If you remember from a few weeks ago, a Balkan policeman had just woken me up and advised that I push off sharpish. Bandits were afoot there, apparently.
Had I lingered in Bulgaria, my prospects barely hung by a fraying thread. Diesel – and possibly my bottom – were potential nocturnal targets, so I’d fired up the truck and whirled off as though a ticking bomb were attached to my coattails.
That was Bulgaria. The general tenor of the place had felt unsafe; one doesn’t like all this talk of Mafia baddies. One seeks sweetness and light instead, as PG Wodehouse might have said. Well, what a marked contrast now.
These Greek fellows were positively fizzing: the warmest welcome I’ve ever received. ‘Go thither, Old Thing,’ they seemed to be saying.
‘Take unsuitable mountain passes till you’re blue in the face; tie yourself in knots in pedestrianised squares, by all means. Would you like some moussaka before you leave? How about souvlaki? I’m Stavros, by the way. Welcome to Greece.’
No trace of petulance over that chap Elgin doing a fast one with a few marbles. Despite being a serious international border, I felt I was in a Dad’s Army sketch. Would they call out, ‘Erm, I say,’ as a Bulgarian tank rolled through? How much nicer could they be?
‘Oh, do borrow my annual pass to the Acropolis,’ I expected one of them to say. ‘And my brother owns a strip club in Athens. No charge. Drink as much as you like. Bambi and Candice will show you a marvellous time – they go gooey as an egg yolk for a British accent. Do enjoy yourself.’
What they actually said I can’t remember. But they waved me through and, enveloped in diesel exhaust, went back to humming a twee snatch of melody. I had a little over 600km to go.
The next morning a bus pulled up, shattering the tranquility one enjoys with a morning cuppa. Social butterfly that I am, however, I charitably chatted to an elerly Israeli before he tripped off to change his colostomy bag in the loo.
He noticed my Slayer Crew T-shirt and placed a pair of headphones on my head. A few bars of heavy rock blasted out and he nodded encouragingly. Then he canted over sagely and whispered his 70-plus years of knowledge: ‘Come to Israel,’ he said. ‘Such boobs like in Israel you never find.’
You learn something every day, it seems. This news is unsubstantiated hyperbole, of course, but ought I to do some research? If Bambi and Candice aren’t up to scratch, Israel is but a ferry ride away from Athens…