Those of you that know me are aware I’m a big rule follower. I don’t speed. I obey posted signs. I pay for parking even when it’s probably outside of the ticketing hours (just to be safe). I do not live outside the law…ever. So you can imagine the heart pounding, high-anxiety fun I had as I drove us through Slovenia trying to avoid getting stopped by the police.
On our trip from Italy to Croatia, we needed to drive in Slovenia for about 20 minutes across a tiny strip of land. We learned before driving into the country that a number of years ago Slovenia converted its toll booth system to a vignette sticker requirement. All drivers on expressways and major motorways are required to have one. We were able to find numerous stories about visitors who had been pulled over and charged 300 euros for noncompliance due to law enforcement’s strict no-exceptions policy. We also found a number of sites complaining about the high price of this road access and detailing ways to avoid getting caught without a sticker. We couldn’t seem to find recent information about the actual cost of these vignettes and where to purchase one. How we missed this in the plethora of facts available on the internet, I don’t know.
With no other options, we had to go for avoidance rather than compliance. We followed the very intricate steps of a helpful online document which gave directions for avoiding the major roads requiring the vignette sticker. It probably would have been better had I been the navigator and Brian the driver, but since his license had been stolen back in France, it fell to my nervous driving skills to get us out of the country without a ticket.
Technically, we weren’t breaking the law. However, I’d driven in foreign countries enough to know that it only takes one wrong turn and suddenly you find yourself on the entrance ramp to the expressway. If that happened, we would be looking at a hefty fine. Plus, the whole thing felt very rebellious and sneaky – two things I am definitely not.
Despite my nervousness, we successfully followed the outlaw directions with minimal confusion and made our way to the Croatian border. Our next important task after navigating the back roads of Slovenia, was to get our passports stamped as we left the Shengen area. This was an important item on the agenda as it will keep our days in Shengen countries under the magical number of ninety. Being part of the European Union, we’d read that passports weren’t always stamped upon entry and exit to Croatia, so we had to make sure we got this done.
As our car moved through the quick-moving line at the border, Brian pulled up the translation for, “We need stamps.” We pulled up to the window and I did the usual smile-and-shrug routine that conveys the message, “I don’t speak your language.” Then I thrust a cell phone with the translation on the screen into the female border officer’s face. At first she gave me a blank look. Then she smiled and said very slowly and clearly, “We speak English.” No accent whatsoever.
Feeling quite idiotic, we got our stamps and rolled on out of Slovenia. A few days later we learned that those blasted vignette stickers can be purchased at any gas station in or near Slovenia and the cost is only 15 euros. At least we know for our drive back out of Croatia. Or maybe we’ll decide to take the back roads again just for the wild, intoxicating thrill of it all. Those crazy Carisches….