Monday, July 18, 2016

Less open borders

I am on a bus from Kraków to Berlin, and my reverie is suddenly interrupted when the bus stops in the middle of the lush green fields. This does not look like a bus station, I tell myself. I look out to see if the road signs are still in Polish or if we are in Germany by now. My line of thoughts is answered as soon as two uniformed policemen get on the bus and start speaking rapidly in Deutsche. "Passport" and "Photo ID" are the only two words I recognize. Quickly, I get both out of my backpack.

Sometime during the trip, this thought did cross my mind. Germany and Poland have open borders, so technically one need not show any documentation. But we live in different times now. This has happened on my way back from Brussels and Amsterdam too. The thing is, this ID checking happens only on the way back to Germany and not while the bus is leaving Germany.

The officers are quick and efficient. It is only when they check my documents that I realize that they are only trying to match my photo with my face. Whether or not I have the paperwork to live in Germany, they probably do not care about. But then, I could be wrong, since almost everyone except me looks German. Both these men are armed, I can clearly see their guns jutting out of their waists. This makes me nervous. They check everyone's photo ID and are gone in less than five minutes.

Later, I ask the coach attendant why the police were here (although I know that it is probably because of the refugee situation) to which, the man shrugs and tells me he understands no English. I am trying to understand social barriers here, but am caught in the web of linguistic barriers. So I keep quiet and go back to my contemplation. Sometime later, the attendant comes back and points me to go to the driver. He probably felt bad that he did not understand my question. So I do, and ask the driver the same question. The driver (whose English is only marginally better) shrugs and tells me that he does not know. I am not entirely convinced. So I ask him what would have happened if I had no photo id on me. Would I be asked to leave the bus? Leave the country? Which country? The driver tells me he has no idea. I am left with a lot of unanswered questions, but I leave him alone.

I am certainly witnessing very interesting times in Germany. The situation was not like this when I had arrived here two years ago. At least during the Amsterdam trip, the cops got on the bus with sniffer dogs to check if anyone was bringing back drugs. This time, I am not sure why they checked everyone's photo ID and why they had guns on them.


1 comment:

A said...

Read about the teenager who axed people inside a train in Germany. Explains the extreme caution, I guess.