A Border Crossing to Remember
Travelling is fun. I don’t think anyone would argue with that. However, it can also be challenging and full of frustrating circumstances. Well you can either be deterred by these inconveniences or put your head down and power through. Here is a quick story about the latter.
I’ve just finished a few days in the largely student populated city of Novi Sad, Serbia. Thus, concluding an unplanned four week detour throughout eastern Europe. I’ll be reentering the Schengen area for the first time since taking the ferry to Croatia.
As I walk into the ticket office for the train station, I count my remaining Serbian Dinar and hope that I have enough to purchase my one way ticket to Budapest, Hungary. This proved to be an odd encounter. I asked the lady for a one way ticket to to Budapest, Hungary. The lady at the counter nodded her head and handed me a ticket. (See the pic) It clearly states the ticket is for Vrbas. I ask for a another confirmation that this is for BU-DA-PEST and she just nods and closes the ticket window. I reluctantly make my way to platform.
The conductor starts checking tickets about 10 minutes after the train set off. He is confused by my ticket. I try explain my situation, only to realize he was not understanding any of it. So a random person helped to translate from English to Serbian. Vrbas, as my ticket indicated, was not going to get me to Budapest. Go figure. I then ask to purchase the correct ticket. He explains that I have to buy a ticket from him to border of Serbia and then purchase another ticket from the Hungarian conductor to finish the trip to Budapest. The Serbian conductor said it would be no issue and all was good.
Lets just say that was not accurate. I’ve now arrived at the border. The Hungarian conductor has boarded the train. As our passports are being checked, refugees were being detained and people without passports were removed from the train. The border was very strict due to the fact it was an entrance point into the Schengen area. The Hungarian conductor checked my ticket. He looked at me and started speaking about my ticket. I had no idea what he was saying, but once again, someone was nice enough to translate. This didn’t help, he yelled at me and said “big fine 200 Euros” and then walked away. I was told he wanted to fine me that amount because I was train hopping and hadn’t paid for a ticket.
It was at this point I decided to take a crazy risk. I grabbed my passport, wallet, and phone, went up to the train door and pressed the open button. I climbed off the train and ran back towards the Serbian border. Four heavily armed Serbian military members yelled at me to stop and asked, in perfect English, “Where are you going?” I quickly explained the situation and told them I was running to buy a ticket and re-board the train before it left. They told me to go ahead and that if the train left, their was nothing they could do. I bounded across the tracks into the station toward the ticket office. Immediately bought a ticket to Budapest for about 16 euros and made a break back toward the train. I flashed the ticket to the military and they were all laughing at me. As I got to the foot of the train, the same conductor stepped off the train. He looked at me and I handed him my new ticket. He was confused, surprised, and quite angry. But, he let me back on the train with no further questions. I couldn’t believe it worked out.
The rest of the passengers were stunned to see me back on the train. I just smiled and reached for my Ipod. I was going to sleep through the rest of this trip.