The Austrian kids dropped me off on the side of the freeway, road signs directing me South to Italy or North to Austria was all to be seen. I was miles from where I had to be, on a freeway that did not lead there. As before with those who offered their services along the way, I offered my photos, some corners bent now as the miles had found their way to wear them down. With their photos chosen, http://www.nomadsight.com/works/cleaning-up/ , and http://www.nomadsight.com/works/its-public, the Austrian kids jumped into their little red Fiat, and sped off Southward bound towards Italy.
I jumped the guard rail, with my portfolio clutched under arm, my heavy back pack swinging above my small stature like a tortoise and made it to the other side of the freeway.
“Head North back towards where you started.” I thought.
It was windy outside the shelter of the red Fiat. The sun had dipped behind the dark grey clouds sitting above the Slovenian Alps blowing in words of warning, that rain was coming and night was falling.
With my cardboard sign still in tow, I unfolded it, picked some new flowers to punch through the paper and thought of my destination, I was going to catch that plane in Zagreb. It started to rain, and the cars passed without looking. I couldn’t have a repeat of the day before, stuck and sleeping at a rest stop.
I walked up to a group of kids, who looked approachable.
“Excuse me,” I began.
“Yes California, that’s great man, are you really from California?”
“Yes and I need to get to Zagreb.”
“Well, you’re on the wrong side of the freeway, you need to be on the other side. This way goes to Austria.”
“Yeah I know and that way goes to Italy.” I said, pointing.
They were getting into their car, their patience running down.
“We are going to Austria, I’m sorry we can’t help you.”
They drove away. I was left holding a map.
Back to it. More cars passed, more time ticked by.
A young couple, smiled as they saw the sign but kept driving, or so I thought. They turned around, rolling the window down to the bucketful of rain coming down and me standing in it.
They said something in Slovak that I didn’t understand.
“Oh! Are you really from California?” They asked.
“Hahaha! Wow man, I think most people who see you here think you’re crazy, you know? This road goes to Austria and Italy! You are far from Zagreb!”
“I know, now I’m just going to try and get to Ljubljana or something.” I answered, edging on a nervous desperation.
“Oh, OK man, we are going to Ljubljana, we go to watch a movie there. We can drive you to the train station, they have trains going to Zagreb…I think.”
“Wow, that would be great, oh man I was really thinking I was going to be stuck here.” I smiled, getting into their car.
They were from a little village in the mountains and came down to the city on a date. They were teachers at an elementary school in the village. I told them how I got dropped off there by the stoned Austrian kids. They told me how that sucked.
They chose this photo, http://www.nomadsight.com/works/a-memory-from-the-future/, took a picture with me and wished me the best.
I was worried about getting a train. My plan had been to hitchhike across the border, with a hope that the car I was in wouldn’t get checked. I had been in Europe for a year, I had planned to leave before my tourist visa expired in September, but things came up that I don’t feel like writing about here, which kept me in Europe past the terms of my passport. I read that if caught, it would be a fifteen hundred euro fine, with a five year ban on E.U travel, and an “Illegal Immigrant” stamp in my passport . (I didn’t mind the last one so much. Illegal immigrant? Please! It’s our planet and our life and we are free to choose and be where we want). Now that time was pressed, with my flight from Zagreb to San Francisco a mere twelve hours away and my anxious feet still in a different country, I bought the fourteen euro train ticket and hoped for the best.
I heard them before I saw them. Two Americans, “Maybe I can blend in with them.” I thought. I made my way down the aisle sitting across from them and their game of cards.
Even with the anticipation of the border imminently approaching, it felt so nice to sit and watch the landscape go by. Greens made gold with the setting sun, lakes, rivers and mountains filling the view. The train rocked me calm.
Until it suddenly stopped and shut down, silent and dead. The guards boarded and said something in passing, I wanted to pretend I didn’t understand, as everyone else pulled out their passports.
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