Eastern Europe Via Plane, Train, Bus, Car, Tow-Truck, and Tandem Bicycle
How Not To Get a Russian Visa
Step 1) Wait until the last minute to file for a Russian Visa.
Step 2) Rely on the Russians for anything.
Two weeks ago, over a game of beerpong, my brother Mark and I decided to go to Russia. We both had a couple weeks free from work, it sounded like a fun place to go, and I was looking forward to walking around everywhere saying "In Mother Russia, Vodka drinks you. Plus, we could swing by Sweden and Finland on the way to go, two other countries we'd heard had good Vodka. We would drink our way through Northern Europe.
Unfortunately, getting a Russian Visa is not a simple task. The Russians, it seems, are very picky about who is allowed to visit their country, and require not only a complicated Visa, but also an official invitation from some agency within the country. We also wanted to leave soon, which meant we'd have to rush order all of this paperwork, in total shouldering a cost of over $350. But Mark and I already had our minds locked on Russia. Mark couldn't stop quoting Austin Powers: "Russian Intelligence? Are you mad!?" and I couldn't stop quoting Snatch: "Sneaky fuckin' Russians!" We supposed we'd have to be careful of this, once we got Russia.
I enlisted the help of an independent Visa agency in San Francisco (the nearest Russian embassy), and my representative Albert assured me that he'd be able to get my Visa processed in time, provided nothing went wrong.
That's when things started going wrong.
1) Albert called me to tell me that UPS had delivered my application a day late, and we now had only one day to spare.
2) Albert called me the next day to tell me that the Russian Consolate in San Francisco had decided to announce an unexpected holiday and close their office for the day. We now had zero days to spare. I asked him if he could try to rush them.
3) Albert called me to tell me the embassy people didn't like being hurried, and had cancelled my Visa. In case you're interested, this is what a cancelled Russian Visa looks like.
"What," I said, "they didn't like you 'Russian' them? Eh? Eh?"
Albert didn't think this was funny. He told me he'd overnight my passport back to me so that I could at least go to Sweden, but that my $350 was gone.
Sneaky fuckin' Russians.
In an hour, I climb on a flight to Stockholm. In the morning, I will try again at the Russian embassy there. But who knows.
So I don't know if we'll be going to Russia. But we're sure as hell going to try. And we're sure as hell going to drink our faces off as we do.