I admit: it was my fault. How could I assume that being at the Russian consulate at 9 in the morning and having all papers would be enough?? Somehow, my memory must have been influenced by my experience at the German embassy: walk in with all papers, walk out 30 minutes later, done.
Not so here. First, one has to find the Consulate, then, they have you waiting outside – temperature this morning: 8°, but hey, it wasn’t even raining – letting 1 person at once inside. Only that it takes roughly 10 minutes per person. With 20 people in the queue, some were there as early as 8:00, and closing time at 12:30, hope was going down as well as body temperature.
After one hour, I saw this well hidden ad from an accredited agency doing the same job in a shopping centre nearby. And yes, they did have a well heated waiting room and even chairs. What the ad had not mentioned was that they almost doubled the price for a simple tourist visa. But after one hour in this &*ù$_ç( cold, it was worth it.
Now, I feel really reassured travelling to a country where I don’t speak the language, where the notion of service seems even less developed than in Belgium and where paying more suddenly makes life much easier. I should probably take some additional cash with me…