At the Syrian Embassy I ask to see the Ambassador.
‘A visa. It’s coming from London.’
They tell me I must pay again in Budapest. They explain the thinking behind the charges applied to citizens from different countries.
‘Americans pay around sixty pounds because it’s a rich country.’
‘Maybe not for much longer’ I observe. Things start to go more smoothly. I hand over the money.
‘Visa ready in a moment – a moment and half an hour. It’s a Syrian expression.’
A moment and two hours later I leave, my passport resplendent with a pale blue border pass showing an image of the ruins at Palmyra.