Before you read this story about the robbery in Bratislava, I request you to please read the entire story — from how I got robbed in Bratislava and what followed next. Please do not leave the blog in between and find a negative tone against Slovaks, or Central Europe at large… because that was never the intention, and just cannot be!
While planning my 2-month backpacking trip across 8 countries in Europe, and before I arrived in Bratislava, the capital town of the east-European country of Slovakia, a few people warned me about having my wits about the place. “You better be careful walking on those streets; eastern Europe can be surprising,” they claimed.
But I never cared much for their advice. I mean for a person who had spent most of his life learning the art of self-defence, inside the crazy boundaries of New Delhi, central or eastern Europe should be no problem, right?
“I’ve seen worse,” I would carefully assure myself. To sometimes even brag about it, and sound more experienced, I would utter an experience or two from my solo backpacking trip in Southeast Asia or South Asia, and how they only turned out to be a place — at least for me — where I could feel just as relieved, and assuring, as I should be, in Australia or any other part of the world.
Bratislava As A Town
Despite its favorable geographic location, and the fact that it’s the capital city of Slovakia, Bratislava turned out to be like any other capital city I’ve seen in my life. It was quiet, peaceful, and amazingly romantic, with a surprisingly laid-back vibe (at least during the Easter holiday when I was there).
The last time I remember I totally adored a capital city for having such a peaceful life, I was some 8 thousand kilometers away, searching for happiness in the capital town of Thimpu.
So yea, Bratislava was alluring. And that’s how it felt, at least the first three nights, as I arrived in the town for a blogging assignment hosted by Bratislava Tourism Board.
I got to stay at one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed in in my life (Mercure Bratislava Centrum Hotel) with great activities lined up, and free travel around the city using the Bratislava Card. Things were going just as smoothly and as enjoyable as they should be. And then the night of 17th April happened!
Getting Robbed In Bratislava
It all happened on the night of April the 17th, as I was on the way to my hotel, after capturing the dramatic nightlights of the city, from the top of Bratislava Castle, something that made the city look even more beautiful than I expected — as I met three people claiming to be Slovaks in a city tram (two guys and a girl).
A friendly conversation among us and their fond interest to know more about India, as soon as I told them I am from India (despite none of them being able to understand/speak fluent English) built a sudden assurance that they’re like those friendly people who would want to know more about other cultures. Hence, we spoke!
As I reached the last station, and I got off at the train station at Bratislava hlavná stanica to walk back to my hotel, they asked if I would be interested to have a drink at one of the bars in the station. The station was full of people, and so was the bar they picked. There should be no problem at such a public place, but I did not know what was coming. I did not know that one of them will flee with my camera, as the other two try to engage me in a conversation. And that’s how I got robbed in Bratislava at the train station.
Now as I try to stop the other two, and request a few dozen people at the station to “call the police” no one came forward and tried to ask what the matter was. I am sure if none of them even understood English, they, at least, understood the word “Police” and a shocking look on my face must have been only explaining the matter a little more.
Seeing me going crazy, all of a sudden the guy and the girl try to be threatening now, and made it to a run, but not before my Indian instincts kicked in, and I quickly captured their faces in my mobile phone to have a proof of who did this to me.
Two of the three people I, fortunately, got a picture of, on my mobile phone
I think they were either too new at doing a robbery in Bratislava, or high on drugs, as they did not realize what these pictures can do to them. What if I go to the police and file a complaint against them, and release their photos at many places as I can?
A Screenshot of the police report I filed at Bratislava hlavná stanica police station
[PS: Other than filing the complaint, I also contacted a couple of news Slovakian news publications who have published the news. You can read the two news articles by clicking here or here]
Say No To Generalizations
What happened to me was indeed sad. But what happened right after was sadder.
As I posted about the incident on my Facebook Page, the next morning, some people felt sorry for me, while others asked me to be more careful in the future. One or two comments even ended up making generalizations about Slovakia. They would say that Central and Eastern Europe can be risky and compared them with the better (at least economically) part of Europe that lies in its West.
No, I do not want this to happen, especially not when I keep hearing a similar story in my country India, every now and then, yet I know how amazing India can be. Every country has a few bad apples and basis on them we can’t generalize a country or societies at large! After all, these bad apples should not exist, right? At least not in our heads.
The Bright Side
Some time ago, after I started penning down this story, I happened to get a message on my Facebook Page, from someone from Slovakia, showing their greatest sympathies, asking me if I ever come back to the country, they have a place for me to stay, as they are eager to show me the better version of it. They even said they want to donate some money and help me buy a new camera.
I can already see which direction this entire thing is going to… towards a better world. And to make it happen, I hereby share my Paypal Account ID for those who want to donate some money and help me buy a new camera.
For now, I conclude, by mentioning this…
You can click the following links to donate the money. The number at the end denotes the amount in USD or EUR depending upon which country you are in, (‘5′ or ’10’, for example, in the following two links mean 5 or 10 bucks). PayPal.Me/DeveshJoshi/5
More on the story will follow, as I’ll explore more developments… 🙂
April 21: A couple of messages from people, and a couple more reasons to smile…
I never expected this entire incident will take a direction that it did. So far, I’ve covered almost half of the cost of the original camera with donations from people.
April 22: I am officially requesting people to not send more donations, as I’ve pretty much got the money I wanted to buy a similar camera, plus someone from Bratislava (a guy named Peter) has given me his Nikon D200 which I can use throughout the tour.
After this incident took place, I personally felt that Slovakian people have come out as a force, not wanting to have crime walking freely on their streets, and it was totally amazing to witness. Sure my robbing in Bratislava incident was a bad one, but how local Slovaks helped me has outweighed all the bad that has happened.
I appreciate how Slovakian media, even if it was a pretty insignificant incident, did not take the matter lightly, and did everything they could to help me (a tourist) feel as safer and assured in their country as he should in any other part of the world.
PS: I had a lot of places and blog about but couldn’t do anything because of this incident. The only tourist experience I had there was what I tried before this incident took place. You can read about it here: offbeat target shooting in Bratislava.
How safe is the country to visit as a light brown skin people?any racism or something sort of?Im planning to visit but no idea about racism.
Slovakia is not in East but in Central Europe.
I’m sorry for your experience but I guess you were quite naive… it can happen anywhere especially when 2 or 3 people are showing interest.
Hi Dev, just reading ur article after a year it had been posted.. simply because I’m watching a movie filmed in Bratislava and decided to Google it because the movie shots about the country looks really beautiful,, sorry about ur experience but like any other countries there are crimes especially in my small country like Trinidad and Tobago…. Be thankful for life and remember that you can always get a new camera like you already did… I hope I can visit there someday because the place looks perfect!
Thanks for sharing this Dev and I love seeing how people are coming forward to assist you. The world is great :).
Btw. Dev, do you use bitcoins? If yes, add also bitcoin address to your article and I will donate you for new camera in bitcoins rather then Paypal (I dont like Paypal 😉 )
Hi Rasto, I unfortunately don’t Not sure how Bitcoins work, and how can I accept them. Moreover I think I am fine now. There are so many people who have already extended their helping hand and donated. I did not expect this to be happening and going in the direction it did. So thanks again for your help. Your intention to contribute was enough in itself at first place. Cheers, have a good one 🙂
Hey, Dev. Try Zebpay ( Android App ) and it’s far most convenient app to buy or accept bitcoins. It’s an Indian company with permissions for financial acceptance with RBI. It’s not about your donation part but about how bitcoins are becoming worldwide acceptance.
Martin – unfortunately that message is about Paypal policies to different countries – specifically it means, that Indian Paypal accounts can not accept personal payments. BUT you can still send him money to his Paypal and choose the other option (paying for goods). The downside of that – by using the option, he will be the one paying the Paypal transaction fees.
I am so ashamed and embarrassed.
I admire your attitude to not throw everyone into the same bin (I know I would…).
I wish you all the best on your future travels.
Good idea with PayPal – worked no problem.
I hope that Slovaks will show you their good side and you can put a small Slovakia flag sticker on your new camera soon 🙂
It was really nice to meet with you on Sunday and I am sorry for what happened to you on next day.
I am really sorry with your negative experience and robbing you of the camera in my country. I have sent some money so hope you will have enough to buy new camera.
Hi, tried sending you some money for the camera but paypal doesn’t work with message:
“We’re sorry. That recipient can’t accept personal payments.
If you continue to encounter problems, please contact us.”
Tick the option for buyer protection. Worked for me.
Select payment for services. It works for me an my friends too.