Sofia – Leuven, the return trip

Continuing the story from the previous post, I will now describe the less eventful but still interesting trip back from Sofia to Leuven.

I set out on Sunday April 11 at 8:30 in the morning and managed to get to the Bulgarian-Serbian border without much happening. Like any Sunday, the road was not packed with cars and I was welcomed by the border police with a joking laugh about my new passport and that I must have done something illegal to have managed to get it (read the story on my passport for details).

Once in Serbia, the fun started (like it always does). The road from the border to the city of Nis is exactly that – a road. Two lanes, speed limit of 60 kmph and some horse-driven traffic. I remember that I was looking for a place to stop because I needed to go to the toilet really badly. On a curve with a hill on one side and a ravine on the other, I suddenly see a truck going about 100 kmph around the bend. He hit the breaks when he saw me and then I saw his trailer start to slide in my direction. Hitting the accelerator as hard as possible, I escaped (and managed not to piss my pants in the process).

About 20 km down the road, I am still looking for a place to use the toilet, when I drive past a TIR parking. There was a van in front of me and the thought of stopping at the parking just flashed through my head as I saw the van hit the breaks and go from 60 to 0 in 3 seconds. I did the same, stopping inches from it. The reason was an idiot with a truck who was leisurely exiting the TIR parking from the wrong side, which was around a small bend and we couldnt see him. I didn’t manage to pee my pants this time either.

Further on, I have to say that driving through Belgrade is something everyone should do at least once in their lifetime (I’ve done it 3 times now). But the next event which is worth mentioning is when I was searched by the Hungarian border guards for drugs. For 45 minutes I was asked to eat some of my food, smoke a cigarette, turn on my laptop and other stupid things just to that they could see that I was not hiding any drugs. When I asked why they stopped me, the answer was that when I had gotten out of the car to show my documents, I was shaking. Well, if you had been driving for 8 hours without food, you wouldn’t be able to stand on your feet either!

The best idea I had on this trip was to stop 20km before Budapest and eat at a nice pick-nick spot. Little did I know that I would cherish this hour of relaxation because of the heavy rain and thick fog which I encountered in Austria, which made me so tired that I stopped to sleep in the city of Passau, Germany.

The next day did not bring anything different. Rain on the German highway is very different than normal rain. Cars and trucks going as fast as they can pick up all the water from the road and throw it on your windshield, making it impossible to see what’s going on. Yet, the most interesting event of the day was the German customs officers who decided to search me for drugs on a gas station near Wurzburg (it’s in northern Bavaria). Of course, they did not find anything (again).

The other fascinating thing that happened that day was that after having driven in the rain for 8 hours, I was welcomed back into the land of Belgium by sunshine in my face. It was as if the weather knew where the border was. Driving those last kilometers from Liege to Leuven was probably the hardest thing I had had to do all day. Once I parked the car in front of my building, I was so tired and disoriented that I didn’t know what to do. A shower and hot meal later, I finally felt like I was home.

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