In autumn 2016, I became a digital nomad. Taking the first steps travelling Europe and working from no matter what country and location, I hitchhiked from Maastricht, the Netherlands to Salzburg, Austria.
After a try-out period of hitchhiking and camping in the Netherlands, I crossed the German border 13th of December 2016. My first goal was the ‘Tribe of Likatien’ community in Füssen, a village in the south-west of Germany.
After filming in two ecological communities in the Netherlands, my plan was to make a documentary about this community and propose this to them personally.
From Füssen I would go to Zürich to visit Paul, an inner circle friend. I could stay in his apartment during the Christmas holidays. My final destination was Salzburg, in the first or second week of 2017.
After I stayed with Paul in Zurich during the Christmas holidays, that is, mainly staying in his apartment while he was in the Netherlands, Paul offered to give me a ride close to the raststätte St. Margrethen, close to the Swiss-Austrian border.
It was Saturday, 7th of January. I had booked a flight from Salzburg back to Amsterdam for the 16th, for some chores and visits to friends and family. So, I would have at least one week to enjoy Salzburg.
The kind gesture of Paul to take me to St. Margrethen gave me a head start of 100 on a total stretch of 450 kilometres. Around one o’clock, after we had coffee at the raststätte, Paul returned to Zurich. I posted myself outside next to the entrance with a cardboard sign ‘München’. Almost immediately after I waved to Paul, speeding home at the opposite side of the highway, I got a ride from a man who was in the restaurant at the same time as we were.
After a pleasant two-hour ride, I ended up 40 kilometres before München. Although I was prepared for an icy journey, waiting at a raststätte this time of year was a challenge. I was extremely happy that an Austrian couple was so kind to take me in their warm car, after only half an hour.
Around 5 o’clock, I got out of the car near Munich, at raststätte Hofoldinger Forst Süd, about 150 kilometres from Salzburg. Arriving in Salzburg on Saturday evening came within reach.
This was a pleasant and lively raststätte. Lots of people going south for winter holidays, unfortunately, this meant that most cars fully packed and stuffed. I expected this would take a while and when darkness fell it became seriously cold. Every fifteen minutes I went inside the raststätte for one or two minutes to warm up.
After one hour, a young couple offered me a ride. They were on their way to Innsbruck, Austria. This was slightly off
course for me, but it would surely bring me within reach of Salzburg.
Marko and Sandra were heading home after a short holiday. They were in a cheerful mood and very curious about what I was up to. Why was I hitchhiking in the middle of winter, where was I going to and why? I told about my plan to film ecological communities in Europe and this especially triggered Marko, so we had an intensive and inspiring discussion.
Before I knew it, they decided to take a detour and drop me off near Salzburg. It was final now, I would arrive in Salzburg on Saturday evening.
This would not be my first visit to Salzburg. In the summer of 2015, I had spent a wonderful one and a half week holiday in the border area of Germany and Austria, staying with in-laws in a small village, Laufen. We visited Salzburg many times and from what I recalled, Laufen, the city of Freilassing and Salzburg were consecutive in one agglomeration. At least, this was my recollection. I also remembered a highway exit close to Freilassing and Salzburg and asked Marko and Sandra to drop me off in Freilassing, known territory to me.
With a warm farewell, waving until they turned the corner, I found myself in beautiful, snow-covered Freilassing. I checked time, nine o’clock. Zurich-Salzburg had taken me eight hours. I was very pleased. All I had to do now, was walk to Salzburg and find a place for my tent.
In Freilassing, I followed my sense of direction and tried to recognize roads and buildings. Soon I found out that in darkness and winter, a city looks totally different than at daytime in summer. After half an hour of walking snow covered pavements, I discovered I was walking north, into Germany instead to the Austrian border.
I returned and asked an elderly lady for directions. She pointed to the rural area outside of Freilassing and told me Salzburg was at 7 kilometres distance. I took the suggested direction, recognized the highway exit I passed with Marko and Sandra an hour before and after 20 minutes I saw a location I definitely remebered from 2015: the bridge over the Saalach, the German-Austrian border.
I decided not to cross the bridge and wait to go into Salzburg. In the daytime, it would probably be easier to find my way. There was a strip of forest along the Saalach, hopefully, I could find a nice place in snow-covered nature.
After half an hour of searching, I considered this option too wild and risky and decided to walk back to the outskirts of Salzburg. On my way to Zürich, I had learned that sleeping near a building, sheltered by some roof construction and using my tent as a four-layered coverage, was extremely comfortable, even when freezing.
I crossed the border and entered Salzburg. After 15 minutes, it must have been around midnight, I found a nice location, a factory building with a quiet back side, hidden by a wall and bushes.
Under a large stretch of roof construction, some two metres wide, I put down my yoga mat and covered myself with as many layers as possible. I was warm within minutes and fell asleep utterly satisfied. I was in Salzburg, I had made it and looked forward to a whole Sunday ahead to find my way in this beautiful city.
Sunday morning surprised me with a scenery I used to love as a child: a fresh package of snow, at least 25 centimeters and large snowflakes falling. I wrapped up my stuff quickly and walked towards the city centre. The first part was a large industrial area, the pavements had not been cleaned yet. The road was passable thanks to snow ploughs and with quite some traffic already, I proceeded slowly and with caution.
After half an hour, I crossed the Salzburg ring highway. Beyond the highway, I saw the first residential areas of Salzburg. I proceeded carefully through heaps of snow and alert for traffic coming from the highway. Just when I reached the opposite side, I saw a young man coming out of his car and waving at me. This was a welcome surprise to Salzburg, a spontaneous ride into town.
Mirko, aged middle thirties I guessed, lived in Waging am See, a German village I clearly remembered from my summer holiday in 2015. Waging am See, some 25 kilometres from the Austrian border had a great recreational area on a large lake. I had spent pleasant time there.
Mirko was on his way to the centre of Salzburg and while we drove into the centre I told him my story. Half an hour later, he parked his car along the Salzach and invited me to have coffee and breakfast.
We walked to Glüxfall, a nice and stylish café bar. Coming from the cold snowfall outside, the atmosphere, the music and the people felt heartwarming. We sat down at the small bar, from where we could see the food and the dishes being prepared.
The breakfast we had was totally out of the ordinairy. Apart from great coffee and fresh rolls, our plates contained small pieces of art, with subtle tastes and flavours.
After another cold and this time snowy travel adventure, this was the perfect arrival to Salzburg. I felt thankful and considerd myself extremely lucky.
This breakfast and the stylish, jazzy Sunday morning atmosphere of the Glüxfall were a perfect prelude to my stay in Salzburg, one of the most classic and stylish cities of Europe.
The perfect representation of the atmosphere and my mood that Sunday morning is the jazzy Karen Souza version of 'Get Lucky' by Daft Punk.