already forgot, for his helpfulness, his trust and his empathy (and no critique). His action was not self-evident.

18) Midnightsnack

Completely tired out I arrive in the middle of the night at Berlin Central Station. Here I will have to stay for the next four hours, until my train leaves. Already last night I stayed in various trains on my way from the North into my hometown, tonight I am on the way back. The reasons are not important for this story, but know that I happily took this effort. But I was still wondering, in the second night without a bed, with little sleep sitting at Berlin Central Station, how I am supposed to  pass the time. At least I am save from the cold of the night. I decide: if I already have all this extra effort, then I can also give myself a treat. A bakery in the central station has still opened quarter past one in the night and I get myself a “Franzbrötchen”, that I take with me to the bench on my platform. My awareness is not that attentive anymore. Therefore I do not notice until now, that I open the bag, that the guy from the shop did put two extra pieces of sweet pastry into it. I had not noticed it in that moment and for that reason also not thanked for it. The salesman completely surprised me with that present. Silent, without any comment, without searching for recognition or gratitude, not with the purpose to get anything back- he did it just like this.

Very sweet, literally.

15) Travel stories of Welsh (and French) humanity

While traveling, when you are not in your usual environment, special gestures stand out more. Therefore I can tell you about a few new travel encounters. Encounters of simple helpfulness and empathy. But maybe Welsh people, who’s land I visited, are also especially friendly people.

I arrived in the evening by train at the edge of a small, Welsh village and wanted to take the bus towards the centre. As I went to the bus stop, the bus is closing its doors and slowly starts driving. In my German brain I’m thinking that I came late and missed the bus and I turn in the opposite direction to walk to the village.

A judgement made too early. A moment later, the bus hoots behind me. The bus driver opens the doors and says, that she just wanted to come towards me and my heavy backpack. This incident might have not been anything special for her and she has probably already forgotten about it. But it stayed in my mind as something special.

A day later, after a long day of hiking and another bus journey, I was searching in the evening for an accommodation. I didn’t know before where I would be going in the evening, therefore I hadn’t booked anything and walked in the rain and on the off chance to a bunkhouse hostel. It was a risk- and first I looked like I had lost it, because everything was booked out. But the two Frenchmen that have been renting the bunkhouse invited me immediately into the house and offered me a cup of tea. Then they called with the landlords about me staying at their place (where still several beds were free). The landlords left the decision up to them- and I had spontaneously two very nice and uncomplicated hosts.

Just like this- out of kindness, generosity, humanity- however you want to call it.

12) Thumb up on the way

I mentioned it in a previous story: the most diverse people you meet on travels and when being on the road- and also that many diverse characters and attitudes. Many of these meetings helped me to move on along my own way- this time I mean this also in a literal sense.

For example when doing hitchhiking. I always stood together with friends next to the road and we met together many helpful and interesting people. Sometimes we had to wait for hours, on other occasions we got picked up on the first occasion. Sometimes it works better, sometimes less, but the people we met were all special.

There was the young couple in the small and packed car, that still took us with them to our destination. With them we played riddles on the way- guessing the capital of a country and similar ones.

One evening, after we had already commuted a long way and were quite exhausted, so that we only wanted to take the bus to our destination, we still got picked up by two young track workers, that took us with them on their way back from work. Not only to the destination town, but they drove us even to a suitable place to camp at a lake nearby. That had also something positive for them: on the way they noticed, how good of an idea it was on this summer evening, to jump after work once into the lake and they accompanied us. You could say, we gave them something back from our journey.

The first time that I was hitchhiking with a truck driver was a special event, because I had no clue before, how they live. I had always just heard stories. He did not only took me along for hundreds of kilometres, but also got me on the way some lunch and made the effort, to find a place to drop me in the town of my destination- despite additional inconveniences for him.

And whenever my neighbour on the seat next to me was a dog, the journey was a special event for me anyways.

Just last year there was a lot of discussion again about hitchhiking, after a girl disappeared on her way from Germany to Spain. Therefore, to make my message clear for everyone: of course hitchhiking should not be taken too easy! This is not a call to do all the same things as I did. Use your brain and listen to it. And especially for children: do not enter the cars of strangers, that invite you for a ride!

But as usual I only want to show that positive things exist, that good gestures are happening, even though we don’t always hear of them. Which channel would bring the news “today a hitchhiker arrived well”? But it is exactly what we should also hear. The helpful people exist just as they always used to, and they can enrich a day in a way that a normal bus journey couldn’t.

You never know another person, before you meet them. That might sound very banal, but in some way or another you have to get to know a person. Get over yourself and do a step forward. Therefore I feel gratitude towards those who took me a bit along their and my journey.

7) Pilgrim in Japanese

The most frequently you meet humanity, at least that how it often seems to me, when you are travelling. As soon as you try, to get to know another country and the life there, people open up and show themselves from their most friendly side. Therefore, you can tell many stories of humanity from travels. These are some experiences of a friend, who has been travelling a lot, for example nearly without money to China and back, about where he found humanity:

“On my first journey to Japan, when I pilgrimed to the 88 Holy temples on the island Shikoku, I met already on the second day on the way a group of Japanese pilgrims. Those three ladies of “advanced age”, invited me to drive to the next four temples in their car. If I didn’t had open blisters on my feet, I would have probably declined. And if that wouldn’t have been enough, they got me a pilgrim bag and an accommodation for the night in a wonderful traditionell hotel, that I would not have found without their help.

And all of that, although I spoke only few words of Japanese.

On another typical pilgrims day, I woke up in the morning after a long sleep in my little room in an old temple hotel. I was not really hungry, so I decided to skip the breakfast and make myself on my way. But I did not calculate with the kindness of my hostess, who would not let anyone leave with an empty stomach.

So it knocked on my door (more like a scratching, because it was a paper door) and the wife of the monk entered. After a short moment Taboo (guess the word) I could explain her, that I was not really hungry and that I would leave soon again. She left and came back shortly after with a care package with egg, tofu and rice. Everything was packed thoughtful in a throwaway-bento-bowl.

Not even ten seconds later the next one entered. A tall Japanese in white pilgrims clothing and with a huge package dried pasta in his arm. At least ten litres. I started to doubt, whether I was still dreaming or whether I was sainted overnight, when someone else entered. A tiny woman,  in the beginning of her 30s, from Thailand. She spoke fluent English, explained me the situation and gave me additionally 9000 Yen, which is approximately 70 Euro.

There were many of these stories, that happened in Japan. From old women, that gave me clementines, car drivers that stop on a hot summer day to give me something to drink, crazy TV reporters and hoteliers, that let someone stay for free. Japan is for sure one of the most friendly countries that I had the luck to walk through.“