Post 45: Installment of – On The Road To Romania
Who Needs Insurance Anyway?
Prague is also a beautiful city. That evening, we walked across Charles Bridge, an ancient stone bridge with towers at each end in the historical part of Prague. We window shopped and ate dinner in a small restaurant near the Vltava River, which divides the city.
The next morning, we learned the insurance broker was having difficulty acquiring insurance. We were told, for the first time, that insurance companies were reluctant to insure new cars bound for Eastern Bloc countries—particularly Romania, (which did not join the European Union until 2007). The broker would keep trying, but was not confident of success and would have a final answer Wednesday morning. We had not planned to do much sightseeing, but now had a full day to do so. We walked through the extensive grounds of the Prague Castle and spent several hours at St. Vitus Cathedral, a magnificent building begun in the fourteenth century and built in phases over the next six centuries. We each bought a piece of Czech blown glass for our wives, ate Czech food and over dinner, Dr. G decided, with or without insurance, we must depart the next day. We simply wouldn’t have time to wait any longer for the coverage.
At noon on Wednesday, we stood inside a modern convenience store and gas station near the entrance to route D1/E65, a major expressway. The brand new cars were parked at the gas pumps, full of gas, but with no insurance, which, we were told, was impossible to obtain.
Thankfully, the sandwiches I chose for our lunch on the road were wrapped in cellophane so I didn’t have to guess at the contents. I picked up some chips, nuts, bottled water and chocolate, pleased their wrapper pictures look the same around the world. On my way to check out, I saw some maps and picked one up. “Dr. G, should we get a map?”
“Oh, Beeal, I know zee way, we don’t need one. Well, maybe. Sure, iss OK. Get one, that way you see too where we go.”
Dr. G smiled his usual wide cheerful grin, his eyes twinkling, seemingly without a care in the world, as if he drove brand new, uninsured cars 1,342 kilometers (833 miles) into Eastern Bloc countries every day.
I paid the clerk, unsure of the correct amount, but the man politely helped me sort out the correct Koruna denominations as I grasped gas prices in Europe were truly a lot higher than in the States, approximately four times higher. The price on the pump was the equivalent of $1.20 per liter (about a quart), almost the same price we paid per gallon back in the States!
On my prior trips to Europe, I enjoyed modern fast trains and riding at one hundred forty kilometers per hour down the autobahns. However, I never drove overseas, nor counted out $16,000 in hundred dollar bills, nor drove anywherein the U.S., without auto insurance or with questionable car registrations. And I certainly never navigated two Eastern-bloc border crossings, but I was about to learn how it was done—Dr. G’s way.
I followed Dr. G onto the entrance ramp—after all, he knew the way—and watched in amusement as he jerked through the gears, trying to get accustomed to a manual transmission. My father taught me to drive on a stick shift at age fifteen and I owned and drove many. Now, I smugly prided myself on the fact I had yet to stall or miss a gear.
We settled into a comfortable speed, down an excellent, controlled-access, divided highway, with little traffic and beautiful views of a lightly rolling countryside filled with late fall muted browns, yellows and greens. After driving past several exits with strange sounding town names (Mirosovice, Ostredek, Humpoiec),I opened the map to understand the route more. In about ninety kilometers, at Brno, there was a major interchange where E65 would exit to take us south to Slovakia and on toward Bratislava, near the border of Hungary.
Don’t miss next week’s Who Needs A Map?