The road more or less travelled by

So, you may or may not recall that before leaving Canada, we had a general idea of the route we wanted to take through eastern Europe. We mostly stuck to that route, planning each step a day or two in advance. The only major variations that took place were due to the fact that after experiencing the cooler climates of Scandinavia and the Baltic states, we had decided to get to the coast (and the warm weather) as soon as possible to catch the last vestiges of sunny, beach-worthy temperatures.

Thus, our route was as follows (planned route in hot pink, actual route in lime green):

Helsinki, Finland
Tampere, Finland
Tallinn, Estonia
Riga, Latvia
Stockholm, Sweden
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Bled, Slovenia
Vienna, Austria
Bratislava, Slovak Republic
Budapest, Hungary
Zadar, Croatia
Split, Croatia
Dubrovnik, Croatia
Kotor, Montenegro
Belgrade, Serbia
Venice, Italy
Amsterdam, Holland

Unfortunately my clever little map does not include Amsterdam, but to be fair, we were only there for about 6 hours on a layover in between Venice and Toronto. We did leave the airport, which is conveniently serviced by a commuter train which only takes 15 minutes to get to the city centre, and proceeded to have coffee, check out the red light district and a couple of prevy stores, lunch at McDonalds and beer on a patio while smoking the last of my Europe cigarettes (I don’t smoke regularly at home, only on vacation or whatever, or when drinking. And honestly after Europe, maybe never again. Ugh.)

To our dismay, travelling throughout most of Europe nowadays does not get your passport nostalgically inked with border crossing stamps. In the EU, there is no border inspection at all between countries, only entrance and exit stamps. We did however gain inky souvenirs in Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia. To my chagrin, the same page as my Iceland trip was used for new stamps.

Funny, when we cross the border to the US at home, we just want to get it over with quickly and painlessly. When on vacation in Europe, we hope to be detained just long enough for them to gift us with a stamp. We were almost never detained in the slightest, in fact sometimes the border guards looked at the Canadian crest on the front of our passports and only chuckled softly, handing them back to us without even glancing inside. The only instance in which we spent more than a minute at a border crossing was entering Serbia from Montenegro. A guard requested our passports, took them into the trailer that I suppose served as their office. Through the window we could see a group of guards standing around in a room, and the only holding our passports was gesticulating wildly while others looked puzzled and occasionally offered their opinion. There was a joke or two made over which the group laughed merrily, then things turned serious again. We were getting nervous in the car, as this went on for a good 10-15 minutes. We were convinced that we were to be searched or asked into one of the interview rooms for further inspection. We readied our cash on hand for potential bribery. After a while, however, a different guard came out, handed us our stamped passports and told us to move on. Huh….? Absolutely nothing amiss.

I figured they were discussing in depth my horrible passport photo in which the photographer skillfully managed to remove my neck and make me look about 50 pounds heavier. Plus, there is a speck on the photo that came with it from Passport Canada, some defect in the lamination or something, which always causes inspectors to bend it to and fro, trying to determine whether it is a forged and illegal document.

Another border-crossing sigh of relief came when crossing from Croatia (non-EU) back into Slovenia and thus back into the EU, with an hour to spare until we had to return the car to Ljubljana, which was an hour away. Most of the cars ahead of us had been pulled to the side for searching, and we fully expected that ours would be too, however it was the same old “glance…”Oh, Canada” and hand back with a wave to move on” situation as usual.


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Categories: Travel

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  1. Canada vs. Finland: a snack-off | Soph n' Stuff - February 16, 2014

    […] Having been to Finland, I know how obsessed they are with hockey – just like Canada. There are many things about Finland that are very similar to Canada, in fact. I would say it is the most Canadian-like European country I’ve ever been to. […]

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