Hostile Border Crossings: Yugoslavia / Bulgaria

This is second post on a series of hostile border crossings (see post 1) where I was detained or otherwise questioned by armed border guards while legally crossing international borders.

Bulgaria / Yugoslav Border (1984)

After spending a delightful few weeks along the Dalmatian Coast in the former Yugoslavia, in late 1984, we started off for Istanbul, Turkey.

Taking a train to Istanbul we had to pass through Bulgaria at the height of the Cold War. At the Yugoslav – Bulgarian border where the Bulgarian border control checks everyones papers and luggage, things went south and fast. We had Bulgarian transit visas and permission to enter the country for no more than 24 hours.

Admittedly, we were drinking and had contraband items (not drugs, but western Levi’s blue jeans that they wanted). The border police confiscated the blue jeans, because they thought we were going to sell them on the train in Bulgaria, and pulled me off the train for questioning at gunpoint. I was scared and sobered up quickly.

To get back on the train cost me an extra $100 in US currency for a new ticket, even though I had all the paperwork in order, including a valid ticket.

My sole experience in Bulgaria was this train station at the border. When we crossed into Turkey I felt a huge sigh of relief to be out the Iron Curtain, and never to return.

Sadly, I didn’t get to sell the blue jeans on the train in Bulgaria for a nice profit, which was my plan all along!

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