For a Kafka-esque experience in the 21st century, just visit a Russian consulate. (If you're a little rusty on Kafka references, basically Kafka's work described situations that are the epitome of endless mazes of pointless and futile bureaucracy; in other words: a Russian embassy.)
I was initially very pleased to find out that there is a Russian consulate in Leipzig, which means that I don't have to travel to the Russian embassy in Berlin to take care of my Russian visa. But I should have know that things wouldn't be so easy. I've already visited the consulate here in Leipzig twice, and have made zero headway in getting my visa to go to Russia on June 1st. And things aren't getting any easier. Here, let me try to describe my unfathomably convoluted situation. I'll do so by way of a list of the mistakes that I have made, which somehow seems the most appropriate format.
Mistake #1: I am an American (try really hard not to be an American if you want to visit Russia)
Mistake #2: I am an American trying to get a Russian visa in Germany, a country where I don't have residency
Mistake #3: I do not have an official residency permit to reside in Germany in my passport (because Americans do not NEED a residency permit to stay in Germany less than 3 months)
Mistake #4: I made plans to go to Italy and then the Netherlands next week, which requires that I have my passport for traveling (and thus cannot leave it with the office here in Leipzig to get registered in Germany until May 25th... why May 25th? See mistake #5)
Mistake #5: I am visiting Germany in May, which is jam-packed full of German holidays that cause government offices to be closed not just on the holiday itself, but sometimes also on days surrounding the holiday. Therefore I have to wait to get my passport invitation on a day when I am both in Germany AND it is not a holiday -- a pair of circumstances which do not cosmically align until May 25th...
Could you follow all of this? No? Well good, because neither could I, apparently.
So, enough with the details, what's the bottom line?
I'm not going to make it to Russia by June 1st.
There's almost no way this will be possible. I cannot even start my visa process until May 25th at the absolute earliest. And if all goes well on that date, it will be a minimum of 1 week before I actually obtain the visa. It's a good thing haven't bought a plane ticket yet. I suspected there would be complications even earlier, which is not insubstantially related to the fact that I did not receive my invitation to even start the Russian visa process until last Wednesday.
It's worth mentioning here (though not particularly comforting to me) that the process for entering the US can be just as complicated (if not more so, depending on where you are from), which some of the people I've met here have told me.
Sorry, no pictures in this post.