Then we traveled to Paris…*chuckles* Our first night in Paris, we were wandering around…after dark…looking like tourists. In other words, we had our phone out trying to calculate what direction was home. Not smart! Appear always as if you belong when traveling…avoid standing out. Two men spotted us, looked at one another and started following us. My other half and I had previously decided on a signal if either of our radars went off that would not be distinguishable. As we had both spotted what was happening we gave each other the signal at the same time. My other half turned around and for what felt like a full minute gave them a very dirty look. They realized we were aware of what they were up to and moved on. I wasn’t really scared – it just truly heightened my senses. All in all, we were lucky to make it out of that okay – with our money and such.
On a lesser note of sorts…one thing about Paris (even more than London, maybe) were the street vendors and sellers of all sorts of *stuff*. Not only in Paris but everywhere in Europe (although it may be a city thing), street vendors and performers do whatever it takes to try to sell you something. If I had one dollar for every time someone came up to me over the trip trying to sell me a selfie stick…well, I’d have a solid $200. I strongly encourage you, if you travel anywhere, to avoid buying from these street vendors. And be warned, if you so much as stop and stare at an item or a performer, you will be approached and have to work very hard to walk way. Oh, and the Shell Game is rigged! You WILL lose.
On a street performer note, there is a famous trick of sorts where there is a levitating person. It appears that one person is holding onto a post which makes it look like he or she is levitating. I encourage you to look up the trick behind this before traveling abroad…because if you stop and stare for too long you could either find yourself being the victim of pickpockets or harassment for money.
Twice! Once in Brussels and once in Berlin, my other half and I went off in search of ice cream – after dark. Of course, it is winter time…most ice cream places are closed! Those journeys in the dark made me want to crawl in a hole…some of the streets we walked down gave me the absolute creeps!
My last story regarding safety in Europe is a bit of an odd one…I wrote the following during the happening…
I must admit, the first time I truly felt scared on the trip was right prior to stepping on the plane to Berlin. It was an EasyJet flight (aka budget flight) and something about it not being Delta and probably the recent AirAsia disaster made me shaky and nervous all throughout take off and the flight.
Of course, as I write this… I was probably worrying too much, as I’m here writing this to you now! In addition, my other half thought my worry ridiculous but as always did his best to comfort me. Sweet thing.
Upon landing in SXF (Berlin) we grabbed our bags and made our trek to the train station. Of course, when wanting to buy a train ticket we got the rude awakening that “hey Americans! Change your credit cards to have chips instead of the magnetic strip.” We ended up missing our first possible train running around trying to find a machine that would take our card! (And no, they didn’t take cash…and as it was late – there was hardly a soul around). Scary stuff. My mind: “what if we have to sleep in the train station tonight…” ridiculous of course.
As we stood in line at the correct machine a man came up to us… in a track like suite and first apologized for not being able to talk loudly…then asked us if we spoke English (with a thick accent). We nodded our heads semi-uncaringly as we were both anxious to just get our tickets and get to the platform and onto our hour long journey to our apartment. Of course, as I said before I was a little nervous coming into this portion of the trip. Neither of us know more than a few words of German, it’s late…etc, etc.
Anyway, so the guy then pulls out a stack of coins and asks for small change for his coins. We both took that as a red flag and said no and turned away. Call us over cautious or heartless if you like – but you just never know who you can trust. And it truly breaks my heart to admit that.
The guy moved on to the next people in line…. it appeared everyone was denying him.
We successfully got our tickets and headed up to the platform. Turns out the guy was getting on the same train as us. He hopped on the end car of the train and went from person to person asking for money…and at the first stop he got off and came onto our car. My radar was sending me all sorts of scary signals. But then, for better or worse two ladies gave him the coins he asked for and he moved onto the next car.
At the end of that train we had to get onto another one and lo and behold he came up onto the car asking for money again…Now my heart is pounding through my chest and all I can think of is the movie Taken, bombs, death and losing my passport (aka living in Berlin forever). As you can see, my head was getting to me. But this guy is clearly a cheat of sorts.
I wonder if he has counterfeit coins, or if he’s looking for someone who has a lot of money he can follow and grab later. Remember how before break I posted about assuming the best? Well, here I am admitting my true thoughts. And as I’m thinking up all these horrible motives he might have, the thought that continues to pop into my head is… what if he’s really in need of money? What if he doesn’t mean to hurt anyone? I struggle with this.
He eventually got more money out of someone and exited my car.
And this, my friends, was only night one of Germany.
What is so odd about this is on our (ever so early) train back to the airport at the end of the journey, that same man came onto the train, wearing the same clothes as he had before. That was his job – he traveled to the airport each day and asked everyone he could for money. I can’t even imagine living that life. I’m still not sure how I feel about that entire ordeal – from my immediate assumptions to the what seems was the truth. I just don’t know.
Finally – everyone says – hang onto your bags in Italy…pickpockets are everywhere. However, I felt quite safe in Venice. My only concern in Rome was how packed the tram and busses were…but otherwise, I was pretty comfortable.
Overall, although my radar went off a lot while abroad, I truly believe this was solely because it was a new place for me. Unfamiliar! Looking back, we were smart about our money – utilizing money belts and such. In addition, we dressed nicely but plainly. Nothing flashy in which could label us as tourists (although I’m sure we looked touristy anyway). Traveling abroad – you just have to be smart about your actions and where you’re going. Of course, this is the case anywhere you go in life.