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Published: March 8th 2011
I left Tom and Ilona’s house in the morning and started south.
Again came the weird feeling I get when going from a constant whirlwind of activity and attention to being so alone in a desolate place. After an hour or two I found myself in yet another small village. The road went into the village and, on the map, it looked like it went right out the other side but I couldn’t find it. I took every road bigger than a driveway that I could find but they all seemed to dead end out on a farm. It was a dreary rainy Sunday morning being in this village reminded me of one of those commercials on TV where everything is black and white except the product being sold is in bright colors. Everything in this area was gray, gray, gray except one small booth in the middle of a square that was all lit up and in bright colors. I went up to it to check it out and maybe buy a candy bar or something. I got my candy bar but most of the products in there were in two categories, cigarettes and porn magazines. How odd.
On the way south I went through a little bit of Croatia. In one small town was a huge modern looking supermarket. I thought I would bop on in and use the restroom and get some food for the next couple of days. I went up and down the aisles grabbing a snack or two, a little produce and some things to drink. All was well until I go to pay. The checker says something akin to “Blah blah blah blah”. Then she goes to the manager who comes over and with a bit more authority says “Blah blah blah blah blah”. Finally I figure out that this is a membership store like Costco and I cannot buy anything without a membership card. They meant it too, even after I gave them my sad puppy dog look they wouldn’t sell me anything and I walked away empty handed. At least I was able to use the bathroom as a non-member.
Another border crossing and I was in Bosnia. By now the apprehension of the crossings was pretty much gone, I felt like an old pro. I drove south for a couple of hours. The further I went south the
more the signs changed to Cyrillic words, the kind used in the Russian language. I couldn’t read anything in either alphabet so it didn’t really matter, but it just kind of seemed a little more exotic and spooky with the Cyrillic words around, especially since I happened to be listening to some international spy novel complete with torture and death which really stepped up my imagination.
I stopped at a hotel in the town of Zenica, about an hour from Sarajevo. I had a large meal in the fancy hotel restaurant with “American Chopper” on the TV in the background but with no sound which was too bad since I was kind of pining away for some good ol’ USA English. Up to the room, a few pages of a good book followed by a great nights sleep.
One of the few downsides of staying with families is that the days are usually so long and sometimes it just plumb wears me out. I made up for that by sleeping in a little. It felt good to be fully rested.
Then it was back on the road, taking a windy road through some beautiful mountains. With the
exception of a long walk way out in the country, it was a relatively uneventful day.
I had just a little bit of Bosnian money in my pocket. So I stopped at a store in the middle of nowhere, just before entering Croatia. This store was so poor looking with about two thirds of it empty. Somehow I miscalculated and ended up going to the cashier with a little more stuff than I had money for. I started to put something back but the cashier stopped me and motioned for me to keep everything and not worry about the money. This happened twice on this trip. Such generous people, I don’t think that would happen often in the US.
After the border, the road went down rather steeply with some great views of the city of Split, Croatia with the Adriatic Sea in the background. Dinner was some food from a supermarket (you didn’t have to be a member to shop at this one!) and then I got on an almost vacant toll freeway and zoomed north. It was super windy but I didn’t give it much thought until I came to the third or fourth toll booth
Stuck on the curb
I was lucky it was just a curb I hit.
where after a few tries the toll taker explained that the freeway was now closed due to the winds. No problem I thought, I’ll get a room and get going in the morning. The whole area was rather sparse but finally I found three or four hotels and guest houses. Oddly, they were all closed.
Finally I pulled into what looked like an abandoned apartment building parking lot in a hilly area and settled into the driver’s seat for the night. The wind was still fierce and the car kept shaking. At about 4:00am the car was shaking more than ever and suddenly there was a loud noise. Somehow in my sleep I had disengaged the parking brake and I coasted down a hill for about a hundred yards and high centered the car on a curb. It took a few minutes to get the car off the curb but there was no visible damage. I felt really lucky because if I had hit a wall or something it would have really done some damage and who knows how difficult it would have been to find help in the middle of nowhere in Croatia, especially since I had rented
the car in Frankfurt, 600 or 700 miles away.
I couldn’t get back to sleep after that, so I drove on, but that was OK because I saw some of the most picturesque tiny villages on the coast of the Adriatic Sea while the sun was just coming up.
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