Friday, February 8, 2013

No Man's Land

My head bobbed back to level after bouncing off the tiled wall behind me. The just-woken-up feeling was familiar now after nodding off numerous times throughout the overnight flight over the Atlantic and the drive through Hungary. It had been eighteen hours since we left Boston and a half hour since I had been taken into border control. And I still wasn't sure why I was there.

The official had explained to me that I was the only one in my family who didn't have a Zurich stamp in my passport. They couldn't figure out how I was in the same car as the others, had a ticket that showed I went through Switzerland, but didn't have a stamp. They were determined to get to the bottom of it though. And my family was to wait while they did so.

Soon a police man came out and asked me what my mother's name was. I paused, thinking of several reasons not to tell him - including the fact that the document in which I was to write her name was only in Hungarian and there was no way to be sure that the blank space was really designated for my mother's name. But I wrote her name in anyway. I also wrote my place and date of birth and ultimately cooperated with whatever they asked me to do in their Croatian/English/Hungarian mix despite my grumpy mood. The police man thanked me and went back through the double doors.

A few minutes later the original border patrol official came out and asked exactly what time we landed in Zurich. I wasn't sure but I said that whatever time my wife's passport was stamped was probably the best bet. "But the stamp doesn't include the time", the official said. Stumped, I just said "then I'm not sure." He looked at me as if we had just reached an insurmountable hurdle. I thought about my jet-lagged pregnant wife and three children in the car and looked at him as if he was wasting my time. "I'm sorry", I said to him, "I really don't understand what the problem is." He shuffled back to his office, gun waving in its holster as the door hit his waist.

It was only another five minutes before he walked back in triumph. "We've created a stamp for your passport", he said happily. "Now you and your family are able to pass through the border." Relieved, I collected all the passports and paperwork and headed back to the car. As we drove the short distance between the Hungarian border and the Croatian border I took a look at my passport.

The two stamps on the left page are Hungarian as shown by the H with the European Union circle of stars around it. On the right page is the exit stamp from Hungary and the entrance stamp from Croatia. On each stamp the country is indicated on top and border town on the bottom.

Despite the wait at the border, and the confusion of it all, I'm still proud to have visited such a rare location. I
I can see the t-shirt now: "I visited Zurich, Hungary and all I got was this lousy stamp"

And a blog post. 

1 comment:

Laci and Keri NĂ©meth said...

YOU ARE UNIQUE MY FRIEND!!! Ohhh how much I would pay for such a stamp... :)