Welcome to Croatia

Using the new map I had been given by the French couple, I made my way out of Mohacs. I tried taking a shortcut sticking to a ridge running parallel to the river bank. It was all going well, until the ridge changed from partly surfaced to purely grass. I asked two old tree surgeons/gardeners if they spoke English. No. German? No.  I whipped out the map and said repeatedly ‘Draz’, and pointed in the direction i wanted to go (they had seen me coming from the other direction).  I tried to ascertain where i was on the map, and they confidently pointed me down a side path. In reality I am pretty sure the map, my words and motioning meant nothing to them, for they sent me packing in totally the wrong direction. I finally figured out where I was (I thought), and took a left down a dirt track to put me back on the right path. I caught up with a Jeep which was heading in the same direction. They pulled over to let me past and I double checked my position with the driver. Turns out I wasn’t where i thought i was, and what’s more he said be careful where you go because there are landmines about. Sounded like advice worth taking…

Danger of death: Landmines

I was aware that Serbia used its own currency, but I was surprised that Hungary still used the Forint after it joined the EU. I thought it would be plain sailing using Euros all the way down to until Turkey. What I didn’t know was that Serbia wasn’t a part of the EU. This meant that there were check points entering the country.

Finally I made it to the checkpoint in Udvar. The border guard  in the troll booth asked for my passport. ‘George Talan?’ Er, well actually mate it’s er… ‘Yes that’s me…’ He handed me back my passport and I moved on. 100 metres up the road there was a second passport control. I thought it was just a place where they carried out the searches on vehicles they decided to stop. So i attempted to plough on through weaving in and out of a few cars. I got as far as the barriers (i couldn’t see these from 15metres back), when someoneone shouts ‘OI!’ from behind. Ooops. 1st mistake. So i turn around and cycle back to where the border guards are sat. ‘Your passport please’, a beefcake Serb border guard demands. ‘George Talan?……’ Er, well actually mates it’s er…. ‘…Do you have anything to declare? Drugs?’ ‘Drugs? No, sadly not!’ Wrong answer. 2nd mistake. Man he did not like that one. ‘Sadly? Why sadly George? Please George, I need look in your bags’… Oh FFS here we go…

So he snoops through all my kit, turning pockets inside out, rummaging thoroughly with his with his giant pasty hands. He points to my tent. ‘What is that?’ That’s my Cheech & Chong joint mate. Here, smoke some… Might chill you out. ‘That? Oh that’s my tent’. I try to ease the tension with some light conversation. ‘ So I hear there are landmines here you have to be careful of?’ ‘Yes this is true. Where do you camp? Do you camp rough?’ ‘No no, just campsites me… And can you recommend me any tourist attractions near by?’ ‘ Hmmm. Yes there is big swamp nearby’. ‘A swamp?’ ‘Yes a swamp you know with marsh land, birds, and…’ Yes yes yes I know what a bloody swamp is. Do you know what a tourist attraction is?? He goes through my cooking equipment, electronics, and food bag. He is ultra suspicious of my tea bags (peppermint). He had a proper good nose at them. ‘That’s peppermint’, I tell him, just in case he thought it was some cannibis derivative. A big grin later ‘The English love tea, no?’ ‘Lolol tyeah! don’t they just!’ He asks me to get out my spices and salt n pepper pots. ‘Ok George thank you very much’. What? He didn’t even get his schnozz in the one thing that actually looks like contraband – the garlic salt. He hands me back my passport.

So 20 minutes, no drugs, and one bonecrushing handshake later I am free to leave. He turns around and heads back to the guard house…. ‘Ere mate! which way to the swamp??’

50 metres down the road… “Welcome to Croatia”

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2 Responses to Welcome to Croatia

  1. Richard Linck says:

    🙂 funny post this one, looking forward to the upcoming installments and more envious with every one. Safe journey George 🙂

  2. jen cardew says:

    Wow Talan you are doing so well. My geography isn’t great but you’ve gone a really long way! When I first heard you were doing this I thought you were mad – and still do, but a small part of me is a bit envious that you are seeing all these amazing places. As for the cycling I have to take my imaginary hat off to you! I literally couldn’t cycle to Downderry. Fact. I actually tried cycling in the early stages of pregnancy with Lexi and nearly died. And that was at ‘Center Parcs’ which is all flat. Amazing. Well done. Look forward to the next blog. Jen x

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