Crossing Borders as English Gentlemen

Unfortunately this is kind of true.

When checking out of Hungary we were quiet and polite. When the patrol boat beckoned us over we called the officers sir. Once inside, we were intimidated by the building and we sat quietly while our passports were checked. On being allowed to leave we thanked the border policeman profusely and shook his hand.

In Serbia we were on our guard. We walked past the barking dogs and held our heads high as we entered the building. When we were asked to pay for the right to canoe in Serbian waters we agreed only after converting the sum into pounds and only then on the condition that we could have two receipts. When we were offered a coffee from the machine and use of the Internet while we waited, we were suspicious and made use of the facilities offered cautiously.

Checking out was daunting, but we walked around a busy port and repeated that we were trying to leave Serbia until we had all of the relevant documents stamped.

In Bulgaria we felt more at ease. We walked along the town promenade in the general direction of the border control until an officer ran out to intercept us. Once inside the building we were relaxed. We took turns at declaring ourselves captain. We took our bags off and changed our shoes to something more appropriate for the weather. When the time came to leave we asked the man if he knew of any good hotels and if he could keep an eye on our canoe because we were staying for the weekend. We felt thoroughly mistreated not to be given coffee or at least a cup of tea.

When it came to checking out the service was a bit slow - apparently its often like that on Sundays - but we eventually found the main man and watched a weather forecast from the comfortable vantage point of his office sofa.

In Romania we had expectations. We walked up to the guard dog and told him to be quiet. When the Border Policeman poked his head out we hailed him in English while sauntering straight past him and onto his boat. We told him what we wanted and when his superior on the other end of the phone didn't understand we took over the phone call. While we waited for someone adequately important to arrive we sat on his sofa and watched Kung fu panda. Eventually we were given a coffee and we took some photos of his map because it didn't look too shabby.

Checking out took a while so we made our cheese and cucumber sandwiches in the harbor office so we had something to wash down some very sugary coffees. The young man didn't even take the hint when we asked if there was a good patisserie nearby.

When we entered Bulgaria for a second time we had grown nonchalant. Ok, it wasn't a border checkpoint, but we're busy men. We got the bemused border patrol to call up the checkpoint and send a minibus over for us. It took a while, but eventually we got the canoe in the back and had them drive us over to the office. Unfortunately, they forgot to give us coffee, but time was getting on anyhow.

We've only got one more border left to cross and, to be honest, if the Turkish Police don't offer us dinner, a tour of the local sites or at least a glass or two of the finest local beverages we'll be very disappointed.