Escaping the Czech Republic: Holiday disasters and how to avoid them - Pt. 2
Escaping the Czech Republic: -
I am a stickler for following the rules. I don't do things I'm not supposed to - even little things like jay-walking. This is especially so when I am in a foreign country. David on the other hand has a more casual approach to life which is how we found ourselves in the Czech Republic without entry stamps in our passports.
We drove across the border from Austria, in a rental car with Austrian number plates, following a long line of other Austrian cars. No-one else stopped at the border, no-one else even slowed down. D was driving.
"Don't you think we should stop and show them our passports. I am sure we are supposed to", I said to D.
"Why, no-one else is", he replied, and kept driving.
In retrospect it is clear the border police thought we were Austrian. Austrians don't need entry stamps, but it turns out Australians do.
Two weeks later, we tried to drive back into Austria. The Czech border police signaled us to stop. They inspected our passports closely. They looked perplexed. They indicated a small parking bay by the side of the road and where they wanted us to pull over. They didn't speak English. We don't speak Czech. They were polite, but firm and just a little bit scary.
They took our passports. We waited and waited and ...... waited. We started to worry - but we were trying to leave the country not get in - surely they had to let us out eventually. After a while an Austrian border policeman, who spoke some English, came over and explained that the Czechs couldn't understand how we had entered their country without having our passports stamped. The Austrians were very pleasant. They re-assured us they would happily admit us into Austria once the Czechs let us go. They didn't care that we had apparently sneaked into the Czech Republic. After 45 minutes or so the Czechs came over again.
"Sprechen sie Deutsch?"
"Nein." I replied.
This wasn't entirely true but six weeks of classes at our local evening college wasn't going to cut it in a conversation where we might end up in jail. If the situation was about to deteriorate I wanted an interpreter. I should perhaps explain that I once worked, briefly, as an immigration lawyer. The trouble with having been a lawyer at all and especially an immigration lawyer is that it can make you acutely aware of how badly things can go wrong and just how much trouble you can get into - especially in foreign countries.
Finally the guard smiled - and waved us on. I think he was just trying to explain things.
We fell into the welcoming arms of Austria and David has never sailed through a border without stopping again.
Lessons we learnt from the experience: -
Stop at borders and show your passport - there are absolutely no exceptions to this rule.
Stay calm and be polite.
Try not to look too much like interpol might be after you.
Learn to speack Czech.
To read Holiday Disasters and how to avoid them Pt 1: Our Great Cairo Catastrophe - click here