Day 439: A Turn-Up For The Books

15.03.10:

The Azerbaijan Embassy is only open for two hours every morning, but after last night’s little beerathon, Rati and I were in little mood to drag ourselves out of our beds. But somehow we did. Soon enough we were in a taxi which didn’t know where the Azerbaijani Embassy was going around in circles looking for the Azerbaijani Embassy. After asking at least fifty separate passers-by for (wrong) directions, our driver finally got us there ten minutes before closing time. Thank god he wasn’t on the meter.

So we joined in the scrum outside the Embassy and Rati got chatting with the guard who gave us an application form and told us it would take three days to get the visa. THREE FRICKIN’ DAYS?!!!? What’s more, it would cost another (wait for it…) ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DOLLARS. I nearly burst into tears there and then.

The only good news was that I didn’t need a Letter of Invitation (which was why I couldn’t get the visa in Istanbul).

Now there were a ton of people outside and although we had manoeuvred ourselves to the front of the ‘queue’, the guard said that the bloke what does the visas had left and wouldn’t be back for half an hour. Okay, well we’ll go get some lunch then… which we did, stuffing our faces with Khachapuri, the Georgian lunchtime snack of choice – cheese pie. Yum!

When we got back to the Embassy, we got some bad news, the visa guy wasn’t coming back. Dammit, we should have got there earlier. The guard wanted me to talk to somebody, which I did by pressing on the intercom. A voice answered. I explained I wanted a visa and they told me to come back tomorrow. I explained that I already had a visa, but it had expired. Okay, come back at four. I thought I was hearing things… oh, okay then.

With more than a few hours to kill, Rati and I arranged to meet up with Michael and Martin again and in doing so we walked along Rustavelis gamziri, Tbilisi’s main street, and what a street it is… the buildings are stunning, just stunning. The contrast of these elegant edifices of the city with the slap-dash cheapo concrete suburbs couldn’t be more acute if it tried. Georgian-Georgian terraces, a magnificent opera-house, a music school trimmed with columns, an art gallery, parliament, museums and a whopping great golden statue of St George killing the dragon… wow wow wow and wow again… and – something that is bound to make me go weak at the knees – everything had a Georgian flourish about it, a little something you wouldn’t see anywhere else in the world – local architecture built by local people out of local materials. Shame everything that’s been built after World War II is as unsightly as Susan Boyle chewing a wasp.

But that kinda goes for everywhere in the world…

After finding Michael and Martin at the Metro station we mooched about looking for a coffee only to find ourselves back in the very same bar as the night before (if it ain’t broke…). After a pleasant hour of friendly banter it was time to head back to the Azerbaijani embassy to reveal my fate. A taxi ride there cost me €2, which I was more than happy to pay if it could save me a couple of days waiting for this damn visa.

The same guard at the embassy asked me to address the intercom again. I explained I was told to come back today at 4pm. The guy asked me to come in to speak to him. He told me that they could not accept the application today…

But…

If we were quick – very quick – we could head over to the secret travel agency that could sort me out with a visa straight away.

Straight away? What like in three days?

No. Like in half an hour.

My jaw hit the ground. Half an hour? This was too good to be true. How much will this service cost?

Well, you still have to pay the $101, but after that it should only be a few euros.

Within seconds we were back in a taxi screaming our way across town to the secret travel agency. We got there just as they were leaving with that day’s passports. You need to fill out an application form…

It’s okay… here’s one I filled out earlier.

Okay, come back in half an hour.

I couldn’t believe my ears or my luck.

An important lesson is to be learnt from all this… if we hadn’t have got so plastered last night, we would have got up earlier, got to the embassy for opening time and got the application in prim and proper. Then I would have had to wait until THURSDAY until I got my visa. By being late getting to the Embassy, we found out about the secret back door, the cheat code that could get me a visa within minutes. It all works out in the wash.

After a swift celebratory half with Rati, I had my passport back, furnished with my brand new Azerbaijani visa. Happy days.

Now the big question was should I stay or should I go. An American chick I got chatting to outside the Secret Travel Agency told us that the train for Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, left at 6.30pm. It was 5pm. That didn’t leave us much time – all my stuff was at Rati’s and I wasn’t packed – and by the time we had picked up Michael I wasn’t holding out much hope of getting on the damn thing.

So instead of rushing about, we took the Metro back to Rati’s gaff, bought some beers and sausages (well Michael didn’t – he’s a veggie) and planned a lad’s night in. Good job we didn’t rush – it had been raining all day and my clothes were on the line – they were soaking. I told you it all works out in the wash.