Saturday, 27 February 2010

My mother told me not to talk to strange women

On Friday evening I had arranged to meet a new colleague and his wife at a restaurant on Vaci utca, the pedestrianised, main shopping street in the city, and very much a tourist centre. It was 7 pm and raining, and I was hurrying to get to the agreed restaurant, so my walking route took me through Vörösmarty tér, an open space that I had not come across before. So as I walked across it I was looking around, admiring the buildings and trying to work out where I needed to go, whereupon two young and attractive women stopped me.

In English one of them said, "We are looking for Beckett's Bar, can you help us?". Slightly surprised, I said, "Well, there is a Beckett's on Bajcsy Zsilinsky út, but that is far away."

"Oh yes, that is far away", came the reply. "You are living here?"

"Egen", I replied, yes.

"Thank you. Goodnight".

As I walked away I realised I had been targeted by two of Budapest's 'consume girls'. These are part of a fairly organised scam that goes on in the city, where male foreigners on their own, looking like tourists, which I obviously did at that moment, are approached by attractive young women and persuaded to go for a drink. The scam is that you end up in a bar of their choice run by people in on the scam who then present you with an extremely large bill, and will escort you to a cash machine to make sure that you clear out your bank account to pay for the beer.

So, there is a moral or two in this story. A few words of the local language may be able to help you avoid getting into trouble. And of course, to remember what your mother always told you, to not talk to strange women. As Basil Fawlty said, I did once, but I think I got away with it.

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