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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Calais to Croatia

We arrived in Calais and set off towards Antwerp, where we were meeting up with our friends Paul and Emily, who kindly agreed to host us for the night. We were hungry, so stopped in Brugges to grab a bite to eat. We were hoping for moules et frites, but we hadn’t realized there was an hour time difference between England and Belgium, so were too late to get into any restaurants. We had some delicious kebab instead. I am sure we will have MANY more on this trip!

We finally arrived to Antwerp, and Emily and Paul welcomed to us their lovely apartment, which is now affectionately known as the rebel stronghold. It’s in a older heritage building, and really nicely renovated on the inside. Paul showed off some of the marvellous German engineered furniture, and we were both suitably impressed. Paul was also very excited to equip us with some essentials for our trip, but we convinced him we didn’t need the flashbang grenades he had on-hand. We chatted and headed to bed for the night. In the morning, Paul and Emily made us a lovely breakfast, and introduced us to a Dutch speciality – sprinkles on your toast!

After a whirlwind tour of Antwerp, we set off for our long drive to Prague, which was even longer because of all of the traffic we hit in Germany. We stopped in a random German town for lunch, but since it was Sunday, the only restaurant open was a Greek restaurant! Sebastien had kebab again (surprise!) and I had the most delicious moussaka in the world. Our waiter at the Greek restaurant was Greek-German and had actually studied English in Canada for a year, six months in Halifax and six months in RED DEER of all places.

We arrived at my friend Klara’s place in Prague quite late on Sunday night, but Klara and her puppy Mia were very excited to see us. Klara fed us some home-made and home-grown Czech pickled sausage and vegetables, and warmed us up with her pear flavoured slivovice. Gotta love the Czech Republic.
Nazdravi time with Klara

The next morning we slept in, which worked out because it was horrible and rainy in the morning, and by the time we got to the old town the sun had come out! Sebastien and I did the quick tourist walk through Prague – from the Museum, to the Old Town Square, across Charles Bridge and up to Prague Castle. We went up the south tower of the bell tower in the Prague Castle for an awesome view of Prague. It was so amazing to be back in Prague, every place reminded me of the great memories and friends that I made when I lived in the Czech Republic. I wish we had more time to enjoy it and that I could have shown Sebastien all the other places that I love in Prague, but we had to move on.

Old Town Square

Prague - Prague castle in the background

Charles Bridge

Our car with Mia and Klara

The Party Rock team arrives to Klenova Castle 
We met Klara for lunch and she took us out for some typical Czech fare. Sadly, we did not eat any smazeny syr while in the Czech Republic, which means we’ll have to come back again just to enjoy it!

On Monday afternoon we made our way to Klenova Castle for the “Czechout” party, the other launch party for the Mongol Rally. Teams camped out and partied in a castle, and luckily, it wasn’t raining! The theme of the party was “Carnival of the Macabre” so there were some pretty good costumes running around that night. I dressed as a carnival monkey and Sebastien was a lion tamer (he says monkey tamer, but it isn’t accurate). We were very popular because we brought along a Canadiana prop in the form of a shotski. Teams loved it! The Czechout party was great, but we made the mistake of camping near the tent where the rave that was going until 5am was happening. We knew we had a long drive ahead of us, so we didn’t stay out quite that late. Also, the Rally is like 80% dudes, so it makes for an interesting atmosphere when it comes to partying. But, atleast the line-up for the women’s bathroom is short.

Yesterday, we were planning to make it to Belgrade, but didn’t quite have it in us! We drove through Austria, Slovenia and Croatia and are currently about 6km from the Serbian border. Yesterday’s drive was really beautiful, through mountains and small hamlets. In Sebastien’s words “this looks kind of like Gatineau with better roads”. The roads (or “tarmac” as Ewan McGregor in a Long Way Round would say) were amazing. And the speed limits are 130km/h! So even though you feel like you are speeding, you’re still going much slower than the majority of the people on the road. As we drove south, the weather got warmer, the sun came out and all was good. We stopped for dinner in Zagreb and had a peek around the town. General consensus is that are barely any fat people in Croatia. Only had a minor driving incident when Sebastien accidentally turned into the tram lane instead of the car lane (follow the blue arrows in Europe!) and we had to jump a curb to get out of the way of an oncoming tram. Our little Perodua handled it just fine, and we figure it was good training for Mongolia.

We are now headed out to Belgrade (hoping to make it for lunch) and Sofia (maybe dinner?). We’ll try to get to Istanbul tomorrow to process our Turkmen visas and spend some time sightseeing.

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