Sunday, January 19, 2014

No Dogs Allowed...Belgrade Blues

Erin and me departed Innsbruck Austria under the cover of darkness and headed east. The sun had yet to make an appearance but I was anxious to get started as a long hectic day was planned. It was my goal to cross Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia before finding lodging in Belgrade Yugoslavia ( Now known as Serbia). Along the way we would romp in parks, admire breathtaking views, mingle with locals, and sample the native cuisine which Erin always found yummy. I knew we were short on time but if something appeared interesting then it was checked out and that included a herd of dairy cows behind a rest stop. They greeted Erin with a chorus of moos while pressing against the fence for a better view of her. Erin was curious enough to get relatively close to the fence though the cow's size eventually intimidated her and she retreated to a safe distance; I found it all so entertaining!

Belgrade was a much welcome sight after seemingly driving forever and priority number one was finding a hotel; my travel partner snoozing in the backseat echoed my sentiment. The moon casting her gleam helped me spot several hotels from the Sava bridge which cut through the heart of the city. Erin remained in the car as I entered the first hotel where an inquiry into room availability was made and the computer showed vacancies but then the bombshell was dropped...."No dogs allowed." I was stunned as he reiterated dogs were not permitted on the premises. This was the first time in dog-friendly Europe Erin was refused entry but undeterred I drove to the next hotel where surely a room awaited us. Nearby the same scene unfolded with a desk clerk explaining their no pet policy and offering his sincere apologizes for the inconvenience. I walked out with my head hung low mumbling to myself all the while wondering if this was some cruel joke.

A third hotel broke my spirit and walking back to the car I was nearly in tears with the thought of not getting a room for the night. I slammed my hand against the steering wheel and screamed out in frustration. The situation appeared bleak and thoughts of driving back to Slovenia crossed my mind but it was too far away and the isolated roads of Yugoslavia at night were too dangerous for an American and his dog. Erin sensed my sadness and climbed over the center console to comfort me; I hugged her neck and buried my face in her soft flowing coat wishing this was all a bad dream. I felt so helpless at that moment but my devoted friend lifted my spirits while repeatedly I uttered "I'm sorry Erin"and "I love you girl"

Upon arrival at the next hotel, valet parking promptly approached the car and agreed to keep an eye on Erin while I check on room availability. This hotel was much posher and refined than the others as evident by its interior and well-heeled clientele. Marble floors, elegant statues and paintings, upscale restaurants and boutique shops caught my eye as I strolled across the lobby to the reservation counter. Sensing this might be my last opportunity in Belgrade I requested the night manager help me instead of a reservation clerk. He inputted some information and found me a room for $300 plus for the evening which I accepted without delay. I had never paid that much for lodging before I was beyond desperate and would had gladly paid even more.

While my passport information was being entered into the computer system I ambushed him with news that there's a dog outside and as expected the no pet policy was recited. In a last ditch effort I offered him double the room rate to accept Erin but he spoke of corporate rules and how money is irrelevant. The manager suggested Erin stay in the car while I slept in the hotel, he mentioned security guards roaming the parking garage and how other dogs have stayed in cars without any issues. "She'll be fine" he insisted. She probably would have been okay spending the evening in the car but there was no way I could do that to Erin and the manager discovered my level of devotion when I told him "we would sleep together in the car on the side of the highway."

After thanking the manager for his time I took one last glance around the opulent lobby before starting the dreaded walk towards the car. "Wait" he called out and I stopped dead in my tracks. "Where is this dog of yours?" Together we approached the front passenger seat where Erin was sitting up looking so adorable. The manager in silence just gazed at Erin while she peered upwards at him, both trying to measure up each other. Finally he remarked the words that I'll never forget "that's a fine looking hunting dog" and then he praised Erin for her calmness and beauty. The manager stated he could never remember a dog being allowed inside but was willing to make an exception this one time. I wanted to hug the gentleman but instead shook his hand and thanked him profusely. We were escorted to the registration desk to complete check-in while uniformed staff took care of the luggage and car. The manager was thanked again for his kindness while I promised to keep Erin in the room until checkout in the morning.

Erin and me rode a private elevator to our spacious room where a massive bed with goose feather pillows and plush comforter awaited us; never had a bed felt so good and we just laid there with big smiles upon our faces. The marble-adorned bathroom had a large tub and a walk in shower enclosed in fancy crystal glass. The softest robe imaginable hung on the back of the door but unfortunately there wasn't one for their special doggie guest. The room had every amenity one could imagine but the best was on its way via room service. We were beyond starving after a long day thus lots of food was ordered; hamburgers and fries, pasta and garlic bread, chocolate cake, and a few cokes to wash it all down. Erin laid next to me on the bed where we feasted like royalty! I held her in my arms while smothering her with much affection and praise...I was so proud of her for saving the day and I certainly let her know it!

The following morning we took the elevator down to the main lobby where heads turned and people whispered; Surely all were shocked to see a dog allowed inside such a lavish establishment. Erin had a wide beaming smile and a show-dog gait as I believe she understood how special she was. My pride in her was evident while my demeanor said "Yeah I have a dog in this fancy hotel." These affluent people never expected to see a dog in a Belgrade hotel but that's exactly what they saw that morning and in a five-star establishment nonetheless. I'm eternally grateful for a stranger's kindness and still to this day dogs are prohibited but for one evening Erin achieved the impossible. One special dog indeed!!