Our tale begins in Moscow, early in this century. My wife and I, American expats working in Russia, were buying a house on the sunny, Mediterranean coast of Croatia. At that time, before a much-heralded “reform,” a foreigner wishing to buy real estate in far-away Croatia had to begin by sending an application to the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the capital city of Zagreb. After preliminary review, the application would be sent to the Ministry of Justice for further review and then back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for follow up review. The process took two to three years, depending on how much “review” was needed.
That was okay with me. I knew that things take time in government. I had myself worked in Washington, home to the world’s only superpower bureaucracy. On some days, I knew, it could be very difficult to move a document out of the outbox of one civil servant and into the inbox of another civil servant. That was a universal truth. In Croatia, this truth came at you without mercy. At one point, after a year or so of waiting, we got word from Croatia that our application had reached the desk of the right Zagreb bureaucrat, but then the individual got sick (or was transferred, or got pregnant, I can no longer remember). The file had to be reassigned to another office, already heaped with applications and paperwork awaiting review, be it preliminary, follow-up or some other as yet undefined variety. No matter. Eventually the “review” takes place, you get your permissions, and you move on. That’s the way I tried to think about it. As the Croats say, “To je to” (toe yeh toe). “That’s that.”
Anyway, we had a car in Moscow, where we lived, and needed a car in Croatia, where we planned to live. The Moscow car was a good car, a trusty 1994 Volvo 850T, with a 5 cylinder, 222 horsepower front-wheel drive engine with only about 50,000 miles. Sweet. It had served us well in several different countries. When it was -20 C in Moscow, the Bordeaux metallic, four-door sedan started up without complaint. She navigated the pot-holed, icy streets. She never stalled in the bumper-to-bumper gridlock that was the most evident product of Moscow’s recent capitalist wealth. Let’s take the car with us, we thought. We can pack up the car with things we would need in Croatia, set off along the Serpukhovski Val roadway south of Moscow, cross Ukraine westward into Hungary, then head for the Croatian border. We could de-register the car in Russia, and import it into Croatia. How hard could that be?
Answer: Plenty hard.
It was July 2004 when we set off from Moscow on our 1,200-mile trip. A warm, agreeable morning dawned and as we pulled out of Russian metropolis, our car was packed to the gills. All the belongings we wanted to transfer from Moscow to Croatia — summer clothes, kitchen utensils and dinnerware, pots and pans, books — and Igor. Igor was a uniformed member of the Russian Customs Police. He was about 20 years old, I judged, and was wearing the camouflaged khaki pants and shirt with epaulets and insignia of the Customs Police. As I drove, he sat in the back seat, directly behind me.
He was unarmed, I think. His job was to make sure that we left Russia without selling our car before reaching the Russian-Ukrainian border. This was the condition that the Russian authorities had imposed before approving our request to export our vehicle: You must take a Customs Police officer with you, pay his salary for the day-long trip, and pay the cost of his train ticket from the border crossing back to Moscow. There was bureaucratic genius to this requirement. How many foreigners would agree to having Igor in their back seat? The Customs Police could always say, “We didn’t turn them down. We had to make sure that they didn’t sell their car to villagers near the Ukrainian border, then sneak across the border on foot.”
As we approached the desolate agricultural landscape of the Russian-Ukrainian border, Igor sullen and staring at the back of my head, I tried to imagine the scenario that had caused the Customs Police such dread. There I would be, driving off the main road into a dusty village, pulling into the main square, waving down passersby and advertising my trusty Volvo for sale, pocketing thousands of rubles, and making a mad dash across miles of deserted fields and farmland to the safety of the Ukrainian border. Here was bureaucratic imagination for you! The Customs Police didn’t know me at all. I was, I admit, an adventuresome type and loved going to out-of-the-way villages, but would I ever switch my Volvo for a Volga? Never! I drove straight to the truck stop-style border crossing, no stopping, sneaking an occasional glance in the rear view mirror. Igor stared back. Whatever happened to trust in international relations?
Finally we arrived at the border, Russian and Ukrainian flags flapping in the breeze. Igor got out, motioned to me to step away from the car. Sheepishly he asked me if I would come with him to the foreign currency store, which stood off to the side of the road past the border control booths. Duty free vodka was sold there at bargain prices to those with foreign currency. I had dollars and Igor had a long train ride back to Moscow. It seemed like the least I could do for him.
There are those who have mastered the art of the baksheesh, the small gratuity given to reduce long waits in line and produce happy outcomes for all. I am not one of them. When I walked back to my car, it was the turn of the Ukrainian border police to look at our documents and bless our onward journey, and they had a problem.
“Where are your permits from Ukraine?” the border guard asked.
“We are just driving through your fine country on our way to Croatia,” I explained.
“But you need Ukrainian transit permit to do this,” he insisted.
There was an awkward pause while I considered my options. We had traveled a long distance — maybe 350 miles — to get from Moscow to this desolate border crossing. There was no Ukrainian Embassy nearby. Our car was brimming with the contents of our Moscow kitchen, our clothes closets and our…. liquor cabinet. Russians and Ukrainians shared many Slavic traits, I knew. Among them an appreciation of spirits. I had just finished buying a bottle of Russkiy Standard for Igor. Would my current uniformed interlocutor share the same interests?
“The perfidious Moscow authorities did not advise us of your country’s entirely reasonable and well-justified requirements,” I began. I spoke in Russian, but tried to insert an occasional Ukrainian word or phrase, like duzhe dobre (very good) or tak harna Vasha zemlye (your country is so beautiful). “Is there some way we can make up for this regrettable but entirely typical Russian disparagement of Ukrainian sovereignty?” At that moment, I instructed my wife, sitting in the front passenger seat, to lift into view a plastic bag containing a bottle of cognac. I gestured toward the bag.
“We are hoping to reach Kyiv in time to see the glorious sunset over the Dnipro River.”
The Ukrainian guard stared at me and surveyed our over laden car, which now resembled nothing so much as Jethro Clampett’s in The Beverly Hillbillies (“so they packed up their bags and they moved to Bev-er-ly — Hills, that is”). Ukrainians probably watched American TV re-runs and knew we were nuts.
“I’m letting you go, but just make sure that you leave Ukraine within three days or you will be in trouble,” he said. Another pause. “And we don’t take bribes.”
And that was that. (Or, in Ukrainian, nu i fse.) Several days and several hundred miles later, we crossed the Carpathian Mountains, entered Hungary without incident or delay, and traveled the length (or was it breadth?) of that country, alongside Lake Balaton, and reached the Croatian border. With our American passports, Russian license plates and bric-a-brac stuffed back seat, we were a bit unusual, but at the height (or was it the depth?) of the summer tourist season, Croatian border guards got a daily dose of strange. They were trained to keep the traffic flowing. We were waved in.
All I was trying to do was to import our ever-reliable Volvo into the Republic of Croatia. Though not the most popular car on the road in that country, there were plenty of Volvos coursing about the newly built highways of this would-be member of the European Union. There were service centers not only in Zagreb, but along the coast as well, including Rijeka, not far from our stone-built summerhouse. Without the severe weather of Russia, and without the planned obsolescence that characterized so many American cars, a Volvo in Croatia could be counted on to last for many years. Despite years of war in the 1990s, and antipathy toward things Serbian, you could even see on the roads of Croatia that emblem of the failed Yugoslav state, the Yugo, a wisp of an automobile and the butt of countless jokes when introduced on the U.S. market in the 1980s. There was even an older car, the Zastava, modeled after the old Fiat 125, whose name meant, “flag” — as in the Yugoslav flag that no longer existed.
But I had not counted on the Croatian bureaucracy. My moment of awakening came in a conversation with my Croatian lawyer. It went something like this:
Me: “Can you please help me register my beautiful 1994 Bordeaux metallic Volvo 850T in the Republic of Croatia?”
My Lawyer: “I pity you. You are obviously not aware that it is impossible to import a car into Croatia that is more than seven years old.”
Me: “Can I ask you another question?”
My Lawyer: “Yes, but I start billing with the next answer.”
My car had suddenly become the Flying Dutchman of automobiles — except it was Swedish. Searching for a safe harbor, my Volvo 850T could suffer the fate of now being welcome nowhere — expelled from Russia, a fugitive from Ukraine, and automobile non grata in Croatia.
Still, the world of automobiles is nothing if not a world of exceptional bonds — between man and machine, between car and country. My wife and I were about to begin work in Germany, birthplace of the automobile, where the worth of a man is measured by the speed he drives on the Autobahn. Put a fresh set of z-tires on my 850T, and my Volvo and I could live in Germany’s fast lane, alongside the Mercedes, BMWs, Audis and Porsches that live to humiliate lesser brands. The Germans welcomed me and my car, perhaps relishing the thought that one day my aging classic would fall prey to a Bavarian behemoth.
Then my wife and I came up with a new plan. Okay, it was my plan. We would sell our car in Germany and purchase a new one — one that we could drive for a while in Germany, then finally bring to Croatia, triumphantly well within the seven-year “window” for importing cars into that country. We selected a 2007 Volvo V50D station wagon, a sterling little beauty in Orinoco blue, powered by a new turbo diesel engine that I was convinced would help us manage the escalating fuel costs of Europe. With sadness, we let go of our old 850T, convinced we had found a loving family for her, and confident that when the time came, German mechanics would do all they could for her.
It was time to tackle the Croatian bureaucracy once again. This time, I did my homework, aided by another Croatian lawyer, Zoran. Zoran (I once dubbed him “Zoran the Magnificent”) was based in Zagreb and knew the bureaucracy there as well as anyone. At my instruction, he called his contacts in the Croatian customs office and came up with a plan.
He sent me an email in Croatian with his findings:
You can import an automobile into Croatia but I must warn you that this can take quite some time…. You can import any car into Croatia for which there exists a permit for homologation, that is, an agreement with Croatian regulations on normalization. If you send me the basic data on your vehicle (make, model, series, type and form of chassis, ECE/HRN vehicle categorization number, chassis number, model year and EU homologation number) I can check on whether your car has been homologized.
I stared at Zoran’s email. What did it mean to be homologized? Wasn’t that something that was done to milk? What did “quite some time” mean?
In the coming months, I came to learn the answers to these and many other questions. Basically, there were several tasks. My car had to be deregistered in Germany and given temporary tags and registration by the German authorities. Then, I needed to call on the Croatian customs office in the town where I had my home and office. They would tell me what I needed to do. Oh, yes, and there was a document called a EUR-1. I had to have one of those. So I dashed off an email to the Volvo dealership in Berlin where I bought the car, to my friend, Andreas, one of the friendliest German sales associates I had ever met. My letter started off in German something like this:
Much-esteemed Herr L.,
I hope that by You all very good goes. The Auto that we at your
Autocenter K GMBH purchased have is wunderbar and we are damit
very satisfied. We have however one small Problem.
Our Auto (Order No. 0606297 von 5/10/06, V50 D5) stands in
Kroazien where we also live und i work through a Representative of my
Please excuse me if I write the remainder in English.
Andreas, we want to import our car into Croatia and we have been told
by local authorities that we need to show a EUR1 form.
Was there ever a EUR1 issued for our car? If not, can we get one?
mit freundlichen Gruessen
Andreas was all the things one wanted in a car salesman. He was friendly and accessible, he processed orders quickly, He ended every conversation with me by saying “Okey-Dokie.” Soon I had a document in hand. It read:
I, the undersigned, declare that the car listed on this document…originate (sic) in the European Community (Belgium), production year 2007 at that time satisfied the rules of origin governing preferential trade with the following countries: IS-NO-CH-LI-IL-BA-HR-MK-PS-RO-BG-XC-XL-FO-MX
Volvo Logistics – Region Europe – Gent (sic) Office
It looked like a good form letter to me. I knew that among the alphabet soup at the end of the paragraph there were the initials “HR,” which meant Hrvatska, which meant, Croatia. I called Andreas to express my appreciation:
Me: Vielen Dank fuer deine auessergewonliche Hilfe!
Andreas: Okey Dokey!
My first visit to my local Croatian customs office, in March, did not go particularly well, however. I was directed to an ill-at-ease clerk who had no experience in importing vehicles. He was from a neighboring town and had come to fill in for an absent colleague. I was heading back to the U.S. shortly; he was heading back to his home office. He gave me his cell phone number to call him later to follow up. A couple of days passed, then I got a call from him asking me not to call him on the cell phone, which belonged not to him but to the office.
I was determined to get answers on my next visit to Croatia. When I arrived in my hometown, I went straight to another local lawyer and asked for help getting information out of the local customs office. No problem, the lawyer said, and assigned her assistant to call the regional head of customs to get a complete list of the steps I needed to follow. Over the next several days I called the assistant to see what progress he had made. The office director was gone, he reported one day. He left a message another day, but no one responded. And on it went. My legal assistant friend had no better luck getting answers than I had had.
I finally shared my frustration with a bartender down the street from my house. He actually owned the small coffee bar/tavern. He was a big, burly man who had his own vineyard whose white wine had become well known and respected in recent years. He knew everyone.
“Why didn’t you tell me you needed help with Customs?” he asked. “I know a guy at Customs. His name’s Igor — like me.” (My friend’s name was indeed Igor, but everyone knew him as “Grota,” Italian for Grotto, useful in distinguishing him from all the other Igors.)
“All I need is someone to explain what I need to do, and how much things will cost,” I replied.
This is how I came to have my first substantive discussion with Croatian Customs. I ran down the street to the Customs office, which was located on the ground floor of a nearby government building, which also housed the offices of the county tax authority. I was ushered in to meet with the head of the office, Suzanna L.
Suzanna was about thirty years old, blond touseled hair, heavy set and uniformed. She smiled in a welcoming way.
“Please come in and show me your documents,” she began. This is the way that most of my meetings began in the course of the coming weeks. I was very proud of my collection of documents. They included: German transit registration (Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil II); EC Certificate of Conformity (issued by Volvo in Sweden); a copy of the Decision by the Croatian Ministry of Economy allowing me to set up a representative office in Croatia; a copy of the original Bill of Sale for the car; the EUR-1 document I had received from Belgium, and my US passport.
Suzanna looked at my documents carefully, then made a note on a scrap of paper.
“Do you have an EUR-1?” she asked.
“Right there,” I pointed to my prized document from Ghent, lying on her broad desk.
“But this is not an EUR-1. An EUR-1 looks like this.” Suzanna handed me a blank form, in Croatian, with the letters “EUR-1” encircled in the upper right-hand corner. You can import your car without this, but it will cost you (and she paused to look at the scrap of paper) about 20,000 Kunas more.” The Kuna, named after a weasel-like mammal native to the country, was the Croatian unit of currency. Pegged to the Euro, the Kuna had appreciated in lockstep against the battered U.S. Dollar. When I first came to Croatia, there were 7.5 Kunas to the US Dollar, now there were only 4.5. I quickly calculated. One EUR-1 = $4,444.44.
I wanted a EUR-1.
Suzanna said that authorities at the Slovenian-Croatian border, only an hour’s drive away, would probably issue me this document. So the next day, I was off to the border town of Dragonja, flags of Croatia, Slovenia and the European Union flapping in the breeze. I had to be in the EU (that is, the European Union) in order to get a EUR-1. The 2.0-liter turbo diesel motor purred my smart little V50D across the border.
It was there I met Biljana of the freight forwarding company, Feršped, which meant “Fair Shipping.”
“Sit down and show me your documents,” said Biljana. She was in her twenties, blond and business-like. I could tell she was fluent in several languages, including her native Slovenian. She could provide me with a EUR-1 that the uniformed man at the Customs checkpoint could then stamp. There would be a fee for this service, of course, but well worth the thousands that having the EUR-1 would save me. She listened attentively as I explained who I was and what I was trying to do. Then she called the Customs Police. They spoke for several minutes in Slovenian, a language I don’t know that is similar to Croatian, a language I do know. I could make out a few words of each sentence: “American…wants EUR1…car purchased in Germany…strange case.” I grew apprehensive. I thought about the Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz (“But we’ve come sooo far!”). Finally, Biljana spoke:
“You need to go to the nearby town of Postojna. There you will find, above the bank, the offices of a Notary Public. Have them notarize a document saying that you give your car to your company. Then I can give you a EUR1 in your company’s name. But hurry, the office closes in 45 minutes!”
She quickly gave me instructions and I reviewed in my mind all the possible things that could go wrong. I might not find the notary, the notary might close before I got there, by the time I returned Biljana might be off duty — or worse, the customs police officer might have gone home for the day. Rather than ask questions, I coaxed my trusty V50D around the curves and twists of the border zone . It was starting to rain when I reached the Notary’s office. With five minutes to spare, I grabbed the notarized statement and drove back up the hill to Biljana and the toll booth-like border crossing. Biljana was still there, the customs cop was still on duty, but there was a problem:
“Why did you put a value on your car?” she demanded, looking at the “Darilna Pogodba” (Gift Certificate) that my visit to the Notary Public had produced. “Well, I had to indicate something on the form! I figured my car was worth something!” I said in exasperation. Now I was beginning to feel less like Dorothy and more like a character out of Franz Kafka. Biljana picked up the phone and called the Customs cop. I could tell where things were heading. It was good cop, bad cop.
“Listen,” she began. “The customs guy says there are too many exceptions to the rules now. He can’t approve my issuing you a EUR1. I recommend you go down to Koper and get one of the big shipping agencies to help you.”
I was plenty ticked off, but what could I do? It was a hot, muggy day on the border between Croatia and Slovenia. Koper, Slovenia’s main port (well, Slovenia’s only port) was about a 20-minute drive away. I could stay at the border and argue with Biljana and the guard, leading to my eventual arrest, or I could drive to Koper and pursue a new lead.
I chose the latter, and down I went, at the wheel of my trusty V50D, to call on Intereuropa, Slovenia’s largest shipping agent. It was there I met Karmen. Karmen was a brunette, tall and composed, and she spoke Slovenian and Italian (the Italian border being just a few kilometers away). I guessed she was in her mid-thirties. She was in charge of customs clearance for all the automobiles coming into the port, so I guessed she was as good a place to start as any.
“I’m looking for an EUR1,” I began.
“Show me your documents,” she replied.
Karmen made a couple of phone calls to people she thought might be able to help me out. It was getting late in the day, however, and the office was about to shut down. There was no way that any Slovenian importer was going to help me with a document for a car that was most recently registered in Germany, she said, but she had some contacts across the border in Italy. You never knew about the Italians, she said. They might just go for it. She needed time to look into this. She gave me her cell phone number and said I should call her in a couple of days.
There was nothing left for me to do except drive back to Croatia and head for the nearest bar, which happened to be Grota’s. I tried to reconstruct what Suzanna had told me. Besides the EUR1, there were several other steps that needed to be taken in sequence. My EU Certificate of Conformity needed to be stamped by the Volvo importation office in Zagreb. The vehicle inspection service in Pula had to issue a homologation certificate. Once I had paid customs and excise taxes, I would need to have the car inspected, cleared by the local police and registered. While waiting to hear back from Karmen, I could at least get the document stamp from the Volvo office in Zagreb.
I drove up to Zagreb the next day. The office was located in a part of town you didn’t go to unless there was a warehouse involved. Even the street name, Zavrtnica (in English, “Rolled Up Street”), suggested something out of the way. Several phone calls and dead end streets later, I rolled up into Zavrtnica street, found the office, and got the stamp on the document. It cost 122 kuna, or about $27. This was something I was starting to learn. Everyone in the import game had their hand out. I would have been happy at that point just to know the total amount and write out a check, but the whole procedure was about getting you to go from office to office, giving everyone their share directly.
About this time, I heard back from Karmen, and it wasn’t pretty. No way were the Italians going to help me out on the EUR1, she said. I was on my own. I figured that I might as well call Volvo headquarters and explain what was happening. Maybe, just maybe, there would be someone who could figure a way out.
That’s how I met Nadia. At least virtually. She signed her emails, “Customer Relations and Satisfaction Manager,” which sounded finally as if I had come to the right place. If there was one thing I needed, it was to have my satisfaction managed. By a Swede, no less. Nadia said that Sweden (not just Volvo) had stopped issuing EUR1s a couple of years ago. There was a phone number and an office of Swedish customs that could confirm this. What they did instead was issue an amended invoice with a specific new sentence, rich in bureaucratic subtlety:
“ The exporter of the product covered by this document customs authorization no: GBG 3001 declares that, except where otherwise clearly indicated, these products are of EC preferential origin.”
There it was, practically a Da Vinci code for exporters and, allegedly, just as good for my purposes as the EUR1. I parsed the lone sentence again and again. I went to Suzanna the next day, showed her the faxed copy of the invoice with the added sentence, with a corporate stamp affixed.
“This should do it,” she smiled. “But remember, I still need the original.”
I couldn’t believe it. I had wasted an entire day based on Suzanna’s lead, and now she was accepting a surrogate for the missing document. But I didn’t have time to dwell on my discovery or to ask her why she hadn’t said something earlier. I had to drive down the coast to Pula and figure out how to get homologized, whatever that meant.
It was about a half hour drive from my garage to the inspection station where they performed the homologation. It looked like any normal garage, except with more cashiers. There was a lot I didn’t know, but one thing I did know was what the first question would sound like uttered by the dame behind the counter:
“Show me your papers,” she said.
I also guessed that there would be a problem. What I didn’t guess is that there would be two of them. The first was that I was missing another document, called the “Jedinstvenna Carinska Deklaracija,” or “Unique Customs Declaration.” The second was that neither I nor by business had been assigned a number by the Croatian bureaucracy. This number, called a maticni broj, served the same purpose as a social security number in the United States. There was a computer macro used for all the homologation documents, and the macro had a space for the maticni broj. No maticni broj, no homologation; no homologation — well, you get the picture.
The best way I can explain homologation is that it certifies the obvious and costs 500 kuna. For cars that were produced in Europe according to standards accepted by Croatia, it records the vehicle identification number and confirms that it was produced in Europe according to standards accepted by Croatia. A bit like the language in the EUR1, or the amended Invoice, or the Certificate of Conformity. These were all documents that said the same thing. They would all become moot once Croatia joined the European Union, something certain to happen within the next five years. Meantime, all the organizations that gained money from the steps in the current process were loathe to cut out even one of the steps.
As I talked with the inspection station personnel, this all became clearer to me. Addressing no one in particular, I raised my gaze upward, toward the heavens beyond the confines of this bureaucracy, and began a soliloquy in Croatian that soon had the cashiers, mechanics and office workers staring in rapt attention and poised to call 911 if I should become a danger to those around me:
“I wish Kafka were alive today. I really do. Only he could describe what I have been through. I have gotten the stamp from the Zagreb office, I have produced the Invoice with the special language. All my ownership documents are in order. What more must I do to be homologized?!”
There was silence for a moment. Finally, the head of the operation said quietly, “We will get you homologized. Just go out and get the tax stamps we need to affix to this document and pay us 500 kuna. We’ll fix the rest.”
I had learned a valuable lesson. Cite Kafka to a Central European and you gain sympathy. But don’t push it.
That still left another document that I had to get — the customs declaration. According to the guys at the inspection station, I could only get this at the border. Why hadn’t Suzanna of the local customs office told me about this requirement? Why hadn’t Biljana or her friend, the Customs cop, mentioned this? There was no way to find out, since the Customs office in town was already closed for the day. I sped up to the border in my trusty V50D and found, indeed, as the rain began to pour, that they could issue a “Jedinstvenna Carinska Deklaracija” for just 400 kuna. I paid the money, I got the document, and I looked at the burgeoning file of paper that my one lone case had been responsible for so far.
This was the way that I knew I was rounding third base and heading for home: I had all my documents in order — declaration, homologation, annotated invoice. “Fair Transport” had prepared an astronomical bill to cover payment of customs, excise taxes, value added tax, and “Fair Transport’s” fees. I took out a local insurance policy. I had paid to have my Internationaler Zulassungsschein translated into Croatian by a court-certified German-Croatian interpreter. I had even gotten a maticni broj that was needed to complete the registration process.
What else could they throw at me?
I was sitting by the registration office, pondering this question. It was marenda, a time in late morning when all work stops in government offices and the staff goes out for a smoke or coffee, leaving all those waiting in line to wonder about such matters. I had actually seen the license plates that they were going to give me — green numbers against a white background, well matched to the car’s Orinoco Blue coloring. It had been an expensive proposition — in time and money — to complete the importation process. I wondered about my Bordeaux Red 1994 850T and how she was faring on the German Autobahn. I thought about Nadia in Stockholm, Biljana in Dragonja and Suzanna in the Customs. I thought about Madam Valerija in the Police Station, who watched my reaction as she told me that I would have to translate my German car registration into Croatian. “It isn’t that bad, is it?” she offered as I neared mental collapse. I thought about them all as I carefully opened a brochure, in English, that I had been carrying around since my last visit to the Customs office. “Information for Travelers,” it was titled, and began: “In this brochure, we would like to provide you with the most important information that travelers should know when arriving in the Republic of Croatia, so that they are able to cope without any difficulties with any formalities there might be at the border.”
Was homologation a formality? Was it a metaphor for life (“a journey, not a destination”)? Or was it just a dream?
I thought about the options as I caressed the raised numbers of my new license plates and snapped them into their plastic frames on the front and back bumper. “Okey-dokey,” I thought. “It’s good to be homologized.”