Feb 27, 2012

Getting a visa

This getting a visa issue has been on our minds since the first days of planning this overseas move and was one reason we eventually chose Czech Republic over Germany. Germany was not so easy, but the Czech rules offered some options. It turned out we could apply for a trade license or attend language school and qualify for a 1 year visa. We first planned on applying before we left the US, but after lots of time spent trying to find out exactly what was required, it was going to be better to apply once we arrived. We needed to show a local address, health insurance etc.

It was a bit complicated and we started considering not applying for a visa, which meant we'd have to leave the Schengen Zone of European countries every 90 days. After some back and forth, we decided with 3 little kids, we wanted to have the option to stay put a little more often. So, we hired a guy who handled all the paperwork and translation to help through the process. There were lots of bits of paperwork, several meetings with our guy Richard, and some hoops to jump through, but it was a mostly straight forward process. Finally after a month of prep, we were on our way to Berlin to apply at the embassy. Yes, a bit inconvenient... we had to be out of the country to apply for the visa.

By this time, we were coming up on 90 days within the Schengen Zone and even though we were in the process of getting the visa, we still had to leave for a few weeks to be within the rules. So, we'd barely settled in, but was time for a trip. Closest options were England or Croatia. We'd recently traveled Croatia and never see the English countryside so that's where we were headed.

It was a 4 hour train trip from Prague to Berlin. Train travel is actually pretty great with the kids. That is if we can travel light and get a private compartment like this. I was pretty impressed with us, we packed for the five of us for a month in 2 bags and 1 diaper bag/backpack. We brought books, crayons, uno cards, activity books, 2 baby dolls, and no other toys and they didn't seem to miss them.

We were there before we knew it.

Train versus car is especially nice with a baby as I can feed/change him whenever I need to and don't have to find a place to stop the car. Collin was very content on the train.

And, Jeff loves trains, he can sit and relax with a beer watching the country go by instead of driving.

This is the view from our apartment in Berlin for a few nights. It was especially impressive in person. You could see the old clock towers interspersed with modern buildings and the huge tv tower, making a very interesting skyline.

We stayed in that night and cooked dinner, waiting for the next day to explore the city. First on the agenda though was our appointment at the embassy. It was a few short rides on the metro and we were at the Czech embassy, waiting for our turn. The kids were pretty patient for awhile being entertained with the various travel brochures on the counter. But, it was appearing to be a long wait so I took them outside. They ran around the grounds for awhile and eventually discovered a small playground behind some bushes, which was helpful killing some time.

It was a relief to have that process finally behind us. Now we could enjoy Berlin and get on with our trip. Here is a section of the Berlin Wall, something I'd always wanted to see. I tried to explain the significance of it to the kids, but it was mostly beyond their interest level. The bright graffiti was interesting to them though and it was a fun place to run around.

Next stop, the famous Brandenburg Gates.

We then walked back to our apartment stopping at a few playgrounds on the way. Pretty full few days and then it was time to get back on the train and head south the Wurzburg. We were going to stay at our friend Tani's house and hopefully buy a car.

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