Bad travel experiences: That time I was a purported drinks thief in Krakow

Travel is not always going to be seamless.

In our minds, everything is to go off without a hitch. Everything remembered, nothing left behind and being on time for everything, too.

But stuff does tend to occasionally go wrong, and it just happens. There’s little you can do about it and, let’s face it, it usually creates a travel story for you to tell.

Well, I’m certainly not immune to stuff going wrong, and while I’ve never had any major travel incidents – as in being hospitalised, or anything stolen – one of the worst came back in January this year.

It happened when I took my girlfriend to Krakow, Poland for five days.

Behind me, well a silhouette of me, is Cloth Hall, which sits right in the middle of Krakow's Main Square.

Behind me, well a silhouette of me, is Cloth Hall, which sits right in the middle of Krakow's Main Square.

Throughout the week we’d been going for drinks every night, trying out different bars and sampling the Krakow nightlife.

Now, as a big sports fan, I had been pestering all week to go to one of Krakow’s sports bars, one of which was conveniently located in Main Square.

Eventually Gab, my girlfriend, let me go, and so we got a couple of drinks and managed to score a seat right in front of the big screen, which was showing some Polish boxing. She saved the seat, and I went off to the bar to get the drinks.

Whilst I am no real beer connoisseur, I enjoyed a wonderful pint of Polish favourite Tyskie, whilst Gab sampled their strawberry daiquiri.

Drinking a pint of Okocim, a Polish beer, in Krakow. Though this wasn't at the sports bar. Rather the wonderful restaurant Pimiento, which I'll have to blog about at some point in the future.

Drinking a pint of Okocim, a Polish beer, in Krakow. Though this wasn't at the sports bar. Rather the wonderful restaurant Pimiento, which I'll have to blog about at some point in the future.

Just like virtually everywhere else in Krakow, it was unbelievable value for money, costing less than £3.50 for both drinks in what, really, is in the tourist trap bracket of Polish drinking establishment due to its location.

But here in the United Kingdom, you’d be lucky to get a single pint for that amount of money, let alone an additional cocktail.

So I paid for the drinks at the bar and took them to the table.

The Tyskie came from the pressurised barrels behind the bar. Pulling the pint is the barman who not only served me, but also took my payment. 

The Tyskie came from the pressurised barrels behind the bar. Pulling the pint is the barman who not only served me, but also took my payment. 

As I sat down, the intimate setting was ever so slightly lessened by two eastern European men trying to knock each other’s heads off.

Suffice to say the boxing and beer combo was pretty much perfection, and made even better when I won a bet that we made on the winning fighter. Though I am still waiting on the prize!

Boxing, travel, and beer - quite the trifecta.

Boxing, travel, and beer - quite the trifecta.

Shortly after the conclusion of the fight, the drinks were polished off and who I can only assume was either the manager, owner, or both offered us a second round – an offer I politely declined.

We then decided to leave, and Gab got the selfie stick out to get some last-night pictures in the square.

But we didn’t get more than 15 metres out of the door when I heard cries of “excuse me, excuse me!”

When I turned around it was the manager/owner calling me. Next thing I knew I was being accused of not paying for our drinks.

This was, of course, a wholly false accusation.

I reassured the man that I paid for the drinks, and told him who served me and to ask them if he didn’t believe me.

He begrudgingly went back inside and we thought that was that.

Not quite.

As we readied the selfie stick for a second time, we were interrupted by the same gentleman yet again – only this time he seemed more irate.

He didn’t believe that I had paid for the beer and cocktail at the bar, and was adamant that we had a tab going.

I, naturally, wasn’t happy with this, yet I tried to remain calm and offered to check out the CCTV with him.

So he led us back inside.

In the meantime, I was slightly worried. Not because I believed anything other than my story to be true, but you can’t help but feel insecure in a foreign country – especially when it comes to matters that could potentially involve the police.

Polish policemen look like they're booking someone in Main Square. Image credit: FaceMePLS/Flickr

Polish policemen look like they're booking someone in Main Square. Image credit: FaceMePLS/Flickr

Not to stereotype or bring any racial matters into this, but it can be unnerving when you don’t speak the language and aren’t as familiar with the customs as if you’re a local.

If this happened in the United Kingdom, I’d feel more than comfortable arguing back with conviction, yet in Krakow, I was trying to walk the fine line between standing my ground and trying to not piss the guy off.

As soon as we walked through the door, I spotted the barman who served me, and pointed him out. The accuser then asked him if he remembered me paying the bill, and following three simple words I was out the door.

“I think so.”

With that, we were goners, leaving the bar runner a fair shade of red. Goodbye, au revoir, na razie – which is see you later in Polish.

Gab still wanted pictures, but I wanted to disappear quickly down a side street and cool off, so we hid for about five minutes before going back to the square and finally getting what we were trying to get originally.

All we wanted was this photo. Yet it was far from a simple task, unfortunately.

All we wanted was this photo. Yet it was far from a simple task, unfortunately.

Though at least it wasn’t all bad, because it taught me a vital lesson when away – make sure to get a receipt when buying stuff in a foreign country!