Archive for the ‘Czech Republic’ Category

Racking Up Countries In Eastern Europe… if you can get across the borders.

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Country count... Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Austria

As you may know I have this competition with my family on who can visit the most countries.  I’ve clearly passed all of them up a while ago but it’s still an obsession and there is no easier place to rack up a significant number of countries than eastern europe.  We racked up 9 countries in less than a week.  Two of the most entertaining border crossings had to be Bosnia and Herzegovina and Romania.

Entering Bosnia and Herzegovina

The crossing in Bosnia and Herzegovina wasn’t that difficult but it was very silly that the sole reason of our visit was to rack up the country.  We were traveling from Bled, Slovenia to Novi Sad, Serbia.  It’s only about a 6 hour drive but we took about 10 or so with a stop for lunch in Zagreb, Croatia and a brief snack stop and stroll at some restaurant/farm just across the border.

The main difficulty is to find an efficient route that didn’t take us to far off track.  Google maps shows the roads in Bosnia and Herzegovina but can’t give you any driving directions.  The GPS in our car had only major highways of which there were only 3 in the entire country.  So, we had to guess that a border crossing would be near a big city so we headed for Slavonski Brod.  The border crossing here was quick and smooth.  The GPS lady was freaking out telling me to do a u turn because I wasn’t on a road.  Once I figured how to shut her up we headed in an easternly direction to find a different way out of Bosnia and Herzegovina and back into Croatia in order to continue on to Serbia.

We eventually made it into Serbia for a quick visit to Novi Sad (more on that later).  Then came a rather comical series of events trying to get into Romania.  Once again, our car’s GPS was no help and google thought it could route me into Romania but it turns out google was wrong.  Very, very wrong!!

Attempting to Enter Romania

The plan was to enter Romania near Kikinda then head north through the country and eventually into Budapest, Hungary.  According to google it would only be about an hour out of the way vs heading straight to Budapest.  It was perfect.  A scenic route through a new country.  The problem was trying to find an open border crossing.

Here is our first attempt to cross the border into Romania from Serbia.

1st attempt to get into Romania

We were very surprised.  Google maps said we could get across the border here but this didn’t look promising.  I couldn’t read the sign but I was pretty sure we weren’t allowed to cross the border here.  I had google maps downloaded to my ipad so I reviewed the map and saw another border crossing just north of our location.

2nd attempt to cross the border into Romania.  At least we can see the sign that says “Republic or Serbia”.  So close yet so far.  Denied again.

2nd attempt to get into Romania

There was one more border crossing just north of our location.  This one had to work.

3rd attempt to get into Romania.  No signs just a dirt road.  We went up the road a bit but the weeds started getting longer and the dirt road more impassable.  There was no way this was an open border crossing.  Could we have gotten into Romina this way?  Maybe.  Would we have been arrested as illegal immigrants.  Maybe.  Anyway, we were denied again.

3rd attempt to get in Romania

By now I was getting kinda pissed.  I’m a seasoned traveller and I wasn’t going to be denied entry into a country.  I was on a mission.  Miki sensed my frustration (probably because of my many expletives directed toward google maps) so she got out a map.  Not one of the many electronic maps I had but a paper one.  You know, the old school kind that you have to fold out.  As she’s looking over the map she asks me what I think these little white flags on the maps were.  I look at the map key and it said “border crossings”.

Yep.  We had a map in our car the whole time that labelled all the border crossings for the whole of Europe.  Not surprisingly, our attempted border crossings didn’t have a little white flag.  However, there was one about 30km south of our first attempt to cross into Romania.  The problem now is we were very far away from that border crossing and we didn’t have time to double back.  I temporarily admitted defeat and we headed to Budapest, Hungary.

As we were driving across the Serbia/Hungary border I said I’m not giving up.  Even if we just cross the border into Romania and turn around we are going to do it.  We looked at the paper map and saw the Hungary/Romania border crossing wasn’t that far out of the way.  Off we went.

Hungary/Romania border crossing

Eureka!!!  We finally crossed the border into Romania.  It was pretty quick process and we went into the closest town and find a nice little restaurant for dinner.  At least we did something in Romania rather than just turning around as soon as we entered.  After feeling very satisfied with our accomplishment and a nice dinner we continued our journey to Budapest, Hungary.