Déjà vu at the Balkan Borders!

An event a month ago caused me a Déjà vu, and turned me back to 7 years ago! This also became the motive for writing this blog. Invited to take part in an Erasmus + training program, me and my two friends took the trip to go to Cluj Napoca, Romania. We decided to go by car. I was told that we cannot enter Romania via Serbia, but since my friends had to go to the Romanian Embassy in Skopje, I asked them to check about this since the information from the Embassy would be credible. The Embassy staff said to my friends 'you can go without any problems'.

With this conviction, we left by car, and we reached the border near Vrsac town, where we encountered the first obstacle. The Serbian police did not let us go to Romania, explaining to us that we cannot. They said it is not allowed. BAM! It turned out to be true what the stranger had told me. 'You can go through Hungary', he said, but that was impossible because I was the only one in possession of a Schengen visa.  My friends had only Romanian ones (which besides Romania, you can enter Bulgaria, Croatia, and Cyprus).

In such a situation, we started to go back, even though we had done over 10 hours of journey. We were trying to guess what are the options, just driving around and trying to call people that we thought might know what to do. In all of this situation, we found some time to enjoy the beauty of some villages in Serbia, through which Google Map decided to take us. In one place we even stopped for photos, taking this sportively.

We decided to try another border-crossing point, hoping they would allow us. We took a few more hours to reach the next cross-border point between Serbia and Romania. Still the same! But there was a policeman that surprised us. He spoke Albanian after he noticed that our Serbian was weak. He told us to wait a few minutes, and together to figure out how to get to Romania. After he returned, he told us that we should go to the Serbia-Bulgaria border, then from Bulgaria to Romania, and that's a safe way. We benefited from the situation, and spend some time asking the policeman, how he knew Albanian. He told us that he had lived in Prizren. We thanked him, and off we went. We finally entered Bulgaria. As we continued our journey it started pouring rain so we had to stop and sleep for a while to both wait for the rain to stop and to get some rest. After 36 hours of travel, we finally arrived in Cluj Napoca. But by the time that we arrived, we had missed the first day of training. 

Something almost identical happened to me in May 2011, but this time I was misinformed by the Kosovo embassy in Austria. I was staying there with my first Schengen visa for a few days and decided to return by bus through Croatia. The Embassy told me I could do it with Schengen visa, but turned out that they had informed me wrongly! I was not allowed to enter Croatia so I was stuck on the Croatia-Slovenia border in the middle of the night, and no idea what to do.

Soon after, I decided to hitchhike my way back. A car stopped. He was a Bosniak, that was living in that town, Maribor. The next day he said he would go to Wien (where I wanted it to buy a plane ticket, and on the day my visa expired). It was luck in misfortune. He took me to a cheap guesthouse, where the doors were broken, which was a bit scary, with a coffee shop where there was no internet or computer, so I was unable to inform my family. The next day he took me to Wien. There I bought the plane ticket and returned to Kosovo in the evening. Oh yes, 2 hours before my visa expired!

After I returned, I exchanged some e-mails with the Embassy, complaining about their misinformation. The Embassy staff ​​admitted that they didn’t check laws correctly.

Embassies across the Balkans or Embassies of the Balkan countries can be good, but sometimes they know how to mess out, not knowing such essential information. The consequences are only for those who are victims of the information they decide to take from them. However, now I consider both cases as adventures and lesson learned since next time there is no way that I take a trip before I get well informed and cross-check the information for accuracy. Unless I decide to take another trip and consider it part of fun/adventure, no matter the consequences. 

Author: Migjen Krasniqi