Up: 4.1 No WHAT?!!?^&%$##!!
Left Left: 4.1.1 prelude Up Right Right: 4.1.3 the descent

4.1.2 so far so good

After my mom and I's tour was complete and filled with many interesting experiences good and not so good my girlfriend was becoming quite jealous of all of this traveling. Luckily for her soon after my mom got on her plane home Niki had a whole week off for Easter. So there was definitely some time for an excursion somewhere. We were thinking possibly heading up to Krakow. Since Niki needed to come to Budapest for the visa and I was already there I simply wait around for in the Budapest where I have plenty of friends. Personally I was a little tired of traveling and since it was early April it was a bit chilly--traveling bites when your cold. Unfortunately, this started to get my mind turning...where can I go and be warm. Greece. So since I had some time to kick I might as well check out this avenue. First I found out there were tickets for the 11:00 bus on Friday. Luckily, Niki got that Friday off too so in fact she would meet me Thursday night. No problem there. Then I went to the Serb embassy.

I simply walked right in and asked them about the visa and told them the essentials of my previous experience. Well as it turns out he said that it was impossible for the people at the border to give out transit visas so last time they were just doing there job. I double checked that I would have no problems because of my transit visas though Croatia or the refused entry and was told that they would not care. So I guess that all the evil thoughts I had about our border guard were unjustified.

But there was one glitch to the plan. I didn't have Niki's passport on me so I couldn't get her a visa so even though it would only take a half hour (or at least that is what the information guy told me) tomorrow that half hour was crucial since the Serb embassy only opened at 10:00. Hmmmm.

Well we needed a ticket and our passports to get the visa so we decided to push our luck and to get the ticket for Friday and come back on the following Saturday. If things didn't work out we could always go to Krakow. That night we visited my good friend Tibor and he kindly offered us a place to stay. Unfortunately, the place was pretty far from where we wanted to go and there was only one key so we would some how have to give him the key and of course lock up after we left. So after a long logistics discussion we decided it was possible and would save us the hassle of finding a place and the hassle of refusing his offer.

Bright and early the next morning we got up and found that the hot water wasn't working. Ok NO SHOWER--no problem. We packed up and were ready to go. NO KEY! I had remembered moving the key and putting it on top of our big back pack so that we wouldn't lose it. Well it was lost. After at least 20 minutes of looking, unpacking and packing we gave up. It really didn't make any sense how this key could just evaporate. Well the only thing that I could think of was that before Tibor left he by accident took the key out of habit. We couldn't leave since the place would be left unlocked. Niki figured maybe she should go look for a telephone and call Tibor and tell him of our predicament. Right after she left I thought some more. We had thoroughly looked though our stuff. I picked up the pack and noticed the pocket where the straps of the backpack can be put away and the the whole this turns into a nice suit case. Low and behold the keys had slipped into that pouch. Well I took off out the door and yelled for Niki and luckily I was able to catch her.

Now a little behind in our carefully planned itinerary we rushed back and then on to Budapest Public transport. Well we made it to Tibor's girlfriend's workplace and found Tibor himself was there. He is a security guard and he gets bounced from place to place. I don't know maybe for security..? So we delivered the key and chit-chatted for a while and were on our way again.

There we were in front of the Serb embassy at 9 am. We wanted to get there early because we hoped that we would try at 9:30 and see if they would open early for us. If we tried at 9:00 we thought for sure they would do it. So we figured no one is here so why not go for a coffee. Niki is somewhat addicted to the stuff. After a while of searching, we found a convenience store and bought a couple of pastries and some fanta (it's real popular over there). Also they said we could get coffee right next door. Well we went in and ordered coffee. Just before us someone else ordered coffee and received it pronto. Ours seemed to be taking a long time. I kept looking at my watch. It must have taken 10 minutes. The mean looking large woman behind the counter was reusing the old grounds for our coffee! I never saw this done before. I guess we were just lucky. The coffees were downed right after we got them and we were off to the embassy. By this time, there were already 2 people waiting at the gate. Shit, we were no longer first in line. Also when we asked them about our chances of getting in early they said that we were dreaming. Slowly the numbers of people waiting outside increased. There were a couple of people who tried to get in early but were denied. Well we just hoped that those first two people didn't take too long. Finally at 10:00 we were all let in. We kept our position in line for the desk I had gone to the previous day. Then someone said something in Serb and everyone rushed upstairs leaving us as we got up the stairs with our loaded packs in dead last. So all of the previous waiting had been for not. Luckily the line flew since they just gave out forms for people to fill out. After we got ours, we had them completed and back to the window we got them from before most people knew which side of the form was up. Well we also got to ask how much time it would take. Dead stop. The guy who did the signatures wouldn't be in until 11:00. Well it was possible that the guy could come in early or we got the visa at 11:05 and we took a cab to the bus. The people from the bus company said they would hold the bus back 15 minutes for us so....maybe. So we were completely aware of the time passing minute by minute. We met a German guy who had recently be sent back from Belgrade because he didn't have a visa. This sort of made me feel better about the whole deal since I wasn't being picked on. Also we met a British girl who was on her way to Greece by train--this was twice as expensive as the bus and a little slower. The real tension left after 11:15. We loosened up and shared some stories with our fellow waiters. But we were still in a bit of denial hoping that the bus had some border problems coming into Hungary from Poland. Who knows maybe there were Canadians on board. That was running joke that Canadians were always had border problems at least since my mom and I's incident.

The embassy was a pretty high tension place some people had real problems so in a way it is kind of hard to think that our stuff is so important--we're only travelers wanting some fun. Well we finally got the visas at 1:00--the embassies closing time. Well even though we had better chances of being picked up by aliens that happen to be going to Greece than our bus still being there we figured that it would add a sense of closure to our experience by going to the bus station.

Our Serbia bound friends came with us in hopes of having lunch. It was nice that they didn't mind satisfying our desire of knowing for sure the bus was gone. That was done in no time.

Since two years before I stayed in Budapest for a four months, I was familiar with Budapest and many of it's restaurants. I knew this neighbourhood fairly well and one of my favorite restaurants was here. On my recommendation we went there and had a great meal and continued our conversation from the embassy . From there we split up. Niki and I were off to get are money back from the bus company--for me this was becoming old hat--the others were off to more southern destinations.

I started to wonder about this company. I'm sure since this Athens-Budapest bus route was their main business. First of all, why didn't they know we needed visas the previous time and why didn't they know that it was going to take a long time to get the visas this time. Had no one else went to the Serb (Yugoslavian) Embassy and knew how long it was going to take? Anyway they gave us the money back after we told them that we couldn't wait for the Tuesday bus since that would leave us only 3 days in Greece. Then the owner said that there was a Czech bus coming through that we could go on and after a small discussion decided instead of taking the Czech bus back on Thursday we could come back with the other bus on Saturday. Since our heart was still stuck on Greece we said "OK".

The next day we got on the bus and were on our way. After an hour or so of traveling a thought arose "We may also need a visa for Macedonia". Since we were completely caught up with the other problems we seemed to have forgotten about that. Well the only thing we could really do was wait and see. In Canada that companies would not sell you a ticket for something that you can't do or at least they would feel slightly responsible. Anyway a slight ping of deja vu echoed in my mind.

Well everything went without a hitch. Macedonia gave us transit visas at the border and before we knew it we were in Thessaloniki, the second biggest city in Greece, with phrase book in hand. After a little screw up of the time difference and missing the train we wanted to take to a small coastal town, Leptokoria--we heard was nice. The remainder of our stay was a dream; great weather, great lodgings, great food, and friendly people. The week was really relaxing. But all things must come to an end.

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