Before Greece joined the European Union officially in 1983, no Greek citizen was legally allowed to own a car with foreign registration plates.
Cars in Greece were very expensive, most Greeks tried every which way to acquire a car with foreign plates, so much cheaper.
Only people with foreign passports could own one.
I had a British passport.
My Greek God(MGG) was forever badgering me to bring a car into Greece from England.
I had known so many people who had tried this, it always ended up causing trouble.
Another thing was that every so often the cars with foreign plates had to be taken out of Greece for so many months of the year.
Plus, only a short while before I had the most terrible experience with another foreign car!
See link below.
I managed to resist until MGG met a Greek who had returned from living in France, with a French car and could only sell it to a foreigner.
MGG wore me down and we bought a Mercedes 200 E.
To me a monster of a car, I was used to driving Minis!
|The offending French car|
After visiting numerous different offices and custom officials the car was eventually stamped into my passport.
My passport issued in 1977 and below the awful passport picture!
Another clause in the law of foreign cars was that only the owner could drive it, or had to be in the car if someone else was driving.
You guessed it, MGG was stopped whilst driving the car alone.
The car was impounded in Korinth customs, MGG was fined.
With a lot of trouble we managed to retrieve the car but all the papers stayed at the customs to be examined.
One fine day, just after this I was on my way to the beach and stopped at a shop to buy a cheese pie.
A couple of men from the Korinth customs office were in there.
They didn't realise that I spoke Greek.
I heard one say to the other
" Hey, look, that's the girl with the car that we are going to seize tomorrow
I quickly left the shop, ran home to 'phone MGG.
This is 1981, before people had mobile 'phones !
If they seized the car, it was lost to us, it would be impounded and sold at auction.
We would take the car out of the country!
Head for England, my Father would know what to do.
Father's know everything!
Without thinking things through properly, we threw together a few essentials and headed for Patras and the Ferry boat to Italy.
It's June, late evening when we arrive, the place is packed.
"Good" says MGG, they are so busy they won't be checking passports properly.
Go to a man, on your own, you'll have a better chance.
MGG watched from the sidelines, as he had predicted the man never noticed the stamp at the back of the passport.
We board the ferry boat heading for Bari, Italy.
I can't remember how many hours the trip was, but it was plenty of time for us to worry that maybe Korinth customs had alerted ports in Italy, and the police would be there, waiting to grab us.
We disembarked, no problems and left as quickly as possible.
Now we had to get to England, through numerous border checks in a car without papers, remember, the papers are sitting in the customs in Korinth!
We drove all the way up through Italy, stopping only at the odd service station for fuel, food and coffee.
Our first border crossing is near Milan, Aosta, we cross into Annecy, France.
We were amazed that we had done it, they had let us through!
Now we had just to reach Calais.
We were nearly there when at a toll booth we were questioned about the car.
Now, I do understand quite a bit of French but the dialect around Calais, well, it was all Greek to me!
We understood nothing!
MGG had bought loads of cartons of duty free cigarettes in Patra(more than he was allowed) and was doling them out to the French policemen, hoping
that they would take them and let us through.
It didn't work.
We were escorted to the nearest police station, and banged up in a cell!
The cell was something like this, but all of one side was opened onto a courtyard, no widows with glass, just open bars.
When all this palaver began, I was on my way to the beach, wearing my bikini and a little sun dress.
We had left in such a hurry, this is what I was still wearing.
It was freezing, raining and blowing a gale!
I seem to be making a habit of travelling around Europe in only the clothes that I am stood up in.
See above link to post "why I don't eat water melons"
We were there for hours without knowing what was going on.
Suddenly a large dark blue police van pulls up in the courtyard and five or six armed police, guns at the ready, decked out with leather coats and heavy boots, jump out.
They looked very intimidating.
While looking for pictures of the French police to accompany this post, I came across a comment:
"you have never seen such a badass uniform as the French police uniform"
"Oh " I said to MGG, "something must have happened"
Yes, something had happened, us, they were there for us!
They took the car apart, the seats came out, the carpets came up, anything that could be removed was removed.
What were they looking for, drugs I suppose, of course they found nothing.
They were probably wondering what a Greek man and an English girl were doing with a French car.
They have to save face though don't they?
They can't just let us go.
They can't just let us go.
They see that the car tax has run out.
We are sent off to Lille in a taxi, the car stays there, to buy a new tax disc.
We pay the tax, return to the police station, collect the car and are allowed to leave.
Through all of this they didn't seem to notice that the car had no papers.
We still had a couple more tolls to go through before Calais.
MGG is really agitated now, worrying the same carry on could happen again.
We have the most dreadful argument when I refuse to tear the page out of my passport on which the car is stamped.
What good he thought that would do, who knows?
He should have known better because he has done that before, to his own passport and knows the consequences!
We continue in silence and reach Calais with no further ado.
We board with no trouble.
When we disembark in Dover though, we have the whole rigmarole again, seats out carpets up.
At least I could understand what they were saying this time.
Again, they find nothing, we are allowed to go.
Now we have to find someone who will buy a French car, steering on the wrong side for the UK, and no papers to boot!
We did and sold it for £1000 !
This isn't the end of the story.
When I returned to Greece I was summoned to court over the whole affair.
I was declared innocent!
Here's a thing, there is a saying that green cars are unlucky.
Both the Mercedes of this story and the Mini from the post in the link at the top, were green!
Have I ever bought another green car?
Have I ever put another car in my name for MGG?
Did it have a good ending?
But let's leave that for another post.