Saturday, 25 June 2011

An Incident in Moscow

One of the worst things that can happen to anyone when traveling is having your wallet stolen. One of the worst places for this to happen must be Russia.

My wallet was stolen on a crowded subway train. Luckily a young woman who spoke some English saw my consternation at my discovery and came to the rescue. She negotiated with the Subway Police at the next station but we needed to go to their headquarters. This was the start of a long and convoluted sequence of events. We traipsed out of the subway, down a dingy alley, through a turnstile and finally to this rather rundown building that looked abandoned. As the door opened it revealed that it was really a10cm thick steel door tastefully disguised with wood panelling on either side. As we entered the holding cells were to the left and there was one of the police wandering around with an AK47 casually slung over his shoulder.
We (me, my husband & the Russian girl) were then summoned upstairs to the inspector’s office.  Up the rickety stairs, then into the office where a thick smoke haze wafted over us, the television was on, showing a variety show, a girlie calendar decked the wall. The inspector greeted us then went to the wall safe, turned the tumble lock and put away his instant coffee and mug (obviously so precious they don’t trust each other, let alone foreigners, even in the police station).
We explained what had happened. The police were all very friendly and jovial, and were sure they would find the wallet with credit cards but no money. They didn’t feel the need to write the police report on the weight of this rather shaky prediction. They then asked us to return at 5.00pm to check on the results. All this took at least 3 hours and we still hadn’t cancelled the credit cards.
Negotiating the police was the easy bit.

We had checked out of our hotel as we were leaving Moscow for St. Petersburg that night, our bags were still there and we decided to go back to the hotel to use the phone as we thought it would be the easiest option. We had to use the Business Centre and as there is no reverse charges or free call in Russia and we had a rather long call which resulted with us ending up with a $200 dollar phone bill, we were pleased the line was so bad that the call centre had to call back or it could have been more.
We returned to the police station exhausted as all this had taken most of our day. Of course they hadn’t found the wallet and it was only then did they sit down and begin to write the report.

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