Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Schengen Visa Dilemma

In 2011 I met a very special friend in Ukraine - my dear Nastia! And after four years of keeping in touch and seeing each other from time to time in Ukraine, she decided it was high time to take her first trip out of Ukraine and over to Germany to visit Mario and me.

As she's a Ukrainian citizen and was applying for the Schengen Visa for the first time, it was quite the ordeal.  But two months, piles of documents, and a handful of trips to the embassy and visa center, she was on her way to the EU.

After a week and a half of adventuring, cooking, catching up, and sharing our newest favorite movies and music with each other, it was time to spend Nastia's last morning in Munich together.  And we certainly made a good time of it having coffee, ice cream, and cake at Munich's famous cat cafe, admiring the fancy cars and BMW World, and enjoying a bit of the glorious Saturday sunshine.  It all seemed just perfect!

Until it was time to get on the bus, which showed up 30 minutes late at 15:00, and Nastia was told that she couldn't travel. You see, she was going to be on the bus in Poland for a few hours on the 23rd and her visa officially ended on the 22nd.  The bus stewardess repeated in Russian again and again that Nastia would be illegally on the territory of the European Union and sent us away.  As the bus pulled away tears sprung to Nastia's eyes and our heads began to spin as we tried to figure out what to do next.  The stewardess advised us to try to extend the visa at the consulate on Monday, but to me, the risk of overstaying one's visa just seemed to high.  Plus, as Nastia's official host, I didn't know what kind of trouble I'd be in.

So at 16:30, home from the bus station I began to search the internet for flights out of the EU that same night. Of course, as luck would have it, the options we did find would not allow me to book them because it was so last minute.

So at 17:30 we were on our way to the airport, knowing that it would take us an hour to get there and our options were quickly running out.

Sprinting through the airport to the Lufthansa ticket counter we were told that there were no flights out of the EU available that night, but we could talk to Aeroflot in the other terminal.   Both Aeroflot and S7 had no one working their ticket counters and with the clock showing 19:00 we began to feel a bit more panic.

So while I waited at the S7 desk, Nastia waited for an Aeroflot representative and coincidentally we both got an answer at about the same time. While Aeroflot could only offer a flight to Kiev over Moscow for 600 Euros, S7 saved our day with a flight for just over 250.

And just like that our problem was solved. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and was overcome with the complete exhaustion of the day and the 6 hours we had spent solving this dilemma.  So after bags had been checked, hugs goodbye had been given, and passport control had successfully been passed, I settled in for the train ride back to the city and was more than happy to relax with a glass of wine and an early Saturday bedtime.

Later that night I wrote to Nastia that the day's events could be a Hollywood movie...or, you know, just a little blog post ;)

My two favorite people! 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mumsie in Europe - weekend number one!

On Saturday morning I was up bright and early enjoying a quiet coffee on the terrace before heading out to the airport.

At the airport we watched impatiently through the window as mom finally appeared and went through passport control. Once she had gotten her luggage it was giant hugs and smiles all around (as well as few photo ops) before jumping on the train and heading to my apartment.

Gangs all here!
Mom and Chels reunion at the airport!

After a quick shower for mom and some lunch at home, we wasted no time in heading to the city for a walking tour followed by a beer and a short walk in the English Gartens. Back at home we both knocked out on the couch for a bit before a little dinner and a trip to one of Munich's most touristy destinations - Hofbrauhaus!
First German bier in Germany!

Lounging around Odeonsplatz with hammocks, bean bags, and books

Mom got to see the famous Isar River Surfers


The next day we were up again bright and early for a trip into the mountains. My mom got to experience that real European feeling of being in 4 countries in one day (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein) and we got to see some beautiful countryside views all the day long! 

Heading out in the morning! Mom set a speed record of 200 kmh (125 mph)

Mountains in the distance

First border crossing of the day
We made it to Liechtenstein! Mom says that ever since she knew as a child that Liechtenstein existed she always wanted to visit it :)

Hello there Switzerland!

This picture was taken from a bathroom window.  In case you needed any more proof of how awesome Germany is....even the bathrooms come with a view! 

Needless to say, I was pretty exhausted Monday morning, but the week went by quickly enough with the excitement of vacation just around the corner! So while mom went out exploring Munich and the nearby areas, I taught my munchkins by day and spent the evenings cleaning, washing, and packing for 13 days on the road.  But more on that in the next post...