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to travel


Seven days for two euros

A few tools, a 125cc and a plan: travel across Germany for just two euros. Eat, drink, sleep, refuel? work out everything. How open are the Germans?

Rolf Henniges


A concrete staircase painted blue points upwards.

Twelve levels. My heart is pounding, the door is creaking. Four locals, obviously farmers, one big man with a white waistcoat, obviously boss. Ten eyes, squinted. Suspicion freezes the room. “Work?” The boss smiles. “No, then we would have nothing to do ourselves.” And on the farms? No chance. “Don’t eat harvest time yet.” Five throated laughter melts behind me. Twelve levels ?? an eternity. The agricultural machinery repair straw cutter spits me out into the Bergisches Land again. It is Friday, June 7, 2002, 4:20 p.m. I’ve been on the road since this morning. Ride mine MZ 125 SX, overloaded with camping and work equipment, embarking on a German adventure. The plan: Aachen – Zschopau with two euros. Eat, drink, sleep, refuel for work, no matter what. Hunger has been swirling through my stomach since noon. There are 14 rejections on my credit account. I doubt. About me. On this project. What if it pours outside and I, wrapped in a dripping rain suit, have to ring the front door because nobody is outside? What if the tank is empty? Five more tries. Again nothing. “I don’t want any illegal workers.” “Come back in ten years. Then I’ll be 80. “” No, have I? just finished mowing. But down there, with the chicken man, maybe. ”Chicken man? Andreas Klose, 49, organic poultry farmer, smiles. I think the idea is great and work for me. “The fence has to be cut free. Have you ever mowed with a scythe? ”Sure. Most recently, however, 20 years ago. Does not matter. Relieved, I turn the corner armed with a scythe and a whetstone. Organic layers are good for them. Always fresh air and miles of exercise. It is bordered by what appears to be an equally long fence. Consists of insidious wire mesh that always snaps at the scythe. After three and a half hours, thousands of head-high nettles have been felled, Klose ends the plant and scythe massacre. Finally dinner, well deserved. There is space for my tent in his yard. The first day was harder than expected; the second begins with a fallacy. After a hearty breakfast with the family, I can’t refuse an offer. Klose offers four liters of petrol ?? Lawnmower reserve ?? Picking wild strawberries, pushes a watermelon-sized bowl into my hand. Children’s birthday is announced, there should be 20 cakes. No problem. But my botanical ignorance is taking revenge once again. Particularly large specimens of the species fragaria vesca have a maximum diameter of one centimeter. The squirrel has a hard time feeding itself. Now I know where the saying came from. It’s 11.43 a.m. The little 125 growls again. My stomach joins an hour later and drives me to the yard of the Biker Ranch in Dattenfeld, a motorcycle meeting place. Manfred Wollsiefer, 41, blessed with a bald head and an exuberant willingness to help, wants to buy me food and drink. I refuse, don’t want anything for free. “Well, then sweep the yard.” This is 25 meters long, five wide and clean after 35 minutes. The reward: Jagerschnitzel, apple juice spritzer and coffee. Valued at 13.50 euros. Not a bad hourly wage. I sneak on and after barely forty kilometers I meet a biker who looks at least as depressed as I did on the first day of travel. Ulrich Muller, built in 1942, stopped with his Adler, built in 1954. Electrical problems. No more spark. It’s 20 kilometers to his home. Pushing impossible. We tinker. Kick all it takes, examine every millimeter of its extremely painstakingly restored piece of jewelry. My brain formulates an equation. Willingness to help + success = invitation + strawberry cake. Finally it is afternoon and the strawberry harvest. Completely surprisingly, the eagle trumpets again, Muller accelerates and I shake hands. “See you.” Expectations and reality. The 125cc hums lonely. Suitable for my mood. I would have liked to have enjoyed company. And the strawberry cake. What I have left is a gray band of tar that leads east. I surrender. Grobenbach, Vollkollz, Freudingen, Sassenhausen. The minutes disappear in the rearview mirror, the clouds hang low. There is a barbecue behind hedges and on balconies. I hope to meet you. But it wants to be forced. It is 7.30 p.m. on Saturday evening. Nobody to speak to me when I stop. Nobody who smiles charmingly when I’m at traffic lights. Suspicion stares out of the panes. Cold looks. Incomprehension. Little man, little bike, silver boxes, white sheepskin. Green Minna? Hatzfeld, Eder. A community of 1822 souls that would like to be a city. At the end of the village a sleepy inn. My wish: food and accommodation for work. Owner Annemarie Freitag ponders briefly: “Our tipi must be cut freely. But we have a bad scythe. ”It couldn’t be any worse than yesterday’s. But it is. The grass, partly shoulder-high, partly completely wet, the scythe dull and crooked. After two hours, half of the grass is torn off. You can’t call it cutting. I sweat. I whine. I’m slipping. The cut, seven millimeters deep and 20 long, is smooth and in the middle joint of the right index finger. It’s bleeding like crazy. Quickly to the kitchen. Annemarie snatches a bottle of grain out of the fridge. One sip for her, one for me, one over the finger. Disinfection. The night is going to be hard. The finger is throbbing, the third day of travel greets me extremely painfully. What now? Abort? Keep going? The finger, splinted with a pencil and two cable ties, is hidden under his bandage. Accelerate and brake somehow still works. I want to do everything but give up. The adventure has strange names. Holzhausen, Frohnhausen, Ernsthausen, Munchhausen. An unkempt road eats its way through the central Hessian jungle. Fallen trees and ferns threaten the aisle. The shelters for the cattle are falling into disrepair, the grassy plains are overgrown, villages are deserted. Lunchtime. Mealtime. But where? The MZ decides. The gasoline is running out. The next suspicious gas station place is called Frankenberg. A health resort, technically as unreasonable as the waitresses at the gas stations. Of course, they’re here to make money. Swap jobs impossible. But I may ask. Asking anyone who walks into the gas station for a job. Consideration: full refueling. And get three hours of rejections on the assembly line. “I have to watch the World Cup, I’m unemployed myself, I’m just passing through …” A wave of incomprehension, outrage and anger hits me. Somehow understandable. It’s Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. The weekend cleaning is done, the garden mowed. And people only want one thing: their peace and quiet. Maybe I should have shaved. At 4:21 p.m. I was overcome with a flash of inspiration: donating blood. I roll carefully to the district hospital and make my request. Till Schiefer, a young doorman with pitch-black humor and hair like that, thinks the idea is amusing. Unfortunately not the doctor on duty at the end of the phone line. The DRK is responsible for donating blood. Every first Monday of the month, 5 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. Back to the gas station, keep asking. Redemption approaches at 5:25 p.m. Uwe Meister and his brother Roland roll to the gas pump on their 125s. “Of course you get a job. But you have to come with you to Kassel. ”My tank fills up, 70 kilometers northeast of my planned route I meet my job, a BMW 530i Touring. The car with which the Meister family has been driving their four-legged friend for years. Locks have to be oiled, hinges greased, fluid levels checked, the space for the dog in the rear cleaned. Such a German shepherd is curious. What he doesn’t sniff out, he licks up. 27 white towels turn brown, I sweat like in an incubator. The reward besides the full tank: dinner. It is 7.50 p.m. when I roll from Meister’s court. Sleep. But where? Undecided, I park at the edge of the road, my eyes surfing over the map. A tractor stops. Farmer Werner Beuermann, grim face and soft heart, promises me a place to sleep and breakfast against mucking in the stable and splitting wood. I take it. And my night camp in the middle of his storage room. It’s the turn of the stable early in the morning. Then Werner’s finger points to a pile of wood: “Only two meters,” he says with a slight grin. “You can do it with the electric splitter.” Two meters of wood. Or better: 27 wheelbarrows full. It can take up to eight steps to shred a piece of log suitable for the oven. I’m going to go Drizzle, sweat. Three hours later, the lunch menu frees me. Soup, sausages from our own slaughter, green salad. Aunt Erna, called over in a hurry, examines me. Then thinks she also has a meter of wood. “It’s sure to be easy with the machine.” Sure. If it weren’t for the finger. Farmers are tough. Two hours later, the payment makes you forget everything: homemade strawberry cake, five liters of fuel. I should stay, they say. Would?? I like. But Zschopau calls. It is difficult to say goodbye. Mainly because I’m setting off into the unknown again. Nieste, Waldkappel, Gerstungen. Former zone boundary. District of the traveling discos and hardware stores. I stop in Weilar in front of the Gebhardt nursery. It’s 6.45 p.m., fourth evening. Karl Gebhardt manages around 3000 square meters of garden and greenhouse space in the second generation. He looks deep into my eyes, then backwards. Over 50,000 vegetable plants are waiting for loving hands. Orchids, roses, birds of paradise flowers. I can start right now. Repot, clear out and put away. The reward: a night’s camp in the greenhouse and a sumptuous dinner with the family. After breakfast together, the steel brackets have to be dismantled. Then the loneliest streets eat me up. Little asphalt. Lots of holes, hardly passable. Gray houses, gray skies. Splashes of color only in the form of cars and dyed hair. It rains non-stop. At noon, hunger drives me to the Goldener Hirsch inn, Schmalkalden. Football World Cup is hot. Germany fights against Cameroon for 87 minutes. I fight only one for the host’s favor. And lose. Opposite is the community. They have jobs for people like me. People like me Rain-soaked. Bald. Short stature. A finger bandaged, a question on the lips, as unusual as if it were a question of robbing them of two years of life. Next try. Zella-Mehlis, Restaurant zum Schotten. Again nil. Is it because of the western dialect? On the rain suit? By the name of the restaurant? Hunger and thirst storm me: “I’ll do anything for a Thuringian bratwurst.” The waitress at the Sternengrund snack bar is startled, smiles, and refers me to their bosses. Frank Bartholomaus and Stefan Lange are renovating an inn next door. I come right on call. For 16 carts of bark mulch load and scatter and mow an embankment, there are two Thuringian grilled sausages, a steak, two coffees, one water and five liters of gasoline. Thank you guys. An almost virgin forest swallows me. Moss-covered stones, ferns. Trees as thick as the hide of a sled dog. Rain sets in again. First drizzling, then pouring. In the evening I stand soaking wet in front of the reception of the Hotel Hubertus in Neustadt / Rennweg. The main thing is to have a roof over your head first. I don’t care about the condition of the room, I assure you. Owner Andre Leipold spontaneously hands me a room key. After a refreshing shower, the job begins. Waiting, pouring beer, clearing up, polishing dishes ?? A mixed hiking group from all over Germany celebrates the day that has passed and keeps me on my toes. Then sweep the dining room, wipe the kitchen ?? a total of 62 square meters. The service ends at 11 p.m. Sparkling conversations, spicy beers, a cozy bed. The next morning greets me with fog and drizzle. Visibility: 40 meters. I feel my way through the Thuringian Forest. Slippery streets, slate-hung houses. Past porcelain factories, glass blowing, wood carvers. Countless traffic lights in front of paralyzing construction sites. My thoughts revolve around the trip. Daily encounters, gaining trust, farewells. The oldest form of travel ever. And this in a country where materialism, prejudices and the television program are all too happy to dictate how we interact with one another. Probstzella in the direction of Leutenberg. The rain is a thing of the past. Indescribable distant view illuminates the landscape, flirting with endless expanse. Burgk Castle in the middle. In time for lunchtime. My MZ rumbles across the courtyard. Two steps, a glass door, a request to the cashier. Total surprise. I could like to visit the castle. But there is no work. Especially not against a meal. But where there is a will, there is a way. Sabine Schemmrich, research assistant, leads me into the knight’s hall, 168 square meters, six pieces of armor. Mine is the penultimate one on the right. The alarm system is switched off, I get steel wool, gun oil and cleaning rags. Three hours later, the armor shines like the eyes of the staff. She looks mischievously at the other five steel journeyman. Thank you very much, maybe next time. A Strammer Max, a coffee, mineral water ?? culinary reward makes its way to the stomach. 6 p.m. The search for an overnight stay turns into a trauma. Again the tank is almost empty, the radius of helpfulness limited. Overnight, meal, fuel? three requests, one of which is already too much for most. I drive Spargas, feel my way from rejection to rejection to Waldhaus, 13 houses, 63 residents, a snack bar, a restaurant. Loud laughter everywhere. There is no work here. And if so, then only with the potter Ralf Naundorf. The MZ turns onto the Naundorf ??schen Hof. Three men besieged eight crates of Greizer Pils, poisoned the Wessies and condemned unemployment. I hardly dare to present my request. Ralf, who has traveled a lot himself, is helpful. He likes his attitude: first the beer, then the work. A hundred stories and countless beers later I fall into a bed two by two meters. And in the morning look into the eyes of a sparrow, the main actor in one of the beer-laden stories of the previous evening. Not yet fully fledged, he had fallen out of the nest and Ralf was right at his feet. For three weeks Ralf then chased cows with a fly swatter to pimp the sparrow. 500 slain buzzers a day were not uncommon. The work calls. An Alko bar mower, 3.5 HP, cutting width 60 centimeters, dragged me for an hour and a half over a rugged meadow, 200 square meters, seven trees, a hut. A farewell coffee, two hugs. With the last drop of fuel, nine kilometers later I roll into the yard of an agricultural machinery repair shop plus mini tank in Mohlsdorf. Owner Klaus-Dieter Volger looks at the workshop ceiling. Almost 60 square meters have to be painted with an inlet primer. The job is mine. Three hours later the tank is full to the brim and my arm is lame. 11.04 liters of regular gasoline, 11.36 euros. Hard earned. The trip is almost over. I cannot and do not want to believe that my life should be regulated again. Thursday, June 13, 6:25 p.m., Zschopau town sign. No cheers. Rain, thoughtfulness. No relief that my plan worked out. The two euros ?? I have?? they don’t even need them. I spend my last night in the kitchen of the Catholic rectory against the folding of handouts. She becomes restless. So much kick in just seven days, so many nice encounters. Pure life. I’ll be home soon. Same fridge, same bed. 400 euros rent. An ATM and two kebab stands around the corner.

“We’d even adopt him?

WERNER BEUERMANN, 61, and his wife Edelgard, 60, were skeptical. “The guy might come back next night and clear out the house.” But the offer of honest work in exchange for honest food sounded familiar to them. After the end of the war, many people exchanged their labor for a full stomach or a night’s camp.

“My first thought: a scrounger?

UWE MEISTER, 53, was very impressed. Henniges called his 125cc as a motorcycle. What wonder he was on one of them too. This is how sympathies are won. The architect did not like one thing, however: reaching out and naming them when introducing them. “One immediately thinks, someone comes here who wants to sell you a washing machine.” His wife Barbel laughs.

»Balm and strength for the stressed soul ??

ANNEMARIE FREITAG, 60, native Bavarian, has lived as a landlady on the Eder since 1974. And brought a lot of new things to Hessen: fire running courses, sweat lodges, massages and Reiki healing treatments. Good for Henniges, who cut his finger. Friday helped. Activated self-healing powers and poured out. “A schnapps for the soul, one over the finger. ??

»Land of Unlimited Possibilities ??

MANFRED WOLLSIEFER, 41, head of the Biker-Ranch motorcycle club, has been loving gastronomy for 20 years. Party service, tent rental, pub. The America fan absolutely wanted to feed Henniges for free. “When he refused, I was offended. But if you don’t want anything for free, you shouldn’t force him. ”Said, and handed the sweeper.

»Feeling of helplessness is known?

ANDREAS KLOSE, 41, married, three children, a dog, 3500 hens. The trained gardener has made a living from selling barn eggs for 15 years. Klose, who hitchhiked through Europe for three months without money in the 1970s, saw Henniges as a “new edition of my own adventure.” And let the editor toil for an apple and an egg in the literal sense of the word.

»Willingness to help? Seal of approval of the east ??

KARL GEBHARDT, 47, was looking forward to it. Due to the identification of the MZ ?? MEK, Middle Ore Mountains District ?? he was looking forward to visiting relatives. Still, I wasn’t disappointed with Henniges. “He came just right to dismantle steel racks. I wouldn’t have asked my relatives to do that, ”says the boss of the“ family ”business.

“First impression? Does not matter. There is also a second ??

ANDRE LEIPOLD, 35, hotel owner, married, two children, loved the idea of ​​the trip. He didn’t care that Henniges didn’t make the cleanest impression at the interview due to the bad weather. “He’s going to clean anyway.” Leipold’s tip: “Someone who pretends to be able to do everything by hand shouldn’t walk around with bandaged fingers.

“Helping happiness on the jumps”

RALF NAUNDORF, 38, seven cats, nine guinea fowl, a cow, four pigs, a dog, two horses, twelve rabbits, no woman. No wonder, the jack of all trades is busy 25 hours a day. As a potter, vocational school teacher, traveler. For Naundorf, practiced in almost all trades, “nothing is more important in life than hospitality and camaraderie”.

“Look like the boys on the roller coaster?

SABINE SCHEMMRICH, 39, research assistant and single mother, was “literally run over” when asked about a job. Mainly because the reward should be something edible. She helped anyway. “Because polishing knight armor is a job that the entire castle staff has been putting off for years due to a lack of time.

»Laughter as a ticket to every door ??

DOROTHEA MENDROCK, 49, housekeeper of a Catholic priest, and husband Christian, 50, technical inspector, rely on charity not only for job-related reasons. Raised in the Ruhr area and in East Germany for nine years, they try to bring human lows to highs. “If that can be done through a meal alone? it couldn’t be easier. ??

“Extremely cautious of strangers?

KLAUS-DIETER VOLGER, 46, was difficult to convince, saw the traveler as a fundraiser. It was not until she asserted that she didn’t want to accept any money that the decisive factor for the job. Volger thought it was great that Henniges swiped almost 60 square meters of the corner of the hall for eleven liters of petrol. “I would have been happy with half of it,” he said. Unfortunately only afterwards.

»Shaping the future unconditionally ??

FRANK BARTHOLOMaUS, 37, world cup winner in the four-man bobsleigh, and STEFAN LANGE, 35, organizational talent, have so much work that they “could use 20 of his kind.” The two of them set up an inn near a barbecue stand and motorcycle meeting point. Henniges immediately convinced: »I’ll do anything for a Thuringian Rostbratwurst. ??


The making of one should be excluded from the outset: people who offer their willingness to help because they speculate on media presence. For this reason, editor Rolf Henniges haggled for his jobs on site without photographer Klaus H. Daams being visible. Only when the job was secure or when Henniges was definitely wanted to be rejected did he come out and call Daams to know. With the permission of the »employer«, the scene was re-enacted and the work was photographed. The basic motorcycle model for the trip was an MZ 125 SX with a water-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke engine. 15 hp, front and rear suspension travel 220 millimeters. Ready to drive, the weight of the 125 including equipment and five liters of water was 162 kilograms. For the trip, the machine was equipped with a luggage rack including aluminum boxes from Touratech (phone 07728/92790). A sheepskin on the bench improved the seating comfort. The Touratech tank bag with a large, detachable map compartment and a watertight packing roll from Ortlieb that can be opened from above (phone 09872/8000) has proven its worth. Due to the large amount of luggage and the aerodynamically unfavorable suitcase, the consumption of the 125 series increased by 0.5 liters to 4.4 liters / 100 km. In addition to the usual travel utensils, the following items were particularly helpful: multi-purpose spray oil, two pairs of work gloves (leather and rubber), five-liter water canister, extensive tools and a thermos. As an emergency ration in the event that you couldn’t get a job for two days, the author carried 800 grams of isotonic powdered drink (makes eight liters) and three power bars with him. The willingness to help is great in Germany. The fact that it tended to be easier to find jobs in the east than in the west was probably due to editor Henniges, who became increasingly experienced. Nevertheless, especially with an electoral background, it is a mistake to believe that unemployment only exists as a form of scaremongering. The present trip only proves that despite materialism, social isolation and personal disaster, many people are open to encounters. It is still possible today to travel like the traveling folk in earlier eras. You should definitely have travel health insurance in your luggage.Read more: Germany freeBy Michael HolzachVerlag Hoffmann und Campe, 9.95 eurosWithout money around the worldBy Matteo Pennacchi Ulstein Verlag, 6.95 eurosI’m cycling around the worldBy Heinz HelfgenBielefelder Verlag, 19.95 EuroAgefahrBy Claudia Metz and Klaus SchubertKiepenheuer and Wiesch Verlag, 11.90 EuroSimply set offBy Manfred KohlerVerlag Schwarzkopf 10.90 Euro

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