Unless otherwise indicated, all names have NOT been changed in order to protect the guilty or the innocent. However, should Interpol come calling, then all stated names and places were a made up story just for the purpose of spreading goodwill throughout the Kingdom of Medium.
Without further ado –
Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far, FAHR away (must be read in your best Shrek or Donkey voice), there lived a brother and a sister. This particular fiefdom was so far away that it required travel by boat, yellow submarine, or airplane to get to. In order to protect my two much younger siblings (um, I mean two of the characters in this story), I will not tell you that the country lies to the east of Holland and France, nor will I tell you that it was a country that up until a couple of years before this event took place was actually two different countries.
For those who have a very poor grasp of geography and a lack of knowledge of world events, I will give you one small hint with the initials of the country W.est G.ermany, but don’t ask for any more hints because I vill not giff you eny more, Mein Fraulein und Mein Herr.
Across the waves far to the west there lived a couple, rather youngish at the time, who decided that it was time to visit sundry and sorted (not sordid) relatives living in this beautiful country. Before you could say Wienerschnitzel (bless you too), they climbed aboard a plane (faster than yellow submarines)and headed for a long trip to the old country.
Shortly after their arrival, it was determined by the youngish couple that this would be a great time to leave the kinder-noodles (roughly translates as offspring) with und grand-spoil-em-rotten-peoplen (equivalent to grandparents) and embark on a grand tour. The Black Forest in Bavaria was calling with all of its beauty, its luscious landscapes, and incredible fairy-tale like castles. By the way, it was rather disappointing to find out that Black Forest Gateaux does not come from Bavaria, but we saw lots of chateauxs.
Getting up early, we gave an extra helping of Wheaties to the 4 squirrels that resided under the hood of the French rental car. NEVER get a French rental car. They are slow as snails, even the ones that are getting ready to be eaten.
Four hours later, we arrived at our first destination of Neuschwanstein Castle and enjoyed an incredible tour of the castle that Walt Disney modeled his fairy-tale castle in all the stories with happy endings.
Feeling rather adventurous and only being about 30–40 minutes from the Austrian border, we decided that we would do a quick trip into Austria, have a late lunch while trying to determine if the hills really were alive with the sound of music. A quick confab between youngish couple and my two unnamed siblings (Sharon and Michael), we determined that as we had ALL brought our passports, that it would be an easy enough trip.
To be fair to one of my siblings, I will add that I actually am a dual citizen. I always carry two passports (one US and one British).
A quick car ride from the castle (but not as quick as it would have been in say a BMW or even a Volkswagen, we arrived at the border of the country we were visiting and Austria. Pulling up to the border guards who looked very menacing with their peashooters strapped to their shoulders, I greeted them in my best Deutsch accent.
With deepening scowls and obviously unimpressed with my ability to speak his language fluently, the soldier asked me in English to produce my passports. In the interest of good cross-border relationships, I responded in English as well.
Handing him BOTH of my passports, my wife’s passport, and my youngest brother’s passport, I reached back to get my youngest sister’s passport. She whispers back that she does NOT have her passport after all, but she does have something like a military ID that she used to get on base for work. I whispered back for her to hand that to me and we would see if that would allow us to cross the border as we really just wanted a quick visit with the Von Trapp family. I had confidence in confidence alone as I reached back through the window to hand the guard her ID.
Imagine my surprise when he would not do more than a cursory glance at her ID, the four passports, and waved us into Austria. Ah, the hills truly were alive. The sun was out and we could even hear the Mother Superior singing to us something about climb every mountain. We were ready.
An incredible lunch followed, but slightly disappointing as neither Rolf nor Liesl were available for the day. I think my brother and sister were hoping to make their acquaintances as well, but sadly, they were also disappointed.
By this time, we were only about an hour away from the Brenner Pass. This long tunnel goes under the Alps and is one of the entrances into the land of ravioli, spaghetti, and Bolognese sauce. Taking the tunnel is actually much easier than calling up Hannibal to hire an elephant.
Why not? With shouts of encouragement to the tired squirrels under the hood, we drove to the border of Italy. Using the same routine, because for some reason it didn’t make any sense for the driver to just hang on to the passports, we arrived at the border crossing. These soldiers looked even meaner and despite my repeated attempts to speak English with much hand and arm waving, they still not appear to understand what I was saying.
Finally, a border guard that spoke English asked for our passports. I handed him my TWO passports and my wife’s passport. My youngest brother who has a good Italian name similar to Michelangelo, but without the angel part (trust me on that one) handed me his passport. My sister still could not find hers, but dutifully handed me her military ID.
I handed her ID to the guard and was going to explain that we wanted to try the fine food, maybe ride in a Fiat down the canals of Venice, and maybe see about an Italian Job. Instead, he pushed the four passports through the window, waved us on through the military checkpoint, and went back inside his booth.
Driving from the beautiful colors of Austria, we entered the tunnel. Out the Italian side, the beautiful colored houses were drab brown, everything was dingy, and soldiers or police with sub-machine guns seemed to be standing on every corner. A couple of hours into the Italian countryside, a French car with four Americans were happily snapping pictures like good tourists.
Coming upon what looked like a decrepit and abandoned castle, we jumped out of the car and began taking pictures in the darkening gloom of evening. All of a sudden, searchlights began to click on. Scanning the darkness, they moved their way down the hillsides and were obviously getting ready to converge on the lone travelers.
A few feet away, I finally noticed a sign warning all tourists that this was a military installation and photography was NOT permitted. Now, why didn’t my brother or sister mention that to me previously? I don’t think I will ever know the answer.
Hissing through the darkness, I called to my fellow spies (um, I mean family) to get back in the car now. Just as one of the searchlights crossed and then recrossed the top of our car, I jammed the transmission into first gear and made a quick getaway that would have been the envy of James Bond.
My navigator wife was tasked with the responsibility of finding a viable escape route back to the Austrian border. After almost two hours of racing through mountain roads at breakneck speeds, I put the car through more curves than a German pretzel. It was during this time that we realized the gravity of our situation. We had now crossed not just one, but two international borders with passports good for three people — not four!
My sister was obviously concerned, even though we told her that should we get in trouble that we would appeal to the Pope to get her released, or at least send care packages through the Red Cross. For some reason, she was not amused, but I did remind her that she was actually the ONLY illegal in the car at that time.
Fortunately the massive troop buildup being orchestrated to find us was taking too long, and we pulled up safely to the Italian/Austrian border. Offering a quick prayer, we made a determination that if we managed to get back across two international borders using false pretenses that we would be forever thankful and that we would never ever criticize bad quality spaghetti noodles that don’t actually come from the town of Spah-getti in northern Italy.
Being way out in the middle of nowhere, these guards spoke no English — at all! With more fear than I ever had on top secret missions that I conducted while in Her Majesty’s Secret Service (different story for a different day), I handed FOUR passports to the guard.
It was now dark and I made sure that my sister was seated at the back of the car on the far side. Looking at each passport, the border guard came out with a flashlight and began looking at each passenger while holding the passports. Stepping back into his little hut, he picked up the phone and made a quick call with our passports in hand.
By now, my sister was sweating, but we tried to console her that Italian is not a hard language to learn and that she had always loved noodles.
Opening the window, the guard handed me the passports and said something in Italian. Unfortunately, my sister had not been spending much time on her foreign language study and could not translate, so we just sat there.
Opening the window again, he pointed several times at the car, said something in Italian, and shut the window while still speaking on the phone.
On the third time, he opened the window, yelled something in Italian, pointed at the Austrian border, and then yelled, “Go, DRIVE!”
So, we drove while he went back to ordered his nightly pizza from the local Little Caesar’s restaurant. I really hope they gave him extra cheese and anchovies because he was a real stinker.
Driving back through Austria late at night, we determined that we better not stop for the night until we were back in Germany. Sorry, for security purposes, the name of the country had to be redacted.
Arriving at the Austrian/German border, we felt coerced to use the same manipulation tactics. It was imperative that we remained calm so as not to cause any incident that might require a new nuclear proliferation treaty to be re-signed by Reagan and Gorbachev in Iceland which incidentally has no borders you can drive across thus making it a safer country to visit.
The Austrian border held no issues though and the border guard barely even looked at the FOUR passports that I handed him. From my understanding, he was later reassigned to watch over foreign visitors to the Gulags of far eastern Siberia. Thankfully, he had already enjoyed a frappe and a strudel that would have brought a smile to the face of even the Baroness Von Schrader.
Waving us through the final checkpoint, we broke into a rousing rendition of “Deutschland Uber Alles.” Despite the fact, that only my youngest brother spoke fluent German, plenty of deep guttural throat-clearings made it sound quite impressive. It would have probably brought tears to the eyes of the best choir in Berlin or Munich.
And that concludes the true, honest-to-goodness, non-fabricated, and definitely non-embellished account of how my two passports saved the day for my sister after she illegally crossed FOUR different borders on the same day. Thankfully, she still talks to me and doesn’t even have a German or Italian accent, which is kind of what I expected. After all, research does say that…oh never mind.
Auf wiedersehen and ciao!
This entry was posted in authors, Flash Stories, Humor, Uncategorized and tagged Austria, border crossings, foreign travel, Germany, humor, illegal, Italy, Secret Service, Sound of Music, spies, travel.