A Switzerland Story
Why am I going to Switzerland?
I’ve got a French Schengen visa and miles to get me a free ticket to Europe. Where shall I go, where should I go? First thought of Monaco, then decided on Switzerland. Called the Turkish Airlines for reservation. Said “I want to make a reservation for Switzerland.” The lady on the line asked “Where in Switzerland?” How am I supposed to know where! The first city that popped into my mind was Zurich, so I said “Zurich.”
Place: Taksim, Turkish Airlines Office
Actually Switzerland is not in the EU. Still, they might accept the Schengen visa. Just as every smart person would do, called the Swiss Embassy to ask. But first it was busy and afterwards nobody answered the phone. So I went directly to the THY Office, thinking I would ask there. According to international laws, airlines are obliged to know the visa regulations. Because if they let a person without a visa fly to a country, they have to take the person back to where he came from and also pay a considerable fine.
“Does Switzerland accept a Schengen visa?”
The man went in to ask and came back.
“Yes,” he said and sold me the ticket.
Place: Atatürk Airport
Passed through the passport control. Time is up, will get on the plane. Handed over my boarding card and passport. The girl asked “Where is your visa?” I showed her, “Here.”
She said “But that’s not a Swiss visa.” And I said “I know. But they told me that I could go to Switzerland with this visa.”
Upon this, an authorized person was called to investigate. The final verdict was: “You can’t go to Zurich, but you can go to Geneva since it is at the border. We have a flight to Geneva in two hours.” Didn’t exactly understand the reason, but it’s not worth the bother to ask.
“Ok, I’ll go to Geneva.”
The girls stare at me, “We haven’t seen nothing like this before” they say. My changing destinations so easily as if changing a meal-course at the restaurant, “If there are no beans, then I’ll have peas,” puzzles them.
Place: Geneva Airport
There is an “EU Countries”, and there is an “Other Countries” sign. I go into the “other” countries line.
When it’s my turn, the officer asks “Where is your visa?”
I show it to him.
He doesn’t like it. “You can’t go in,” he says.
So I go into the next line. Since I have a Schengen visa, maybe I should pass through the EU line. But the officer does not agree with this logic. He, too, says “You can’t go in.”
I don’t have any more options. “What do I do then?” I ask.
He shows me a window.
I go there. Nobody is home.
I ring the bell. A man comes.
I tell him the situation. He shows me the escalators right opposite. There’s a sign saying “France.” He tells me to ask for my luggage there.
Didn’t exactly get what he meant but sometimes I don’t like asking too many questions. There’s no point in knowing everything beforehand. Kills the adventure.
So I followed the arrows with the “Let’s see what we have here” spirit. There was a booth. Wanted to hand my passport to the man but he wasn’t interested, waved me to pass. So I did.
I’m at a small airport-like area. Told one of the clerks at the check-in line, they brought my luggage.
That’s good. Now, let me go to the information to find out how I get to Geneva.
The woman says “Go out from here and pass through the other side,” showing me where I came from.
Well… That’s what I intended to do… but they wouldn’t let me!
“Then what do you do?” she asked on my behalf, -such a nice lady, truly concerned with the dilemma of a stranger,- and answered herself: “You could take a cab to the border, but it’s far from there. Besides, I’m not sure if they’d let you in. You could get into trouble trying to go in without a visa.”
“What is there to see in France around here?” I ask. It’s good to learn about the alternatives.
“There is the mountain side.” Oh, that sounds good. But she says “You have to wait a couple of hours for the train to get there and you’ll have to change vehicles three times. Or you have to take a taxi and that would cost around 70 Euros.”
Well, I came here because it would be cheap. I don’t intend to spend that much money on a place I did not intend to visit in the first place. I mean Zurich or Geneva is one thing, Switzerland or France is another.
“Let me walk to the border” I say to myself, “God is big. We’ll see how things turn out.”
Thinking about it, it looks like I got into France illegally! I mean you cannot say I am a fugitive. Because I have a visa. It’s just that nobody asked for it! And this is not Africa or South America that they would be indifferent to such matters. Well, as they wish…
It’s hot. I’m walking under the noon sun. Must have made it halfway. A car stops by. A lady and her daughter. “Don’t walk here, it’s not safe” they say and drive me to the border. Great.
Place: France-Switzerland Border
The place that I show with my index finger is Switzerland… It’s only a 100 meters from where I stand. But got to pass through a border first!
They tell me there might be a control in the buses to Geneva coming from France. So I figure I should take the bus from the Swiss side. I pass through the border, walking calmly. Smile and greet the officer at the door. He does the same.
They (France and Switzerland) do not have a border problem among themselves. If you are coming from an EU country, you can go to Switzerland. A similar thing had happened for Norway. When I was in Sweden and asked about the Norwegian visa, they had said “If you could get into Sweden, then you are safe enough to get into Norway.”
It's just that you cannot do it at the airports. This logic does not work on the sacred grounds of planesworld.
Finally I’m in Switzerland! Got to the bus-stop okay, but now I need a ticket.
There’s a machine, but works with Swiss coins and I only have Euro bills.
I hear a couple speaking English. I consult them. “Can I get a ticket on the bus?”
Yes, is the answer.
“And do they accept Euros?”
Yes, but only if you get on the bus from the other side.
Just when I thought I had made it, here comes another obstacle. They see the disappointment on my face and try to explain “It’s right over there, two minutes walk.”
That I know. But they don’t know the real problem. I’ve passed through the border once. How many times a grasshopper hops without getting caught? I can’t take the risk.
“Let’s wait and see” I tell myself, as I often do when travelling.
And here comes the bus. We get on it. Meanwhile, we have gotten intimate with the couple. One is French, the other is English. They have gone out to lunch. (Don’t expect “A French and an English go to lunch” or “A French, an English and a Turkish get on a bus” joke here.) Now they are going back to work.
As a result, nobody asked for a ticket, the girl still gave me one just in case. And I gave her my card. If she ever comes to İstanbul...
After a five day trip, I followed my steps in reverse. No need to take chances. They check for the entrance stamp to the country at airports. Best to go out from the door I came in.
Passed through the Switzerland-France border the same way I got in: Smiling and waving to the officer.
Oh, the airport?
Just as entering, no one bothered to take a look at neither my French visa nor my passport.