Diplomatic Wrangling to get Two Clowns Over the
Border (Part ii)
The next day we shaved, showered and did everything
else we had to do before making a few phone calls. We phoned the
British embassy to Lithuania. We explained the problem, and that
we were on our way to work with disadvantaged children in Latvia.
We had a weeks worth of engagements there and needed to get through
the border into Lithuania. The person at the embassy suggested we
send them a fax at the crossing. Jonathan explained that they wouldn't
accept a fax. She suggested we have them someone post the documents
to us. Not having days to spare, we gave up on the embassy.
In retrospect, there was no reason they should
help us. We didn't have the right documentation, and it wasn't their
problem. We weren't in trouble. We simply couldn't do what we wanted
to do. We could try and play the bleeding heart card. We were going
over to Latvia to work with orphans and disabled children, but that's
probably not what the British embassy is there for. It was worth
a try, just in case someone there was willing to pull some strings,
but we needed to move on and try and find another solution.
Katriina suggested taking the ferry around. The
problem being that as far as we knew, there wasn't a ferry from
Poland, and we'd have to go all the way back to Germany to get one.
We really didn't want to have to go all the way to Germany, to take
a ferry back to Latvia, which would take at least two whole days
if not more. That’s assuming the ferry left when we wanted it. This
wasn't helped by her suggesting we could get a ferry from Hanover…
which is around a hundred kilometres inland.
She’d also suggested the previous evening that we hire a trailer
which would solve the problem. Neither of us had a clue where she
was coming from with that one.
We were essentially already late. We were supposed
to be meeting the Mayor of Liepaja that morning. This obviously
wasn't going to happen, and we had a show that evening. That was
exceptionally unlikely to happen.
It was then that the suggestion Katriina had made
previously clicked into place. She’d originally suggested we hire
a trailer to carry our equipment, as that would have the relevant
paperwork. At the time it sounded like nonsense and we’d dismissed
the idea. In the fresh light of the bright new day we realised she
didn’t mean a trailer. She wanted us to hire a new van. One word
had slipped a little sideways in her normally exceptionally good
English (or maybe it’s just Americanised
English). We could transfer everything from our van, to the hire
van, which we would then have a registration document for. The girl’s
a genius. Given the cost of everything else around here, if we could
find somewhere to hire a van from we could probably do it for twenty
pence for the week. OK, maybe a fraction more. [having since checked
that on the internet, that's categorically not true]
We'd get some breakfast. We'd hire a new van. We'd
be back on our way.
Then we got another phone call. It was someone
from Liepaja council. They'd heard we were having problems and was
there anything they could do to help. Could we tell them the name
of the border crossing and they'd see what could be done. We told
them what we thought the border crossing was. They had no idea where
that was. So we said we'd drive back up there and find out, and
then we'd get back to them. At that point, Jonathan and I agreed
that as long as they were willing to help us, we would keep trying
to get through.
When we checked out of the hotel they asked us
if we'd had anything from the mini bar.
“The room had a mini bar?”
This is a top tip to anyone decorating hotel rooms
in the future. Especially for those in post Soviet countries who
are still getting the hang of capitalism. If you're installing a
mini bar, don't give it a front panel that looks like all the other
front panels of the rest of the cupboards. Stupid tired tourists
who would more than happily have drunk your mini bar dry rather
than drink the cough medicine/after shave that they have with them
will not notice it. You'll have wasted a perfectly good chance to
charge excessive amounts for your booze.
Anyway, we decided to skip breakfast and head straight
back up to the border. If we couldn't work it out there, we'd come
back and hire a van. So once more we headed up the worst road in
Poland (where occasionally the tarmac reached the edges of the road)
and an hour later we were back at the border.
"Lets just give it a go and see what happens"
says I “being as we’re here”.
"show him the car tax straight off then" says Jonathan,
"it show's willing".
"OK" says I.
So we drove up to the window of the border crossing.
I handed over the passports. At the last second I decided not to
hand over the tax disk. It wasn't what they wanted and I saw no
reason to draw attention to the fact that we didn't have the registration
document. The border guard took the passports, he looked at them,
and then he looked into the van at us. "OK", he said,
and handed back the passports.
I looked at him. He looked at me… as if he was
wondering why I was still there.
Was that it? I almost wanted to ask if he was sure
he didn't want to see the registration document, but I wasn't quite
that stupid. I turned to Jonathan who was suffering the same half
second moment of disbelief.
"It's cool," I said quietly. “Go”.
Jonathan didn't need telling twice. He pushed the
engine into gear, and headed out of Poland.
It wasn't over yet though. We were through the
Polish side of the border, and effectively in no man’s land. We
still had to get through the Lithuanian side. However, we both felt
that we’d just got away with something we shouldn’t have, and like
naughty little schoolboys were both having trouble not bursting
into a fit of giggles. We could never be smugglers.
For the first time on this trip, we were stopped
at both sections of the border crossing.