Woke up at 5 on Thursday to get ready and head out to the train station. The French consulate was open only from 9 to 12, so I had to get there as early as possible. By train, Frankfurt is about 3 hours from R'burg and the earliest I could get there was 930 or so, which included a very tight 5 minute window to change trains at Nuremberg. I took a train at 620 and narrowly missed a connecting train at Nuremberg. Had to sprint across the station and followed a co-passenger who was also heading to Frankfurt. Managed to get on the 735 departure to Frankfurt literally 30 seconds before it was leaving. Since I'm not under 26 the only railpass I could buy (bought it last month at Munich) was a first class train pass. Compared to my current living conditions travelling first class seemed like a huge extravagance. In hindsight, it was a great thing to buy as it gave me the flexibility to stop at Frankfurt on my way to Amsterdam, and avoiding the hassle of booking tickets 2-3 weeks in advance.
Reached Frankfurt around 930 and the French consulate didn't look too far on the map I'd printed out. Frankfurt's a weird city. It's the financial capital of Europe and it feels a lot like the downtown area of an American city. It took me a while to get to the consulate and had to walk along roads which were almost like a freeway. Anyway, walked into the visa section around 10 and was soon joined by a Romanian couple. I'd decided to stay quiet about my residency status and had a plan B in case she kicked up a fuss. I also realised that my health insurance is only valid till January (it was a 6 month travel insurance) but decided to write on the form that it was valid till July, hoping she wouldn't ask for the papers. That was the first lie.
When my turn came, the visa officer looked at all my papers and then pointed out that my German visa was expiring in a few weeks. She spoke only French or German so it was again hard to communicate. Earlier in the week I'd talked to her colleage (in English) about an appointment and she'd mentioned she wouldn't be around as she was going on holiday, so I'd better be prepared for her colleage who didn't speak English. She got a bit agitated about the residency factor, so I decided to pull out plan B.
I lied (for the second time).
I told her I'd spoken to her colleage (remembered her name) on Monday, and talked to her about the situation. She'd said it was fine and should be able to apply for it from Frankfurt. The visa officer looked a bit confused, then remembered I'd called earlier and tried speaking to her in broken German, and then went out. She came back with a document and started to highlight it. Uh-Oh, I thought. She's going to show me the rule book in English and say, I'm not eligible to apply. Couldn't think of a plan C. Suddenly, she turned and went out again.
The Romanian couple was getting curious and asked me what was up. When I told them the situation, they shook their heads and said this was their third visit to the French consulate over a trivial issue. They didn't seem too optimistic about my chances and I was trying to figure out what to do.
The door opened and she came back with all my papers, smiled and said "It's OK". I was a bit shocked and very relieved she didn't call my bluff. Managed to get my visa in another 10 minutes, gave the Romanian couple a wink, and walked out to catch the train to Amsterdam. Had a couple of hours to kill so walked around downtown Frankfurt taking pictures.
Caught the Amsterdam bound train around 1 and turned out M was on the same train (obviously in second class). Met him for a beer but stayed in first class and just felt happy at getting a big headache out of the way. Reached Amsterdam around 5 pm and headed straight to the hostel to meet D, who was severely jetlagged after his flight from New York. His childhood friend from Istanbul, S, showed up soon and we all headed out straight to a coffeeshop.
Amsterdam passed by in a (purple) haze. The four of us had no agenda, no plans and no major sights to see. We walked from a coffee shop to a bar to a cafe to a coffeeshop to another bar. Walked around a lot in Amsterdam and since we were staying in the heart of the city it was easy to get around. I'd visted Amsterdam 4 years ago, and felt comfortable walking around. It's an easy to city to get oriented with because it's small and has canals running all over the city. It's particularly pretty at night.
Went to the Rijks museum once to catch an exhibition. Since it was under renovation, it was a small exhibition. They had a very simple but powerful memorial for Theo van gogh, called Scream. Apparently, as his killers were attacking him, he screamed loudly.
Got back today around 6 after a long journey. The train got delayed and this time I travelled in second class as M insisted on it. I kept bugging him about how this was a big sacrifice, thought second class wasn't too different. For someone my size, legroom doesn't make any difference. Feels weird to be back, especially as I know I'm moving to Paris in 4 days. Now that the visa's been sorted out I'm heading directly from here on Thursday.