WHICH POCKET TO PICK?
No this is not a how to guide on how to pick pockets. Everyone I knew right from the senior office colleague, my ex-colleague, the next door uncle, my mom’s friends from the morning walk group, mom’s colleagues in her school, my brother’s classmate’s mother, my cousin from Rajasthan, the aunt from my hometown had one thing to say in common. Wow you are going on a backpacking trip to Europe that’s amazing but be careful of your money, passport and gadgets keep them safe there are a lot of pickpocketers in Europe.
So unanimous was this advice that ‘How to keep our things safe and what type of wallet, pocket, purse to choose so that we can keep our things safe became an important part of our already extensive research. There were countless pages on the internet that give tips on how to keep your money and passport safe. These sites provide you with a host of useful tips and tricks that include money belts, hidden pockets or clever places like an empty chapstick tube, belts with pockets, and different ways of securing your backpacks which include wearing them backwards or securing them to an immovable object when you are in a café. There were whole ranges of site that sell you pickpocket proof bags. These sites also gave tips which suggested splitting your valuables or a list of spots and places where you are most likely to encounter people who pickpocket.
We wanted to be careful enough to make sure that we don’t find ourselves in a situation where we are stripped off all our money and/or passport so far away from home but we did not want the stress and worry to take away our holiday spirit. So we did the research but didn’t fuss over it. Things that we decided were as follows. We would keep our cash transactions to the absolute minimum and for basic stuff like, buying a metro ticket or an ice cream cone where you cannot swipe a card. So we did some rough estimates as to how much cash we will require. 100 Euros was what we carried as cash (we exchanged an amount of Rs7500 roughly which came back to us as two notes worth 50 euro each. Some might think disappointing I myself thought huh! Convenient ). Major chunk of the money went into the travel card. We had to keep the wallet safely because most of the time the travel card worked without the pin and it was the only card that we had. We took many copies of our passport and visa. We carried one copy of each when we were out travelling keeping the passport and the other documents locked inside the hostel/hotel room.(we decided it was best that the passport was safe in one place than with us while we walked the whole city. So the cash (enough for the day), the travel card the phone and the Xerox copies of the passport and visa is all we carried with us in a tiny backpack.
We were glad to find that our trip was very pleasant. We did not go through distress when it came to finance nor did we encounter and pick pocketers. We thanked our lucky stars. However there were certain incidences that took us by surprise.
Firstly I would like to mention about the thoughtful internet café guy. My friend and I decided to rely on free Wi-Fi and not buy a mobile connection so whatsapp was the main mode of communication with our parents while we were travelling, however after 10-15 days we felt like communicating with our families over a phone call where we could talk and have a conversation and Whatsapp call was not very effective so we decided to go the internet café and make a call over there. In the excitement of talking to our families we blissfully left our mobile phones unattended on the table and were speaking. After we were done we paid the money and we were about to leave the internet café guy pointed out that our phone was on the table and that we should be more careful with our belongings.
We were in Cesky Krumlov and we were staying in a hostel and the room had 4 beds and a side chair a common table there was no storage space we were apprehensive about the safety of our luggage but the owners assured us by saying Don’t worry everyone who comes here are just travelers like you I haven’t had a complaint in these many year. I was unsure at first and locked my bag and chained it to the foot of the bed. I was however glad to find that she was right the other girls were just travelers like us and they would also be out the whole day can come back only at night so this gave me a lot of confidence and peace and I was more confidant the next day and more at peace in our short stay of two days over there.
It was our third day in Budapest and we had planned on visiting the Liberty statue. It was afternoon time and the morning was spent in the Grand central market. Although it was a drizzling we had walked a lot that day. The liberty statue is on the Gellért Hill. We had quite a bit of climbing the do and all the climbing and the entire days walking had rendered us quite thirsty. However the statue is so magnificent that upon reaching we spent a good half an hour admiring the statue and the surroundings and looking at the beautiful and rainy Budapest from a height, admiring the buildings. From there we proceeded to the citadel but not before taking a pit stop at the coffee kiosk for water and refreshments. Walking further we stumbled upon a park with colorful benches and swing the holiday mood and the swings brought out the child in me, we spent a lot of time swinging on the swings and resting our legs on the park benches. It was a huge park and we had walked quite a lot. Next we had to walk further to see the Gellért statue but before this I realized my phone was missing. Now where could it have been? Lots of thoughts rushed in my mind I had been all over the city I had been to the market could it have been there. Did I bring it with me to the hill? We still had a good 10 days left and I was wondering how will I keep my parents updated I would have to depend on my friends phone. All my pictures will be lost, all my contacts and I will have to buy a new phone. If it has fallen somewhere in the hill where will I go looking for it? It was a vast expanse. The words of the internet café guy came to my head. But luckily I remembered taking a few snaps of the liberty statue so it was definitely on the hill. But it was such a vast place and it was drizzling. We had to search. First we looked near the statue there was no sign of the phone there and then the park benches nop! Not there. There was no sign of the phone near the swing either. There were only two options now either the WC or the Coffee Kiosk. We decided to check the WC first. A huge bus will lots of tourists had just arrived and there was a long Que. I asked the annoyed lady who was collecting cash if there was a phone but was disappointed again. So my last hope was the coffee kiosk with my hopes as dim as the day lights I reached there and asked her if I had left my phone there and she just reached the top shelf where they had kept it safely and presented it to me. I was so relived. Thanking them we left. We had been luck the second time.
Rest of the trip went on smoothly. We were back to Prague for the last three days of our trip. We had decided to do all the shopping on the last day and also go on the dinner cruise. The night previous was not as peaceful though. Like always we had spent a fabulous day in Prague and tried to see all the places that we wanted to. Had long chats by the river and were heading back to the hostel but before that we stopped at the jewelers. My friend wanted to buy a garnet. We looking through many design my friend selected one. We were happy with the purchase and also hungry from all the walking so we decide to stop in a restaurant to grab dinner. We had dinner and as we walked out we saw a shop selling trdelník. We went there and got ourselves a freshly baked trdelník with a dollop of fresh ice-cream. Then we got back to the hostel and were rejoicing the warmth of the dorm room which was a striking contrast to the cold outside. I changed in my pajamas and was resting my feet on the warm dorm bed when my friend panicked and cried! I am missing my wallet. My first reaction was what search properly. Upon further search it was conformed that her wallet was indeed missing. It had the travel card. Well of course it had to be at the trdelník shop that’s where we had been last is what I said but she said she took it out last in the jewelers shop and just used cash from a smaller wallet in the other places. So she ran out in the cold night but came back disappointed cause all the shops were closed. There was a whole night of suspense. There were many thoughts that ran through her head. What if it was not in any of these places? What if it fell somewhere? If it is in the shop will they be honest enough to return it? There are so many presents that I wanted to buy for my friends and family. There is still a lot of cash left and it would be a huge loss cause most of the time the travel card worked without a pin. Morning arrived and we had a task ahead of us. We got dressed and she went out first and asked me to wait for her at the trdelník shop. She had decided to check the jewelry shop and the restaurant first. I got ready and reached the trdelník place. When I reached the shop the lady in the trdelník shop said! Mam you left your purse last night. She reached a shelf where she had carefully placed the walled in a plastic bag. I was very happy. I was excited for my friend for when she came back from those two places she would be in for a surprise soon enough she joined and was relieved to see the wallet in my hand. We thanked the lady for what she had done and were on our way.
What surprised me the most was the fact that our experience were so much more different from what we were meant to expect. I am not saying that what people told us was wrong. I am in fact very thankful to them for their advice. I am also not telling that you can be lax and careless about you important things in a foreign country. Nor and I telling you will always be lucky and find honest people. However I cannot help but marvel over the number of helpful and honest people we found. I will always remember these experiences whenever I remember these people and experiences fondly and be grateful to them.