Day 4: Croatia - Bosnia - Croatia
On the stereo:
- Skye - ex-Morcheeba lady crooner
- Mark Steel - stand-up comedy genius
- This Week in Tech podcast - more geeky goodness
- PC Pro podcast - geek levels reaching critical
- Solomon Burke - soul maestro
- Daft Punk - French, but sill good despite that
- Metallica - music to make you drive faster
A far more uneventful day I'm pleased to report, with a level of map-based navigation that would have put a smile on the most stone-hearted of scout leaders. This is more than can be said for my TomTom which is getting increasingly moronic the further it goes from the safe warm embrace of Blighty. It knows the Croatian roads are there and can show you them on a map as you drive down them along with speed limits and road numbers, but ask it to plan a route and every sodding journey has to start from Zagreb! That's like planning a route from Cardiff to London and it telling you to start in Newcastle.
This was its lame effort to find my hotel near Dubrovnik and when I planned the route above the TomTom was already showing me correctly where I was, which was about 50 minutes from Dubrovnik. Then I asked it to work for a living rather than just sitting there and the route above was its genius response - 7 hours. Starting from sodding Zagreb again. It's obsessed with Zagreb. I think it once had a torrid weekend affair in Zagreb with a lonely and abandoned Garmin SatNav unit and wants to retrace former glories. In the end I found my hotel using the tried and tested slingshot method - find the town and then just drive round in ever-increasing circles until you see your destination. It's not the most efficient of methods but it works better than a SatNav.
I stopped for fuel on a small road this morning and am getting slightly concerned that the bumbling oaf who appeared in Germany may be more ingrained than I would have liked. I filled the car up, went to pay and the young chappy behind the till was charm personified. He switched to English, beamed a big hello and chatted while I paid. I then trundled out of the shop, walked to the car which was right in front of his window and started to get in it. On the wrong side. As Mr Happy Croatian watched I had to close the door, shuffle round to the other side, mumbled a smiley 'oops, wrong side' to him and left. He looked most perplexed as to why I'd got in the wrong side of my own car and the smile had slipped a little more towards a sympathetic grimace!
Croatia south of Zadar is slightly different to the northern half and it does seem to be the slightly poorer relation and the landscape has got slightly rockier and harsher, with gnarly old olive trees dotted around for the first time today. There are more people selling a small amount of goods at the side of the roads, people sitting on the pavement holding cardboard 'Apartment' signs, more empty houses. The road still hugs the coast like the top half but is more pitted and broken. (So more like a British road then..). Split aside, which is industrial and full of concrete towers, it's still extremely attractive and seems popular with the yachting fraternity as there are marinas everywhere.
When planning the route I looked at what was needed when crossing the bit of Bosnia which separates the bottom chunk of Croatia from the rest of the country and there was a lot of advice about the rules for crossing. This covered needing to buy specific car insurance, papers needed at the border, rules for what you have to carry and that you have to have your car inspected on entry and a certificate of damage obtained which then has to be produced when you leave or they won't let you out, will impound the car and send you to work in a mine. In reality, if anyone is reading this blog after finding it in a search engine, my advice is: ignore it all. To drive cross this bit of Bosnia on the E65, you get to the border, wave your passport at a guard who has the superpower of being able to read it from 10 feet away while looking at his phone, then drive off. You pass the Bosnian town of Neum and approximately seven minutes after entering Bosnia you are back at the Croatian border again. Probably five minutes if you don't dawdle. As I had no insurance in Bosnia I dawdled and concentrated very hard on not hitting anything. Even though Bosnia is not in the EU I've had tighter checks on a ferry to Dublin.
It is also of note that I am now at the southern end of Croatia and have still only been stuck in one traffic jam and that was on the M25 on Sunday morning.
And just for Mr. Havers who keeps making slanderous accusations that my caravan is on the back of my car, here's another selfie. Definitely no caravan, honest. Although this coast would be great with a caravan as there are loads of sites where you put your caravan pretty much straight on the water's edge. But on the downside, you are still in a caravan.
Tomorrow (Thursday) is out of the EU again, through Montenegro and into Albania, then stopping for the night near Durres. I'm actually feeling very sorry for poor old Albania and am hoping the reality of it is very different to expectations. It's the one country which has always been met with predictions of being robbed, the car being nicked or I will end up getting shot and finish the trip home dead. I saw the Daily Bigot had a headline in the last day that if Albania joins the EU it's entire population is going to move to Luton or something so the Mail readers need to man the barricades to stop them nicking our existing immigrants' jobs. (I would like to make it clear that this headline popped up on a quick search for 'Albanian Road Charges' to see if there are any tolls, I didn't go looking for Daily Mail ranting deliberately!). Even my road map puts the boot in - at the front it has a section for each country of 'places of interest'. Germany, Austria, Croatia, Bosnia, Greece and so on all have some listed bit poor old Albania? Nothing. Not one entry! That can't be right, there must be something, and I shall see tomorrow...