“Driving from Athens to Zagreb…how hard can it be?”
It will be a long time until Paul Berrington, CEO of leading Greek agency Black & White Licensing is allowed to forget this, following his intrepid journey through the Balkans to speak at the Licensing New Europe conference in Croatia.
Instead of taking the perhaps easier route of flying from Athens to Zagreb, he elected, complete with colleague Panos Iatridis, to drive. Armed with an Alfa Romeo 159 Touring, Google Maps on his phone and a road atlas of Yugoslavia (yes, a pre-1992 map), they set off at 3.45am on Wednesday 10th November.
The first few hours, we understand, were relatively painless. However, the decision to drive through Albania (he’d never been there before) was to prove an interesting one. Many of the roads were little more than dirt tracks, resulting in a flat tyre, in the middle of nowhere, in the dark. Albania turned into a tale of three rivers, made more difficult by torrential rains. The first was crossed after an hour of JCB work on it. The second had around of a foot of water and the third was washed away. By the time they retraced their steps, the first bridge was covered in water. Our intrepid travellers made it across this but, not without incident. By now, not only had a tyre been damaged, but the poor Alfa had damaged wheels.
Undeterred, by the loss of the wheel trim and wheel in Northern Albania, our travellers continued, travelling partly through Bosnia before they were back in Albania.
At this point, the organisers of LNE who were expecting them on the Wednesday evening, received a phone call. Fortunately, ever-helpful as they are, they were able to direct our travellers towards a route that would prove less traumatic.
Finally, they reached the Montenego border and, from that moment, were able to make great progress (tyres and wheels notwithstanding), before reaching Zagreb, to much applause, on Thursday afternoon.
Of course, now came the problem of the car which was definitely not as Alfa Romeo had intended. Again with the help of Creata, the LNE organisers, the car was taken to an Alfa garage. But the story didn’t end there. On the way to the garage, as a result of the pounding it had received through Bosnia and Albania, two tyres burst and the sorry Alfa arrived at the garage on a pick-up truck.
The return journey, it has to be said, was far less eventful. Whilst they were stopped by the police in Serbia, everything else worked fine and the duo reached Athens in the early hours of Sunday morning. In all, they travelled 3,500km, crossed eight borders, had three flat tyres, two broken wheels and were stopped by the police twice.
It just shows how intrepid the licensing industry can really be. But a word of advice….. next time, please take the plane!!