after leaving jakubovany and our new-found cousins, we headed
to presov to spend the night.
it was snowing as we drove into the center of this little city,
and it was just lovely. it's amazing how just a tiny bit of freshly
fallen snow makes everything look so beautiful and clean. downtown
presov was pretty empty - some signs were posted, limiting the roads
to just trams and taxis. but since a couple of other cars were there,
we kept driving.
we started looking for a place to spend the night. after looking
at our map, we located both hotels, and drove to the closest one.
it was pretty ratty looking. nobody was at the reception desk, and
after we rang the bell, a girl came out of a dirty back office that
had three other people sitting on a threadbare couch and watching
tv. the price was good: only 500 SK per room per night ($10), but
there were no phones in the rooms, and we all wanted to do some
email. so we decided that the second hotel could only be better,
and left this one to the locals.
we drove back towards the center of town. after crossing the next
intersection, we were pulled over by the police. we weren't sure
why, but we figured it was because we were driving in a restricted
mom's book on europe warned us about traffic violations in slovakia,
where the fines for foreigners are much higher, and they need to
be paid in cash to the police officer. because of this, we tried
to keep to the speed limit, pay for the highway toll stickers, and
obey local traffic signs. but we had goofed, and now it was time
the officer came to the car, and after negotiating a mutually
acceptable language (broken russian), he asked for my credentials.
so i handed over my passport. then he asked for my driver's license.
so i handed that over, too. then he said that there was a "big problem".
we must pay a fine for driving inside the restricted zone. the fine
amount is posted 50 SK ($1), so i reached into my wallet and got
out a 50 SK note. the officer shook his head - the problem was much
bigger than that. the fine for foreign drivers was 2,000 SK ($40).
obviously i wasn't very happy, so i argued. it's too much, i told
him. he didn't say anything, but waited, holding my passport and
license. i don't have that much, i said. but he just waited, and
eventually i decided that i really did want to get my passport back,
so i pulled out my wallet, and made a big show of trying to find
enough money. i counted, and reshuffled, and counted again.
finally the officer must have thought that enough was enough,
and he said that he'd give me a special deal, and only charge me
1,000 SK. i handed him the money. he was all smiles as he handed
me back my papers. he gave me directions to the hotel, and said
that it was ok to keep driving through the town. so we drove on
- the only car among the trams. and wouldn't you know it: another
police car drove past us, did a quick u-turn, and pulled us over.
two police officers came to the window.
this time time i was ready. i had my passport and license out,
and handed it to the officers. we negotiated our language (broken
english this time), and they told me that i was driving in a restricted
area. i told them that the other police had sent us this way to
the hotel, so i was just going there, following their orders. they
weren't satisfied, and they said that i had a big problem, and had
to pay a fine. but i got upset, and said that i wasn't paying twice
for the same offense.
this piece of information got them interested. the other police
had already collected a fine? yes. where were the police? i explained.
how much did you pay them? i told them 1,000 SK.
well, i should have said that earlier, because all of a sudden
these two guys became extremely helpful. i guess foreign drivers
are a great revenue source for the local cops, and they must split
the excess fines they collect. do you know where the hotel is, sir?
no, i'm not quite sure. do you need an escort, sir? oh, yes, that
would be very nice. ok sir, follow me. and that is how we got a
police escort into and through the center of presov, and up to a
very nice hotel. all for the reasonable price of $20.