"Aha! Sherlock! Sherlock Holmes" my age forgotten for now and I gave my sweetest smile and said he was my grandad.
"Are you married?" no.
"But you are beautiful" another sweet..ish smile
"How long are you staying in Romania?"
I explained that it would probably be 3 days that I was cycling to China and needed to head south through Bulgaria pretty soonish. Once again I received the usual guffaws, crazy womans, and then a shake of the hand with a slight and awkard embrace, a pat on the back from the other chap and as I cycled away he shouted
"Marry me! Remain in Romania!"
Now let me take you back 500m to the other side of the Iron Gates Dam border crossing where I was trying to leave Serbia.. 2 dogs lept from the grass as I approached passport control and sped towards me growling, snapping, snarling. ARGGHHGRRRRRR I screamed at them having not had my daily coffee and feeling a little fractious. They meekly crept away
"Passport please" sweet smile hand passport to Serbian official.
"Ah! Sherlock! Sherlock Holmes! Is he your grandad!" false laugh, yes of course
"Where did you stay last night"
"Oh. erm.." I looked at my map on top of my handlebar bag and saw the name Kalakov or something which was near by. "Here!"
"Name of hotel"
"I don't know" hmm, this is not looking good
"Receipt from hotel?"
"I don't have one, I've erm, thrown out all my receipts as I needed to lighten my load" Look matey I have just spent the night on a rubbish dump!I don't have a darn receipt. Please just let me leave the country. I'm a crap liar. I don't know what the consequences are of lying nor of not having a receipt. I need a coffee! And the toilet!
"Jillian. what?! How the heck do you know my full name?? oh yes. of course, my passport. You need to prove where you have slept. It is Serbian law" and he nodded his head towards an official looking sign on the counter, faded by the sunlight.
"Jillian please you must have something. Anything. From any night. I just need one" he said almost pleading and I looked up and beneath the stern glare looking down at me I noticed a hint of warmth, the empathy of an executionist maybe- I really really don't want to do this but I have a wife and child to feed
"I, I don't.."
"Anything, Jillian. Please."
Suddenly I remembered! I had a receipt from Serbia! Just the one from my 8 days here from a campsite where I'd taken refuge in a storm and I'd chatted to the man about wild camping and he'd given me a receipt saying You may need this!
"I have one!" I shouted as I fumbled through my purse and pulled out the Golden ticket with glee.
Simultaneously we exhaled slowly. He ran his fingers through his hair. "Thank you, Jillian"
"I loved Serbia" I said pathetically never having learnt when to just shut up. I meant it! I did love the country but I just sounded crass
"I love Serbia too. Goodbye"