Border Patrol- Traveling Between Sofia and Belgrade

14 Jul

7.8.2011

The journey from Sofia was pretty painful, it was about 8 hours and hot as hell. We transferred from a mini-bus to a full-size monster in Nis, a town across the Serbian border. Crossing the border was an interesting process. On the the Bulgarian side they simply collected our passports and stamped them. However, at the Serbian border we actually had to exit the vehicle and answer some questions about our destination and purpose of journey. They were keen to make sure I wasn’t smuggling anything, but it wasn’t as bad as watching the Korean guy before me. He spoke zero English, and everyone in the line was getting annoyed as the border guard tried repeating “destination?” several times. When we transferred in Nis we had about 15 minutes to kill. A big Serbian guy with a curly ponytail, Adidas shirt, and sport-style sunglasses appointed himself ‘caretaker of the foreigners,’ ushering me and the Korean dude to the front of the line to make sure we got the correct bus tickets. “We have 10 minutes here” he told me, unprompted. “The bus leaves from right here, platform 8.”

At the Nis bus station: Watch your step when withdrawing currency!

It was very nice of him, and having this guy around made me feel safe. I think my Korean friend needed it more than I did, he seemed to be constantly heading the wrong direction. I nipped off to the ATM to take out some Serbian dinars, and to say the area was under construction would be an understatement: two big-bellied construction workers seemed unconcerned as they sat on a large pile of rubble, while checking out a blonde girl with a stuffed animal backpack. It was refreshing to know that someone, somewhere in the world (over the age of 5) was attempting to keep those furry backpacks in fashion. When I returned from buying a bottle of water, Mr. Ponytail said he had been concerned that I had been misplaced. The bus was sketch, very jerky. Although I know admittedly little about mechanics, I know it’s a bad sign when the bus driver calls for a pause and then opens the engine with a puzzled look. When I returned to the bus, ponytail who was sitting nearby, turned his head comically, gesturing to me and looking very concerned that our Korean friend hadn’t returned. I imagined him sitting in the cafe eating apple pie (yes they sold it at the cafe), totally unaware that the bus had been waiting for him.

A window with a view

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