Germany is my home country and therefore the best hitchhiking country which I can imagine. My all-time favorite. One of the best organized hitchhiking communities, highways without speed limit, people that are „searching“ for hitchhikers, the best cars and in general hospital and friendly people, are just some reasons, why Germany is so freaking awesome for hitchhiking. This is a „Hitchhiking in…“-Special. No stats involved, but a lot of great reasons, why you should hitchhike in Germany!
Germans are quite okay people in general. Okay, we are the worst of all capitalists and not as good as people think about us outside of Germany. Yes we have a huge stick in our ass and tend to be a bit inflexible if it is about laws and rules. Organization is very important, because it makes us feel safe. We like it precise and need to optimize and criticize all the time. Everything which is not sticking to the norm is looked at skeptical and need reglementation. Understand this. Confusion is just not good for the efficiency.
Beside the technocratic philistinism, the Germans are also quite interested and open. For me most important, that in Germany is relatively less fear. Hitchhiking is not difficult. People are willed to give rides. I hitchhiked in more than 50 countries throughout my life and I can say, beside other places like Brazil, the US or Colombia, the Germans are very warmhearted and open towards hitchhikers.
Hitchhiking has a very good reputation in Germany. Not least through the yearlong initiatives of several clubs and organizations. Also I should mention, that one of two empiric researches about hitchhiking were made in Germany [Trampen FIEDLER, Joachim, et. al., 1989; Anhalterwesen und Anhaltergefahren: unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des “Kurztrampens”, BKA-Forschungsreihe Sonderband, Bundeskriminalamt Wiesbaden.]. Beside that there are some luminaries, like Dieter Wesch the „Angel of Hitchhikers“. This guy picked up 9528 hitchhikers so far and would be in the Guiness Book of World records, if there would be a category for him. And for sure the „Hitchhiker-Pope Dieter Höft, who opens his place for stranded hitchhikers. He even comes and picks you up from the onramp, if you give him a call and invites you for free beer and free accomodation at his home!
Such nice people! Who can say we Germans are not hitchhiker friendly?
I am just part of it since around ten years and can only guess the real beginnings. I think I was part of a generation of hitchhikers, that were there, when everything was rolling already, but not the real pioneers. But thats okay. Most important: Germany might have beside Russia, Poland and Lithuania one of the best organized hitchhiking subcultures worldwide.
Ahead Abgefahren e.V., a club who wants to free hitchhiking from the hippie smell and reestablish it in the public sphere. They did for years an excellent lobby and pr-work and definitely started to carve the stone. Abgefahren has a annually race during Whitsun, the German Championship in Middle-Distance-Hitchhiking. All the old fellows are already retired and settled down all over the world. But you knew, that our beloved Hitchwiki was/is on the same server as the Abgefahren club page? And it is not by accident, that the second most written articles are in German. Because the old Abgefahren staff did a lot work here. Thanks fellows! Great job!
Beside that we have Tramprennen.org probably one of the biggest hitchhiking races in the world, organized by the Club of Roam e.V.. Every summer for several weeks a group of hitchhikers is rushing all over Europe. Great fun, I never participated by myself so far, but what they developed over the years deserves a lot of respect! One of the biggest and most active hitchhiking projects at all. They are very beginners friendly and seem to be a warmhearted community. Tramprennen.org has furthermore a complete different target group than Abgefahren, which is kind of surprising, because usually everyone know everyone in the hitchhiking cosmos.
And then there are we. Me and my buddy Ralf (former treasurer of Abgefahren) founded the first German competetive hitchhiking club DTSG, to establish the Russian way of hitchhiking in western Europe and Germany. Our competitions are a bit harder. Usually we pick a challenging route with elements of exploration and orienteering in unknown territories. We take a certain corner of Germany, which is outstanding beautiful, and then hitchhike for 2-3 days up and forth. All in a competition, with checkpoints and rules. We target people that like to be outdoor and seek adventure. Who wants to have a leisure time, might not be right with us. We hitchhike with the knife between our teeth. But I can strongly recommend to try it out. Usually it is a lot of fun.
Die Autobahn. Okay, if we exclude that I think the American Highway is, for aesthetically reasons, the most beautiful road in the world, there is nothing better than a German Autobahn to move forward. Especially hitchhiking. Germany has no general speed limit, just a „recommended speed“ of 130km/h, which means, you should not go slower. There are not much countries in the world, who do not have a speed limit and even less, who have the right road conditions, to drive as fast as you want. With 250km/h towards your destination…..that you only can have in Germany.
I should say, that the Autobahn is not ideal for thumbing. Not as in Russia, Argentina or Canada, where you usually just stand aside the road. Directly on a German highway it is almost impossible, cause cars are too fast and the police will be there within 5 minutes to get you off there, because it is not allowed to hitchhike directly on the highway. If you want to go on the Autobahn you have to use the onramps. Thats why the Russians call the Autobahn also „The Tube“. If you once are in, you will get pushed through.
Beside the Autobahn you also have normal country roads with a general speed limit of 100km/h, which can be a bit challenging sometimes, cause the traffic runs quite fast over it. Especially if you end up in some part, where the roads are as well build as the Autobahn itself. There is also another type of road, which is called „Kraftfahrstraße“. The problem: You are not allowed to hitchhike here either. I always did that: Hitchhike anyway, if the police comes you pretend to be stupid and they will give you a lift to a better position. Works always well to get rides with the police in Germany, if you are in a fucked up position. Just be polite and friendly as with your drivers.
Sick streets, but also sick cars. Cmon. BMW, Audi, VW, Porsche and Mercedes are all German producers and make the most beautiful cars in the world. If I hitchhike in Germany I prefer to travel with business people, because they drive the newest models and go fucking fast. With 250km/h towards your destination. I explored a lot of highend-car-technique while going through Germany. It is definitely exciting and characteristic for hitchhiking here.
What should be mentioned as well is, that Germany is transit-country for the polish transport industry, which is sooo useful if you move through Europe and hitchhike transnational routes. They often drive through the night and are faster than trucks. Always first choice to get a ride with a polish person. I would count that as advantage for location of Germany.
Moving in Germany. There are several strategies. I know people that only use the onramps and are doing good with it. They mostly have a good keeping area and people stop relatively fast.
I personally prefer the gas station hopping. Because it is so fucking easy. You just move from gas station (in German called „Raststätte“) to gas station. Just talk to the people that stop and fill new gas. Over the years I optimized my technique in a way, that I move as fast, as I would do, when I drive by myself (considering 250km/h business man who compensate the waiting time). I can hardly describe my way of asking, it is all instinctive. I can see, who might take me and who not. Usually I do not need to ask more than 1-3 people. In the end I even started thumbing at the end of the service areas, cause asking became so boring and I lost the fun of hitchhiking a bit.
Of course you need to be a bit charming and look accurate. So no beer, not carrying two expedition bagpacks, no dog pack and other things, that might disturb average people, even if those things are totally normal. To ask has a lot to do with superficial things. If they can trust you, it is half of the game.
Germany has a very complex and complicated highway network. It is good, because you always can choose between the routes, but it also can be very confusing, if you do not know the area. You shoudl definitely pack a map with all service areas and study it, whenever you can. Alternatively you can download here a .pdf with all service areas and onramps on it and combine it with your smartphone. Orientation and planning is very important to not miss your next checkpoint. I know my routes by heart meanwhile, know every service area and onramp and still I carry a map with me. Just a basic tool!
What is also unbelievable helpful in Germany are the number plates, where you can determ relatively precise, where a car is registered. So you can guess, where they go or come from. Note: There are certain areas, that are used for rented cars. (Europcar has „HH“ (Hamburg), Avis – „EU“ (Euskirchen), Sixt – „M“ (Munich), Hertz „DN-H“ (Düren)). The first letter is usually the district, where it is registered and after a while you should know what you need to look for. Beside that, there is a little patch which tells you, what state that number plate is sticking too, which also can be wonderful, if you do not know the district letters.
And some general information to the number plate (in German) you can finde here.
The cheapest food with the best value at the service areas is the good old German Bockwurst. A special kind of sausage. I would never have thought, that I miss the Bockwurst one day. But after 1,5 years hitchhiking all over the world, I had to realize, that there is nothing as the German Bockwurst elsewhere. And it is somehow part of the service area culture. Recommended!
Everything at the service areas is too expensive. Especially water, which I find really bold. But you can find tabs which are used by the truckers and there you get some free water.
Even for the toilettes you need to pay. But usually you can jump over the barrier, if they don’t look. Nobody will pull you out the toilette, while you having a shit. Also there is nice music in the SaniFair locations! Shitting is a human right, nobody should pay for it.