Alight Fingers Juggling and Circus Skills Workshops  

Balls To The Baltic - Latvia or Bust



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.



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