Stupid Me or .. ?

How will you feel or react when in an unknown country all of a sudden you are singled out and with no fault of yours, asked to leave it ASAP ?
Seriously, when the local police speaking in a foreign language (to you, not to them silly ! ), looking at your passport which has a valid visa, discuss your deportation plan then I don’t think it’s a time to smile at them with fluttering eyelashes.. ..

Also, I don’t think Cuckoos are even remotely related to any elite group of Osama Bin Laden or those self claimed jihadis. But then why ? Why me ?

Damn ! Those merciless policemen didn’t even consider the fact that at stake is an innocent girl who was in that country not by choice but by compulsion .. .. sent by her employers.

Oh Cuckoo !! You always bring something intriguing here. Remember that bearded Shiva or motorcycle taxi ? Now stop running around the bush. Lets get to the facts.….

Oh well, to cut it short, it so happened that once upon a time there lived a Cuckoo who was sent to Geneva, Switzerland by her employers for three months on her first overseas assignment. It is another story that they loved her so much that she ended up staying there for close to two years.

Ok Cuckoo, enough. Write in first person now.

Ok, let me begin from the beginning.
I was fortunate enough to visit St Gallen within a month of my landing in Switzerland and it became a memorable one.. not for anything else but for my stupidity. Sometimes Cuckoos can also be stupid you know !

It so happened that three of my colleagues were going for a one day tour to explore some places of Switzerland. I immediately expressed my wish to join them. They had been in Switzerland for more than two years and had seen the neighbouring countries as well.

So, on a Sunday early morning, four of us took a train to Zurich. Zurich is a German speaking city in north of Switzerland.
After spending sometime in Zurich city we proceeded for St Gallen – a town further north-east. St Gallen is a small city and a canton, an hour’s train journey from Zurich. It is majorly famous for lake Constance, Abbey Library and the Cathedral besides the Ornate Oriel Windows and fascinating embroidery. You can read about it in detail on my website. Since it is further north to Zurich, not to mention the signboards are again in German.

Hold on ! This post is not about Zurich or St Gallen or German language. That will happen later… or maybe you can ask others (Ram Dhall, Aditya, Ashish etc ) to write, my handwriting is bad. :)
Ok, moving onto the story now.

In St Gallen after seeing the beautiful Cathedral and some tit-bits we went to the famous lake Constance. Wanted to have a small ferry ride before calling it a day.

So, at the lake we took a ferry. We had already bought the day-pass for our travel. That way it is convenient to pass your day :P .. arrr..  I mean as you already know from Mr Ram Dhall’s posts that it is convenient to buy day-pass because it can be used for travel on train, bus, tram and ferry within Switzerland. We need not buy any other ticket. In India we don’t have such flexible system till now. Don’t tell me about Smart card, I know what it is.

The ferry was a huge one, I should call it a small ship. It had a drive-through for cars just like we see in movies. People were taking their cars, scooters, even the bicycles along to go to other places. I was told it was a common practice.
For me, everything was new and extremely exhilarating. It being my first-ever boat ride on a foreign land (ok, foreign water), there I was, sipping coffee, mesmerized by the beautiful surroundings, green calm waters, cool evening breeze and the boat itself.

All my three travel companions were quite familiar with this kind of beauty.  Also, all the decisions of where’s & how’s were taken by them and I was just following them like a small kid.
After sometime they turned to me & said “We are getting off at the next stop”. Apparently after that point they wanted to explore the roads for going back.

But as soon as our feet touched the land, one of my colleagues asked us to stop !! I asked them the reason for not going further, they just smiled. Apparently, they did not want me to get anxious. So sweet of them.

Nonetheless, we turned back, reseated and continued our journey in the same ferry. I could see some custom people at a small check post checking everyone’s papers and I was wondering why not we can have such system in India as well. That would be pain in the neck but terrorists will think twice before venturing out free. *Sigh*

We got down somewhere only to find another check post !! I looked at my colleagues; they were chewing Chiclets & were as cool as a cucumber. That reassured me to think it was a routine thing to check papers.
Wow ! Switzerland has check points at every stop ?? No wonder this is one of the safest countries in Europe.

And when my turn came, those people .. .. those stoooooopid people in Swiss uniform stopped me !! Out of that ferry load of people they singled out only me !! They said something in German which obviously I could not understand but it was evident that they were not too happy with my papers. And then like a bomb everything fell on me. Do you know why ?

Oh well, since I was on a short trip to Switzerland, I had a single entry visa for it (which I had already utilized by virtue of my landing there a month back) & according to them (and to my surprise) at that moment of time I was coming from Germany, trying to get into Switzerland ‘illegally’ !!
Since Germany & Switzerland share the lake (which I did not tell you earlier), we had crossed over to German side without our knowledge and then we were coming back again to Switzerland. And the first check post where we had earlier thought of making our stop, was in Germany !!

There I stood like an illegal immigrant fool not knowing what to do and my companions cursing themselves for their brilliant idea of boat ride. The custom people were not allowing me to enter into Switzerland and since I didn’t have visa for Germany, according to them, I could not go back as well !!

Does that mean I’ll have free boat ride for the rest of my life ? Yayyyy !!
Eh no !! One of them wanted to deport me ! And I want to think he was kidding.

My three companions had made Schengen visa for traveling within Europe. And for your information, Schengen visa is required to move within EU (European Union) countries and Switzerland is not a part of EU.
So, to enter only Switzerland (as my case was) one does not really need a Schengen visa & that’s what my company had done. It had applied for a single entry visa for me. I think we should blame them for this stupidity and not me.

Well, we had to request, plea for my ‘release’ by telling them that it was a grave mistake on our part, we did not have any bad intentions, showing them our other papers etc. etc. etc. I was even ready to do ‘uthak baithak’ touching my ears. Then after checking my colleagues’s papers to their satisfaction they let me go.

Phew !! I had learnt a lesson again.
Cuckoo !! Beware !

Crossposted here

15 Comments

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Cuckoo gets more chirpy. Very interesting and a definitely a sound piece of advice for future Cuckoos of the world (stupid or otherwise).

    This reminded me of a desi trip of mine. To enter the state of Himachal Pradesh, you need to pay a tax of Rs 30 which is valid for a day. I was driving down from Dalhousie to Delhi, 5 odd years back and had decided to take the back roads. During that drive we entered and exited HP couple of times and felt very smart since we saved that Rs 30 receipt :) and didn’t have to pay again.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Cuckoo,

    What can one say about this astounding piece of writing !

    At the fag end of the post you almost kill your readers with suspense. What a relief to read that you were given permission to stay back. So the lesson No. 1 is to arm yourself with a visa for the Schenegen countries, as Switzerland is surrounded on all the sides with France, Germany, Austria and Italy and at some places (Lake Geneva, Lake Constance, Matterhorn, Basle, etc), the borders are directly shared with these countries. Moreover, the famous walks of Geneva – Les Voirons – The French side of Lake Geneva and La Dole – a high point of the Swiss Jura Mountains can easily be covered while you are at Geneva. During both these excursions, there is a likelihood of landing into a situation into which you were caught, though there are adequate check posts to streamline your movements.

    In any case, I would insist that you write posts on St. Gallen (I believe the Cathedral there is a masterpiece) and St. Moritz, as owing to time constraints, we missed out both these exciting places.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience and look forward to your next post.

    God bless you.

  • Patrick Jones says:

    Nicely cuckooed written, silly me! post.

    Owing to the element of suspense, as pointed out by Venerable Ram, the photographs were skipped in the initial run. When I went back, found them to be subdued (Swiss land er, water – scapes!) going with the atmosphere of the unfolding story.

    What next?

  • ashish says:

    Nice post. Was good to read that they allowed you back. The 2 times I met Swiss immigration / emigration, they were very unsmiling.

  • Cuckoo says:

    Nandan,
    Thank you.
    Oh we were not trying evade anything but were completely ignorant. We couldn’t have taken any ‘panga’ out there. :)

    Your incident !! Aah ! It used to be fun to do such things. An achievement sort of thing. Right ?

  • Cuckoo says:

    Ram Dhall,
    Thank you very much, coming from you is an honour.

    Well, my colleagues had Schenegen visa and they realized only after we had touched German land and so immediately stepped back into the ferry. But it’d be so much pain, we didn’t know at that time.

    Immediately after this incident I applied for one, and in fact we all used to do our weekly grocery shopping from France !!
    Yes, once a ferry ride on Lake Geneve took us to France side as well but we didn’t get down. The staff was knowledgeable enough to ask us ‘foreigners’ whether we have proper papers or not.

    But in the course of time I visited almost all neighbouring countries.
    Your mention about those places make me feel like going there again. :)

    St Gallen ?? Yes, the Cathedral is indeed a masterpiece.

    Well, I can not promise writing about it in near future as I am extremely busy with other things but yes some day.
    Also, I’ll have to sieve through the photos. If possible, I’ll keep writing such sweet & sour tit-bits in between.

    Thanks once again.

  • Cuckoo says:

    Patrick,
    Thank you, thank you. *Cuckoo bows down.*

    It happens when you are engrossed in something interesting, poor photographs have to bear your ignorance. :)
    I have plenty of such displays.

    What next?… Good question. Even I don’t know that as I was telling Mr Dhall, right now my platter is full. Let me see what all I can take.

    Thanks once again.

  • Cuckoo says:

    Ashish,
    Thank you.

    The 2 times I met Swiss immigration / emigration, they were very unsmiling… Perhaps they thought behaving rudely with a woman like me would be too ungentlemanly. ;) Oh, I am grateful to them then. :)

    Or maybe I have an innocent face. Ha Ha..

    And hey !! You met them twice ?? What was it ?

  • Celine says:

    Shocking, and such situations could land one in trouble!
    But you have described your whole experience in lighter vein and taken away most of the tension that you may have experienced then. Or were you fine all along?

    Just a few days back I drove while on a visit to Dubai, I drove over to get into Oman not realizing at that moment that I’d need an entry visa to get back into Dubai, UAE. Fortunately, I had no trouble getting one again as I am a resident of the GCC.

  • lakshmi says:

    thats quite a scary experience…just today that I was telling someone that you need a separate visa for swiss and that schengen alone wont do

  • Patrick says:

    My dear Cuckoo that is indeed hilarious. I laughed myself silly at the end. Still grave mistake on your part (or did u blame your campany), anyhows will keep that Shengehn visa in mind – by the way why is it called that???

  • Cuckoo says:

    Celine,
    Yes, it was quite a shock for us, learnt a lesson.
    Well, first I didn’t realize the gravity but after seeing faces of my colleagues it occurred to me that situation was indeed a serious one.

    Yeah, here I tried to paint a lighter picture. :)

    Lakshmi,
    Indeed a scary one. Not only from them, I was scared to think what would my employer do with me. :)

  • Cuckoo says:

    Patrick,
    Hee hee… … Thank you. *Cuckoo bows down again* oh my back !!

    Of course, I blame my company for that ! Why they thought I’d only work and not venture out in weekends ? They tried to save some money and put me in a soup. :(
    But on other hand they didn’t know that the employees would cross over to other countries. :)

    Schengen (that’s the correct spelling). Well, if you are going as a tourist, you need a separate visa for swiss, not otherwise.

    Just like we have Simla treaty by the name of city, it is called Schengen because the pact was signed in Schengen (a city in a very small beautiful country Luxembourg). :)

    I think I have spoken about this country on my website.

    Thanks once again for liking the post. Keep reading.

  • manish khamesra says:

    In second photograph I sensed that the policeman at the far end are discussing fate of Cuckoo, the little bird – should it be killed or left to fly again – to share her stories with the world … and sanity prevailed and they decided for it :)

    Great to go through it.

    Once we entered Switzerland from France, in a car with a french number plate. As we were crossing Switzerland we were surrounded by several police man and woman. They all took their place, ready to shoot for any undesirable action from our side. Then one of them came towards us very cautiously, asked us to roll down the window glasses, just enough to hand our papers to them. Once they found papers proper, we were treated like normal tourists. My first experience that how you are treated when you are mistrusted.

    Experiences like this are always welcome (Till the time, they decide that let Cuckoo fly …)

  • manish khamesra says:

    Cuckoo,

    I would like to add one more thing: You always come-up with some of the most eye-catching, innovative and interesting titles for your post.

    (sounds familiar …, heard it somewhere else too :)

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