As a long-term traveller, you’re bound to have a few weird, whacky, and downright annoying experiences. You expect your day to go one way, and all of a sudden it’s hijacked off in a completely different direction. This is the story of criminal fugitive, run in with immigration, and runaway bus: how a supposedly painless border crossing turned into a full day of drama.
We boarded the bus at 11am in Zagreb, Croatia. It was a beautifully sunny day, and by our calculations, we were expecting to arrive at Lake Bled in Slovenia by 6pm, just in time to watch the sun set over the magnificent alpine lake.
It was a 40 minute bus ride to the border of Slovenia, then another two hours to Libjuiana, the country’s capital. Border crossings in Europe are generally fast and painless, and as we eagerly disembarked from the bus, passports in hand, we were quickly shuffled through an immigration que, passports stamped, and ready to continue on our journey.
As our fellow passengers passed the checkpoint congregating amongst us waiting for the bus to pass, we noticed a bit of commotion amongst the border guards. They had detained three of the passengers for further questioning. Their passports were scrutinized and luggage inspected. After half an hour of questioning, voices began to raise, and I could tell the situation was getting heated. Another hour passed with no sign of three passengers in question.
As we loitered around the border control parking lot drinking 2E instant coffees from a vending machine, we suddenly saw our bus do an abrupt U-turn, driving away from the border back into Croatia. WHAT WAS HAPPENING? DID THE BUS JUST LEAVE US HERE STRANDED?
Panicked, we consulted the other passengers and learned that the three detainees did not have visas for Slovenia and the bus had left to drop them off at the nearest petrol station.
Another 40 minutes passed and the bus finally returned. We had been stranded at the border for two and a half hours just so the guards could tell three passengers they didn’t have the correct visa and send them back to Croatia. As we re-boarded the bus, finally Slovenia-bound, a passenger ran toward the driver screaming something in German, flailing her arms motioning for him to stop. Her wallet was missing, and she was accusing one of the three visa-less passengers of sealing it.
Once again, the bus made an abrupt U-turn heading back into Croatia, this time full of passengers. We made it to the petrol station where the visa-less individuals had been dropped. “What’s the point, they’re going to be gone already,” I complained. The bus skidded to a halt to block a departing taxi from the station, like a scene from a car theft movie, but with a bus rather than a sexy car. As luck would have it, the taxi contained the three fugitives.
The girl immediately ran to the taxy which produced a lanky delinquent looking man in a black hoodie, wallet raised above his head in surrender. The German girl gave him a mouthful, as the remaining passengers poured off the bus; some confronting the man, others simply taking in the beauty of the drama. The whole spectacle looked like a bad gang confrontation scene, both sides poised and ready to strike.
Wallet returned to owner, we once again reboarded the bus and departed for the Slovenian border. This was the fifth time the bus had passed the border that day. Luckily the border guard had mercy on us, waving the bus through the gates.
Ok, maybe we didn’t make it to Lake Bled in time for sunset, but the drama made a great story, and we learned a very valuable lesson: don’t trust visa-less fugitives.