21 May 2004
Will try to make this informative and reasonably quick….
First off apologies for not having been in contact sooner, have been unable to get the mobile to work with the computer – the people at VIP, the phone company, didn’t give me all the information I needed to be able to connect, but met a guy in a computer shop who helped me out. Coincidentally it turns out his Mum is selling her house, surprise, surprise…
Anyway, the journey down was reasonably uneventful – had to get a new car number plate made up in Dover as I have my bike on the back and it covers up the original to some extent. Don’t fancy getting a fine for it over here – Senad can vouch for the fact that when they fine you it’s a floating rate depending on how much you have on you…Anyway it transpires that you need the original V5 to get new plates made up and I was convinced that I only had a photocopy – (I’d taken some copies of various documents the day before as a precaution) and had visions of having to return to London – this was after the fact that I’d already been delayed twice by not having received my green card for the car and by having to go back to the dentist when my very expensive new crown fell out!... but fortunately I had the original with me. Of course this does mean that if the car gets stolen they get to keep it as they have the vehicle license..J Got to the ferry about 3 hours after I was due to board, to see that the next available boat was in about 4 hours... The very helpful girl at the ticket office told me if I hurried I might make the one that was just about to leave and just managed to squeeze on there and then….
Highlights of the journey, if you can call them that:-
1.The sheer organizational nous of the Germans – around Frankfurt they have a motorway, an airport and a high-speed train station all built around the same concourse just outside the town – none of this 10 year's waiting after the Eurostar starts to finish the last 70 miles…
2.The Autobahns are just as fast as ever -160kph seems to be about the average speed. But at least it means you have to spend less time there…J
3. Having an Indian meal in Regensburg, standing up at a kiosk surrounded by a bunch of Indian students chattering away in Hindustani or something
4. Crossing the Alps (?) in Austria and coming out into blazing sunshine
I made pretty good time through Germany and got to Zagreb on the Friday evening and met up with a friend of David’s, Elvis (great name!) who took me out to dinner and helped me to get set up with a Croatian sim card (I could even choose my own number so you will note the similarity with my UK number..) Managed to ask for directions around the city and only got lost 3 times! Elvis warned me it would take 10 hours to get down to Dubrovnik. Of course I scoffed at that but nonetheless resolved to leave early at 6am. Little did I know that the rest of Zagreb had had the same idea. The first 20 miles on the motorway were great… then we had to turn off onto the B roads, with everyone else’s granny! 3 very frustrating hours later I had to turn off the ‘main’ road and onto country roads. Fortunately there was no-one else on these and I got fully into Mikku Hannelainen mode, doing a ton or so down pretty straight open roads which had practically nothing else on tem.
By this time I was nearing a place called Knin, where there was heavy fighting and the evidence was all around – deserted villages, shell-pocked homes and bugger all else on the roads. I stopped in Knin to refuel (both me and the car) – I was very tempted by the spit-roast pig and lamb they had going (whole ones of course) but it was a bit early in the week for it…. After Knin I decided to take the coast road. Big mistake if you’re in a hurry (yes I know I’m here for 4 months but I had to get down to Dubrovnik by the evening). If you’re not rushed it’s a very scenic drive in parts. But getting stuck behind a convoy of German camper vans has never been my idea of fun. As we got into the province of Dubrovnik, it got progressively less developed and built up. The water is a fantastic turquoise colour and the backdrop of the hills falling into the sea is very scenic. At last the Franjo Tudman bridge was in sight and I was in Dubrovnik. By now the sun was pretty hot and I was feeling a bit more chipper – 4 months of sun and sea ahead of me.
I rang my teacher, Millanka, and we met up in town and she took me direct to the family I’m staying with. There’s Nono and Nona, their son Dragan, their daughter Millena and her husband Asim and their four year old, Leo. I have my own room and if I wanted it my own kitchen. I prefer to have my meals with the family though, as I get to listen to their conversations (ok I get to hear them yabbering away but I can pick up the odd word here and there). I’ve been having 2 hours of lessons everyday and I cycle to Millanka’s house, about 10kms each way so am burning off my dinners and making good use of the bike. Otherwise though I have been very sedentary, and not really done any exercise, so am begining to turn into a bit of a slob.
One of my reasons for coming down to Dubrovnik first was that a friend of mine from HSBC, Senad, and his wife were here at the same time. We met up for drinks in the evening and then we went off to one of the islands, Korcula, together. Of course, it being me, I had to lose my wallet on Korcula with about £100 and all 3 of my credit and debit cards ( sound familiar??). After Alison had calmed down she managed to cancel them for me and organise some replacements and Senad lent me some money to tide me over. Not the greatest start to my adventure, but hopefully I will learn from it…( the lesson being don’t tell your wife you’re a complete plonker….!)
Anyway, have spent the last few afternoons looking at flats and houses and marvelling at the gall of the locals – how on earth they think they can charge the astronomical prices they are doing I really do not know…Too many rich Yanks buying around here I suspect. I think the house hunting may have to go on hold till I get further north.
Anyway I need to finish my homework for tomorrow so will end now. Further updates to follow shortly now that I am back in the real world with email.
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