Confused For Smugglers In Greece: How We Escaped The Cavity Search

If you are anything like me, you probably don´t have much experience with getting searched by police or other authorities.

The closest I ever got to a detention cell was when I slept in one, back in the days of hitchhiking in Cambodia in 2013, but that was because they invited us to hang our hammock in there, even providing us with an anti-mosquito spiral.

Apart from regular airport controls, I never got into a situation where an officer would  really search through my stuff and ask me unpleasant questions. Until one dark cold night, as all the real scary stories start.

This is a tale of how we got thoroughly searched at a Greek border checkpoint.

Getting mistaken for smugglers at the greek border - www.girlastray.com
Playing with a cute Greek dog (not a police dog, duh)

It all starts with a Blablacar ride

We were hitchhiking in Greece in those weeks and it was not the easiest country to do so; after a month and a half of rather expensive travel in southern Europe, we were trying to get to Turkey as fast as it got. All we could think of was kebab and cheap veggies in some of those wonderful eateries you find in every town, but hey, hitchhiking in Greece proved to be a little tricky.

When we saw a Blablacar offer from Thessaloniki basically to the Greek border for 8 euros, we didn´t hesitate for a minute. Next morning, the deal was sealed and off we went in a car with two polite, well dressed and smart looking Turkish gentlemen.

Read more: A night of fright – sleeping in an abandoned hotel in Erice

Their rented car was to be returned in Alexandroupoli, but since they were headed in the same direction as the two of us, we quickly agreed to share a taxi to the border with them in case we couldn´t manage to get a ride by the nighttime.

Which we, obviously, didn´t.

We probably should have slept at the small airport where they left us that afternoon. But no.

And so they picked us up at night, loaded our backpacks in the stuffed taxi driven by an obnoxious woman and that was it, we were headed to the border.

Somehow we failed to realize that a rude taxi driver, two Turkish men, one Colombian man and a Slovak woman who met each other right that day, in a cab crossing the border at midnight, was a good way to get into some trouble.

Getting mistaken for smugglers at the greek border - www.girlastray.com
Kastoria, a wonderful town at the Greek – Albanian borders

Interrogation at the Greek border

We worried a little bit when crossing from Albania to Greece earlier that month (as we heard it can be a tough one if you have a shitty passport), but we walked in faster than you can say tzatziki back then so we weren´t worried at all about leaving the country.

The officer looked me in the eye, then scoured further into the car, searching for more faces in the dark, looked at the passport again and…the questions started.

When did you meet? How did you meet? Why are you traveling together? played on repeat for a while and then we were not so kindly invited to step out of the car, take out our belongings and proceed to the small room for a further investigation.

Read more: How I escaped skinheads in Bogotá, Colombia

You can imagine that at that point, as a regular female paper-white Schengen passport holder, I was already a bit freaked out.

The following hour though (seriously, why do these officers ask the same thing four times in a row? Ah, I know, they hope I will say The Truth by mistake.) – now that made me shake like one of those tiny expensive dogs on a stroll in a commercial center.

Getting mistaken for smugglers at the greek border - www.girlastray.com
Detail of an orthodox church

Questions, scrutiny…

First of all, the Greek officers put on white latex gloves with a flapping sound while I pray to the goddess Fortuna so that it´s just a formality and not and actual cavity search.

Go figure. (Phew, no cavity search today!)

Next they take my husband with our backpacks to the small room and shut the door. He has to unpack everything and the men carefully go through every little bag, every single item being exposed and discussed, including my tampons, my mooncup, my pantyliners, dirty socks, (awful, after so much camping and hiking!) underwear plus several boxes of seeds, strings, metal wire and other assumingly suspicious hand crafts utensils.

Read more: 10 bizarre language facts I learned on the road

While my generally badass Colombian husband is chatting up the bored officers with our hitchhike stories, I am turning red as a Valentine´s day heart-shaped balloon, imagining some unknown hands picking through the stuff I intend to insert into my hoo-haw later that month. (Yes, I consulted the Urban Dictionary for that synonym!)

Besides, I urgently need to pee. While a dude sitting at a wide table is asking me where I met those Turkish guys for the sixth time (can you believe they never heard of Blablacar, let alone Couchsurfing?), I am carefully sipping hot tea from a paper cup (they are nice like that), sweating and trying to keep my bladder a bit more tight than my composition.

Getting mistaken for smugglers at the greek border - www.girlastray.com
I´m a hypocrite, you see – I was praying to all saints I could remember though!

…and more questions

Imagine the scene: I am sinking into a leather couch, explaining how such bums as we two travel around Greece (remember, my husband taught me, the best thing you can tell them is the truth and with a lot of details), trying not to pee my pants, while from the next room, I hear the officers laughing. Obviously, nobody can resist the Colombian charm.

Heeheehee, they go, Pablo Escobar bla bla bla…Narcos tatata and so on. Good. Even the border police watch TV series and think good old Pablo was some kind of a misunderstood Robin Hood with a funky moustache.

Read more: Tips and tricks for hitchhiking success

Nobody asks me anything anymore (they probably pity me, which is for the better) and so I wait, feeling sorry for the Turkish guys whose passports have been equally collected and not sorry at all for the Greek taxi driver who was plain annoying all along. They must be cursing the moment they decided to take a Colombian across a border, I think.

Finally, the door opens, F. and the officers finishing their session on a high note, talking about drug laws in Latin America. They exchange a few words in Greek and call me in: it´s my turn. They ask me to pack our backpacks (a few feathers from the sleeping bag still floating around) and I fight the zippers with nervous hands while they go through my purse.

Looking impossibly nervous, I must seem like I have a kilo of cocaine stashed in my bra or something. (Fortunately not.) My stomach turns around in horror when the officer grabs a plastic bag and asks – and what is this?

“That, sir, are just…fried…cannabis seeds.”

Why the hell do you have weed seeds on you?!

You see, not that I carry a pack of fried cannabis seeds at every moment (I´m not simple like that), but

these have somehow escaped my attention for too long. I got them with a cream at a summer hippie market (oil from cannabis seeds is actually my favorite eczema treatment) from some farmers and, needless to say, they were technical cannabis seeds. Ain´t nobody that stupid to fry smoking stuff, mind you.

I ate most of them, but never finished and when I boarded the plane to Sicily in September 2016, the seeds were still in my handbag. (Fortunately enough, the search never caught me with them…until now.)

Fuck my life, I think, I´m in trouble.

As you know, seeds fried with salt and pepper are not ever going to germinate, but when the border police saw the package, he must have been thinking I am nuts. Who else carries a pack like that in their purse? Yeah, I thought so. Only me.

Lucky me.

Read more: The best flea market in Bogotá

You still have that shit? F. hisses at me and gleefully offers the officer a handfull of salty seeds to try himself which the guy demonstratively refuses.

At that moment, I want to stuff my burning face into the backpack I just managed to close without ripping off the zip.

The officer shakes his head in disbelief – I guess they don´t get these amounts of dumbness crossing too often – and waves us to the table.

They make us sign an agreement with the interrogation and luggage check and lead us back to the car where they hand us back our passports. (At that point, I feel like my bladder will soon explode or else I will perish, a victim of the same fate as Tycho de Brahé.) The Turkish people look at us with well concealed hate, we load our stuff back in the trunk and off we go.

Until the next imaginary line on the map.

Was it all because F. is Colombian? Or because we didn´t hand in his residency card along with the passport? Or because they didn´t stamp his passport back when we entered in the first place? Most probably the combination of all three.

Getting mistaken for smugglers at the greek border - www.girlastray.com
In Colombia they say you should eat when they stop you so that they see you´re not smuggling anything in your stomach

Trouble at the Turkish border

The driver keeps complaining loudly about how nervous she felt and how she doesn´t want to have problems (keep telling me) when we arrive at the next stop.

The Turkish border officers, although they are probably suffering of the same boredom as their Greek counterparts, look somewhat more serious.

They look at us and glance at our papers, while the driver loudly and annoyingly tells everyone and no one in particular about our misfortunate one hour long break at the Greek checkpoint, stressing that she has no connection to us whatsoever. Turks unwillingly open our bags too, quickly examine the insides by touch and proceed to check the car papers.

So it happens that the cab doesn´t have the permission to travel abroad.

The one who is not allowed in Turkey is the woman and her yellow car.

After some more drama, she drives back and we continue, finally tucking our passports back in the safety. I pee behind some bushes and happy ending follows.

Only that, I forgot to check if they´ve put a stamp in my passport in all that confusion.

And they didn´t.

But that´s a whole different story.

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Stray story seeker. Hungry hitchhiker. Wannabe polyglot. Aspiring travel writer. Currently bumming around in Turkey.
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49 Comments

  1. Kelly

    Wow. I give you so much credit for hitchhiking. I could never do that. And that wouldhave freaked me out. I always get anxiousabout that kind of stuff but have never really been pulled aside by secuirty. Thanks for a great story.

  2. LOL
    I went to a conference last year in Bali and got stopped at the airport, had my luggage examined, my nutritional supplements questioned, and my hands dusted for… um… drug powder? GSR? It was a bit weird. The airport has emphatic signage strongly advising new arrivals on steps for avoiding being accidentally poisoned by cheap alcohol. I wondered what that says about how much trouble they get from the Kuta side of tourism…

  3. Lia

    This is hilarious!! And it TOTALLY sounds like the kind of thing that would happen to my husband and I, who are like magnets for complete fails. Having spent a month in Colombia, I’m so not surprised that your husband charmed those police officers. Colombians are the most wonderful and kind people we’ve ever met as a whole. Also, omg I need to try fried cannabis seeds now!

    • They do have some magic communication skills, don´t they? Everywhere we go, people just love him and want to talk about Narcos with him, haha. Btw., fried cannabis seeds are delicious, try them when you get the chance! 🙂 Oh, and I LOVE reading about your fails on your blog!

    • Yeah, that´s what I was thinking hehe #bloggerinside 😉 It was really problematic to solve my unstamped situation later on, but has also been practical in other ways, such as getting longer visa – I plan to write about that later too, I´m just always late with my writing! Thanks for reading!

  4. Allison

    Best blog pot ever! You must have been so nervous! And seriously girl cannibis seeds lol. I tried to pass my Aussie passport off by failing it in the EU only queue once entering Greece. They were having none of it and we’re on to me straight away lol.

    • Thank you! Hahaha, I´m so happy I´m from EU because that crossing is the shittiest ever! When my husband was coming to Europe (before marriage) we were quite freaked out so that he doesn´t get stopped! Did they pull you aside and ask you stuff back then?

  5. Oh my goodness! I can’t even imagine how scary that would have been! I don’t know jow I would have coped! The closest I’ve ever gotten yo something like that was leaving Romania from this tiny airport and everyone in our group hot swabbed for drugs and explosives. To be honest though, I think the guards were just bored haa. At least you’ve got a great story now haaa

  6. Oh my goodness ! What a crazy adventure… almost like a scene in a movie ☺ I would have been so scared but you handled it really well. I’m glad you arrived at your destination safe ! I’ve never hitchhiked but have gone through road border checks where we forgot certain food items were not allowed… so I can’t even imagine how freak out you have been !

  7. Omg, what a nerve-wracking experience you detailed! Though I’m very glad to hear that it ended up being fine (and with no cavity search – yikes!). Also… I totally understand the discomfort of having a customs officer go all through your business, get up close and personal with your menstrual cup… happened to me going through security in Dubai! They tried to confiscate it because they thought it was a sex toy that “wasn’t allowed in their country”! Ahh! Anyway, thanks for sharing this story – maybe not the nicest memory for you, but it’s so enjoyable to read travel narratives and you told a great story 🙂 Looking forward to reading more!

  8. Oh man what a crazy story. I hate how these guys can make you feel so scared and insecure, when you’ve done NOTHING wrong. I hate that so much. I felt like I was right there with you. Since my boyfriend has much darker skin that my privileged white self with a U.S. passport, he always gets the 3rd degree at borders. Whenever we travel together we always get asked how we met, like why on earth would an Indian with an AUS passport and a German blue card be traveling with a white girl from the U.S. in a car with a Las Vegas license plate into Canada?? “Umm dude, because we travel and meet people form all over the world, sorry to blow your tiny minds!” I wish I could say that. I’m glad you avoided any serious issues though. Good luck with your continued travels!

    • Hahaha, that answer would be priceless 😀 I´d love to see their faces! We get a similar kind of questions, although being married helps, so we usually show his residency card too although it´s not necessary, but they like it. But they all still want to know how we met and all the gossip. And talk about Narcos, of course.

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