Serbia & Croatia, IX.2013
Speeding cars just a meter from us, on the other side of the highway barrier. We’re walking for maybe 30 minutes, maybe more, no place to stand with the sign “Slovenia”. Highway goes straight out of Zagreb, so no other choice is left but stand straight on the city street or… Yeah. Another highway and another frustration about no place to hitch a ride. Resignation is rising, in this pace we won’t ever reach Spain.
It was the same three days before on the Beograd highway. We may follow the advice from Hitchwiki, but in the location given there’s also no place for speeding driver to be able to read the sign “Croatia”, left alone stopping and picking us up. Dani’s first happy with the new adventure, all this hitchhiking, but after the first our the enthusiasm wears off and we start walking towards the toll booths. We’re lucky that after few hundreds of meters a Serbian driver stops on the side of the road. With Dani’s Bulgarian Serbia will be no match for us!
First mistake: Thou shall not take short rides
Rushing enthusiasm and relief breaks the first commandment – the driver drops us off about 20 kilometers further, near toll booths for Ruma and Novi Sad. It is there that we get stuck for good, providing that the main traffic towards Croatia runs several kilometers and two highway crossings further…
Second mistake: Thou shall not drift off the chosen path
After few hours we abandon all hope for this direction and nearly in the same moment we catch a ride to Novi Sad. The driver hands out a map of Serbia and his mother (?) gives us a pack of biscuits. It all doesn’t seem so bad, after all…
Third mistake: Thou shall not wander through God-forgotten places, when you have 3000 kilometers to go
Bačka Palanka – our first accomodation just by the Croatian border. We land there late at night, find a decent place for the tent on the outskirts of some factory. Good enough to cross the Donau border next morning.
– Do you have the papers for this guitar? You must fill a form…
This is the first time I hear such thing. Paper for a guitar? On the border they are not searching our backpacks, but they want paper for the guitar? It’s not a state of art, I paid around 25 euro on an auction portal…. including the shipment. Dani waves at me a bag of groceries from afar. I play dumb and in the end I join her, leaving the border post behind. I don’t know Serbian, after all. The guitar doesn’t as well.
Today it’s similar with the hitchhiking. Ilok, Vinkovci – we’re stuck everywhere to the point of losing all hope. It turns out that there are more end-of-the-world’s than one, and some of them apparently are in the middle of the continent. In addition, in Županja there’s again the damned highway (we get back to the Beograd-Zagreb road).
Nonsense of our detour:
No place on the side of the road, crossings everywhere, signs with HITCHHIKING crossed out. The fear of getting fined rises, but there is no choice.
People are good, but the infrastructure…
– Hop in, I cannot stop here! – says the next driver. My attention is caught by a croatian special police badge, hanging freely from the dashboard. A trap for hitchhikers?
We change with Dani places on the backseat, now it’s my turn to drift off to sleep. I wake up, when we stop in front of a train station. The driver (I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t remember his name) gets out, and in few minutes he’s back with two train tickets. It turns out that he lives on Zagreb outskirts, but we can go from here to the center by the city train… His selfless kindness leaves us speechless, all the anger towards the road and the difficulties with hitching rides is gone in a sec.
And now we are back on the side of A3 going out of Zagreb. It has been around three hours now wasted – counting getting out of the city with a tram and a bus – and we still haven’t even waved at a single car. There’s no good spot… we turn back, thinking how expensive is taking a bus to Slovenia. Tired, frustrated and a bit sleepy we recall the last night in the tent in Zagreb’s park, about 10 minutes from city center.
One more place, just before the turn to A2 running north of Croatia.
– Let’s try. Just 15 minutes. – says Dani. – If not, we go back to the bus station.
I sit on the side of the road, writing SLO on the back of the Serbia map. Before I reached L Dani stops a car. We get in, trying croatian-english. Border, yes, to the border. Success!
This way we land in Krapina, just before the slovenian border, but in the Maribor direction… We’re further from Ljubljana, than we were in the morning. Dream of Spain is literally going away, tension is rising, additionally enforced by sense of responsibility for this whole wandering. No buses or trains are going in any direction, that will make progress for us. Last kunas were spent with hope that we won’t need this currency. No ATMs working and all that we want in this evening is drink a cold beer and think through our plan.
Finally – there’s a working ATM, a bar close to it, there’s even beer. We put down heavy backpacks, sit outside, open the bottles, when suddenly we hear:
– Good evening, I am Heinz Guderian, general of Panzergruppe.