I emerged from the coach in the wee small hours to find myself in the rather attractive town of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. I was busy trying to suss out how I was going to get into Belarus (avoiding all the tomfoolery of yesterday) when I ran into none other than Lynn Robinson, my ex-girlfriend Michelle’s mum! She was in the coach station getting a bus to the airport. What are the chances of that?
Well, statistically speaking, pretty damn high. In fact, considering the number of people I know, times the fact I am travelling for a full year, I think the chances of me running into somebody I know are probably one in one. But that doesn’t stop it being really cool!
Anyways, we unfortunately didn’t have time for coffee as her bus was due, so I headed off to the Belarusian embassy to try and blag myself a transit visa. Only, the embassy was closed. And it would be closed until Wednesday.
What do I do? Sit on my hands in Vilnius for two days and then have to wait another 24 hours for the visa to come through?
Nah, not my style. So I booked myself on the next coach to the border and helped myself to a quick tour of the town, meeting a couple of lovely Lithuanian girls along the way. They took me to see the Gates of Dawn and the old city walls. Vilnius is BEAUTIFUL. And awesomely cheap! Why are you still reading this? Get onto Ryanair or Easyjet and book yourself a £20 flight over there NOW!
Right, if you live in Europe, I’ll assume you’ve done that. Good. But (unlike you in two month’s time) I wasn’t here to sightsee, I was here to get movin’ baby yeah! So before too long I was on a local bus heading for the border with Belarus. Well, as it turned out, three kilometres from the border – I had to walk the last bit WITH MY LEGS!
Not wanting what happened yesterday to happen again, this time I took the official route in. The Lithuanian’s didn’t even check my passport. The Belarusians, well, they’re a different kettle of fish. In fact, they probably actually put fish in their kettles – they’re that mad. The last outpost of full-on fascist communism in Europe, the KGB is still alive and well and living in Belarus. They want to be Russian even more than Russia does. With a potty-mad dictator in charge since 1992 and political dissidents locked away without trial, the Belarusians like to party like 1989 never happened – and they don’t take kindly to amateur adventurer-types thinking it’s a lark to waddle about into their territory.
But that’s pretty much what I did.
I thought I could see how far I could push it, but I should have turned back on the border line. They looked at my passport and rather than just saying no, go away you don’t have a visa (or certificate of medical insurance) they took me into a small room and began scanning my passport over and over again, making numerous phone calls and asking me a lot of questions.
At one point I swear the KGB/border guard guy wrote ‘Narva’ on a piece of paper whilst having an animated discussion on the phone. Had they heard about yesterday’s shenanigans? Was I to be locked away as a habitual border pest? My toes curled. No – it doesn’t say Narva – it’s not even English, it’s weird Russian letters, plus you’re reading it upside down you moron.
I just want to leave now, thanks. I’ve stepped foot in your crazy country and if it’s all the same to you, I’d like to hotfoot it back to the good ol’ EU where I know they can’t give me the old electric shock shower fandango. They kept me for half an hour. Then, without any kind of ceremony, they let me go.
I trotted back over to Lithuania and slogged the three kilometres back to the bus stop. Arriving back in Vilnius in good time, I went for some good old-fashioned Eastern European nosh in the old town before jumping on the old overnighter to Warsaw.
It was a long day.