Instead of taking the qiuckest route to Sofia I decided to make it more difficult and take the south strech beween Dubrovnik to Sofia touching the ground of six countries in total, because I figure wrongly it would be shorter and quicker. Bosnia-Herzegovina is quickly crossed, but imediatly it is clear that I am entering a different sphere. The border town is still half destroyed, from the war, I guess, and half reconstructed.
The first route to Niksic in Montenegro was not that hard, just wonderful to ride, except the road condidtions needed more attention then I was used to.
Of cause there was a huge celebration in the evening in the hotel I took in Niksic, but the noise could not hurt anymore after an almost sleepless night before, a whole day of riding and two local beers. And all that with the remains of a feverish infection I had in Croatia, which knocked me out for 3 days before I got to Dubrovnik.
The machines of a group of Italian bikers gave my bike company during the night in the yard of the hotel. At least it was not alone that night.
These groups of riders ... . It is so hard to talk with even just one of them, who finally sat down.
The view from my room shows that there lives a big family with their garden and animals.
Should you believe Google Maps?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
While trying to figure out the shortest route without a proper map of the region, the google system showed me long ways around. I should have been alerted by the fact that the travel time stood the same for both ways, even one of the routes had much more kilometers. What I figured out as the most direct way, turned out to be the dream of motorcycling with serpentines and always changing landscapes, but it took me the whole day to get from Niksic to Rozaje, which has the beeline, the shortes way through the air, of just 200 kilometers. Some roads were so small, curvy and in such bad shape that usually I could not get higher then the second gear, just a few streches up in the third with a maximum of 50 kilometers per hour.
Budo and his Family
The good thing is, that there is always something unexpected appearing, like landscapes and meetings, like the meeting with Budo. Him and his family were on the move with all their goods and cows to another spot for the summer, when they stopped because a car in front of them had enough of the heat and boiled up the cooler. Nothing dramatically, but a good reason to stop have a drink and chat with each other.
So did I, as I always do, if someone is in trouble on the road.
Me and the bike must have been exotic for all of them, but understood my intention to help if necessary. The next thing to follow was the bottle of some self-destilled hard liquor. It would be good for the health, the throat and the lungs, and I understood it would be impolight not to take a sip from the bottle which was going around. After the exchange of cigarettes, some more schnaps and the explanation of the geographical aspect of my tour, not to forget these pictures taken by everybody, the adresses are exchanged and I may not leave the current station without printing and sending the photos to them.
My intention was to take a more south border crossing then the one between Rozaje and Pec, but it is still closed due to the war, which happened in the region from 1998 to 1999. Noone seems to talk about it, at least not with me, but I sense it in all conversations. Just asking the way from one country to another, when you dont get around mentioning the name of the neighbour country, opens something unresolved.
Sensitised I ride closer to the border. The weather changes again to light rain the higher I get and the closer I get to Kosovo. The border lines of these countries seem all to run on ridge of mountain chains. Between those the countries lie.
Signs which indicate the directions and places are missing, or one of the two languages the sign is is written in, is painted over by somone from the other side. This and the fact that I am never sure if I get the right answer for the way intensifies my disorintation, the constant sensation of being lost, which is enjoyable sometimes, but not in my state.
The local drug mafia assures my security
Too late, too tired to get on, I search for a place for the night. One sign attracts my attention: camping-rooms-restaurant and everything else you can put on two sqare meters.
A little chaotic the garden, but the owner welcomes me in three languages and the room is only ten euro. Too tired to think about anything else, I stay. They were just building a wooden floor in the house, and after I mentioned that I did that kind of work for a while they call me the expert and wished me to be there earlier.
After parking the bike, unloading the luggage I start to realize how bizarre the whole place is. And how drunk everybody seems to be already in the afternoon. And they keep drinking beer. I join in with one and I get a soup offered for free. Everybody is nice and interested where I am from, where I go and all the questions which usualy come up when meeting new people.
The place is run by the "Professor" and his brother. Both talk a little bit of German and they are highly educated. The "Professor", how he is called by everybody respectfully, is the teacher of Serbo-Croatian languae in the local gymnasium. Restless he brings new beer, empties ashtrades, cleans up the mess and organizes the reinstallation of the renovated room. The helpers are all a little too drunk by now to fit the big tables back thorugh the small door, but with the help of everybody all works out fine.
Two young guys keep talking to me and slowly I understand that they are not only drunk, but their easyness towards me is also of sexual interest. It takes them quite a while to understand that my tolerance is no invitation.
Meanwhile more people come, some men and woman. All are partying, drinking and getting close to each other. Well, they are probably friends, and I have seen worse social behaviour and drug abuse in many parties with all kind of punks in the 80s.
One lady with an enormous big belly gets introduced to me and she does it with a gesture wheather I might be interested. She would be just 28, how old I would be, 50, I reply truthfully. Her age is at least ten more years. However, I am not at all interested in anything like that. I start to wonder more and more if I picked the right place to stay, but the "Professor" and his brother seem to keep it all together and under controle.
The two gay boys leave, also I had enough of them and the beer, but I get invited to another table for more drinks. The two who seem to be straight, one is a mechanic for cars, he says and the other without job. Since I dont speak their language and they dont speak german or english, the converastion is very limited and after a while I decide to do computer-work in my room. In fact I was too knocked out by the sickness, the travel and the beer to work efficiently.
Getting food seems to be the answer.
The mechanic and his jobless friend are still there and have company now by someone else. I bring beer for everybody and say that this round is on me. The new guy sits directly opposite of me. A man with his fist on the table when he speaks, like the villain, famously played by Lee Marvin in "The man who shot Liberty Valance". Even he faces are alike, energetic, hard and a bit stressed. The outstanding detail of the fist is that the knockles of the index-finger and the middle-finger are on the table like a devils-claw. Sometimes it wants to change into rolling further down to the next joint of the fist, a boxer would punch with. The instability between both positions make the gesture and the owner of that fist even more erratic, half animal half man.
He is introduced to me as the "Pablo Escobar" of the region. He was told about me and my tour already. His first words to me are: "I assure you security here!" It takes me a little while and more explanations. The professor and his brother enlighten that "Escobar" is the chef of the region, boss of everything and rich like noone else there. In his own words, he traffics drugs coming from Turky through his terrain to the further EU countries like Germany, where his brother distributes it from Hannover. Apperently it seems to be easy to bribe the customs and the drivers, who not even necessarily know about their fright.
If I would like some heroine or cocaine, all best quality, of cause. - No thanks! I did my experiments when I was young and stupid enough to try everything what was possible to get. Beer is evolfine enough. But I am smart enough by now to shake his hand and thank him for his hospitallity in his territory.
The openness to talk about his buisness combines with the clink of our beer bottles and the deep look into each others eyes. It doesnt surprise me or seems to be strange. It is HIS territory. The others say he is THE CHEF in the region. By his own words he just shoots at the police when they interfere, what they of cause dont do. To show my knowledge in the buisness, I add that the police is probably also on their pay-bill. Some nod the head.
Ok, by now I understand completly where I landed, I am not naive. Still the gang thinks they have to make clear to me who they are. They are testing me if they can impress me with anything and make me insecure. - No chance, I have been with weired guys before. So I am open and show no fear. If I would be nervous, one asks. First I dont even understand his question, think about illness, but answer with a harsh laughing if he wants to steel my bike, and if he is the person I should be scared of. For a moment I am the only one who laughs ... .
Well a little worried I am, because while drinking more beer and offering each other more cigarettes, they are talking to each other secretly, knowing that I dont understand their language. Just thinking for me, that I know how to jump into the face of a person who is even much bigger then me, and that I would do it in no time, seems to enter also their minds. My furious explosive reactions when I am pressed didnt happen often, but saved me always from robbery, so far. A few years of serious Kung Fu training are present when needed and come out by itself without my thinking.
But what scares the opponent the most is the scream. It is not only the kind of noise, which comes out of me, it is the energy, which is transported by that. It seems to hit the center of the agressor when it is coming in the right moment, right before he starts his attack. That is the voulnerable moment he has to overcome. And that is the game to play already before any attempt, to make them aware, that you are alert and sense their intentions.
Just here, it is a whole gang around me, and the previous homosexual approach by the other guys, whoare back by now, doesnt make me really one hundred percent comfortable.
But I never thougt any of this would be necessary, it seemed that the were playing with me, and, there is still the professor and his brother for the case things go wrong. Still, you never know with drunk guys who might be on other drugs as well.
On my remark that this is a good place where different people mix up, the gang speaks in high respect of the professor and the brother. And indeed everybody seems to listen when they translate my answers why I travel alone and what my profession is. Those questions came from another member of the gang who joined. Big and almost bold he sits next to the chef doing some business. Sceptically he tries to figure me out, and even the chef tries to surprise me with a "You are an agent!", underlined with a harsh laughing, which is working for both cases, for the joke and for the case he would have caught me. - No, nothing can gull me. I take it all with a laugh and more clinking of the beer-bottles and the obligatory deep look into each others eyes.
It is a strange friendship which developes here, which tries to bridge even the impossible:
It is tested hard, when the chef and the new guy affirm their adoration for Adolf Hitler. Unfortunatly this is one reason, why Germans are appreciated by some parts of our population.
The brother of the professor has to explain again some historical facts here and before I can start to give my comment he stops me. "Slowly, slowly - please!" I only can add that everything was "kaputt" after the war and that Hitler did stupid strategic mistakes which indicate that he wanted the "Untergang" from the beginning on. I dont even get that far to say more about the uselessness of war in general and so on and so on and let the brother do the education. Little by little.
During all that they are very active. Several phones are used by the boss and messages are send by everybody. The chef gives his orders and flirts with a girl on the phone while letting us all hear it. Whispering with each other. Are they still figuring out how to get my bike?
The members of the gang are send around to play more folk-music of the region which the chef likes, change the parking position of a car which blocks another, they disappear and come back, change a few words, doing their business. All jump up immediately when the chef orders them. All are on his pay-bill or just do it to show him submissivness. Only the professor, who is tired from all the restless work in his camp went to bed already, his brother and me can talk with him on something like eyelevel. Of cause with the needed respect for him, but he allows us to have our own mind, which the others seem not to dare. He accepts that we have some territory in our head which isnt dangerous to him and that he can show his gang that he deals with even the foreignors, intellectuals and everybody of them wants to be his friend. And he needs it. It makes him less alone, I guess.
Well, after a few packs of cigarettes and too much beer, everybody is tired and we say good bye in difference and careful respect. Thats all I could do here. When they leave they let the brother translate, that "That German is allright." - Even he doesnt like Hitler. "If he would stay longer he would become one of us." - No thanks, I think. Some friends of mine were dying through drugs and I have seen 15 year old girl,s no more then a human wreck, who are prostituting themselves for a fix. No thanks, I doubt that we can become real friends.
The last thing I see from that drug-king is his lifted thumb to me. Even trough the distance I look deep into his eyes again, challenging with a but, and lift slowly the thumb.
What a strange place this is. What comes together there? What work do the professor and his brother do there? Why do they all come there? How did I get there?
Sorry, that I can not show you pictures of that evening. They would not have liked it to be on this web page.
Surprisingly I dont have a headache next morning, just a little shaky. Even the motorcycle is still there. The professor and the brother are up already, offer coffee and ask my condition. Good people.
We excahange the obligatory addresses and I ask them to take good care of their
Finally on my way to the border to Kosovo I cross the real town of Rozaje. Much bigger then expected. The Croatian map I have from the region seems to have no idea of the size of places in the other countries, or they dont want to know. Every tenth building seems to be a hotel. Huge, brand new and somewhat chic palasts are in between, from which I can not suggest their function. It looks like lots of money and things are going through here.
The chef is maybe just one of several, definitely he looked more then a small local blowhard drug dealer surrounded by his gang. Maybe not the real big boss himself, they usually stay invisible and appear neither in Istanbul, nor on the transit, and also not in the final destination, not even in the place of production one can find them.
But "my" chef is really close to Lee Marvin in "The Man who shot Liberty Valance", just that I did not see him doing these mean things to others like the villain in the film. But he can, and is someone who needs to control as much as he can get. If you can stand old Western it is worth to see. Just in real life, there are no James Steward and John Wayne teaming up to put an end to the wrongdoing. Maybe the Professor and his Brother do in their own way, and maybe even I added a little bit my part, making them aware that someone who doesnt like Hitler is allright. Hope ...
Some pictures taken the next day. Looks pieceful and harmless, no?