At first Joe kept on asking me if I knew where I was, and where I was going. Crossing the Channel was my first flight over water, and I climbed up to 6,000 feet. Joe complained bitterly of the cold, so I landed at Abbeville in France, where we had some cognac. After this his worry diminished enough for him to sleep in the front cockpit until we reached Paris. Here he dropped off, and left me to continue on my own. I refuelled at Nice, where I landed on a deserted strip on the beach, thumbed a lift from a passing car into Nice, and returned with tins of petrol in a taxi. I went on to Milan.
Next day I was late in getting away from Venice for my hop to Ljubljana in Yugoslavia. As I flew over Trieste it was already twilight, and I could see that I would not reach Ljubljana before dark. However, I decided to risk that. But as soon as I climbed over the hilly country inland I ran into mist. If that persisted, I should be unable to see Ljubljana at all. I suddenly realised that I must land immediately, while I could still vaguely see the ground below. I was over a narrow valley, which was divided into hundreds of thin cultivated strips. I chose the best looking strip, came round in a steep turn, and landed on it. Unfortunately, it was too dark for me to realise that it was freshly ploughed land, and as the plane slowed I could sense the wheels sinking. Up came the tail, and the Moth went on to her nose. Once again I found myself dangling from my safety belt ten feet from the ground. It was too dark to assess the damage, but next morning it turned out to be only a broken propeller. I spent an interesting ten days in Novi Vas pri Rakeku until a new propeller arrived.
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The village mayor wanted to be taken for a flight, and as they had been so good to me I could not bear to refuse. I looked over all the flat land in the valley, and the best strip was only 15 yards wide and 200 yards long with a deep ditch on each side. Although the Gipsy Moth had no brakes, I took off from this strip with the mayor and landed him on it again.
I moved on to Belgrade, which I left in bad weather. For 60 miles I flew down the Danube with the hills on each side in thick cloud and mist. I was disappointed that the Danube was a dirty brown instead of the blue, which Strauss had led me to expect. By the time I reached the Iron Gates I was flying in a huge tunnel with a cloud ceiling. After entering Rumania the cloud gradually lowered until I was dodging telephone poles in the mist. Finally, I had to land in a field where I was immediately surrounded by a running, shouting crowd of barefooted peasants. The difficulty was to explain in my bad German how fragile the aeroplane was, and that the people should keep their hands off it. In the end four soldiers, also barefooted, were produced, who mounted guard until the mist cleared sufficiently for me to take off again. I bypassed Bucharest, and skirted the Transylvanian Alps, flying over clusters of oil derricks. I was headed for Iasi in the wide valley of the River Prut. Just before dark I crossed a wide range of hills to find the Prut Valley a dense sea of white fog with Iasi somewhere at the bottom.
An ice cold wave of fear passed through me, but it left me cool and clear-headed. I turned in a vertical bank, opened the throttle wide and set off to retrace my route at full speed. I had been flying over forest-covered hills where there was not enough flat ground to build a house on, but I remembered having seen a valley with some flat pasture 30 miles back. Night was falling when I arrived. I could still see the ground directly below me as I flew low. I chose a piece which seemed clear of obstructions, but I then had to turn twice, and find it blind, because it was too dark to see anything ahead. I flattened out, and landed nicely, then held my breath, waiting to hit a fence or run into a ditch. My luck was in; it was a perfect landing. This is one of the few occasions when I landed without anyone seeing the plane. I walked across pasture until I found a road, and waited there until a car came along loaded with fierce-looking peasants in sheepskin rig-outs. There was a tremendous babble of talk and argument, none of which I could understand, and then another car arrived with someone who spoke French. He explained that they had thought I was a Russian spy, and should be shot. I said, ‘Tell them I have had nothing to eat all day, and would they please defer such frivolous debates until they had found me some dinner?’ This changed the whole atmosphere; I was rushed to the village, and set before a mountain of goulash while for hours relays of noses were flattened against the window looking on to the one street of the village. I was offered a tiny, stuffy, dirty room, with a vast covering twelve inches thick stuffed with feathers to sleep under. Next morning I flew to Iasi with the mayor, Advocate Popovitch.