You've probably heard me moan about English beurocracy before. Well they're nothing compared to the Russians! I'm trying to get a tourist visa so I can go and spend money in their country, boosting their economy. Silly me!
For starters, the Cold War never ended, if the visa procedures are anything to go by. You have to get an official invitation confirming you have accomodation booked for your stay. Then you can get the visa from the embassy, 9am-11:30am a few days a week. When you arrive in Russia, you must register with the Interior Ministry, just so they can keep track of you.
So I have a question for them, and phone them up to ask. "Look on the web site," the none too cheerful woman answering the phone tells me. I've already looked, and the information I need isn't there, I tell her. "Well I can't help you. Call the consular number." Problem is, when the consular number isn't engaged, they don't answer the phone.
"Welcome to Russia," says my friend Jenny, "and you're still in London. Yes, often they don't answer the phone. Maybe they're busy serving customers, or maybe they're in the consulate kitchen drinking tea and eating cake."
And I thought getting my National Insurance Number was hard...