236. Trouble at the Slovakian Border

After discovering Bratislava was less than an hour’s drive from Vienna, we couldn’t resist popping over to see life beyond the Iron Curtain.

Before actually entering Slovakia, one of my travel companions had decided to stay home. Her reasoning was that she was trying for a special type of visa where you are only allowed in certain European countries, but you can spend three months in each. None of us had heard of this exception, and a big discussion ensued about how borders in the EU these days are really just a “You are now entering…” sign and no one would ever know she popped over to Bratislava for lunch. Nonetheless she decided to err on the side of caution and stay home.

“Spot the border crossing” had become a bit of a road trip game, as sometimes it is hard to tell you have entered a new country (a serious novelty when your home country is an island). There was no doubt, however, that we had found one on our way in to Slovakia. All of a sudden there was this massive checkpoint, and police waving us down and making us pull over. There were angry sounding words coming  at us left right and centre. We couldn’t tell if it was Austrian, Slovakian, or German (we had German license plates) but the policeman was getting very frustrated at us. We managed to work out he was demanding our “documents” and a certain amount of euros. There was even more confusion in the car. Were we meant to pay to get over the border? Were there different rules for the newer EU members? Was it actually not part of the EU like we thought? Could we just turn around and go home? Was this some kind of dodgy Eastern European police bribery scenario? Had we unknowingly broken the Law? Why don’t any of these cops speak English? Good thing we left Lucy home, she’d be furious!

Before we knew it the policeman was marching two of us over to a van on the side of the road. We had absolutely no idea what was going on and whether we were in trouble or what. Who knows if we were going to return safe from this mysterious black van, or where he was taking our passports. As it turned out, in the van was a little man with a portable EFTPOS machine, who thankfully spoke English and explained to us that it was a road toll checkpoint and we were being fined for not displaying the correct sticker that allows us to drive on the motorway. So 140 euros later, we finally get the memo on how the road tolls work (its an 8 euro sticker!) and realise that actually the (unnecessarily, IMHO) angry policemen had nothing to do with the border and were in fact just using the old set up as a convenient checkpoint stop. They certainly were good at making us feel like it was an incredibly stressful situation and we were in some huge and mysterious amount of trouble!

230. The Hot Game

Warning, serious idiocy follows…

It started as a pretty classic prank. We were driving along the Autobahn (as you do) in our rental which happened to be a pretty flash VW with accessories that did all kinds of things. Don’t ask me about the engine or any of that car crap, I’ll be hone I care about the accessories. One such handy feature was the seat warmers. The driver of the car decided to play a wee joke on the poor gentleman in the passenger seat, and put the seat warmer on, on what was already a stinking hot day. It took him ages to notice, hilarity ensued.

Then some bright spark had the idea that we should play what was dubbed “The Hot Game” (clever name). The way the hot game works, is you put ALL the seat heaters on, and blast the heating as high as possible, and see who cracks first. The problem is, we had a car load of really stubborn people and it went on for quite a while. Eventually we all agreed that we didn’t want the driver to pass out and kill us all (you can just see the headline on the Otago Daily Times “5 Kiwis found dead in stinking hot mess in Czech Republic”). However, the kicker that really made us all give up, was yet another flashy feature of the car. There was a wee screen on the dashboard that counts down how many kilometres you can travel with the remaining fuel on the tank, and it started dropping very quickly.

There were no winners in the Hot Game, just a car full of sweaty idiots.

A few nights later we met a British Couple, and for some reason the Hot Game came up. Possibly because the bar we were in was very reminiscent of those few minutes in the car. Instead of the expected “gosh you guys are stupid” our new friend Rosie said “Ohhh yeah we play that too! But we call it ‘Car Sauna’. Have you guys played ‘Air Brakes’?” Believe it or not, there are people more stupid than we are – air brakes is when everyone opens the doors of the car at once and as the name may suggest, it slows down. Sorry Rosie, don’t think we are going to play that one!

214. Berlin to Prague in Stop Motion

When driving over the Swiss Alps, I was trying to get some good shots of the scenery around me, but we were whizzing past them all so quickly that I ended up holding down continuous shutter to see if I could catch them. When flicking through the photos really quickly the effect was really cool! I’d just recently seen some amazing stop motion videos made by my friend Marc and thought maybe I could give it a go too.

My attempt was not at all planned, just a few bursts in some more interesting places, and when we hit town I passed my camera around and it came back with some pretty hilarious shots! If I were to do another such video it would be good to have the camera properly mounted on the dashboard of the car, but nonetheless it was a fun experiment, and an efficient way to share my road trip snaps!