Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Wed December 16 2015

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  • Shannon Wolf | December 16, 2015 9:00 PM ET

    Ready, Set, Tramprennen! Stage One of a European Hitchhiking Race

    Ready, Set, Tramprennen! Stage One of a European Hitchhiking Race

    PHOTO: “No Money, No Problem” on the way from Berlin to Cottbus for the Tramprennen pre-meeting celebration! (photos by Shannon Wolf)

    August 22 was the start of the annual hitchhiking race across Europe starting from Cottbus, Germany all the way to Albania via Tramprennen.

    We had two weeks; tramping more than 2,300 km (almost 1,500 miles) while passing through seven countries in six different stages against 160 other “tramps” for the title of number one.

    The day before the official race begun, teams met for the first time at the pre-meetings in three locales: Cottbus, Immenstaad (also in Germany) and Vienna. Some teams were seasoned, and others had never hitchhiked before in their lives. Everyone in Cottbus was in high spirits, drinking beer after beer, celebrating in our new venture and meeting our fellow hitch-mates — half of which we’d be reuniting with at every stage and some not until we reached our final spot in Omare, Albania.

    We were assigned our route and given our “Hitchpackages,” consisting of our official Tramprennen t-shirts, markers, stickers, thank-you pamphlets, SIM cards and a guidebook outlining rules and stage destinations. But after all the logistical stuff was done; the celebration ensued again.

    I won’t go into detail as to the amount of alcohol we managed to consume in one night but lets just say, the German stereotype for beer consumption is the real deal and it sure as hell made for an interesting start to the race the next morning.

    At 7 a.m., groggy but full of adrenaline, Jonathan and I packed up as quickly as the sun rose, virtually sprinting to the road with thumbs waving ready for our first day of the race heading to our first stage: Krakow, Poland.

    Within seconds of starting, we got a lift to the autobahn from a schoolteacher and like clockwork from there, we hitched ride after ride laughing all the way to the border of Poland in record time. On top of our already astonishing luck, while waiting at a petrol station, one of the attendants graciously gave us a fresh container of meat, three types of coleslaw, potato puffs, bread and Nestea which lasted us the rest of the day for our meals (so much for starving).

    We high-fived and took our time, thinking we were well ahead of everyone in the race so we stopped to enjoy our first meal of the day outside the petrol station feeling like kings eating our free food next to bottles of windshield wiper fluid.

    After taking our time, we leisurely caught a ride heading directly into Krakow with a friendly driver who insisted on helping us on our race, going out of his way to drop us off exactly where we needed. After thanking him and taking his photograph, Jonathan and I ran as fast as we could to the famous monument despite assuming we would be the first there. “There’s no way anyone could get here faster than us!” he yelled as we ran panting and giggling up the incline … that was until we saw team ZWERGENALLIANZ sitting atop the hill cheering as we locked eyes and our jaws dropped.

    As it turns out, they had made it directly to Krakow in ONE lift only a half hour prior to us… all I can say is two words: lucky bastards (and maybe we shouldn’t have thought time was so on our side…).

    Either way, we congratulated them on a fine win and the rest of the day was spent waiting until night fell over Krakow and for the other teams to arrive.

    PHOTO: Our wild camping spot next to the river and a night of beer in celebration of all making it to Stage 1! 

    Around 10 p.m., we all gathered our things, stocked up on drinks (although Jonathan and I acquired ours thanks to our “Need Beer/Pivo” signs) and found a grassy area on the edge of town where the 20-plus of us set up under the star-filled sky to wild camped along the river for two nights. Our days were spent exploring the cobble-stoned streets of Krakow until the second stage of the race began!

    PHOTO: On our day off in Krakow, we got the chance to explore the city’s core!

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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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