Monday, July 16, 2007

Back In Skopje

No, things did not go according to plan. I won't be catching the Balkan Express, romantically sat over a Turkish coffee as its chuffs towards Istanbul. Instead I wait for a bus in Skopje, a town I was determined not to have to return to. Why? Because I was thrown off my bus to Nis at the Serbian border by a plain clothed, embarrassed, cigarette offering, but finally apologetic policeman.

I didn't understand why I was thrown off. From what I gathered from his shrugs and amiable sighs, neither did he. But he was certain I couldn't go on, that if I wanted to enter non-Kosovan Serbia I had to return to Macedonia and enter again from Presovo, a different border point. This confused me, since I'd thought Kosovo was still technically Serbian. I hadn't expected a Serb would want to doubt that, by acting all histrionic about pompous things like border crossings and passport stamps. Still, this is what he did. I had to return to the point at which I entered Kosovo from Macedonia. I had to leave one part of Serbia in order to enter another part. And all this in a country that doesn't think its divided. Put that in your bong and smoke it.

Now I see why it is, and it makes more sense. The stamp I got when I entered Kosovo (Serbia?) was only a United Nations stamp, not a Serbian stamp. Therefore, by trying to leave UN administered Kosovo I was trying to travel around Serbia without a Serbian entry stamp. Since Serbia does not recognise the UN administration of its Holy Land, the border between Kosovo and Serbia isn't a Serbian border or entry point and therefore it can't give me an entry stamp. But I needed a stamp so, hey presto, here I am in Skopje planning, perhaps unsurprisingly, to give Serbia a miss for now. Actually, from a Serb point of view I grant, the logic is impregnable. Its just that from mine it was a pain in the ass.

Ultimately, I see that it was probably good he turned me around when he did. Otherwise who knows what might have happened when I tried to leave Serbia at the Bulgarian border without a Serbian entry stamp. Maybe I could have just said I parachuted in and left it at that. Ah, but then he'd have seen my UN Kosovan entry stamp and my dastardly 'greater' Serbian roamings would have been revealed for the foul deeds they were. Still, at least I travelled from Southern to Northern Kosovo, which was basically my intention.

Presently I'm thinking of a windy route across Bulgaria to the black sea and then of catching a boat to Odessa. From there I might enter Moldova and see Kiev and Lviv before crossing back into Slovakia.


elberry said...

i think you were supposed to bribe him?

Jonathan said...

hmmmm...odd perhaps that this dint even occur to me. Perhaps bribing is more appropriate when there's only one policeman, and u r not surrounded as I was. I wasnt frightened at all as it was happening. It was more anger i felt, and bemusement.

Nevertheless Im glad it happened since it was an 'experience' etc, though I feel a bit of a dunce for not knowing about that border problem. Still, the Un policewomen thought I'd be ok (as did (presumably) the Serb bus driver who sold me my ticket) so if they dont know these things, should I. Clearly they, as well as I , should have red the latest edition of Loney Planet.