*The following happened in Bratislava, Slovakia. However, I believe it could have happened anywhere. I do not want to tarnish this great city in anyway.*
One night something very odd happened. I would like your opinion on it – am I over reacting or was I right to be concerned ……….
Mr ESLT and I were sat outside a bar in the main area in central Bratislava. We had already had a couple of drinks watching the Slovakia v Germany Euro 2016 match, but were in no way intoxicated. We were happily drinking and chatting when a guy (who happened to look like a 90s boy band reject) came over and asked for a cigarette. In exchange he offered to buy us a drink. This seemed odd straight away, as directly opposite from where we were sat was a shop which sold cigarettes.
He then proceeded to take a seat at our table and introduced himself as Matthew, a local who had just returned to the city after his very well paid contract as a physiotherapist in Saudi Arabia had come to an end. We introduced ourselves – first names only. He then headed inside to buy us a ‘traditional Slovak drink’. Again, this seemed odd as it was waiter service at this bar. I watched him like a hawk as I could see him from my seat, all the while Mr ESLT saying ‘I can see this ending up like a scene out of the Hostel where we wake up tomorrow with our legs broken and our kidneys missing!’ GREAT!
He returned with the drinks which he explained were Borovicka, a Slovakian alcoholic beverage flavoured with juniper berries (very much like gin) and drank as a shot. We drank our shot and thanked him. With that his friend joined us, Jacob with whom he spoke to in Slovakian even though both of them spoke amazing English. This happened on a number of occasions. More drinks were ordered and paid for by Matthew, although his card got declined which again seemed odd considering he kept bragging about how much money he had earned in Saudi Arabia. At one point Matthew ran to another bar down the same street to ‘pay the bill’ – why would you leave a bar without clearing your tab?
Upon his return Matthew focused his attention on Mr ESLT and Jacob on me. He started asking a lot of questions including ‘which hotel are you staying at?’ he also suggested that we stayed in his apartment that evening and he would drive us to Vienna the next day as ‘public transport is expensive’. Three shots later they insisted on buying us more. Mr ESLT put his foot down at this point and said NO, even saying to the waitress that we did not want anything. They ordered them anyway, with what looked like sideward glances to the waitress, and instead of allowing us to pick which glass we wanted like we had previously, Jacob handed us one each. We didn’t drink it. We thanked them and headed back to the sanctuary of our hotel, checking over our shoulders every 2 seconds.
As a couple in our 30s and 40s I think we come across as an odd pair to try and pull a scam on. What do you think? Do you think they wanted our organs? Ok, neither do I but something seemed very off. Why would you buy complete strangers drinks all evening? Do you think they were trying to get us drunk to steal from us? If so, they picked the wrong pair, as it would have been VERY costly for them – we have livers of steel! Couple that with breaking away from speaking English when speaking to each other and all the dodgy glances. Am I overreacting? Were they simply being friendly and showing us a good old Slovakian time and hospitality?
5 Ways to Travel Safe
Do your research
Only take what you need
The photocopier is your friend
Keep your wits about you
Try to blend in
Do you have any helpful tips to add to the list?
Of course, as travellers we want to experience the local culture of our destination. I’m sure we have all been in a situation where there was the potential for it to end very differently to the way it did. I personally think a lot of it boils down to common sense and not putting ourselves in a potentially vulnerable position. Safe travels!