The Road to Sofia (from the CZ): Our First Official Euro Road Trip
Initially, we’d planned on spending some time in Prague to get the sense of how it- and we- would be in the van.
How to organize our lives, our pursuits and our very independent selves into such a small space.
Armando got a call from Sofia, and suddenly the time-frame was a few days of preparation, not weeks.
He had a great job filming with an Italian director about Valentino, and took it. Before we even understood the full import, we were packed up and driving from Brno to Slovakia for our first Euro road trip.
It went so quickly, and I think that we were both surprised at the ease we packed up and went. Our first official dinner in the van was in Buda, looking at Pest. Or maybe it was the other way around-? Ha. Either way, we were geared up to go to the Serbian border. Such an innocent idea, no?
‘We Take Corruption Seriously’
It was sitting in the line waiting to get through the Serbian border that we came up with a name for the van, ‘Mork.’ Yes, we were probably high on fumes from the other cars, but hey. The Morkmobile was dubbed and stuck. At the border, where there are prominent signs against corruption, we get pulled aside.
Apparently an Italian and an American in a Czech-plated car is reason to be pulled to the side.
After at least another 30 minutes, we’re informed we can drive through Serbia for the small fee of 250 Euros. Just for using their road.
Silly, bitter, non-EU Serbs… nope, no corruption there. We turned around, and opted for Romania instead. Which was good, and bad, for very different reasons.
Our introduction into Romania consisted of chaos. Three a.m., the border town swarming with people trying to sell, barter or just generally socialize.
Horns blaring everywhere, screaming, stray dogs. Hello Romania, holy crap. I think that whole Vlad Tepes thing is understandable, considering these people don’t sleep. Maybe during the day?
I fell asleep on the winding village backroads around 4 or 5 a.m., thankfully missing the stray that was hit and then hit in front of us. A long, unending mire of poorly-maintained roads later, we finally made it to the Danube. We needed the ferry crossing to get to Bulgaria.
Romania’s no less dodgy than Serbia, when it comes to intimidation tactics for extra cash.
The fella that had the gate opener (meaning he had a remote switch button, no more no less) required 10 Euros to open it.
Before we could set eyes on the barge carrying us across, which we also had to pay for. I love the quote from him: ‘I am the gate master. No gate, no go.’ Or something along those lines. Armando could tell you better than I.
Bulgaria and Montana
I knew of a connection between the two before arriving, but was still pretty giddy about seeing the familiar ‘Montana’ sign. Cyrillic is intimidating as hell.
We ended up picking up two hitch-hikers going from one village to another, and getting pulled over by the police. They were looking for some easy cash, and all they came up with was a crack in the windshield. Armando spoke English, they didn’t. End of story, too much hassle to give us a ticket.
I haven’t mentioned it, and I will expound at some later point, but my boy Armando is a thief/police magnet. I’ve never had so much contact with police. Ever.
Anyways, we drive hell-for-leather to the film studio NuBoyana where he has his first meeting. We made it in time. And we’re transported to old New York City, circa 1920s.
Sofia, we’d arrived.