Up again at 5 AM and off to Bern. It was all uneventful getting to Bern. We caught the 6:13 AM train and made it to Bern just before 8 AM. The counter at the US Embassy opens at 9. Katy was told this is a counter issue.
But I have questions??? How can a country let you in and then refuse to let you leave? The “Big Dog” we talked to yesterday worked for passport control. It was his staff that let us in to Switzerland? His excuse makes no sense to me. He is concerned about the airline, BA, being fined 2500 GBP for sending us to London without a valid passport. And his really lousy logic is:
“Well, your passport may have been ok when you came to Switzerland two weeks ago. How do we know you did not do this to your passport while you were here?”
Talk about screwed up thinking. Why in the world would anybody deface a United States of America passport? Go ahead fellow frugal guys and frugallettes (or maybe frugal fraulines considering the locale). Help me figure that one out.
Our time frame was as such. We were rebooked on the 5 PM to London arriving at 6 PM thanks to the time change. If we missed it, the 7 PM would be to late to have us legally make our connection to Bangkok.
In the meantime, I was thinking about our reservation at the Plaza Athenee in Bangkok, our next day ticket on Bangkok Airways to Siem Reap and our reservation with the Le Meridien in Cambodia. And all the time I had the haunting feeling that missing our originally scheduled 7 AM flight to London would cause the cancellation of the remainder of our RTW ticket.
We had checked out of the Hilton and had both our backpacks with us. I was informed at the US Embassy in Bern that no packages of any kind were allowed inside and only the party with official business may enter. I was banished with two wheeled backpack to the street for coffee, which wasn’t where the guard told me it was. I grabbed a to go cup and pushed one, pulled another along with my overflowing coffee cup around the streets of Bern until I made it back to the embassy. I just waited outside in the nippy but clear cool air of the morning.
It Gets Crazier
Katy comes out of the Embassy at 9:15 to inform me the lady in OUR embassy told her we should not be in Switzerland, they should have never let her in and she would have to wait 20 days for a new passport. The only emergency passports issued are the ones lost or stolen. Her passport is mutilated and does not qualify for emergency service. Sorry Go Away.
This is your government in action folks.
On her way out of the embassy one of the Swiss security guards pulled Katy aside and told her to go upstairs and call the number on a piece of paper he handed her. Neither of us is carrying a cell phone due to the massive charges so we knock on the next door for NON Visa and passport issues and talk to another Swiss guard who kindly calls upstairs and gets some action. Katy is now readmitted to the Visa and passport section.
At 11:30 Katy came out of the US Embassy in Bern with a new temporary passport. It seems that the Swiss did indeed save Katy and the US agent tried to sabotage our trip. When Katy went back downstairs she ended up with the same lady but a somewhat different attitude prevailed.
$200 in train fare and $76 in new passport fees now expended we hustled back up hill to the train station. No cab this time. The last guy had taken us in a big circle for and $20 for a four block journey downhill. The train station information desk was unavailable on our arrival so we were sitting ducks, and no one on the street seemed to know where the embassy was.
It worked but was not fun. Two Swiss citizens that were waiting for their family members came up to me to discuss their frustration as well. I felt bad for them and told them that basically most US citizens are really nice helpful people, as we had found their citizens to be. It is our government that is a mess and a national embarrassment around the world.
We made it the Zurich airport at 1:30 and got booked on the 3:30 flight to London and picked up our Bangkok boarding passes as well.
Passport control was a breeze. We went to the Bellevue Lounge (not Bellevue Hospital, but Lounge) and waited for the first leg of our long journey. It was stark but offered free internet and peace and quite for an hour before the flight. Again we got seats 5A and 5C with B blocked as our First Class seat. We didn’t are. We now had the passport situation under control.
Gray from the Wing and a Prayer blog talked about the excitement of going on a mileage run and all the unexpected things that can happen to make it an adventure. I agreed with him that is can be fun when you are facing the possibility of gain by virtue of a bump opportunity for $$$, an unexpected upgrade, or longer routing for more Elite qualifying miles.
But in this case, I don’t see an upside. Unless it is not going on the Eye of London and getting thrown up on. The whole ordeal was a real PIA.
Off to Southeast Asia we go.