Smurfy Woche Elf: Austria & Croatia

September 2010, by Gini

Smurfy Breakdown 2 & Tom's Austrian Birthday

After the work had been done on Smurfy and he was sounding healthy again it was time to pay. We asked for the papers that came with the guarantee, which Marin responded with '1 year you come back to me and I will fix, I guarantee my house!' he then went on to say 'I would not put a bad engine in' so with no other choice we handed over the cash and received no receipt or papers, as it was all under the table. It didn't feel right but we didn't have much choice.

I took the Smurf wheel and followed Tom to the rental car office where we exchanged all our belongings back to Smurf and threw the rental car keys in through the window with a lucky aim as it landed right on the rental company's desk. We hit the road just wanting to get the hell out of Croatia. We picked Starigard along the coast about an hour from Zadar to stop for the night and rolled in as it was getting dark. We were a little concerned with the black smoke coming out from Smurfy as we drove up hills so Tom attempted to speak to Marin, who reassured us as long as it wasn't blue smoke, black was okay. Looking back at that point we should have gone back to Zadar. But it wasn't to be, and the next day we got so close to the Slovenian border, in fact metres from the northern border. I was driving, Tom on his laptop catching up on some work when we came to the last Croatian toll booth yay! We sat idling to pay the lady and we knew something was up as two booth people kept looking at the back of Smurf. A lot more smoke was coming out so we drove through the toll and pulled over in no mans land.

Smurf had managed to spray black oil all the over the back of himself, over the bikes, right up to the white hat. It was streaming out underneath and out through the oil dipstick hole. Shit. Within a few minutes a patrol vehicle had pulled up as it must have been called by the toll booths - oh the shame! and he begun speaking in German with no english - he called another tow truck. Breakdown number 2.

Smurf was quickly pulled aboard and we took a windy road to the middle of nowhere to a place called Krapina. Which we came to know as crapina. The mechanics were not very helpful by saying "your engine is bad" until Ivan the manager and owner of the tow truck business tried to help out by speaking with Marin in an attempt to get us towed back down to Zadar so he could fix the problem. It was a stressful Friday night, conversations got heated as Marin wouldn't pay for a tow and would only give us a part refund if his supplier would refund the engine money. Double shit. 

As night approached Ivan was kind enough to plug Smurf in and we used their bathroom facilities in the workshop. So at least we had somewhere to sleep and eat. Saturday bought rain and news that Marin would fix the problem but we had to pay for it to get there. We made the walk down the hill into town, had a coffee and some Burek pastry and made the decision to rent a car and leave this crappy place for Austria so that Ivan could have a look at the engine on Monday and maybe apply a quick fix.

After a day of waiting inside Smurf as it rained and rained we managed to pay 60 euros for a ride to Zagreb (there were no taxi's in Krapina), an hour away and rented a car and high tailed it out of Croatia through Slovenia to Austria. We attempted to be positive about the second situation but after a few hours on the road the weather took a turn for the worst and Tom was having trouble even seeing the lanes on the highway. So we pulled off at one of the petrol/resting and hotel bays with the idea of sleeping in the car for the night. We had hit rock bottom. Tom was going to turn 31 the next day and decided he's too old for this! So he was my hero and called the nearest hotel on tom-tom which was in 20 minutes away in Hartberg and we were in a warm bed in a kooky hotel within the hour. Thank-you tom-tom-tom.

The next morning Tom got a yummy cooked birthday breakfast at the hotel and we arrived in Vienna a few hours later. We parked the car along a free zone and checkin to a cute hostel for two nights. It was somewhat a little chilly and with our heels being so sore we turned fashion victim with socks, sandals and trousers! (or I did at least) We had a brief wander around and found a few of the sites and an interesting exhibition on manhole covers, which is a little embarrassing to say but we normally take a photo of interesting covers in cities we have been so it was funny to see this site!

In need of a little cheering up, with the recent Smurf developments and it being so cold we felt like a little comfort food so we made our way to Ramen for some good Asian noodles and dumplings which went a long way. We ended Tom's birthday with a few beers and strum wine back at the hostel as we were saving our tums for tomorrow nights weinersnitchel, Tom's birthday treat. We also managed to fit in a slice of chocolate cake with apricot sauce through the middle with a few cups of Vienna melange coffee in an old school cafe while pretending we could read German newspapers like the other fellow patrons.

The next day we had word that Ivan the second Croatian mechanic had successfully made a quick fix to Smurf's oil pipe so he was ready when we were. The rain had also cleared with a spot of sun so we walked all over town and found the food market and stopped for some more asian before continuing on past Kunsthauswien and admired the mosaic and non linear architecture which is a true treasure on the Wien landscape. We walked until we could walk no more and slipped into Italic bar for a few sturm wines before our dinner reservation at Figlmuller for the largest schnitzel in town. On route to the restaurant we pasted Mozart after mozart chocolate shops which we didn't realize until we had past through Austria was in every town. 

The dinner didn't disappoint with rude waiters, an oversized piece of crumbed pork followed with potato salad and washed down with red wine and schnapps. We woke to have an early breakfast in the hostel before making the 4 hour journey back to Krapina. We picked up Smurfy and took a painfully slow drive to Zagreb airport to drop off the rental car and then set tom-tom to Slovenia and the hell out of Croatia. When we arrived in Ljubljana we breathed a sigh of relief. After camping for two nights and meeting a lovely Kiwi & english couple, phoning around to VW mechanics and getting a VW specialist in Ljubljana to confirm the worst - that the engine was again kaput, we finally came to the decision that the most logical solution was to go back to Zadar and have Smurf fixed for the second time for free.

We did have a cleanup and a mini throw out of all things extra just in case we had to leave the van on the side of road and just walk away. So we set off with a black cloud of smoke around us heading for Zadar along the coastal. With our fingers crossed that we would make it in one piece.