Trip type: Personal
They say that the worst thing about vacations are their ends and I’ve certainly found this to be true…especially if you find yourself in trouble at Schipol.
After a lovely two weeks in Prague, Bratislava and Budapest, we were en route home to Minneapolis via Amsterdam. We had started our journey that morning in Budapest and let me tell you–if you ever doubted Communism took hold of Eastern Europe, just visit the Hungarian airport sometime. It was unmitigated chaos. E and I are pretty well traveled and certainly know our way around a ticket counter but we could not for the life of us figure out this airport. There were people milling about aimlessly and poorly formed lines cropping up every which way. We were flying KLM but had some Hungarian partner aircraft for the first leg of the journey…if only we could find it. Luckily, I finally found someone to help us and he did the check in for us at a kiosk (this detail is important later).
Anyhoo–we arrive in Amsterdam mostly on time but nothing can ever be easy in Amsterdam, can it? We walk down the stairs onto the Tarmac and are transported to the airport in a bus. Upon arriving, it is clear we will be going through security again (is Hungary’s TSA not up to snuff?) except this time, our plane of 200 passengers will do it single file through ONE security lane.
Once through the saddest excuse for security ever in the Schipol basement, we were off to our gate. Amsterdam “opens” the gate about an hour ahead of time on American-bound flights so that everyone can be interrogated one last time. Then you go through security again before sitting in a holding pen until you’re allowed to get on the actual plane.
We get through the interrogation just fine but as we go to scan our passports, there’s a problem. Every time I try to scan mine, a red light starts flashing. Finally, the highly annoyed gate agent tells me to go talk to someone at the desk. When E tries his passport, the same thing happens. I try to control my panic.
We wait patiently (well, E does anyway) in line at the desk until someone deigns to look our way. When she scans my passport, she asks if I have my visa with me. I ask her why and she says because my passport scan shows I’m an Icelandic national and have an American work visa. E’s passport says he’s French. Naturally, I’m now convinced we are going straight to Schipol detention and try to wrack my brain of who we call first for legal advice.
The women at the desk keep hacking away at their computers without really telling us what’s going on for what feels like hours. Managers are called over, calls are made and all the while, everyone else on our plane is going through the system just fine. Every time I try to add some piece of knowledge or push my MN Driver’s License on them, I’m rebuffed with a condescending statement that it will be fine. Just what the girl with the Jewish surname wants to hear by people speaking terse Dutch.
Finally, we are free. It would seem that in our helpful Hungarian’s quest to help us, he ignored several key questions when he checked us in at Liszt Ferenc, thus changing our nationalities. Köszönöm, Andris.