Russian Embassy adventure
Today's the day -- left the house a bit after 7am and drove straight to the Russian embassy. Was prepared! I brought every possible official document I could find, bank drafts in two different amounts, rain gear, a book to read, and a positive attitude. After spending the last 2 days triple checking everything, I felt I had a good chance of getting our applications accepted first time around. Didn't happen though.
Having arrived early, I was second in the queue, which actually was indoors. Surprisingly there wasn't any security, the visa desk is just inside the gates. My fellow queue member was going to Russia to stay with his girlfriend's family in a remote part of the country, about 10 hours' train from Moscow. I asked him how they met. She started coming to Ireland years ago, in the aftermath of Chenobyl. Having made friends and invited by her Irish "mother and father" to come back, she ended up staying and going to university here. He told me that he's traveled all over Europe, and although most places look similar to back home, her little village is the only place he's visited that really looks totally different - unpaved roads and very remote, although they apparently just got a shopping mall. Progress ;-)
The next person to come in was a very enthusiastic young man working for Google, who had just been to San Fransisco and was on his way to Moscow. He had perfect English but I think he was originally Japanese, because our travel discussion ended up in Japan, where he strongly recommended, after seeing Tokyo for a couple of days, to go to the countryside (particularly Osaka) and see the wooden shrines/monasteries, and taking lots of thermal baths, each of which apparently has different characteristics and helps with different ailments. He also recommended a kind of "5 star B&B" he called Ryokan.
Others coming in were a mix of tourists needing a visa quickly, and from them I realised that the Embassy would be closed almost all of next week because of the G8 summit. So if my application needed to be resubmitted, it would be a week before I could come back.
When my turn came, the taciturn official looked over all the documents and told me our "official invitations" needed to show our vehicle details! That was it, I tried to check whether the rest of the documents were acceptable but I didn't get a clear answer.
So it was just after 9am, and they closed at 11:45, not to reopen until next Friday. Thus started a bit of rapid work, first ringing and emailing the UK agency that issued the letters asking for the changes, and then driving around looking for an internet cafe to print the new ones out.
Saw nothin,g but the lovely receptionist at the Terenure Enterprise Centre kindly gave me access to their WiFi and allowed me to sit in their conference room over the next hour while I got more and more nervous about getting back to the Embassy, requeuing, and getting the applications in.
Three calls to the UK and about an hour later I had new documents printed and rushed back to the Embassy.
Arrived at 11, and the waiting room was packed. I spent the time trying to understand the rapid Russian going back and forth at the desk. Although I couldn't catch lots of the words, the intonations of the language, and the familiar approach to beaurocracy was comfortingly familiar from my time there during the Soviet era! I got enough to understand that former Soviet citizens were automatically considered Russian citizens, even if they didn't themselves want that honour.
My turn came and my hands were shaking from the stress, running around, and lack of breakfast! Happily it seemed ok and I was told our visas would be ready on the 1st, just a few days before we leave.
So please send positive thoughts about us to the Russian Embassy staff in Dublin, that everything goes smoothly and we get our passports and visas back in time!