As much as I’ve traveled in recent years, I can say that I was lucky to have had safe holidays.
But there are exceptions… I realized the other day that, in different years, in different countries, what I hate very much happened to me: to be burgled!
MADRID. THEFT AT KM 0.
Many years ago I fled to Madrid on a whim, on a romantic getaway for two, being invited to a friend’s civil wedding – where the dress code was “the tourist clothes you’re wearing” J.
The enthusiasm of that adventure made us leave our suitcases quickly and go to the city carrying our backpack, full of everything we had in it from home.
From Km 0 in Madrid – Puerta del Sol, we went everywhere, we wandered on the streets and the main boulevards, we also went to the wedding, we then returned to the center, happy to take the pulse of a city that does not sleep.
In the evening we looked at a street artist, caught in the crowd of curious people, then we went to a place I already knew, where we ate the best hot dog in the world!
When we were supposed to pay, I realized that my backpack was open and I no longer had any of the documents and the wallet! F@&ck!!!
It’s hard to describe the anger, the nerves, the spite, the suffering I felt at that moment! I wanted to scream!
The worst feeling was helplessness and I kept wondering “what do we do now???”
We walked the whole route in the opposite direction, hoping we will find the discarded documents somewhere. No chance whatsoever…
Someone had stolen our passports with the visas (we were not in the EU at the time), the insurances, some money, the plane tickets (at that time there were only printed tickets). Our great luck was that we had most of the money in our pants pockets, not in our backpack.
And so we had to “steal the bride” out of necessity, to take us to the Police, that we were the nobody’s children!…
There, in the middle of the night, we had to fill in the papers, to explain what happened and how it happened, what we had in our backpack, where we walked and at what hours and so on.
We were issued a paper with which we managed to return home. A document to be used as a passport.
Since that holiday, I have never stopped to watch any street shows where there are thousands of people…
VIENNA. THE TRAIN BURGLARY.
Shortly after we got into the EU, I got on a train together with two friends (husband and wife) and left for Vienna, on another unplanned vacation.
We had taken a bunk, in which only the three of us were sleeping.
We were quite surprised when, once we made ourselves comfortable, the car attendant came to us and warned us that thefts were happening on the train, therefore, we should lock ourselves up until the next morning!
What?!? God forbid, it was as if we were in the jungle!
We also found out when and how thieves used to operate: during the night, on the ventilation grille at the bottom of the bunk they spray I don’t know what gas to put you to sleep, then they open the bunk door with a special key.
Man, we were quite afraid! And it was too late to get down.
The man in the group looked for solutions and chose the safest one (we, the girls, took pictures…): he took the ladder from the bed, took off the trousers belt and barricaded the door, to make sure we won’t become victims!
We covered with everything we could with the ventilation grid, we took all our money and documents with us and… now just sleep, if you can.
I fell asleep at one point, with all the stress I was feeling.
In the morning, during the customs check, we found out that our neighbors from the same wagon had indeed been robbed!
PISA. LEFT BARE-ASS...
It was a hot July in 2004, when the minibus adventure came up as a crazy idea, but immediately accepted. Each of us had his reasons for wanting a little escape.
I took the camera, I took the video camera – extremely precious to me at the time – and I started a happy vacation, filmed from the very beginning…
Five people in the minibus, one noisier than the other, passing through Vienna, then wandering through Italy, wherever our car could take us. Venice, followed by Florence and, before returning to the country, let us go to Pisa!
We had not booked any accommodation in Pisa, because our plan was to see what was to be seen there, and then to go back to Romania.
We started visiting the city with… some shopping. To everyone’s joy!
The street with many shops gave us a crazy urge to buy. Cool things you couldn’t find at home. I even got two dresses! (something unusual for me hihi)
We threw the shopping bags in the car and came to Piazza dei Miracoli, taking pictures and filming the Tower from all sides, until the camera’s battery was dead.
And, as we knew that from Pisa you get to the sea in no time, of course we did not want to miss the opportunity to swim a bit before leaving.
After a few minutes of driving, we found the beaches, we parked in an appropriate place, with a fee, exactly opposite the beach, we changed as we could in the minibus and there we were all 5 of us in flip-flops, T-shirts, swimsuits and shorts, crossing to the beach.
Only we were in the private beaches area. But we put out foot down. Into the sea, I mean. We walked a few hundred meters through the water, looking for a public beach. Someone explained to us that there was one just a few minutes away by car.
Perfect! We went out on the road, the owner of the car went to take the minibus from the parking lot and he was going to pick us up from the road.
While waiting for him, we had a good time playing, we were doing all sorts of nonsense, we were pretending to be hitchhikers, well, stupid jokes like this…
The jokes suddenly stopped when we saw our friend making signs from behind the wheel of the car, signs that we did not know if they were obscene or desperate.
“We were robbed!!!” – he shouted at us when he reached us.
Yes, man, sure… Brother, good joke hihi… You don’t know how to act, you’re a terrible actor, stop the kidding…
Only it was just no joke. When we realized this, our mood changed at 180 degrees and we felt like fainting.
The car had been broken into in the about 20 minutes while we were looking for a place on the beach.
Once all the doors were open, I saw the DISASTER: all our luggage was gone!!!
No windows were broken, no door was forced open, but the car had been emptied!
They stole our full suitcases, all the shopping bags, the photo cameras, the video camera, the dirty sneakers, everything! We were left bare-ass, as we say.
I realized that I was left with… what I had on me: the swimsuit and a short jumpsuit, slippers and, to my great luck, the money and the passport that I had with me. Like all the others!
I cried my eyes out! I was upset, helpless, I had lost all the footage made during the few days of vacation! (It was the first time I had a camera with me on vacation! There were no smartphones at the time.)
As we mourned, looking in the papers and bags thrown through the car, we realized what they had stolen from everyone. I was left without all the clothes (both the old ones and the ones bought in Austria and Italy), without my watch, without the business cell-phone, without the sunglasses, without all the gifts bought for family and friends, without all the jackets hanging by the minibus, without all the trousers; the other friends were left without all the things they had bought for themselves and their child and without the designer clothes they had bought from Austria.
Imagine a devastated minibus. The thieves left nothing!!!
Oh, yes, they did: they left some terrible sneakers (they stole the new ones), my Michelin tourist guide, a plastic bag with some clothes and a pair of jeans belonging to one of the friends, in which, unbelievably, there was a lot of money! God, how could they have missed those jeans???
We went to the Pisa Police. On that occasion, we found out that burglaries were being carried out there all the time. That there were groups of Albanians (well, at least they are not Romanians J). And that we have little chance of getting anything back.
What do you think we did after we wrote the statements? We drove through several parking lots, hoping to find at least the luggage thrown away. Well, no…
We left. And the nightmare did not end here, because, as we were getting used to the information and mentally visualized the luggage, we realized that other things were missing too. Shock! They also stole all the Romanian documents (except for the passports we had with us): the ID cards, the driver’s licenses, the car documents from Romania, all the cards, the press cards and so on. A real delight!
The first stop was… where do you think? At the shops where we had bought our cool clothes earlier. We bought them again!
Basically, where we had enjoyed the discounts, we paid double!
Then we went to a supermarket to get toothbrushes, a toothpaste for everyone, a hairbrush, a spray, but also… some panties! I got men briefs because they were cheaper hihihi.
On the way home I kept discovering, desperately, what means to have EVERYTHING stolen: I was even left without a handkerchief, scissors, hair elastic…
I arrived at the Romanian border in a T-shirt, some shorts and slippers. And with the swimsuit on.
In fact, we all came back “athletes”.
This was the first time I had the strength to make fun of my situation, when the Hungarian customs officer asked us in a broken Romanian: “Do you have any luggage to declare?”
Yeah, right… I thought it was the coolest joke ever!
Well, same old Pisa in 2021. Despite the pandemic…
After 17 years, I get here again. The friends I traveled with in 2004 ask me if I came to find our luggage J)).
I go on walking through Piazza dei Miracoli, eating well, then I decide to do what I didn’t get to 17 years ago: to climb the Tower, hoping it doesn’t bend too much more.
Climbs are scheduled every quarter of an hour. At my time, we are 7 people.
A device is put around our necks. For the control of social distancing. When you approach someone, the thing around your neck starts to vibrate and the red “alarm” lights up. You get scared… If you stay away from others, the button stays green.
I had no idea the Leaning Tower of Pisa was empty inside. After climbing 253 steps, up on the small terrace, you have the proof that you are in a bell tower, being surrounded by many bells. And, if you’re lucky enough to be there at sharp hours, all the bells start ringing in your head…
I take a picture with the mask, a picture without the mask (although you are not allowed, the mask is mandatory on the outside), a picture with me, a picture without me, after which I go down the stairs sometimes holding the walls, because of the “waved” steps:
I go to the little market at the exit and buy some souvenirs. Some more kitschy than the others, but they are always a joy for me J.
I buy two nice cups with the leaning tower, I go to the train station, but I return, eager to get another one.
The saleswoman is mumbling something, that she thought she was wrong, I don’t understand what she wants to tell me, so I explain to her as simply as I can that I came to buy another cup. I take the money out and pick it.
Arriving at the hotel (in Florence), I notice that I only have two cups, not three. Because, at the first purchase, the woman put only one cup in my bag, not two!
Only then do I realize what the saleswoman wanted to say: she thought I caught her and returned for the cup she didn’t give me. But, stupid me, not only was I fooled, but I also bought her goods, after she fooled me! How about that???
(If I had stayed in Pisa and not in Florence, I swear I would have gone back to her! My God, what a scandal would have been for a cup of only 5 euros!)
Because of this small incident, Pisa continues to remain in my “Top of the Cities to avoid” list and, if I ever travel there again, believe me I don’t do it anyway, but I’ll go with Optimus Prime!