There’s a huge crowd of mostly elderly people at the Ukrainian-Polish border. I unassumingly stand at the back, but when I spot a fellow tourist with a backpack I head after him. It turns out my EU passport allows me to cut ahead. My backpack gets a thorough checking over, and the border guard even finds the hidden compartment which no other officer has ever detected.
On the other side a bunch of people come up to me and ask if I have any cigarettes or alcohol to sell. My first ride, a woman from Moldova, explains to me that the crowd of old-age pensioners in front of me at the border cross into Poland a few times a day to sell cigarettes and alcohol they’ve bought in Ukraine as a way to supplement their pensions. The driver’s business is taking clothes to the border since things like that are actually cheaper in Poland than in Ukraine.
I end the day just east of Krakow where I sleep for a few hours outside a gas station before waking up with the rising sun. The next day turns out to be a very good day of hitchhiking: thanks to a truck driver, a guy going to his home town to make funeral arrangements for his brother, two evangelical Christians who insist on giving me a bible in Polish once they figure out I understand Russian, a Polish-German guy working in the Netherlands, and a German-Dutch translator I end up 1,300 kilometers down the road at the end of the day.
My luck seems to even out the next day however. When the sun sets I’m still stuck in Calais. It’s stupid: I’ve successfully hitchhiked from Holland to London in a single day half a dozen times or so, and now I can’t manage this little distance? Since camping on the grounds of the ferry terminal doesn’t seem viable, with the refugee scare still going on, I decide to fork over the forty euros for a ferry ticket.