Keith Irwin


Towards the end of the winter semester I began to plan a hitchhiking trip to East Europe. I found lots of places to couchsurf, not wanting to sleep outside in the cold. I also spent much of the semester learning Russian, and by the time I was taking exams I knew the alphabet and about a hundred words and phrases.

One does not simply go to Russia. The visa requires the trip to be sponsored by a travel agency. As usual, it's all about the money: there are "agencies" that do nothing but "sponsor" tourists. I made an online payment to the cheapest such company I could find, which was oddly named "Атланта" ("Atlanta"). I had to provide the address of a hotel where I would be staying, but I just put a random address. It's just a formailty, my friends told me. I had heard horror stories about Russian beurocracy... that they will find something wrong with the paperwork over and over again until you bribe them, but my experience was different. I had no issues. This was nothing like German beurocracy. The Germans know how to lay red tape.

On February 24, I aced my dynamics exam, and returned to my room. I fixed my bike and sewed my pants a final time. I built a bivy sack out of trashbags and filled it with my bed blankets, as I did on my trip to England. I also brought my psychedelic hand-knit hitchhiking glove (in the shape of a thumbed hand). I had several layers of clothing and a massive scarf the Young Friends knit me. I packed my laptop up and set out for Berlin.

Leaving the building with my stetson hat and massive backpack, I remembered that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.

I had no trouble, getting rides out of the city, first with a social worker who started a hotline for alcoholics, then an architect from Potsdam who was working on the Eckhart Mouthuseus on an Island near the Rügen. In the evening I hung out with Phillip and crashed on his couch on Straulauer Allee.

My notebook for 2012-02-24

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