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27 May 2011 / leggypeggy

Another visa in the passport — Uzbekistan

We cracked the Uzbekistan visas — but not without spending quite a bit of time and money.
Almost two weeks ago, we handed in our passports and applications at the consulate in Frankfurt. We were there on spec so didn’t have the required Letters of Invitation. But the fellow at the counter assured us that these ‘LOIs’ wouldn’t be necessary — he’d just ask his foreign office if it would be okay to issue the visas anyway and he was confident they would say yes.
So there we were a week later to collect the news and, we hoped, the visas. By 9:30 there were already seven hopefuls ahead of us and the queue moved very slowly.
The waiting group formed more of a circle than an orderly line, and I worried that turn-taking would be random at best. I needn’t have been concerned. The guard who seemed to doubling as a travel agent (or vice versa) made sure everyone observed the honour system. He also shooed away anyone who tried to park in front of the consulate — ‘verboten, verboten,’ he warned as he waved a no-no-you-don’t-stop-there finger at them.
You can appreciate my confusion as to whether he was a guard or a purveyor of Uzbeki holidays. He wasn’t wearing any type of uniform — rather a navy polo shirt, khaki camping shorts, khaki leather loafers (is that an Americanism? — if so, I mean slip-on shoes) and pale grey golf socks. He was quite tanned and had sunglasses perched on his head. He spoke a bit of at least three languages, possibly more, and handed out travel leaflets and mini calendars to everyone in the queue.
Through hand signals — will you be using a steering wheel or flapping your wings? — he established that we would travel to Uzbekistan overland. This dismayed him — possibly because his leaflets promoted air and rail travel! But his greatest concern seemed to be that we would be passing through Georgia. His charade made it perfectly clear that in Georgia we ran a real risk of being mown down by machine-gun fire.
All this and we still hadn’t made it to the visa counter.
But our turn did come. ‘Yes, yes, the visas can be done’, said the fellow, who actually did remember us. We just needed to walk to the bank, cough up 80 euros each and return with the receipt. He didn’t mention, but perhaps he didn’t know, that the bank was going to charge us an extra 5 euros for the privilege of depositing money in an existing account. No wonder Frankfurt is the commercial/financial centre of Germany.

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