Tonight’s episode of Celebrity Race Across The World (Wednesdays on BBC1) featured the four celebrity teams making a dash across central/southern Europe from Zermatt in Switzerland to Sarajevo in Bosnia and Hercegovina. There’s no two ways about it – you don’t even need to consult a map – you have to go through Croatia if you make such a journey! And so, with delight (for this is one of Visit Croatia’s favourite TV programmes at the moment) a slice of beautiful Croatia filled TV screens across the UK on this autumnal midweek day.
Rain, rain go away
Well, let’s backtrack a little… Croatia was sadly not as spectacularly beautiful as it normally is. This episode showed it to be more like…very rainy. And even quite stormy at times. It’s unknown when this TV programme was filmed, but I suspect that it must have been at some point in late autumn or early winter last year judging by the light snowfall in Switzerland, the teams wearing warm jackets in most episodes and an apparent lack of tourists in the portions filmed in Croatia.
The four teams – Harry Judd from noughties band McFly and his mum Emma, Mel Blatt from 90s all-girl group All Saints and her mum Helene, weather presenter Alex Beresford and his dad Noel and racing driver/TV presenter Billy Monger and his sister Bonnie – all seemed to encounter and be rather bogged down by weather that’s not typical for most travellers to Croatia.
Each episode of the show sees the teams race (of course!) from one checkpoint to another as quickly as possible whilst also sometimes stopping to work to top up their funds or to take in an “experience”. Whilst Harry and his mother Emma did work in Split by cleaning a luxury yacht, no teams sadly enjoyed any kind of experience in the country.
Two of the teams did however enjoy a little downtime (and work) in Slovenia. Alex and Noel cleaned boats on Lake Bled and then enjoyed a free boat trip, admiring the cleanliness of the water. Billy and his sister Bonnie cleaned the famous Lippizan horses and stables in Lipica, then enjoying what looked to be rather swanky accommodation. (Lucky them!)
Celebrity Race Across the World – Croatian cities featured
Harry and Emma took a direct but surely incredibly tiring 19-hour bus journey from Innsbruck in Austria to Split, even enduring a blown tyre at one point. After a job and an overnight stay, they then took a direct bus from Split to Sarajevo. Here’s a little clip of their “tyring” experience (excuse the pun):
Billy and Bonnie made their way from Slovenia to Zagreb, sadly (apparently) only enjoying the bus station there before making their way to Sarajevo by bus. And Alex and Noel made the same journey too – literally in fact, given they were on the same bus to Bosnia’s capital.
Mel and Helene hopped from Trieste in Italy to Rijeka, staying a night there, to Zadar before choosing this point to make their way over to Sarajevo. Lucky for them, a helpful waiter seemed to plan their journey by summoning up a taxi for €350. (A taxi! From Zadar to Sarajevo! €350!) We wouldn’t recommend you copy them.
Alternative routes the celebrities could have used
The whole point of the show is that the celebrities – and the “normos” featured in the non-celebrity version too, of course – have no access to smartphones or the Internet in any way. So they can’t just bring up a list of bus timetables in roughly five seconds flat as per normal.
The teams travelling from Slovenia to Zagreb to Sarajevo were onto the right idea, as was Harry and his poor tired mum Emma by making the not exactly short hop from Split to Sarajevo. (Although I don’t envy their aforementioned 19-hour bus journey in getting to Split.)
Mel and Helene however seemed to waste time going to Zadar (where Mel seemed to think she would hit the beach). They could have in fact taken a bus directly from Rijeka to Sarajevo, although there is only one a day (and it may not necessarily have worked to their timings) and, in fact, only operates 4 hours a week. Taking 10 hours and 45 minutes and costing just €53, it’s a more economical journey than their €350 (normally €500) cab from Zadar to Sarajevo.
Despite the teams enjoying some cheap and speedy trains in Italy and scenic mountain trains in Switzerland and Austria in the previous leg and earlier in this one, trains wouldn’t have helped the racers in Croatia. So thankfully, no one attempted to take a train.
Speaking of trains, my initial reaction on the idea of travelling from Zermatt to Sarajavo (via Split) was “ooh – they should get a ferry over from Ancona!”. To attempt this, they would have first had to travel to Milan in northern Italy. The Die Bahn website tells me the shortest option from Zermatt to Milan takes 3 hours 15 minutes and involves a train, a bus, a train and then another train – so, not particularly straightforward.
But once they had reached Milan, it would have been a straightforward 3 hour 21 minute direct train to Ancona. From here, Jadrolinija have an overnight ferry to Split, which arrives at 7am. The teams could have easily got another cheap ferry ticket and slept on the floor! (As they’ve done in previous episodes.) And then made the onward bus journey from Split to Sarajevo.
Of course, the ferry only operates 2/3 times a week in winter and may not have worked to the teams’ schedule. Perhaps a kindly BBC producer was guiding them away from this option to avoid them getting stuck in Ancona for a few days.
The next leg of the race sees the teams heading up to Berlin, so no doubt the teams will return to Croatia to then make the journey up to Germany.
You can find out more about Celebrity Race Across the World at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001qnk8. You can also watch tonight’s episode (and previous episodes) there.