Bulgaria to Serbia (and then onto Croatia)

Got up at 6:30am to get ready so we could get to the car before 7:30am when the parking area became a no-parking zone and the clampers were due. Cleaned my teeth, picked up the shower which had hit me in the face when it fell off the wall.

We got close to the border very quickly and went to re-fuel as we figured that petrol might be cheaper in Bulgaria than in Serbia. Jane filled the car and paid the attendant whilst I went to the toilet. I got back to the car and we were looking at the map when a man banged on the window and said we hadn't paid. Jane said she'd go and sort it and I stayed to keep an eye on the car and its contents. Voices were raised, fists were slammed on tables, threats were made and that was just Jane. I stayed in the car. Jane came back. Apparently, it was sorted and we should probably leave now.

We got to the border about ten minutes later and despite thinking it might be a slow one, we were out of the Romanian one and through the Serbian one in fifteen minutes or so. There were notices at both saying that if we had any suggestions about how they could improve them then we could send an email. We didn't. We left and headed into the, apparent, badlands of Serbia.

The drive towards Belgrade wasn't too bad. The road users were pretty considerate but then again it was a dual carriage way and had a nice fast speed limit.

As with Romania, Serbia isn't particularly well mapped for GPS. We'd stopped at a garage with WIFI access and had found out the lat/long coordinates for the hotel and plugged those into the GPS system. By around 1pm (taking into account we'd moved back a timezone) we arrived in Belgrade. The roads were full of slow moving traffic due to a seemingly endless array of roadworks. Every time we needed to pull off for the rough area of where the hotel should be it seemed the sliproad was blocked off. We spent an hour driving round in a loop to get back to where we'd started, and then - for the hell of it - did it all again. We came off and drove some backroads of dodgy looking estates, covered in graffiti and roaming gangs of ner-do-wells *

After a further hour of the TomTom telling us we were only five minutes away, but every person we'd asked saying they'd not heard of the hotel we figured we'd cut our losses and leave Serbia behind. Perhaps it's great, perhaps we didn't see its good side but out of every country I've been to this is the one I'd never want to return to.

It appeared that TomTom wanted to stay as it was determined to continually re-route us back to Nis in Serbia, which was back from where we'd come. We did poke the TomTom at one point which made it issue but a single word; "Leave". TomTom was back on board in spirit, if not in directional ability. Jane then took over from TomTom.

We were booked into what looked like being a nice hotel for the following night so we thought we'd see if we could book a second night and head for there. Jane suggested we get through the Serbian border first (we thought there may be an issue with our entry stamps and might encounter some problems). Turned out that leaving Serbia was as easy as getting in. I suppose, having seen the place, that it's only fair that make it as easy as humanly possible to get out.

We then drove and drove. Finally after a few phone calls to the hotel to find out exactly where it was and a total of fourteen hours solid driving we arrived at the hotel. A lovely building by a vineyard. Barrels outside, grape heavy vines to the left and thousands of bottles ready for filling. It turned out to be the right decision. After being shown to our room and the night porter bringing us some cheese and tomato sandwiches we slept soundly.

* Well, perhaps there were nice, but we were knackered.