Traveling through Croatia I had some really pleasant exchanges with people and everyone seemed really friendly. Other than that it was touch dull. On the up side this small detour would mean would mean I would be in Belgrade at the weekend. Kaboom.
There was a lot of poverty to be seen in Croatia with many houses were in a state of disrepair. This water tower was blasted in the war in ’91 so I was told:Bizarrely, a street lighting project or electricity which had been financed by the EU was announced to the local population on a giant sign.
After fitting a new drinks bottle holder (the TorTek one bust), I had run out of Croatian money and tried making my way to Serbia via the ferry in Vukovar. ‘No can do’, proclaimed the border guard, ‘locals only mate’. If have this much trouble crossing the Serbo-Croat border, I hate to think what the Tajiki-Chinese border will be like. So I continued, through necessity towards Ilok where there was a bridge back over the Danube. The roads were tighter than the A30 in Cornwall but it was early afternoon so traffic was relatively easy. Interesting to note that most drivers in Hungary and Croatia drive with lights on even in the middle of the day. I don’t know whether it is a legal requirement but it certainly helps see them coming in my wing mirror…
As I approached the Serbian border I was preparing myself for another lot of hassle from the border guards. On the Croatian side there was an immigration officer schmoozing with two female officers. A cigarette was smouldering on the side, smoke wafting out as one of the female officers handed me back my passport. No problems there. I cycled up and over the bridge. The Danube had really come to maturity at this point compared to its humble beginnings in Germany.
As the Serbian checkpoint drew near, a guard with a pistol strapped to his belt came into view. No messing around this time. I bent down to hand my passport to the officer in the booth. A giant Lurch of a Serb paused from reading his softcore men’s magazine, took my passport and bent his towering frame to check if I was the same person as the on the photo. ‘Nice photo, huh?’ He stamped my passport, handed it back to me and pulled a massive grin. ‘No not me, the magazine you big oaf!’. Hmmmm feels like there are good times to be had in this country….
In Backa Palanka I changed some money. Two Serbs were hanging out near the official exchange bureau. They smelt fresh blood as I approached. I fobbed them off by telling them I needed a receipt for my transaction. It didn’t feel like a good idea to whip out the iPod and do a quick currency conversion to see if they were giving me a good deal.
Later on that night it absolutely hammered it one with the most spectacular lightning storm yet. It was pretty much dark and I asked a trucker who was still out in his garden if he knew somewhere to stay. He offered me a space in his garden and I gratefully accepted. I ended up staying on a small sofa in his garage ‘cos it was raining so hard.
He invited me in for a drink and for a quick go on the internetz. His wife offered me to use their shower and again I gratefully accepted. I was about 4/5ths wet when I went to turn down the hot water knob and suddenly ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzDDDDDDDD!! The ******g thing electrocuted me! (Getting electrocuted when wet feels about 3times worse than a regular mains shock in case you wondered). So that was the end of that shower. The wife was very apologetic when I explained what had happened, and I retreated to the shed soon afterwards. In the distance but within earshot some kind of 24hour factory chugged and rumbled away all night long…