The first day of my month long European travels were filled with a mixture of excitement, wonder, fatigue induced adrenaline and adventure, which later descending into a fear induced panic and an unexpected trip to a police station which 180’ed back into jubilation. That day had more twists and turns than colossus at Thorpe Park.
Some cities are notorious for the amount of pick-pocketing that tourists fall victim to including Barcelona, Rome, and Buenos Aires. I was in Brussels when my bag was sneakily swiped whilst I was distracted munching on some frites. Sitting on a bench on one of Brussels’s busiest streets was the ideal location for this organised theft to take place. My backpack was neatly placed on the bench right beside…ok behind me. Hindsight and you might tell me that was a poor choice and you’re correct. Just don’t be smug. I thought one handle was over my arm but clearly not.
I was in deep discussing with my cousin whilst scooping up a dollop of mayonnaise with my frite (as one must do as initiation into Belgium) and noticed quickly my small Primark backpack was no longer on the bench. On any regular day, I would not have been as fazed, but this was the first day of arrival so I have not unpacked everything. That backpack contained my adapter, passport, a huge amount of money both in note and card form, among a myriad of other important things that I would not be able to survive without! I was in sheer shock and panic…in a country where I could not speak the language.
Luckily, I had my phone and my trusty cousin was with me to deal with this ordeal. We ran to retrace our steps back to the frite shop, tracked down a police van, then leveled up to an open police station that was ironically fairly concealed from the general public and did not stand out one bit. Whilst there, another tourist had come into report a pick-pocketing, which seemed to be a common recurrence here. With a mixture of google translate, half remembered French words from high school and panicked words in English because in my haste to retrieve my bag, I was another one of those tourists relying on everyone else to speak English, even a policeman in Belgium.
But then…a twist occurred. I had a message from an unknown person on facebook messenger which read ‘Bonjour. Avez-vous ete vole? Stolen?’ Someone had found the bag and contacted me! Or was it a trap? He told me to go to a road far away from where I was where there was supposedly a police station. If he had it, why was he not in the area? Would my body end up washed up on a random shore somewhere? Not to mention I was putting my cousin at risk too.
After some hasty deliberation and a phone call from this Facebook messenger Schrödinger’s saviour/serial killer, that I could barely hear or understand, we had a slow speed Uber race to this disclosed location and eventually found the police station we were told to go to, again concealed with no obvious markers it was a police station and we had to take a lift to get there. This had been a long journey and I just wanted to go to sleep to wake up from this nightmare, thinking the thief would have made off with my wallet and passport, and I would only be collecting the remains of the bag.
But – another twist! This is where the jubilation – and shear stupid luck – came in. My bag was there with everything still inside it! It was like a Christmas miracle. I had lost nothing and my family back home were none the wiser as I didn’t need to tell them how much was potentially taken off from me (unless you’re reading this now, in which case, you should happily know it all worked out in the end!). After giving my version of events, signing some paperwork, praising the work of these policemen and telling them how eloquent their English was to this British girl who could barely string a sentence in either of the local languages, I was able to breathe again.
I asked how N-Co, the policeman who had retrieved (and not initially told me he was a policeman) and dropped my bag of to whom were his colleagues here had realised this bag was stolen. Apparently my silky cheap black unassuming backpack looked like it belonged to a female and not the male that was handling it. I was thinking this guy should join the Belgium version of MI5. I was told I was in the 0.0001% of having my stuff returned and thanked my lucky stars.After that eventful first day, I realised I could still continue this extended holiday happily and hoped the ensuing days would not be quite as eventful. I began carrying my backpack as a front pack to ensure it. Have any of you had any misadventures such as mine? Let me know in the comments below!