Although we managed to deal with the initial money crisis on arriving in Croatia we have continued to have issues. We eventually found a money machine “on the road” on Sunday morning which meant we were solvent again but we had to take a punt on how much we needed. It is difficult when you don’t know what prices are like or how long you will be staying in the country. And, being accountants, we are mindful of the cost of each withdrawal and the way in which you lose out when converting what is left into the currency of the next country!
Arriving in the city of Osijek on Sunday evening, we saw there were several exchange bureaux so we decided that the remaining Hungarian money could be converted in the morning and so decided to splash out a bit on a decent hotel as we had been in the tent for the last week.
However, it turned out that we had been caught out by Public Holiday Syndrome (Antifascist Day in Croatia)! This prevented us changing the Hungarian money and when we got to Vukovar on Monday afternoon we found that the campsite indicated on the map was no more and the only accommodation available cost more than we had in kuna. So it was off to the monwy machine again. Grrr!
But that is enough of our troubles. Let’s get back to the usual stuff!
Not long after starting on Sunday morning we were confronted by a couple of arrows on the map meaning that climbing was required. The hill was not actually that steep but it was a nasty shock to the system after many miles of flatness.
As we moved away from the border there were more villages and people around. The guidebook told us that this was the “breadbasket” of Croatia and it certainly looked increasingly prosperous. There were many vineyards as well as other crops such as sunflowers, sweetcorn and wheat. Many of the houses looked more wealthy than the average in Slovakia and Hungary but every so often there was one that was falling down and overgrown. We speculated that these were abandoned by Serbs as a result of the civil war of the early 1990s because Serbia is very close.
We were on quiet country roads for most of the day but as we approached Osijek, the fourth largest city in the country, a cycle track beside the road appeared just as the traffic level increased. Very considerate!
Walking around the city we saw many ice cream parlours and cafes but only one restaurant. This was in the top hotel in town (not the one we were staying in – we weren’t that extravagant!) and had a very nice meal before Christine rushed off to the 6.30 service in the cathedral (of St Peter and St Paul to make a change!) The church was packed with many families and young people. She managed to grab one of the few remaining seats with many standing in the aisles.
After the abortive attempt to change money on Bank Holiday Monday we headed off, initially on a cycle track but then on a major road that led to the Serbian border. Perhaps because of the public holiday there wasn’t too much traffic but what there was was going fast as the road had long straight sections. As a result Christine persuaded Stephen to put his helmet on for the first time since Budapest.
As we neared the border our route turned south onto quieter roads and we caught our first glimpses of the Danube since the ferry crossing in Mohacs. As we entered Vukovar we reached a significant landmark on our journey as we went through the 3,000 km mark. We are now more than 2/3 of the way to the Black Sea and more than half way along the Danube.
The name “Vukovar” resonated with both of us as a name from the civil war of twenty years ago. The town is slowly recovering from the dreadful events with marked contrasts between brand new buildings of glass and bombed out remains and bullet marked houses.
All being well we will today leave Croatia for Serbia (and finally convert our remaining forints into whatever they use in Serbia!)