At around half past six on December 11th 2013, my friend and I got on the Florentia bus at Trieste bus station in Italy. The destination of this bus trip was Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria. We would arrive, according to the schedule, at 10.30 on 12th of December.
The driver kindly greeted us and happily we got on the bus!
In two hours we reached Slovenia and had dinner at the train station of Ljubljana. We spent the next 4 hours in Slovenia and late at night we arrived in Croatia. I felt very tired and decided to sleep on the bus. The bus was stopped at each border so that an officer could check everyone’s IDs and documents. All I needed to do was to present my passport and my Italian residence permit. Easy, right?
Yes. Very easy. Everything went smoothly until we were in Croatia. During a break the bus driver asked us a few questions regarding my Visa status and said to my friend that we may have a problem. He was right. When the officer at the Croatia-Serbia border came to check my documents, he stopped and asked me whether I had a Serbian Visa. (China does NOT have a non-Visa agreement with Serbia.) I said no. I showed my passport, my Italian residence permit but those were the only documents I had. I had to leave while being stared at by some impatient passengers on the bus. After explaining my situation to some other officers, they told us it was not legally possible to pass the border without a valid Visa.
My friend and I returned to the bus and heard some passengers complaining about the delay of the bus ride. Even worse, the driver had to turn around and drop us at the Croatia-Serbia border. My friend called her family friends in Bulgaria who were willing to pick us up at the border, but the drive would take another few hours. We stayed in the Croatian pavilion and a Croatian guard approached us and asked us what happened. Then, he told us not to worry and sometimes such things happen. It was good that my Bulgarian friend managed to understand some Croatian! We felt a bit better after all the distress and embarrassing moment earlier on the bus.
But it was dark and cold at around three o’clock in the morning. I remember us literally wrapping ourselves with scarves and blankets, thinking the night was so long that it would never end. After seeing both the sunrise and the sunset from inside the glass window of the Croatian pavilion, we were finally on our way to Bulgaria in a family car. In the next ten hours we passed through Croatia, Hungary and Romania and when we reached Bulgaria, a total of two days had passed…
Cold and Starving at the Croatian Pavilion | Freya for Independent Skies Magazine
In these two days, we only had some light items and a cup of hot chocolate from the vending machine at the Croatian pavilion. We were very exhausted nevertheless happy to have finished our journey (after all, only around 24 hours behind schedule…). As soon as we were well rested, we went to the Serbian Embassy so that I could apply for a Visa.
So, here is some important lesson to take home: Check the facts and update yourself with legal requirements before you enter a new territory! Things are rapidly changing and the reality can turn out to be very different from your expectations, possibly embarrassing too. Neither of us thought that Visa could be a problem for Serbia and almost yesterday, Britain was still going to remain in the European Union…
Freya Ziyan Lu
Featured image via Huntech.com
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