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Published: June 27th 2009
the three most famous buildings
We always heard about students backpacking around Europe in very low budget (below 10 Euros a day)
. Even thou we heard all this stories we could never understand how they did it, since Europe has the most expensive costs for transport and accommodation we have seen. So what is the enigma? Only after 90000Km traveled in 3 years on the road we finally found out!
We left Tallinn early in the morning, took a local bus to the "hitch hike hotspot" and within a few minutes we got a lift, taken by a guy who used to travel a lot, always hitch hiking. As soon he saw us he stopped and gave us a ride. He wasn't going far but he knew that every kilometer is good enough! Now driving his own car he wanted to "pay back" all the rides he got when he was a money-less student. He was also an ambassador of Couch-surfing (it's amazing how things are related!)
. When our ways turned to different directions he dropped us off and left. Few minutes later another guy took us few kilometers further, what was a relief, because wasn't winter yet but we had a very nasty cold
Fernando's new colection.
rain to deal with. In less than 20 minutes another car stopped for us asking directions, he was going to Riga and wasn't sure about the way. We couldn't help him with this information but he took us in his car anyway. He was amazed with our trip and told that himself used to hitch hike a lot and was happy to give us a ride and listen to the stories because he like it and felt like paying back the rides other people gave him some years ago! For our great surprise, not only this he took us all the way to Riga, but also he invited us for lunch!! What a difference from our time in Africa, there we had to pay for the rides and no cabin seat, but hold as you can on the roof of the truck .
Lesson for life: Hitchhikers are the ones that most probably will give you a ride, so when I have the opportunity I will give other travelers some rides too!
After a few hours we arrived in Riga, to our surprise, earlier than if we had taken the bus. Like everywhere, Latvia's capital has the old
town and city wall as well. Although it is really beautiful, it didn't impress us more than the exchange rate from their currency. All money we had was changed into a few coins.
If this wasn't enough guess what. After so many years traveling around surviving unharmed the famous "scam" countries, having to be always vigilant. We were relaxed, we felt safe. No more neurotic surveillance over pockets and belongings, no more arguing over prices, no more hassle from vendors. This is Europe, safe and organized. WRONG!!! At a certain point came a desperate driver who had his car parked in front of the exit gate at the car parking (just a few meters from there)
He told the ticket machine wouldn't accept his coins, and if we could change the coins into a bill. He tried to ask at the church but it was closed (we tried there too a few minutes ago)
and as it was Sunday the shops were closed. He had 5 coins of $2 and just wanted a 10 bill. Well, so much kindness offered to us form the many people helped us in the way we couldn't say no. We changed it and the guy thanked us many times, offered some help since he lived there and knew the area. We thanked him and left. Few minutes later the little voice in our ear started to say there was something wrong. What could it be? I checked the coins, they were all 2 LITAI, I had five of them. We still had the feeling something was wrong. Fernando said "We are so stupid, we don't really know the money here, we just arrive this morning, maybe LITAI is 0.1 units, like in China! Only 20 cents, not 2 units! I think we got scammed!"
Fernando asked the first person passing by, about the coins, and the answer was: "This coins are not Latvian money, this is from Lithuania and worth 10 times less"
. F..., we thought we were unscamable (if this word exists)
, with all our experience we felt for the first con artist. And worse, if it was $10 from any Asian country it wouldn't be much, but a currency that worths more than the British pound, we lost our day budget!
Very pissed off we went to the meeting point to meet our hospitality club host. We found our host through a recommendation from Lyubomir (we stayed with him in Russia, remember?)
. Our host was an artist, an we slept in his studio between ink tubes, half filled frames and brushes, was quite an experience, we felt like in Vincent Van Gogh house. He took us for an artistic tour around town, visited the artists hostel and the more picturesque neighborhood of the city. As any artist, we had an very autistic behavior. Hard to understand sometimes but very friendly. We didn't stay more than 2 night's there and were on the road hitch hiking again.
This time hitch-hiking wasn't as simple as before, we took the local bus, the tram and another local bus to the place according to our map would be the best. There we waited 4 hours for a ride without success, so we decided we weren't out of the city enough. We took another bus to a town that stayed in the junction to pretty much the only road that lead to Lithuania. We can't miss it here! There we stayed for another couple of hours and nothing. We were already thinking were we would spend the night, as we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere. At this point, Fernando had the feeling that for a single person it would be easier to get a ride, so let's try to split. Fernando walked back on the road and stand alone while Claudio tried a few hundred meters up the road. Half an hour latter, Fernando got a ride and for Claudio's surprise the driver stopped for him too. One single ride all the way to Vilnius for both. Couldn't wish for more.
In Vilnius we had a Couch surfing host waiting for us!
If you didn't get the answer for cheap traveling enigma: Hitch-hiking and Couch surfing. So far, seven days, 3 countries and only 100 dollars spend by the two of us together.
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