Sunday, 21 July 2013

Unexpected Juggling.

"You show me, and then you can go." Said the border policeman, with a smile on has face.

It was the first time I had to show my passport since I left England, but this wasn't what policeman was interested in. After repeatedly asking me if I had any drugs to declare, and warning me of the consequences if they were to find any, prison and a hefty fine. I had parked my bike by the gates and started to unpack my things for him to search though. This is going to take a long time. I thought to myself. The last time I had tried to cross the boarder into Croatia I had a 20 minuet interrogation, which as scary as it was i think i would have preferred it to unpacking the entirety of my bike. "You show me" he said again, and I realised he was pointing to my juggling clubs...
So instead of unpacking my bike I proceeded to juggle for the policeman and his colleagues, then proceeded another interrogation, but very different from my former experience. "You came all the way from England?" "How long did it take?" "Where do you sleep?" "Are you making a show tonight?" And after a short lesson in Croatian greetings (which unfortunately, I promptly forgot.) I was waved goodbye, by a happy policeman and his friends. And began my journey through Croatia.

It had been interesting and beautiful since i left Vienna last saturday. My first stop was a little town called Rust, set on the side of a big lake and surrounded by marsh and vineyards. I had thought to make a show there but ended up taking a swim instead. I cycled trough the vineyards as the sun set over the hills and hadn't even realised I had crossed the boarder until I received a text from Vodaphone saying welcome to Hungary! 

One of the strangest things about Europe is how quickly and unexpectedly everything changes. In the space of a few hundred meters, the language, currency and culture is suddenly very different. 

Hungary was quite a different animal all together, especially as a cyclist. Many of the main roads were banned for cyclists, so I found my self winding my way through tiny country lanes or taking illegal actions when there really was no other way to get where I needed too. But eventually I made my way to the Balaton See, which is a massive lake, and a hotspot for tourists from Germany and Austria. I took full advantage of the tourist trade and set up to make some shows in a little town on the south of the lake. It was probably the first show I made that actually made any decent money, and what's more I even found a bed for the night! 

The next day I made my way west after celebrating my success with pizza and a morning swim. Again I took the winding roads through the forgotten towns that no tourists ever visit. It was as I passed through one of these towns, and I saw the kids sat on the side of the street, many of them looked even more grubby than me. I had this nagging thought in my head, Isn't this what you talked about, you make shows for tourists, why not for these kids? So after cycling very slowly through the town trying to battle off my inconvenient thoughts, I finally conceded and turned around and found the children on the side of the road. 
I didn't speak a word of Hungarian, and I felt utterly foolish trying to communicate. But I got out my staffs, and my music, and preceded to dance in the middle of the road in my cycling shorts and in the blazing sun. It was a terrible show, but the kids seemed to like it. I then got my workshop gear out and pointed to it, to say have a go, but the kids got the wrong idea and thought it was a gift. It was total chaos, but in the end they got the idea. There were plates spinning, and hoops flying across the road. It was completely ridiculous. And cars honked there horns angrily as they drove passed. When i realised i had completely lost control I tried to pack away, which was an even harder task. children laughed as they helped my shoving things in my basket haphazardly, putting plates on my head. giving me ridiculous tokens, of broken earrings, flowers and weeds. How I managed to get away i don't know. My stuff was almost overflowing and trailing behind me as cycled away and children ran behind me, laughing and shouting. I cycled a kilometre out of town. Breathed, repacked my bike - amazed that (almost) everything was still there. That was mad, what on earth was I thinking! I laughed, wiped the sweat off my face, drank, breathed again. And decided I probably shouldn't do that again...

So now I am here in Zagreb. The capital of Croatia. I stayed with a guy called Darko, who is also a cyclist, he also knows a thing or two about bike mechanics so was keen to take a closer look at my trike, he was really impressed by all the old mechanics, but slightly appalled by the state of my breaks. So quickly the tool set came out. Every one I meet now seems very worried about the fact that I'm going to the coast. "You know there are huge mountains to go over?" "And there are bears, and wild cats!" "Where are you sleeping?" "Don't go into the woods!" The list goes on...

So I'm feeling a little nervous about the days that lie ahead, the 1200m I have to climb, and the bears that I would rather not encounter!

Decided to take another day off and start tomorrow instead!

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