He was loose and started racing down, leaving a spiral trace behind. The finish was in sight, the ending of the translucent field. Looking to his right, he could see his enemy, struggling to surpass the obstacles in its way. Quickly, he spurted down for his final sprint. Closer and closer he reached. He could feel the victory, nearly gracing the end line. But then it happened. He stopped. Go!! I wanted to shout. My fingers met into a fist of frustration. Why won’t you go? My mind screamed. At a calm pace the rival slugged down over the line, breaking apart as it hit the end. “It sure is rainy…”, my new chauffeur proclaimed with a hint of guilt as he watched the raindrops tick on the front glass. My eyes averted the lost race shaming the drop who failed to win. “Indeed”, I mumbled. For a few minutes now it had been pouring down rainfall from the sky, covered with dark, grim clouds. My mind was not worried about getting soaked, yet whether I would find a ride out of this small town. Most would depart on the main road where I could not stand. Instead, I exited the vehicle on an abandoned parking spot with all accompanying me being a few blinking lamp posts. The lad and I said goodbye, before he surged away. Quite frankly, I had not been to keen of the guy. A traveller as well, he had finished a plate too many of egomania. Nonetheless, he had been kind enough to drop me on the other side of the city for more luck. Luck, I would find to have plenty of when an instant’s moment later, a passing car slowed down. A tall dude manning the wheel and a prettiful lady to his side. Not much distance I would receive, yet so much more than I could ever dare to wish for.
Excited Ola, the young lady turned her head to me and questions left her lips. After a few, she asked “Are you watching the game tonight?”. Poland versus Portugal. A match in the Fifa world cup carrying a lot of Polish viewers. None of the equally aged would be able to think of a moment when the Polish had come so far in football. So it should be no surprise that the country was in a rally with enthusiasm and patriotism in the air. I hope, I said. Immediately the couple had invited me, within seconds calling the host for confirmation. The guy on the other end of the phone did need a confirmation of which country I was backing. Poland!! I had exclaimed, quietly cheering them on when back in the Baltics, knowing I might be able to root them as I traversed the mighty country.
Cruising for a selection of Polish finest brewskies at the local shop, I had a chance to meet two other friends. Soon I learned that not all had a tongue in English like Ola did. Yet they all shared the excitement. Together we walked to the house of the brother and sister that would have the game displayed on their tv. Nervous, yet excited, I entered the small flat room. The group was welcoming, friendly and kind. We drank, talked and enjoyed the match. I remember a moment talking to Ola, when one of the guys interrupted “There are times for important things, and times for more important things” as he pointed to the line of shots that were lined out. He would teach me how to properly drink vodka. At the end of the evening, Poland had lost the penalties after playing 1-1 to Portugal. Nonetheless the Polish were happy and celebrated the distance Poland had made! Upon departure the following morning, I was gifted a prazubr and a scarf with the writing “Polska” and a white eagle embossed on both sides, one I still wear on chilly days.
The road continued and I hitched my way towards Slovakia. A small detour lead me to meet Karolina again, during an insanely coincidental bump in within a few seconds in the town Zdunska Wola. It was amazing to see her again and a pleasure to hear her voice. From there I visited the catastrofe family, once again doing more for me than I can be thankful for, conjuring a smile on my face for the rest of the sunny day. After gifting gifts, patching up my pants and tent, taking me on a motor ride and to the swimming pool, feeding me and having me showered, the couple still felt appealed to go further. They sent a box of my stuff to the Netherlands and gave me a ride far to help me make distance. During the long ride something amazing happened. Throughout Poland beers and ice cream bare a hidden opportunity that once consumed reveals if you won a second or not. They explained such, as we all enjoyed the sweet and cool taste of ice. The youngest son shouts victory having laid his eyes upon my writing. A FREE ICE CREAM! It is a dream come true.
Waving the family off, I held the proof of victory close and safe. I wandered around for a bit, asking the people politely for assistance in laying down rubber. That came to an end when a curious janitor lured me to his small office. From Serbia. He sat me down and gave me his lunch adding a cup of tea. No English, German or Dutch, yet we began talking. Pointing to pictures in a book, he explained his travels through Siberia, Lapland and Canada. Impressed how far he got with our language barrier, he began to push it when conspiracy theories became the topic. This was too much for me in Serbian tongue. Thus I rose and thanked him. Departing the 1 by 2 room, the first man approached would take me further. What next?