Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Uses for bottles of coke

I spotted a news article a couple of days ago on News 24 about the impending problems that will occur when the cost of tourist visas for non EU citizens travelling to Lithuania rises from somewhere in the region of 7 Euros to ten times the price. The biggest impact will be on neighbouring Belorus, a country most people have not heard of, despite its being in Europe. (I once went into a map shop in Newcastle and asked for a map of the country. Back came the reply, "Belorus? Is that a country?" So if a map shop said that....)

The News 24 item explained that there is a growing tourism trade in Lithuania fuelled by Belorussians visiting to buy goods that are otherwise not available in their own, rather poorer and centrally state managed country, dubbed the last dictatorship in Europe. It was filmed at the border between Lithuania and Belorus. It reminded me of when I was crossing the same border back in 1999 when we were on a tour of Eastern Europe. Our tour guide handed out visa forms on the coach as we left Vilnius and warned us that we could get stuck for a few hours at the border unless a kindly borderguard on the Belorussian side could be persuaded to let us through. There was however the rigmarole of filling in the visa forms to go through. Since only the tour guide could speak Russian, he talked us through where to put our names, ages, hotels we were staying in and a whole load of other information about where we were born, purpose of the visit and so on. He also suggested we leave blank the bit asking us to declare which weapons, including guns and missile launchers, we were carrying. Fortunately I had decided not to buy that ground to air heat seeking anti aircraft missile I saw in that quaint tourist shop we had visited in Riga!

The guide then took all our completed forms and our passports and left the coach with a bottle of coke from the on board fridge, warning us he may be some time. 10 minutes later he returned with all the passports stamped but missing the coke. We were then waved through and were back on the road heading for Minsk.

Turns out the cost of the shortcut was the bottle of coke. All the completed visa forms were immediately filed in the wastepaper bin and we could have put any name on the visa form.

It's amazing what you can do with a bottle of coke!

Sent via BlackBerry

No comments: