Challenge:travelling without money
I was in my first twenties and I and my boyfriend decided to spend a month travelling round some European eastern countries, above all Rumania, by bike during the summer of 1982.
The main idea was to buy a monthly train ticket which would allow us to get Beograd taking the bicycles with us in the train. All our luggage had to fit in the saddlebag of each bike as well as the two sleeping bags and a tent.
After buying the bike and paying for this monthly ticket, which was quite cheap, we had no more than 500 pta (3 € now) to spend per day.
The journey started in Andorra. There, we had bought the bicycles piece by piece because in those days there were yet no bikes for doing “cycle tourism” in the Spanish market.
We were taken to the top of the mountain pass to France by my sister and her boyfriend in their car. Then I had only to let myself slide along the road. I was going so quickly that I didn’t see the railway station and I did twenty kilometres more.
On the train, we passed through the south of France and the north of Italy and what it is now Slovenia, Croatia and the north of Serbia and finally we arrived in Beograd.
The people were friendly and very curious about our gadgets , especially about those news bicycles and we were surprised because in the supermarkets we could only find chicken heads, wings, feet and giblets and no other meat.
We left Beograd and after crossing the Danube we tried to enter Rumania but in the border we were required to change 10 USD into LEU. That was too much money considering that it wasn’t a convertible currency.
We decided to go to the south of Athens so we had to pass through all Serbia and Macedonia. We found very bad roads and we indeed had to ride on a Roman paved road. When reaching a small town we could easily know where the grocery’s shop was by seeing a big pile of empty soft drink bottles’ boxes, even though there weren’t many other things to buy apart tinned food and fresh milk and yogurt.
People there were even better than Beograd and for at least four days they didn’t leave us camp in the fields and invited us to be in their houses. I remember and old woman being touched thinking that we had come from a country that was near France where a son and grandchildren lived in. And there we were told about the problems between Balkan countries that would lead to a war less than a decade later .
Apart from The Acropolis, all our pleasure disappeared in Athens: crowded roads, very noisy and hot and no places to stay. We saw an advert of a hotel for 1 USD and when we got there at night it turned out to be a place to sleep on the floor of the terrace with a lot of other people.
The journey back by train was awful ,we had to sleep on the floor, but very interesting. In the border between Greece and Yugoslavia we could see people smuggling coffee and other items escaping from border guards but in a funny way. It seem to be a Spanish train in the fifties.
Even then, before coming back to Valencia we took the TGV from Lyon to Paris and returned without having to pay more money for it.