Somehow I made it to Kortrijk, Belgium to meet up with my friend Tom aka Speed Dial 7 of Zucchini Drive. I made my first attempt at driving a manual transmission while traveling from Belgium to Hamburg, Germany. There were a couple of life-threatening stalls on the infamous Autobahn, but we made it to the venue and met up with the other member of Zucchini Drive, Marcus, for our first show on our European tour.
After a great show at a cool little punk venue called Hafenklang in Hamburg, we were off to play a Hard Rock Cafe styled venue in Catowice, Poland called the Old Timer’s Garage. It was a bit of an adjustment over the border into Poland, where they don’t generally accept Euros, the GPS doesn’t work and most people didn’t speak any language other than Polish. But once we got to the venue and performed we met some incredibly welcoming and generous people.
The next day, driving out of Poland we encountered a driver in another car who was flashing his lights at us as we passed him. As we pulled in front of him, he began honking and driving back and forth between lanes. Confused and a little concerned, the three of us began discussing what could it could mean: Maybe he was trying to tell us something was wrong with our car, like a flat tire or a broken headlight; or maybe we were going too fast and he was trying to slow us down, but there are no speed limits on the highway in Poland. Maybe it was he who was in trouble.
As we were trying to decide whether or not to pull over and check on the car, another man starting waving at us, and flashing his lights as we passed. At that point we were pretty sure something must be wrong with our car, so we pulled over to inspect. As I got out of the car from the passenger seat to check the tires and lights, the man who waved us down pulled up behind us and approached the car. He was a well dressed man, maybe in his forties with graying black hair, wearing a stylish scarf and jacket with expensive looking leather boots. He began to speak French, but switched to English when Tom responded in the latter.
“Hello, hello! How are you? Thank you for stopping. My name is ‘such-and-such.’ Here is my card, with my address. You are from Belgium (our license plate gave that away)? I have family in Brussels. I am trying to get there to visit them, but I have lost my wallet and have no money for gas.”
This was something new for all of us: high-speed panhandling. But he was certainly dressed respectably and was driving a BMW with two children in it, so it was difficult to dismiss him right away.
“We only have 5 Euros on us” someone responded.
“Please I need 250. Give me your address, I will mail the money back to you. Takes these gold rings as collateral.”
He hands Marcus a “gold” ring. It seemed a little light for gold.
We all shot each other a look, and decided to get the hell out of there.
Driving a few kilometres down the highway, a third man in a BMW tried to wave us down again. A little smarter and much more suspicious, we picked up speed and high tailed it out of Poland back to Germany to play Berlin tonight.
That was quite an experience. But to be sure, our time in Poland has overall been a great experience. We’ve made some new fans and plan to return to Catowice as soon as we can. Luckily we do get to return to Poland on the fourth of February when we play Poznan.