Sunday, 16 June 2024
Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik Mark Thomas

Unintentional Adventurers: A Hiker's Unexpected Encounter at the Border

Written by  May 12, 2024

I am often asked how I find inspiration to write a weekly column. I’ve been doing this for almost twenty years, and have written over a 1,000 columns in that time. And yes, sometimes I am left scratching my head right up to the deadline staring at a blinking cursor, whereas sometimes a story almost writes itself. And sometimes the story ambushes me, literally jumps out of the woods right in front of me. And that’s exactly what happened this week, quite literally.

So it is no secret that my wife and I like a good walk. And this past Sunday we decided to take our dogs and head into the wilds of Konavle.

The old narrow-gauge train track that used to connect southern Europe with the old seat of the empire, Vienna, was our destination.

Firstly, I must doff my hat to the crew that actually organised this hiking route, I get the feeling it isn’t used that much, but that’s a story for another time.

“We can start here and walk all the way to the border with Bosnia,” said my wife as the dogs leaped from the car. With the crunch of limestone gravel echoing we set off, and literally after a couple of minutes we were in a land that humans forgot a long time ago.

Remnants of walled fields that probably once fed an entire village were dotted in the undergrowth. “It feels like we are in the middle of a rain forest,” commented my wife. I have expected Sir David Attenborough to emerge from the thick greenery and state making a documentary.

And apart from one (probably abandoned) stone house in the distance we were alone in the world.

“What’s that in the trees?” said my wife pointing to a strange looking box. I inspected it. There was an antenna, some cables twisted and a box with glass openings. “Yes, very odd. It doesn’t seem to be connected to anything. Maybe a farmer used it?” I answered. We thought nothing of it and continued.

After about three quarters of an hour we came across a sign - International Border in 150 metres. And in the distance I could make out what looked like a mini Berlin Wall. As we got closer another sign – Republic of Croatia Border – and there was a huge wall of concrete and rocks on the path.

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“OK, looks like this is the point where we turn around,” I said.

Of course we took the opportunity to peak over the wall and take photos, I remember joking that there wasn’t any duty free at the border.

“Look another one of those boxes,” said my wife. He headed back the way we had come.

I’m not sure if we were walking for ten minutes when we saw a police car rushing towards us through the forest. Now bear in mind that this walk is on a narrow track and now it is covered in lumpy stones. To see a police car was, well let’s just say surprising.

“Good afternoon officers,” I pronounced as the driver’s window eased down. It was then I noticed the sign on the side of the police car – Border Police, and a lightbulb flashed on in my head.

“Enjoying your walk,” said the lady officer.

I was going to answer “Yes, until you turned up,” but held my tongue.

“We saw you on the cameras crossing the border,” she answered.

“Well, we didn’t actually cross the border,” I answered.

And then another light bulb flashed on. In some police room, with presumably a whole range of TV screens, a group of police officers had seen us generally goofing around at the border, and one had probably seen right up my nostril as I closely examined the first box we had seen.

Basically we had gone for a walk with our dogs in nature and had been suspected of being illegal immigrants!

We waved goodbye to the laughing officers and then my wife said

“You have to admit that their system works, they “caught” us in a matter of minutes.” She was right. We had been star of Big Brother Police Edition. And next time we take that walk we are going to stop at the first sign. 

Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to


About the author
Mark Thomas (aka Englez u Dubrovniku) is the editor of The Dubrovnik Times. He was born and educated in the UK and moved to live in Dubrovnik in 1998. He works across a whole range of media, from a daily radio show to TV and in print. Thomas is fluent in Croatian and this column is available in Croatia on the website – Dubrovnik Vjesnik


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