So I wanted to go to the American Consulate today. All I wanted was some passport photos and they have a photo booth, plus they are less than five minutes walk from my house. "Nice and convenient" I thought, how wrong I was.
My first mistake was to take a sports holdall. I had to drop some things off at the dump, so I took the holdall to take these things there. When I got to the consulate (after emptying the bag at the dump) the first thing I saw on the door is that no large bags are allowed. A security lady at the window next to the door said that I could not take the bag in, but that I could possibly take it to the kiosk up the road and they "might" look after it. Something about the way she said "might" said to me that she really meant "probably wont". So I decided to put the empty holdall in the bin outside the consulate, I didn't really want it anyway. I then tried again to enter. This time i was told by the apologetic security lady that I could not take anything electrical inside, I had a mobile and a small mp3 player with me, and that I should go to the kiosk and leave it there. I felt sorry for the lady as I could see she had to go through this routine every day. "OK, so I have to go and leave my valuables at some kiosk" I thought to myself with a sigh. As I was walking away from the window some other security man came out from the building, I asked him where the kiosk was, he said 200 meters up the road. Then as I started to walk there he shouts after me and asks if it is my empty holdall in the bin. I explained that it was and that I didn't want it. He started to seem a bit agressive by this point and told me that there was a 8000euro fine for that kind of thing. What! At this point I didn't want to get in a confrontation as I could probably imagine getting shot if I said anything that rhymed with "bomb", so I just agread and took the holdall with me. But it seemed absolutely ridiculous to me. Is this a law for Germany? does it just apply to holdalls, or is it illegal to put anything in a bin?
In the end I gave up and walked back home. I did notice lots of people streaming between the embassy and the kiosk though.
I never had this problem at the Chinese or Russian Embassy. In fact, at the Chinese Embassy the security guy seems quite friendly and helpful.
So today's lesson is: if you are going to the American consulate then only take the documents you need. Don't take electronics, guns, knives, bags, french fries (unless they are Freedom fries: Oh the irony! although most Americans would never understand irony), Flags, anything. One final peice of advice: do not - under any circumstances - put anything in the bin.