This weekend I rented a car in Bulgaria with the aim of driving through Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and eventually into Greece. Now, I’m no virgin to land border crossings in the developing world and understand the corruption and incompetence that typifies customs checkpoints. But this weekend’s experience was much more.
With documents in hand, I drove to my first border crossing in Strezimirovci, Bulgaria. After clearing customs on the Bulgarian side, the Serbian officers decided that they would not allow me to enter with the normal papers, and instead required that I obtain another customs form to proceed.
Unfortunately, they had no such customs form at their station, so they turned me around and sent me to another border check point in Kalotina, over an hour away.
The road from Strezimirovci to Kalotina skirts the Serbian border for a large part of the drive– quite literally, on one side of the road is Serbia, and on the other is Bulgaria. It’s all part of the same landscape with no discernable difference… these are just invisible lines guarded by gun-toting monkeys.
When I arrived to Kalotina, I found the ‘office’ where I was supposed to obtain the new document– just a simple, roadside concession stand. The ‘agent’ was the shop’s proprietor, a chain-smoking Serbian woman with rather mannish features.