Thursday, August 9, 2012

A day of laughter, tears, frustration, and challenges that we somehow manage to end with smiles

Wednesday was the earliest we woke up of any of the days of the trip and were showered and packed up by a little after 7.  We had some coffee and used the wifi at the campground cafe for a few minutes before driving into Belgrade to do some sightseeing.  Parking was an adventure because of the complicated process of using your cellphone to pay for parking that I still don't quite understand, but the parking attendant spoke some German and we eventually paid for our parking and hit the city.  We walked around the city center and then headed up to the "castle" for some great views of Belgrade and taking pictures in "dangerous" places (see the pictures below). On our way back through the city we got ice cream (of course) and were back to our car just as our parking time was up. Leaving Belgrade brought about our first bit of misfortune for the day, as Mario was signaled to pull the car over by a couple of Serbian police officers.  They told him that he had been speeding and that he would need to return to Belgrade to pay a fine.  By this point we were already about 20 minutes outside of Belgrade and going back was not really on our agenda, so Mario asked if he could pay the fine immediately to which the guard responded, "How much do you want to pay?". What?! Since when is that how things work? Oh wait, I forgot, we're in Eastern Europe.  Long story short, Mario ends up paying a little over 20 euros and we're on our way again.  I, of course, could hardly believe it when Mario came back to the car and told me this story.  We had decided on a whim to drive through Romania into Hungary instead of just through Serbia to see another country and because the time difference wasn't much.  We crossed the boarder from Serbia and were having a nice little uneventful drive through the Romanian countryside when no more than 15 kilometers from the boarder we're pulled over again.  Mario assured me that he had only been going maybe 5 over and that it probably would be no problem.  The officers asked for the standard identification and car documents and Mario handed them over.  He was then asked to show the officers his vignette.  We had purchased vignettes in Austria and Slovenia, but Romania has no autobahn and we hadn't been informed of any vignette at the boarder.  Long story short, they weren't going to hear and we had to pay a heavy fine.  We were both extremely upset by this because it was so completely unfair.  Is every individual who crosses the boarder into Romania just supposed to know this fact? The real kicker is that on the boarder with Hungary there are half a dozen signs and multiple places to even buy your vignette right at the boarder station. Basically we were fined for crossing the boarder at the "wrong" place where they don't inform you of all the rules.  Neither one of us was at fault, but it was still the most frustrating and upsetting thing that happened during the trip and the police officers were far from kind or even polite. After several kilometers of tense, frustrated, upset silence Mario pulled off the road in Hungary and we both just let it all out.  The anger, tears, and "why?!?" had to be let out if we were to have any hope of enjoying the rest of trip.  By the time we got to our campsite in Hungary our moods had been lifted a bit and night views of Budapest were enough to put a smile on my face for at least a bit of the evening. I was physically and emotionally drained by the time we got back to camp and the ground might as well have been a feather-bed and our tent a five star hotel as I was sleeping hard in no time.   Today was one of those days that as a traveler you dread, but perhaps I've gotten my bad travel experience out of the way for a while.
Belgrade, Serbia

Pedestrian path in Belgrade

Modern art ;)

Getting ready to go up up up


Risking my life in Belgrade, Serbia ;)

After using the auto-timer on my camera to take this picture a Serbian guard approached us to tell us that walking their was forbidden.  After he learned that we were taking a photo, he said it was fine, as long as we were just taking a picture there.  hmmm, well, at least he wasn't upset...

Another view of Belgrade

Happy in Belgrade and a Serbian flag in the background

Boarder station

Goodbye Serbia

First views of Romania

Short stop in Hungary to get Hungarian currency and something to eat

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