Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Access Denied!

On Sunday I took a day trip with Roman and Virginie to Görlitz, a charming little old city east of Dresden on the border to Poland. We took a nice Sunday stroll through the old city center and looked at the 16th and 17th century buildings on the meandering streets, a great way to spend an afternoon. Then we came upon the foot bridge that crosses the Neiße River and goes into the Polish part of town. We thought “Hey, why not?” and started across the bridge, identification ready for the guards on the other side. Virginie was concerned, because she wasn’t carrying her French passport, just her identification card, and had come with French friends before who were denied entry for a lack of passports. The guards let Roman through, no problem, Virginie also, and then here I go with my American passport…

Border Guard: (taking my passport) What is this?

Me: (shocked that a border guard doesn’t know what a passport looks like) An American passport.

Border Guard: You can’t cross here.

Me: (looking at second guard to see if he’s laughing at this joke) Really?

Border Guard: (dead serious) No, you have to go to the other bridge to the real border crossing. You need a stamp.

Me: (remembering times entering the Czech Republic where no stamps were given, you practically have to beg to get a stamp, and Canadians denied entry who needed an actual visa) Would I need a stamp or a visa?

Border Guard: You need a stamp, not a visa. You have to go down there. This bridge is only for EU citizens.

So we walked away laughing, and I don’t want to play the know-it-all we’re-number-one American here, but who the %*+& builds a bridge that only EU citizens can cross? Come on.
We put our own little trade embargo on the Polish side and went for ice cream instead on the German side. Roman and Virginie jokingly suggested that I let “Uncle George” know that Poland wouldn’t let me in, even though they were such good friends in the war in Iraq.

I really have nothing against Poland now, I would really like to go there, and the Poles I know are great too, but I guess if they (whoever built the bridge, Germany, Poland, the EU??) keep building bridges that I’m not allowed to cross…

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