Friday, September 02, 2011

The Lada Legend: The Colonel Goes West - Part Nine

Of all the reactions we received from various border officials, the one from the young Serbian woman at the Serbian-Bosnian border had to be the best. She took one look at the car, documents, and us, and then threw her hands up in that universal "I don't know what is going on, but I don't want to touch this with a ten-foot pole" gesture. She then burst out laughing and walked back to the little booth to inform her co-workers that an alien automobile was sitting outside. The Colonel, for his part, was eating this stuff up.

We regaled whomever was interested with the tale of how we made it to this spot. The young woman was still, almost frighteningly, in disbelief. That's probably why she forgot to give us exit stamps before telling us to have a good journey. Disappointment was apparent inside the car after that little fact was learned.

Onto the Bosnian side we went. They were not at all thrilled to see us. Most cars just have to show an ID card to get through, whereas we represented work.

"Insurance?" said the customs official after looking at our passports and vehicle registration.

I handed the insurance document that we used for Bulgaria and Serbia (knowing full-well that it wouldn't work for Bosnia).

"Insurance no good."

He then went back into the booth where two other guys were sitting. I followed thinking that he had something else to tell me, but instead he just informed me that it was in my best interest to stand by the car. After about ten minutes, a guy showed up that was apparently going to sell us insurance. It was a Sunday, so he had to be called in from home. I felt bad for the guy. We certainly weren't making any friends.

His English was marginal at best. I believe his favourite word was "not". He'd finish every choppy sentence with it. "Money not," "Insurance not," etc. Oh, this was going to be fun.

I learned pretty quickly that US Dollars weren't going to cut it. Euros or Bosnian Convertible Marks only. We didn't have either of the latter two and really weren't in a position to get them. Sarah tried to go to a store down the street, but to no avail. It was actually quite a tense situation. Our only option was to turn around, go back into Serbia, and find a bank machine in the border town that would give us Euros. I'd say the chances of that were slim to nil.

Our nay-saying friend finally relented and said something along the lines of, "Okay, I'll take the US Dollars just this once." We went back into his small office to discuss terms. Of course neither of us had any idea what the exchange rate was. He kept saying something like, "I have never done this with US Dollars so I don't know how much it should be." Eventually we agreed on a sum and started filling out the insurance document. This was easier said than done.

The first snag was that my name wasn't on the technical passport. He kept looking at it and saying "Who is this? I should put her name, yes?" I wasn't sure what to do so I suggested that he use my name because it was on the power of attorney document. He didn't like that at all and insisted that despite the fact that my name would not be on the insurance document, it would still be valid. "I don't care about your power of attorney document. Only the police care."

Then he started asking me questions about the cubic capacity of the engine (and other things that were supposed to be on the technical passport but weren't). I hadn't the faintest clue, so he just started writing down potential numbers. I pointed at one and acted excited. He seemed to accept it. When it came time to sign, he being the sly one that he is, told me to just scribble something illegible. How much more illegitimate could this document get?

With the insurance document in hand, I headed back to the customs booth. One of the guys inside, a young man, peered at it and then handed our passports back. I took a quick look and said, "Aren't you going to stamp these?" "Ah, yes. You're right." Three stamps later, we were on the road to Sarajevo!

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