My POD…the “Full Monty” ..? (ChriS in Transit: ? pre-tour)
Poem…the full monty =MyPOD?
just another facebook message from a distant fan?
"you are welcome to visit" she said..
4000 kms I rode
to find out about Branka, a RED?
such a friendly greeting
its clear to see
meeting here mates Ana and Mel 2
this is the place to be
lets form a base
before destiny takes me away
for REDS around the balkans
and celebrate together in may
a week in Transit from t’Cabin, win @ Buch, and finally …the "Full Monty(e)"
Sunday 21 Feb
about 10.30 am I finished loading the lats of my stuff on the "Zbus"…my overnight bag and blanket up front if I have a stop en route..a weird but contradictively familiar feeling of "change" as I start the long journey down, to Trento, Ljubljana, Bucharest (for Liverpools europa league game @ Uniceni) and then…to visit Branka K a RED who sent a very positive "welcome to visit" message…in these days of carelessness, I value very much anyone who shows enthusiasm…
Liverpool were playing the billionaiires "man citeh" but my chances of news or views were limited as it wasnt due to be screened, and as Tom wasnt around to have a farewell beer and Dix hadnt replied to my email about the team I may as well just get on with the "habit of leaving"..
Having already tanked locally I knew The bus could chew up a large part of the first section to Trento If I keep on a a steady spped around 100kms p/h on that first tank of diesel and sure enough as I drove down passing by AAchen and Koblenz , I had passed Stuutgart before I filled up again, (and a coffee /p-stop for me !)…but , of course, as I passed round Muenchen looking for the Innsbruck road, (having decided due to the continual cold wather to use the usually open Brenner pass) a very dirty unmarked car was hanging back inside me on the hard shoulder, it then followed and over took me and as it pulled in front I thought it looked like some crooks,
and yes it WAS the "polizei" a "follow me" sign in the back window, and we took an exit to parking area, in the dark, I thought "what again?"…
So, when the plainclothes agent and his student-looking female "colleague" I didnt waiy, and asked in a slightly aggressive but polite manner "so whats the problem" – "control" as he flashed an ID ( that, of course, anyone could make with a photoshop programme) he said I gave him my passport, So I continued "I suppose its because I am driving a dutch vehicle?" he sort of shrugged and nodded , the girl smiled, and he said "ok"..and I carried on.
Apart from our brains being conditiuoned by the system to fear uniforms, (which allows them to do ll the things that ordinary people would be convicted for, in the name of "givernment") IS there ANY JUSTIFICATION for U or I to stop and be "interrogated" even in a "polite" way by PLAIN-clothed people in UNmarked cars…?…and isn’t stopping people because they drive durch cars or look like muslims just more racial discrimination? "in the name of the law"
So I continued through the Brenner pass after midnight and the roads were still abit difficult, as Europes extrene long and cold winter has made travel more diffiicult (if that cuts down on the 6 billion tonnes of vehicle made pollution its a GOOD thing, how may more more "disasters" do U need, before we wake up to the need to change our ways?)…I started thinking about where I could park, to sleep a while before getting some noney for the rest of my (current) journey, the motorway parks were full so in fact I parked near the bank, oppositie a police station, and the "CIA" weer obviously sleeping to allow a "subversive" like me to be situated outside a major bank for such a long time…<smile>
(note Fuel e50 + Brenner/tolls to Trento e17.50)
Monday 22 Feb
After a cold night half-sleeping at the front of the bus, had snack and a cofffee whilst waitng for the bank to open, before moving on..however, snow and ice and a tiredness led me to consider an earlier than planned stop, as I entered the slovenian region of the "former Jugo"…and met my first "rip-off" of the journey..as I needed to "tank" again…a Fifteen Euro "vignette" for me to travel through the country (albeit for a weeks travel) …even after a mere hours drive from the italian border and only 5 / 6 hrs "on the road" was looking for somewhere to sleep..and the "kongo Hotel" just outside the capital city wsa on the way to Zagreb ..the e70 was way above my "budget" but it did include free drink, breakfast and internet for a nice room where I really could relax before making the rest of the larger and more strenuous drive through to Bucharest… Receptionist Nina was friendly enough and unfortunately my email/sms to nearby (FB friend) Tina (who I had hoped could accomodate me with a free cheap or bed ) were n’t answered..
But I was able to catch up on our game at M city (0-0) and messages (including phoning Dix whose reply arrived after I left ) and I kept in touch with Branka with a freecall to remind her of my progress and (as the brakes on the Bus seemed to "moan" ) sent out the following FB message ; "half way to Buch, the "Zbus" is complaining and so am I , 1500 kms since yesterday, so i am going to crash in Ljubljana…need a hot shower and a siesta.." and I joined the Mac-reds on FB…good timing?
(Notes ; Fuel e50 ; vignette e15 Hotel ; e70)
Tuesday 23 Feb..
from Ljubljana….to somewhere
09h Had a slow and full breakfast then on my way, Nina had advised that I could drive via Croatian / serbian routes Via Zagreb and Belgrade rather than my first plan of going via Budapest..on the map it looked more "direct" and maybe a shorter routes, but appearances CAN be mis-leading..
for the 3rd time (also near Aachen and in Trento) i noticed a police helicopter overhead..as I started off to Zagreb, the bus seemed ok, although a strange noise when I braked so I decided to take the pressure of the main brakes by using gears and handbrake to help slkow me whenever I could…the tolls were expensive too
I paid another e24 to go through Croatia and the Croatian border controls were friendly but wanted to see briefly inside..when I stopped on the motorway, to check oil and clean windows and have a p-stop after about 4 hrs the only other customer in the cafe was from Stuttgart, working there we talked a bit of footy as they played Barca that night. The Serbian controls were "heavy" after a snotty woman wanted to see everything but my horoscope for the day, 2 armed thugs in uniform not only looked inside but also turned out my bagfs etc, THEN ONLY 5 metres further on the customs official who hgad watched me be "turned out" ALSO chyecke my "documents" and ALSO wanted to see inside, my constant refereals to Liverpool at Bucharest and charity/football only had a slight deterence on their determination to delay me as much as possible..
I hadnt realised just how big Belgrade is and "hit" their rush hour , and it was a crisis drive, with little cars wizzing in and out , and large holes in the motoway, and NO signs for the motorway OUT of the ring road, having surviived that "experience" and used the gears a lot to help avoid hitting anyone,
I was contronted with a virtiual "decent like driving down a mountainside on coming out of the city, it was a NIGHTMARE, because NO-ONE was making any allowances , not least to the "tourist in the bus" I stopped at tne next m-way services to tank and re-check the route that Nina had printed out for me
the E70 m-way had disappeared but nice people in the shop showed me a DIFFERENT route (off the E75 on small country roads to Severin on the Roumanian border)
After tanking, a p-stop, cofffee and snack it ewas about 17h when I proceeded to follow the "notes" given to me , just names of towns on the way to the border…Pozarevac->V. Gradiste-> Milanavac->T.Severin,,,HOWEVER, most parts of this route had NO road sings or directions at all..at Gradiste I went lookign for a police station, as i was lost, it was funny, there a lot people waiting to be seen, and I just walked straight into the police office and they almost put their hands on their guns to shoot me, when I said "i am lost!" …Golabac was the next town, and knowing that helped me get back on the right road
even though just at Milanavac it was confsuing I flashed own a another car of local "bizzies" who were REALLY good; they took me to the next junction and set me on the road to the border…
Thankfully they told me that it was about 50kms to the border town of Severin, because there were NO signs (because SEVERIN is in Roumania!) so I had the instinct to stop at 50kms and noticed there was some sort of "industrial structure" to my left (nothing about bridge or any helpful signs) so I saw a roumanian truck and asked him, with hands and feet , which way to Bucharest, I had guessed correcty that turnign WAS the crossing…
It was about midnight and although on the road already 15hrs I wanted to "make it" to Bucharest that night..
(Notes; Tank e38 cash + map e4 cash + meal e 3.40 Serbian toll e11 + e2 = e13 cash)
Wed Feb 24
The Bemused Serbian border guards seemed to be over-whelmed by my approach and their boss came out as I was explaining about going to the game, and waved me on after only a brief look inside but at Severin – around midnight a whole team of police were there, but some had humour and Iwas joking with me about the score…one particularly wanted a "Liverpool souvenir" for the officel, so now there is a "Torres number 9" scarf proudly pinned up on their wall…(I am not sure if I would have had "trouble" had I not been generous, but as I often gave away REDS scarves and banners on my "missionary tours" and trips to games, it was no big deal..
The "Vignette" was cheaper (e6 for 3 days) mind U so were the roads, the Serbian roads werent much , but the Roumanina roads without lighting like the Serbian were like swiss cheese…my average speed was 55 k p/h so I ddint need much braking <smile>
I went through toans in the early hours which were quite busy, bars and hotels (Craiova?) on about 01h a police car stopped me, but as they were Roumanian got the "I am going to watch LIVERPOOL in Bucharest" message quickly..there were a lot of hills.on via the main E70/E574 via Slatina and I had a short nap just before the Pitesi-Bucharesti , and expected to get into the city before rushg hour, but they are another hour different…so there was already a lot of people travelling into the capital so it was a "hairy" last few kms, and therefore I stopped by a taxi and paid him (e10!!!) so I could be "escorted" to the "hello hotel" …where I parked and asit was still before 07h told the receptionist not to wake Graham (as we might be sharing a double room) I had some breakfast and (despite some "looks" from the waitress -as I probably looked "dishevelled" ) then she let me go up to his room, but Graham had suffered from his ailments and was anyway awake, although the room couldnt be shared, so my budget was getting "busted" – so far costing me something like e400 +…)
Rather than sleep in his room, or get my own if the waether hadnt been so bad, I would have slept in th back of the bus where I have a comfortable bed..but anyway, we went out for a walk a cofffees (14ron) and to see the "old town" where I could change some money (just e20 to start) and find a "spec" ..for when the other REDS arrive later..we got a metro, which seemed to be the best form of transport in that country..we checked out the Victory and University station and the area around..I got my own room (e31) & after Gra and I had had "warmed" up wiuth a few bevvies in the "Graham’s ocal" almost direectly across from the "gare du nord" metr0 (the language seems a mix of slavic, french and italian) ..Graham stayed in the bar whilst I had a much-needed Siestq but was back in the Hotel when I woke up, and we had a few more bevvies (20ron) and an "exchange of ideas" about LFC whilst waiting for his mates Andy (Stafford) Paul (Anglesey) and Dave (LP) to arrive ..I enjoyed a "specy kebap with chips take-away (4 ron) ..I had a great chat with Katarin the barman and got a ticket for him (e10) from one of the LFC fans in the pub..although lack of sleep caught up with me so I went back to hotel and bought an Intrenet coupon (10ron) so I could check messages and keep Branka informed..(note the 4hrd coupon i used uip if U disconnect during its use) ..
(Notes ; vignette e6 ; drinks e20 ; room/net e 34)
Hello hotel, Bucharest
Finally got a nights sleep before the Europe League match day Unirea Uniceni in the Steau Bucharest stadium , paid for another caught up with Katarin and the lads at "our local" ..Katarin helped me change up money (e30) at the nearby bank, and was going to help with other things before I told him to get off and sort out his intervew ..we stayed there in the pub all afternoon, sang a few songs and I had a "local dish" of Polenta and a mushroom sause , local wine was cheap enough and so I stayed on that for the day..Kat took us by metro and tram to the stadium and there was only 6 of us and a tram packed with some of the local / Unirea fans who shared their alchoholic drinks carried in cola bottles , (nose-thumbed at UEFA…)
There was no cover at the Stadium and our support was split into 2 sections at one end, I felt good about the game even though Unirea started well and an early goal, which seemed to wake our lads up and Masch smashed in a shot from outside the area, a sharp reaction from Babel after a goal-mouth scramble , so 1-2 at half-time (winning 3-1 on aggregate) was fairly comfortable but not the weather as rain poured down quietened our support. Some neat work by Benny and Stevie smacked in a low shot under their keeper and then it was certainly "game over". Understandably Graham (who was already suffereing from his ailments before the game) wanted to get off early, but I have never done so, I met a lad called Steve and we joined the packed tram back to the metro..and I caught up with the rest (although Kat had gone home, he had a souvenir scarf so i hope this is a memory he keeps, he s a good lad, and I wish him success at "Dwights").
(Notes e30 drinks/meal scarves for Kat & me , e31 room, )
Friday 27 Feb, leaving Bucharest….
Had a coffee with Graham and another Paul , a few short stories of travels then I checked out and a 2nd rip-off ..parking was e20 – may not seem much but was high for a "cheap" city…(and there was no mention of any charge when i checked in) ..rip-off number 3 came when I put in some fuel with only euros (30 in my pocket) …they only gave me 21 litres because "we have to take euros to the city to change into our currency"..The receptionist printed out the Route (eventually) when they found where Podgorica was, (or even how to get out of the city on to the m-way!!) but once I was back on the road, I looked again at the journey and didnt want another "turnout" or to go back via Belgrade on a Friday, I had warned Branka that I might get there that night, but then the routeplanner proposed 18hrs journey, I decided to return via the same border crossing at Severin, and fog had already slowed me down , even though it was daytime I was once again only managing an average 55 km p/h …
I got stopped AGAIN, by a road-side polce check, and found the return roas to severin fairly easily , I dd not want to risk having to pay in liocal currency so I asked a lad at the Tank station in Severin, if I could pay in Euros, so the clever young "businessman" said, "yes" then sold me snacks to make up the difference, (to e50) but at least he was freindly and several of the same border-criossing "team" were there..and one old joker asked me for my remaining (Unirea-LIVERPOOL) scarf…again…but again there was a small delay getting through and it was dark again as I tried to find the m-way connection to serbian roads ..I checked out a couple of motels, but either e30 was too dear for the stadard, or e50 to dear for the better room, so I found an m-way restaurant to have a meal, (goulash) which had free wi-fi so i could get a message to branka that she wouldnt be waiting up late and to be in Podgorica saturday ..It poured with rain like a waterfall…so I slept on the front seat of the bus.
(notes pkg e20; Fuel e30 / e50 ; meal e8)
Saturday 28 Feb. almost there?
I had 3/4 hrs sleep and left about 05 hrs ..driving slow and another small toll fee (e5) and then the roads seemed ok , because there were signs to the next 2 towns on my own chosen "route" …but then…the roads "disappeared" into the hills and the signs run out, the rain had stopped, but there were floods and detours …then I saw a man standing by the road, waiting to get a lift to work, ..I stopped to check directions, he spoke no english and I spoke no serbian – but I offered him a lift and he told me the way , with gestures, then I pointed to the LIVERPOOL scarf, he said then "Vidic"..I said "NO!" …he insisted "Vidic" ..I replied again "NO!" and again (thinking I didnt know the manc defender) "Vidic!" …I laughed and said " NO! ….TORRES! ..now get out" .which he did with a smile and hand shake at the next bus stop…,<smile>.
about 100 kms from the frontier with Montenegro, I had been on the road 4/5 hrs already and wanted to check my location and have a p-stop and double expresso to keep me alert as I was now starting to acend the mountain range..and it started to snow, few little traffic so I was able to drive accordingly without massive gear change, as it was obvious that the brakes were now suffering and although they worked I didn’t want to ruin them so that I would ahve to replace them before continuing..at the serbian export frontier, i was again checked and discussed briefly football with one of the friendly police (happy I was leaving?) he said something in serbian about my passport being wrongly stamped by the other controls..and I was quickly on my way, a really terrible stretch of about 500 metres of road before the Montenegran control..and a shock a guy comes up to me and starts asking me to buy a vignette for 80 euros ! (thats more expensive than Switzerland!!) so I asked him to get someone from the office who speaks english. and he confirmed it..80 euros so that I can drive on the roads..and they still have holes (although not as many as in Roumania)
Another inquest and check inside, and I am now starting the ascent through the Mountains of Montenegro, wow, I have sriven around the Swiss Alpine roads and Trentino dolomites but never such a long period of acute and difficult road, up and down, down and up up up, then as there was considerable traffic overtaking me , almost riding the gears and handbrake, a truck lost its load in front of me, but many drivers seemed angry with me, even though I more or less kept close to the speed limit going up and down…and then after a seemingly endlessly decending road…I was approaching the end …Podigorica…the FULL mont-y(e)negro!!
There were lot of cars buzzing around the city as I looked for a parking space in BRILLIANT sunshine..what a welcome !!! after 4 months of hard winter in the cabin, the warmth felt so good, and the sun was strong..!..a GOOD sign ..and a warm feeling too, especially as I quickly found the bookstore and ( RED supporter ) Branka..and another SUNNY welcome..
A short siesta and Branka, and her freinds ; Ana and Melina took me out to eat and drink , certainly made me feel even more welcome, & later that evening dancing in the pub I could feel all the winter cold, problems and the strain of the travel leaving me…and they filled me up the next morning with a brunch of "priganice"could this "full monty" be a "home from home" ???..MY POD? …<smile>
thank YOU ,"hvala" & "zivjeli" ladies!!! x
"NIKAD NEC’ES HODATI SAM" (Y.N.W.A.)
(notes ; coffees e2 ; vignette e80! ; meal/drinks e12)
ftf pre-tour .
N.B ; totals ; e683 – first week of pre-tour = 100% over budget!!! 😉 ….ooops !