Finally! I got mugged.
It took 25 years of traveling, 66 countries, and it finally happened – I got mugged. With knives, some violence, and a camera I will never see again.
Sarajevo, Bosnia, Sunday, seventeenth of April, year two thousand and sixteen.
I’ve often been asked if I have been mugged or had anything bad happen to me while traveling, the answer is always “not yet”. I never answered ‘it won’t happen to me’, but more along the lines of ‘ when will it happen’
I did not expect it, and certainly didn’t look forward to it – but I knew it would happen, the combination of the wrong place – wrong time.
I heard many stories of travelers I met along the way, who got mugged with a gun pointed to them, sometimes a knife, another one got mugged in a cab.
But unlike Julie – I was not mugged in central Paris at daylight, and unlike Eitan didn’t got mugged on a crowded street in Argentina.
My case is the classic crime, out side of the city center, on a trail in the mountains surrounding Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Robbery happens. And any veteran traveler knows what one should do when its time – Don’t fight back, hand the money (or camera), report to the police, and continue with your life (or grab an ice cream, as I did).
When traveling for two years – you know a robbery is waiting for you somewhere around the world.
I got mugged, and here is my story:
My Sarajevo trip started well – touched down in Sarajevo late at night, and was picked up by Ahmed, the amazing owner of Seven Heaven hostel. and now a life-long friend.
There is no better word than ‘home’ to describe Seven Heaven hostel- clean, spacious, comfortable beds and bathrooms you only see in five-star boutique hotels.
Ahmed, together with the rest of the team, is truly amazing host, and friend. We will meet him again later in this story.
Although it was already 1am, I decided to check out the nightlife scene I heard so much about from fellow travelers.
Bars were packed, local music mixed with Western beats, and many tourists mixing with locals over a drink, and on the dance floor.
I danced, drank, and met new friends, before heading back to bed.
The next morning I took a guided tour of Sarajevo, one to the popular free-tours can be found in many cities, and I highly recommend to participate (don’t forget to tip).
During the tour, which was great, I spoke with most people in the group, and as the tour ended, joined three girls, on a trip to the infamous Bobsleigh track – a tourist destination located at the top of the mountain. The track is neglected, covered with graffiti, and what left from the Winter Olympics in 1984, and a reminder of the siege Sarajevo has experienced nearly a decade after the games.
The way back to the city is a winding path through green nature and with a great view of Sarajevo and the surrounding mountains. At that moment when we stopped to take photos, two Bosnian guys holding knives jumped on us. They pushed us to the ground. One guy focused on the girls, took their backpacks, and leaving a cut on one girl’s arm
The second guy was mostly excited about me, as we were on the ground, pushing each other, while he’s waving is knife and shouting ‘give me money’.
I threw my mobile phone into the bushes, and kept holding to my camera – the sucker didn’t give up, and was fighting for the camera.
I saw the blade getting closer, and decided there is no point risking a physical injury, especially when fighting with the young generation of Bosnia who has nothing to lose, in a country where 60% of young people has no job and live poor life. My camera was running away from me, and into the woods.
I’m bummed, the girls shaking. We climbed back on the same path. Status check – I had my phone, backpack and wallet. While the girls left with nothing – backpacks together with passports, cameras, and mobile phones are gone.
Next to the Bobsleigh track we found policemen. We told them what just happened, although I already knew I am not going to reunite with my camera, nor catch the skunks.
Escorted by the officers, we followed the tracks and to our “delight” – we found the backpacks. passports. empty wallets. no camera(s).
Ahmed (hostel owner) rushed to the place, helped translating the police officers (no English). Beside truly fabulous hostel & hospitality, Ahmed was also a HUGE help throughout the process with the police, let the girls stay the night at the hostel, and didn’t leave us before making sure we are 100% A-OK. There are good people in Bosnia.
Back at the police station I gave a full run-down of the events, while the policeman smoked cigarette after cigarette, I could barely breath. Uncertain how this guy is still alive.
A quick lineup with two suspects, who no results. It is difficult for me to recognize their faces as both were wearing hoodies, hats and sunglasses.
I left the station with police-note – possibly the worst trade I ever made – an expensive camera for a sheet of paper.
For the next few minutes I was thinking I should probably get out of Bosnia, possibly skip my next destination, and head to London to get some rest – what stupid idea.
I am sticking to my original plan – staying in Sarajevo!
With this decision in mind, me and the girls moved on with the plan we madeearlier – ICE CREAM ! The Ice cream was delicious (dah!) and cheap at $1 for two scopes.
My first robbery. Not a pleasant experience. Nothing fun. And quite a financial loss.
It happened, I can’t change this fact, and it is now history – No need to waste more energy on it. I only hope my two Bosnian “friends” will live miserably forever.
I won’t let a single event to dim my desire to travel all over the world, to meet people, explore cultures, and to live the life I love so much.
The same way a person lose his job never stops looking for a new job. I won’t stop traveling and taking photos because of this one bad experience.
“If it’s good – it’s great. If it’s bad – it’s an experience” – one of my mottos for life
I lost my beloved camera, and some beautiful pictures of Sarajevo, but I now have an answer to the question whether I ever been mugged or had anything bad happened to me while traveling.
I will continue to explore Sarajevo, learn about its painful history and the challenging present. I’ll meet locals & tourists, and for the first times in years – stroll freely, without having to carry a big camera on my shoulder.
Travel Sarajevo, explore our beautiful world, and ignore the the little evil on the hills of Sarajevo – it really a tiny drop in the ocean.
Go. Explore. And you are offered buy a professional Sony camera for $100 – it’s my camera.