Friday, September 07, 2007

Greek Embassy London - Are they anti tourism in Greece



My partner and I are just recovering from a traumatic experience at the Greek Embassy visa department in Holland Park London. I say traumatic because although there was no physical damage, mentally we were left exhausted by our experience.
In order to take my partner for a holiday to Greece to celebrate our year together as Civil Partners , we had to apply for an entry visa because he is Filipino.
We left a gap of seven weeks before our departure date but we were forced to wait one month or just over for an appointment at the Embassy so we had little leeway. Those who regularly visit Greece will know that by the end of September the weather becomes more unpredictable and rain can set in. We were, therefore at the extreme end of the season as we were to return on the 27 th September.
Our appointment was 9.30 and as we live on the Somerset/Devon borders we had a 250 mile trip which involved driving to Woking and getting three trains. We met road works on our way and were delayed so at 9.27 we were running out of Holland Park Station and sweating arrived at the Embassy with one minute to spare to be confronted by a queue outside. Once we got inside we asked others what there appointment time was and they all were 9.30. We had just completed a most stressful last leg of our journey and at 10.15 we were still sitting waiting.
There were two Greek women behind the counter, one who obviously didn't know fully what she was doing and one who had all the knowledge and kept chipping in but was not serving anyone until us, that is.
The latter woman, who I can describe as a dead spit for one of the women in Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love" music video, was rude, unfriendly, had a very aggressive demeanour and lacked the social skills to promote excellent customer service.
When it was our turn, the first woman picked over the evidence carefully and the questions she asked, such as why is my partners wage slip just a piece of typed paper, was so pathetic to be unreal. I wanted to scream out, because that is what they do in some local government departments. For gods sake check the monthly amount with the bank statement and you will see it agrees.
Finally, the second "Palmer" woman look a like had to get involved and opened up a second position at the counter to deal with us.
At one stage, I had to leave the hall and go outside when she queried the travel insurance we had purchased from Tesco because it didn't have his name on it although there was a receipt with the start and end dates on it and the date of purchase. How do I know when it is for, she said or should I say growled. Pathetic indeed.
As it turns out, they could not guarantee the visa in six working days. They said we can collect it on the Friday before the Monday if we phoned up and confirmed it had been issued and then come and collect it. Now this was pathetic as we had just told her we had driven 250 miles and it had taken four hours, so given this information could we possibly phone, drive all the way to London and collect the visa during the one hour window 12.00 - 13.00 hrs which they allocate for visa collection. Work it out yourself.
As it is, if we do not get the visa by Friday of next week we have to cancel one day of our holiday, change the flight to the following day (cost £60.00), inform our accommodation in Greece and because my partner has an interview for promotion on the Monday morning, collect the visa on the Tuesday from London the day we fly out to Athens. In other words, drive 250 miles to Woking, get three trains, collect the visa, travel back to Woking pick up the car and go straight to Heathrow to pick up our flight.
We are staying on a small island in Greece just 2 hours ferry time from Athens, population 1,000. They are solely dependent on tourism on that island and we are going to spend our hard earned cash there and I am sure they are grateful for that.
I wonder how they would feel if they knew that their UK Embassy was doing nothing but hinder tourism for their country.
I have relayed the story to some workmates and their reply was.."Why on earth are you going to Greece...go somewhere else" . They are right of course, but you know I have spent some fabulous holidays in Greece and all I wanted to do was show my partner what all the fuss about the country was. Am I wrong about Greece after all ?
As, a footnote, when we pressed this "charming (sic) woman to help us and get the visa earlier, she made my partner sign a piece of paper to acknowledge that the visa was at risk if we tried to get it earlier. Now how about that then !
Oh, by the way. When I needed to renew my passport in an emergency once, I drove to Newport in South Wales and only had to wait two hours for a completely new passport.
In Greek terms, they cannot do it in even seven working days. Say no more eh. Next year, Spain here we come !
If anyone else has had a similar experience , let me know and I will publish some.


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