Sunday, 26 September 2010

Zagreb, Belgrade, Nis

0845hrs Zagreb, Croatia - Dense morning rush hour traffic in heavy fog...  
We leave Zagreb behind us and head out onto a murky highway. After stopping at a dodgy fuel station, the engine starts to 'pink' under heavy load from poor fuel. Perhaps its time to break out the octane booster, or possibly retard the ignition just a fraction to help Jerry along?  In the end I decide to take it easy, burn off the dodgy fuel and stick to BP or Shell stations where possible from now on.

Jerry at a rural truck stop between Zagreb & Belgrade

The original Porsche bonnet latch doesn't like bumpy roads, or so it would seem. I've lost count of the number of times the bonnet has popped open and sat on the safety latch - Whilst it was never an issue motoring along the leafy lanes of Surrey, its definitely a problem over here!  I've tried all the usual fixes, but I'm pretty certain the latch itself is worn. No major problem though, I have a plan to make a rubber strap to secure it in place.

The fog lifts to mist, then clears to a hot, sunny day. We arrive in Belgrade at lunchtime - A big mistake, as we end up stuck in traffic for over an hour just trying to get into town. Worth it in the end though, its good place to stretch our legs and walk around the historical fortress in the heart of town. Amazing views on top of the fortress overlooking the river and the city.  Max takes a keen interest in the WW2 tank collection nearby..

German tanks, Belgrade fortress

After lunch and a spot of a sightseeing, we jump back into the car and head for the bright lights of Nis, Serbia...

Arriving in Nis, we stop for the night at the Ambassador Hotel. A towering concrete monstrosity planted in the very heart of town back in the late 60's - These days its a bad way. In the words of the Lonely Planet guide book..."The reception walls are covered with period photos of the famous acress Elizabeth Taylor, who had the misfortune of staying here in 1971"  It doesn't say much else about the place, but that's all you would need to know.

Its a long, long way up to 'luxury' room 1408 on the 14th floor, the main lift is out of service and has been for some time.  The doors are taped up, the floor level indicator lights smashed out.  We're directed over to the service lift, which creeks and groans its way up to the top floor.

As expected, our room proved to be a 70's eastern bloc masterpiece.. Tired red carpets, sky blue tiles falling from the walls, flea bitten hand towels and crumbling window frames.  Fortunately neither of us really care about the decor, we're just glad to have somewhere to sleep at such short notice. A major bonus is that the hotel offers secure parking, with a 24hr guard on the gate.  As we park the car and start to unpack our kit, we soon have a small crowd assembled around us, some asking questions, some taking pictures but mostly just staring- Jerry is as popular as ever.
Cleaning Serbian bugs from our windows before setting off from Nis

For some strange reason, the food choice in Nis came down to a choice of three items, and three items only..  1. Cake   2. Popcorn   3. Ice Cream. We walked for a mile or so trying to find somewhere to eat, but found nothing but street after street of cake shops and ice cream booths, peppered with popcorn peddlers.  Finally we found a Mcdonalds, and headed for home.   All was good until the locals started a rave in the town square at 1am...

For all its faults, the Ambassador had quite a bit of character. As I sit here typing this from my spotless, air conditioned room at the Istanbul Holiday Inn. Theres definitely a part of me that would rather be back in the Ambassador trying to fix the shower unit with my pocket knife!