This time, 2010, got myself an extension (above the 90 allowed days’ stay). From the Auslandsamt/Authority for foreigners. They had a good big stare: what on earth does a German lady need an extension of stay in Germany for ? Good question [lost my citizenship when taking on the Canadian – tough luck !] Got an extension for several months. Rented a vacation apartment in Kreuzberg, aka. ‘Little Istanbul’ because of the many Turks living here. A huge “Wohnblock” three houses attached, high up. Sound carries tremendously, especially when some drunk across the building from where I rented decided to go nuts. I am so not used to this anymore, having now lived in North America for almost 40 years (all quiet here). Lots of graffity adorning sidewalks and buildings. Biggest challenge was obtaining a Russian Visa for my 8-day voyage to Sankt Petersburg, Russia. Flights to Russia take off from Flughafen Schönefeld with Rossyia Airlines. Bought the voyage in the Russia House [ http://www.russisches-haus.de/index.php?lang=ru ] , a citizen’s friendship House, there’s among others a Russian travel agency, who also arrange the invitation with a hotel in St. Petersburg. Bought the trip including the invitation. Then needed the visa. How on earth can I get a visa for Russia NOT being in my country ? Good question, again. Went to the Russian Consulate, standing in line (in the street, no one allowed anywhere inside), long line ups. [http://www.russische-botschaft.de/ ] Luckily, Russians are a friendly and helpful lot. And of course, they speak German, they live there. Someone in the lineup collects all passports of a larger group (mine the only Canadian), goes forward and gives the Russian security guy at the front door the passports. Then waiting again. Then The security calls in a group of people. You go through security check, upstairs, then check again, get a number, then sit down and wait again. Your number is called, you talk to the Russian Consulate official (German or Russian), present your travel papers with the invitation. He did not like it. Told me, “you need a residency permit to get a visa”. As a tourist how to get a ‘Residence Permit’ ? I went to the nearest Municipal Office, talked to a lady, told her where I rented. She said: NO. This is a vacation apartment, not a real rental location, suitable for residency. So, I pleaded. Took me a while, finally got my paper. Went back to the Russian Consulate, same wait forever, presented the residency paper in the morning. By 12 noon I had a Russian Visa – for one entire month (only needed 8 days). That’s how it goes! What helps a lot is, to speak the language.

I made many excursions to nice old areas surrounding Berlin center and middle, such as Park Grunewald, old Köpenick, old Spandau, Potsdam, Park Sanssouci with the castle, the Botanical Gardens, die Zitadelle and more. Interesting in Potsdam is also the Dutch Viertel/quarter with the authentic red brick Dutch-style houses and courtyards (little Cafe’s). I also watched each game during 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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