Border Crossings

I write on the bus from Pristina, Kosovo, to Belgrade, former capital of Yugoslavia, now capital just of Serbia. Despite assurances from the bus company I´m more than a little worried about crossing into Serbia. My Lonely Planet tells me it´s not possible to cross from Kosovo into Serbia, as Serbia does not recognise an independent Kosovo, and an Englishman I met on the bus to Macedonia told me I shouldn´t pass at the UN checkpoints. I made sure I did not get a Kosovo stamp on my passport. Apparently I should have returned to Macedonia, and thence to Serbia, a longer but a surer trip.

Many border crossings on this trip: from Hungary to Croatia a two hour wait while the police checked the packed train. In Croatia several police checkpoints. From Croatia into Bosnia & Herzogovina and then back to Croatia. On to Montenegro, which only separated from Serbia to become the newest country in the world in June 2006. From Podgorica, the capital, a taxi to the Albanian border, no trouble crossing, then another taxi on to Shkodra. From Tirana a bus to Macedonia, and another into Kosovo. The police get on or you get off, Normally no problem if you have an EU passport. As the borders have come down in the EU thay have gone up in the old Yugoslavia. Hassle at the border. I tried once to get into Serbia and couldn´t. From Poland I travelled to Roumania and got a visa at the border. From Roumania to Bulgaria likewise. But Serbia sent me back together with the Bulgarian babushkas trying to sell their wares inside Serbia. And we were bussed back to arrive in Sofia at 3 a.m..

One of my first border crossings was Spain in summer 1975. We got off the train which had crossed the French border in Girona and queued up to have our bags thoroughly searched by the Guardia Civil with their flatbacked hats. A couple of years later travelling from Spain to Portugal the Portuguese police were just as thorough.

Sent to the Interrogation Room for questioning only once. Surprisingly when I first went to Montreal with a scholarship in February 1991. The Faculty Enrichment Scheme cut no ice with the immigration official, particularly as I left my papers in my dispatched luggage. I eventually got in.

Border hopping or commuting. Work in Geneva, but live in France as it´s cheaper. Commute from Belgium to France, Holland Luxembourg or Germany. Skip over the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay at Foz de Iguacu. Take advantage of Ryanair to live in Barcelona and work in London. Many do.

Difficult borders. Turkey to Greece. it took me two days to cross in 2000. I turned up at the Edirne border on Sunday morning to find it was Monday to Friday 9-5 opening hours. I returned on Monday morning: “Greek computer broke. No cross!” I was told. It took me all day, catching minibuses and intercity buses to reach the main crossing point at Kesan, but as no one was permitted to cross for fear of planting a packet of coke or worse on the bridge between the countries I had to catch a taxi across and into Greece.

Turkish Cyprus, only recognised by Turkey, to Greek Cyprus, recognised as “Cyprus” by the rest of the world. Now the border can be crossed with relative ease but on either side you pass propaganda posters of the atrocities carried out by the former enemy.

Driving over the border from Eire to Northern Ireland in 1995. A time of relative peace during the “Troubles”, but be careful what you say as it may be picked up within a range of some 100 metres of the border control.

And for some passports still don´t matter. before me in the queue crossing from Bolivia to Peru were a group of Highland Indian women, who were lectured on tha advantages of getting a passport by the immigration official, but they crossed with no problem.

Ex borders: Checkpoint Charlie between East and West Berlin, now a museum. No passport was needed to go to Scotland from England, but many couples crossed the border to be married by the blacksmith in Gretna Green, just in Scotland as the legal age of consent was 16, in contrast to 21 in the rest of the UK. The law was only changed in 1977.

Change of country, language and currency. Forints and Hungarian in Hungary to krona and Croatian (similar to Serbian but written in the Roman script, now since division a separate language) in Croatia to marks (but much can be paid in euros) and Bosniak (but similar to Croatian) in Bosnia and Herzogovina. Montenegro has adopted the euro and speaks Serbo-Croatian or both Serbian and Croatian. In Albania leke and Albanian, from a completely different language group. In Macedonia Macedonian, a Slav laguage, written in Cyrillic, and Macedonian dinar. In Kosovo all the signs are in Albanian, tha language of the majority, Serbo-Croat, with Roman script, and English, and the use the euro. And in Serbia, dinar and Serbo-Croat in the Cyrillic script.

Safely over the Kosovo border. This is not a UN crossing so I might be OK to get into Serbia.

But I wasn´t. It didn´t work. The Serbian policeman told me that this is not a Serbian border crossing. They don´t recognise the Kosovo border as Serbia still considers it a part of Serbia and I had no entry stamp into Serbia, so I had to get off the bus, walk back through No Man´s Land to the Kosovo border and catch a taxi back to Pristina, stay the night there and then in the early morning catch a bus to Skopje, Macedonia, and from there another to Belgrade, Serbia. And this timne there was no problem!


4 Responses to “Border Crossings”

  1. Heleno Godoy Says:

    Too much trouble, I have to say!
    A Happy 2008.

    Noite de Natal, 2007

    O risco continua, nesta noite nem sempre
    calma: a um menisco quebrado junta-se
    uma operação correta – isso não garante
    que o rumo se ache ou que se recupere
    o andar de quem, por travessia, escolhe
    rotas menos rápidas, esquinas menos
    freqüentadas, lojas que vendem pouco.

    É lá que este anjo nos reencontra e nos
    convence outra vez à repetição de tantas
    mesmas coisas: perde-se um amigo por
    nada e ganha-se outros mais constantes.
    Afinal, esta noite reinventa reencontros,
    rola-nos adiante, enquanto este anjo nos
    reafirma um tempo lentamente recuperado.

    Heleno Godoy

  2. Rudy Carrera Says:

    Your blog brings back a wealth of memories, happy and otherwise, on my time in the Balkans. Are you still out there? It’s my plan to return to Skopje some time this year.

    Excellent work!

  3. Celvin R Says:



    I plan to travel to Crna Gora (Montenegro) in August. Maybe also I will visit Kosovo.

    Do you know the border crossing between Plav (in Crna Gora) and Peć/Пећ-Pejë/Peja ?

    Is it up in the mountains ?

    Do you know if its normally open ?

    Are there some express bus connections available from Podgorica to Peć ?

    Thanking you in advance!

    Celvin R

  4. Buy Things Says:

    Buy Things…

    […]Border Crossings «[…]…

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