"Hot" borders in Europe - Cyprus, Transnistria, Kaliningrad
I just finished a one week trip (by air) to tick off my missing country points in Europe. Some of the border crossings reminded me of the special atmosphere you sometimes get at African border controls:
Cyprus - UK Sovereign Air Base - Northern Cyprus
The border crossing was more interesting than I thought. The houses along the UN controlled green line still show bullet marks. There is still the special atmosphere of a conflict zone.
Moldova - Gagauzia - Transnistria - Ukraine (Odessa)
Gagauzia is an autonomous region within Moldova but there is a huge border sign and it's worth to make the detour from Chisinau. The crossing from Moldova to Transnistria at Tighina/Bender worked easier than I expected (no visa, no payment, no waiting, no bribes), but when you leave Transnistria again for Ukraine, you will need to pay ca. 10 Euro to the border guards. The reason they make up, in order to get a bribe, is that you don't have an exit stamp from Moldova in your passport (which you don't get, because Moldovans consider Transnistria part of their country). Transnistria feels like a voyage back to the old days of the Soviet Union.
Kaliningrad - Poland (Danzig)
I flew to Kaliningrad by KD Avia. If you just want to collect the country point, you can make a stopover on Air Baltic's flight from Riga to Copenhagen. The land border out of Kaliningrad into Poland was much rougher than I expected. The Russians give hell to tourists, mostly Polish. Some wait for 24 hours in their cars. I took a private "taxi" from Kaliningrad to the border station and intended to walk over, then hitchhiking on the Polish side. But walking across the border is strictly forbidden! You MUST cross in a car (or on a bike). Most of the waiting cars (Russians; or a Polish car queue of 1 km!) will refuse to take you onboard even if you offer to pay them. It took me three hours to catch a ride. It was with two Polish guys in a big car who just jumped the whole queue and who the Russians let pass swiftly. Let me tell you: there is a lot of smuggling around this area and the system is totally corrupt... If you don't want to play the waiting game (at any ex-soviet border, I guess) put ca. 20 Euros in your passport, keep an arrogant and self-confident composure and just walk straight to the top of the line.
I didn't expect so much "fun" to be had in Europe ... but then I look forward again to Africa, where those kinds of border hassles are rewarded with beautiful landscapes and people.