Speaking of borders, i was recently watching long-term traveler Tomislav Perko’s stimulating TEDxTUHH talk. His remarks towards the end resonated with something i’ve experienced myself traveling overland across international borders:
Incidentally, i first remember experiencing that when crossing from Croatia to Serbia as well — i was warned by one of my acquaintances that Serbians are xenophobes to be approached with caution.
Passing from Serbia to Romania, i was advised (at least twice that i can clearly remember) to keep my possessions always within sight, and be very watchful of the sneaky Gypsies, who will take any opportunity to rob me — “they believe they have been cursed, and have no other choice but to live like that,” said one of my acquaintances.
Leaving Romania into Ukraine, i was discouraged by the border officer to proceed into a country at war.
In Ukraine, i was then warned by another host to expect rampant corruption from authorities in Belarus — and so the anecdotes continued . . .
Granted, the Croatia-Serbia-Romania-Ukraine-Belarus outline above was the longest border-to-border streak i can account for. I also don’t know what percentage of the underlying populations is represented by each of these anecdotes — these are just notes and memories from some of the occasional conversations i manage to have at length and in clear English on my way.
If you’ve been following me, you know that my experience has been dramatically different — some Serbians have become my warmest friends from the road, and Romanians have actually offered me money (cash) on the road at a greater rate (times per days traveled) than anywhere else i’ve traveled — that must be the exact opposite of being robbed!
I have also felt safer from violence in West Ukraine than in just about any other place i’ve lived before (except Denmark), and i haven’t had to pay any bribes into, in or out of Belarus, at least not so far.
Just a couple of generations ago, Germany invaded Poland marking what is widely held in the West as the beginning of World War II. I felt especially joyful being able to cross the (now open) border between the two nations along a cycle path and a beach where Germans, Poles and any other affiliations around may refresh themselves without even knowing in which side of that imaginary line they might be peeing.
I hope more controlled borders between nation states will also become beaches, parks, monuments or museums across which nobody feels pressed to give travelers any nationally charged warnings.
___ Featured photo: cycle touring across the Polish-German border from Swinoujscie to Ahlbeck (Summer ’16)
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‘Trelograms’ is a wordplay between ‘telegram’ and ‘trélos’ (Greek for ‘mad’)