I dropped the passport, photos, photocopies and receipts off at the Iranian Embassy, expecting a ‘great stuff Graham, here’s your visa!’, but instead got a ‘come back tomorrow’. One more night in Istanbul, then? Humph. Sans passport, there was little I could do about getting my Azerbaijan nightmare solved today, but I went to the embassy anyway to make sure everything was in order.
I was told that the Letter of Invitation which I had paid £80 for was now invalid. Why? Because it was addressed to London, not Istanbul. So what?! I hear you cry. Man, this lot LOVE their paperwork. Just love it. Like a teenage boy likes to lock himself in his room. Maybe they kneel down with all their juiciest paperwork spread out in a horseshoe in front of them, undo their flies and… and… oh, never mind…
The short of it all was that I needed a brand new Letter of Invitation. I had spent an hour being pushed about in what was the equivalent of the front row of a Foo Fighter’s gig trying to get to the front desk (queuing (patently) is for WIMPS!) just to be told that there was no way I was going to get a new visa any time this week. I felt like screaming.
In fact, I think I will…
You need a nice primal scream every now and then, clears the windpipes.
Then I set off in search of a travel agency who would whip me up a new letter of invitation. In short, I spent over two hours wandering the streets and came up with nothin’. Nobody could help me.
There was one thing that could help… oh yes, you lovely amber nectar, you sweet barley-hop concoction. I needed a beer and I needed one NOW. So it was back to the backpackers and drinks with Atheer and a lovely couple from Canada (who, Luke and Leia style, turned out to be brother and sister). They were from the Frenchy bit of The Cold Australia, which give me tons of ammunition to take the mick, and to Atheer’s delight, they were Jewish, so he got the big guns out on security barriers and fruit pastilles; unfortunately for the sake of comedy, they kept on agreeing with us. Where are the die-hard curly-sided settlers when you need them?!
Afterwards, Atheer and I ventured into the night for another drink or two and ended up on the maddest pub crawl I’ve undertaken in an age. There were a bunch of places that we couldn’t get into unless we had girls with us, so we had to hang about on the street hiding our cans of lager (you’re not supposed to drink on the street in Turkey) and hassling female passers by like a pair of midnight cowboys in the hope of somebody taking pity on us and getting us inside one of these places.
The night soon collapsed into a cacophony of drunken antics which somehow involved a vodka Redbull, stolen nuts and a shopping trolley. I can’t remember too much after that. Merry Christmas Everyone!
The fact that I got out of bed this morning just goes to show how dedicated to the cause I am. Atheer didn’t get up until well after noon. First up, I needed my passport back.
After a quick (but surprising) fingerprint-taking session, the Iranian Embassy gave me my little burgundy booklet of travel, furnished with a brand new visa. I had Iran in the bag. Now I just have to get there before World War III kicks off.
I had got in touch with Jamel, a couchsurfer in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, to ask if he could write me a new letter of invitation. No probs he said, but it would take him a couple of hours to get it proofed and everything. The Azerbaijan Embassy closed at 1pm and was way way way on the other side of town. I HAD to make it. At 11am I was on the internet at the backpackers a little more than worried. By 12 noon I was beginning to panic, but at 12.15pm the letter had come through. I emailed it over to Mehmet on the front desk and he printed it out for me. I grabbed it HOT OFF THE PRESS and began to RUN!!
I headed FULL PELT to the Sultanahmet Tram station, took it all the way to the end of the line where I changed for the Taksim Funicular, arriving at 12:41. I thundered through the station and jumped on the Metro service to Levent in the very north of the city. The train pulled in at 12:55.
You should possibly understand at this point how hungover and sleep-deprived I was. Madness, utter madness.
And, even though the bloomin’ escalator was out of service, I managed to bound up the mofo all the way into the clear crisp spring day that was awaiting my return to the surface, sweating beer and chagrin. 12:57. I pegged it up the road towards the Embassy like a man possessed, arriving at 12:59.
They let me in.
Panting, exhausted and ready to faint, I got into the little portacabin office on the right of the mansion house and presented my documents – bank statements, letter of employment, letter of invitation…
This is no good.
What? Sorry, I mean WHAT?!!?!
It must come from the government.
I was told it didn’t have to, I just needed a letter. From someone in Azerbaijan. Written in Azeri. Well, here it is.
Nope. No good.
He saw that I looked like I was about to burst into tears.
Why don’t you try the embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia?
Thanks for nothin’ Azerbaijan! And to think… you used to be my favourite word.
After yesterday’s gallivanting around the travel agencies of fair Istanbul, I knew that the buses for Georgia left at 6pm. There was nothing else for me here. Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru had been brutally murdered by Stormtroopers and they had totally trashed my T-16. How could I be expected to bullseye womp-rats now?
Atheer was up for one final crazy night out, but The Odyssey comes first. Georgia here I come.