Romania fizzles out after Craiova. Faced with a choice of routes to reach Bulgaria – drive over the new Calafat bridge or take an open-decked ferry from Bechet to Oryahov – I chose the latter. It sounded jollier; in half a shake of a duck’s tail, I veered south rather than southwest.
‘DKV card?’ I asked, showing one of the accepted forms of payment for trucking across Europe. ‘Da,’ replied the woman at the barrier. Splendid. Scarcely could the world have been be rosier if ginger beer had poured from the sky.
I dined like a prince on another four-egg omelette and used up my remaining Romanian lei on a sandwich to take away. Or tried to… ‘Hamburger?’ asked the waitress in the neighbouring restaurant. Well, no, I’m not Fat Paul or Namibian. Having just ordered an omelette with bread, does a burger sound a likely dessert? I started again.
How To Make A Sandwich
‘You have a bread roll?’ I asked, illustrating a broad knowledge of hamburger ingredients. ‘Da,’ she rejoined, all buck and joviality. ‘Right, well slice open the roll, fill it with cheese and salad and you’ll find that’s a sandwich.’ Another ‘da’ floated from her larynx. Five minutes later, a hot burger going soggy in a sandwich bag was summarily brought to my table. Honestly, it’s enough to try a man’s soul.
Then it was back to Barrier Girl. ‘Only cash,’ she reneged as I produced the same card I’d showed half an hour earlier. Her demeanour, if not fully wintry, was certainly verging on late autumnal now. Still, €15 (in actual euros) wasn’t going to break the bank. And it seemed a fair price for a rusting hunk of iron – posing as an international ferry – that ought to have been scuttled years ago. She let me through.
‘Ah, George,’ said the chap at the next barrier. This is more like it, I thought. He was smiling and, for some inexplicable reason, using my middle name. But then he flicked his thumb across the photo page of my passport in an importuning manner; clearly he’d learned wickedness at his mother’s knee, had cheated in his O-Levels and was now indicating some form of baksheesh would oil matters considerably.
I attempted to look confused, then mimicked his gesture but turned it into a thumbs up. ‘Yes, Romania very good,’ I lied, ignoring this rapscallion’s attempt at extortion, and thinking how very far from good my experience had been thus far. It foxed him; realising I was no longer to be corn before Romanian’s sickles, he pointed at the “ferry taxes” window instead.
‘€70 cash?’ I reeled, having driven another whopping ten yards. ‘Well, what the da da doodah was the €15 for, then?’ Ginger beer was in short supply again by this point and petty distinctions between ferry tax and port tax was getting up my nose.
Don’t get me wrong, Romania certainly has some smashing spots but, on this particular morning, the blasted place couldn’t fizzle out fast enough for my liking..