sometimes irony is not so sweet

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Know what this is?

Greek Police Report

It's an official Greek police report. For my stolen cell phone. Which was taken from my coat pocket while I was at the EasyInternet cafe on Syntagma Square on Wednesday night, writing about how much I loved Greece. <sigh>

It's not a disaster--it had a prepaid Greek SIM in it with only €4 of credit left, and my mother cleverly purchased trip insurance before we left which will probably cover the cost of replacing it. My US (Cingular) SIM was locked up with my passport in the hotel safe, and is ready to be put into a new phone when I get home, so my phone number won't change. It was not an ideal note on which to end an otherwise lovely trip...but it did provide fodder for a blog entry on what happens when someone steals something from you in Greece.

In order to file for reimbursement, one has to have an official police report. The phone was taken at about 8pm, but I didn't discover it was missing until we returned to the hotel, around 9:30pm. If I'd been smart, I would have looked in our travel guides and discovered that Greece has a 24-hour telephone "tourist police" line that I could have called for assistance. As it was, the people at the front desk directed me to the closest Athens police station, and assured me that the four-block walk was quite safe at night. (It didn't feel that way, walking down darkened narrow streets, just after having had something stolen, but nothing untoward happened en route.)

When I arrived at the police station, a uniformed officer posted outside who spoke no English finally understood my pantomime of a pickpocket and directed me to the fourth floor. Apparently they begin numbering at -1 in that building, because I had to climb five flights of stairs to get to the fourth floor, including two floors with jail cells full of boisterous young men.

Upon arriving at the correct floor, I found 7-8 young men dressed all in black, some with police jackets, all gathered in one office laughing and talking and smoking. They finally seemed to realize I wasn't going away, and one who spoke limited English got the basic story from me. He spoke at length with the men in the room, who somewhat reluctantly cleared their gunbelts and jackets from one of the desks and found a chair for me to sit in. Then one of the officers (and not the one with good English) began to fill out the paperwork. He asked me for my name (first asking me to say and spell it, then asking for my passport), my parents' names (you'd think at age 42 that would be irrelevant, but apparently not here), my date of birth, my current address, etc. He stopped after every few words to chat with his friends, take a few more drags on his cigarette, and occasionally re-read what he'd written, mumbling aloud to himself. While he did that, a few of the men passed around my passport, leafing through the visas to see where I'd been.

After taking about 30 minutes to fill out one sheet of paper, he then handed another sheet to me for me to fill out--which included all the same information! I stifled my irritation, filled it out, and handed it to him. Then he compared what I'd written, what he'd written, and my passport.

Finally, after all the paperwork was done, he told me I'd have to come back the next morning at 8am to get my copy of the report. I headed back to the hotel, arriving around 11:30pm, and went to sleep.

This morning, Alex and I set back out for the police station (I was hoping that having a beautiful, blue-eyed, blonde boy along with me might speed things up a bit). I was directed this time to the 3rd floor, which was four flights up, where a sullen young woman told me that the report wasn't ready, and that I should come back tomorrow. "I can't," I told her, "I'm leaving in two hours for the US." She sighed heavily and told us to wait in the hallway. Twenty minutes and two trips up the stairs later, she had an official "copy" (hand-written, as you can see, not a photocopy) of the report for me, which cost me €0.45.

As I said to Alex, however, we're pretty lucky to have had a trip where that was the worst thing that happened. Nobody got hurt, nothing irreplaceable was lost, and it didn't cause any significant disruption. Our trip home was relatively easy and uneventful--the planes left on time, we made our connections, there were no nosebleeds or additional run-ins with pickpockets. We're home now, and tomorrow I'll start uploading the photos to Flickr. Stay tuned!

3 TrackBacks

I looked for the Organ Player, but could not find him at night. There is something interesting in examining the different amounts of light in all the pictures that Liz took: it touches upon the idea of Wykoff sets, and the possibility of setting tags w... Read More

I looked for the Organ Player, but could not find him at night. There is something interesting in examining the different amounts of light in all the pictures that Liz took: it touches upon the idea of Wykoff sets, and the possibility of setting tags w... Read More

Not Flickr but I have been waiting all week to post this image: i guess i will change this blog entry and try and figure out how to present a whole bunch of very interesting images from the Athens Metro Subway System Read More


It's awesome to hear that was the worst that happend... and it is a trip of a lifetime :-)

Oh dear. I helped a friend fill out the police report for a stolen watch (I think? or purse?) in Rome ten years ago. The police spoke terrible English and we spoke no Italian so there was a lot of miming of pickpockets...

My impression was that the police were annoyed at having to do the work. Everyone knew that the item would never be returned and the report was only being filed so that the travel insurance would reimburse the tourist.

I wonder whether the tourist police would have been able to do a faster, better job? They probably would have spoken good English, at any rate.

Glad that nothing worse happened, and I hope you're all having fun telling your family about the trip! Looking forward to the flickr posts!


I echo Dave's sentiments. Not to be terribly paranoid, but may I suggest that you blacken out personal details on the police're at greater risk of identity theft here than from the pickpocket in Greece.

'looking forward to the pix!

Paul, good point. I just did as you suggested. :)

(It didn't have any passport or other identifying numbers, nor did it have my mother's _maiden_ name, but still, there's no reason to make it easier to collect that information from the site...)

that floor numbering system in europe is tricky! it seems there is a general disagreement in europe concerning what number to start on. i passed the floor my room was on many a time ...

Liz, I can totally sympathize with you on this situation; the same month you had your cell phone lifted, I was pick-pocketed also. It was in my local Barnes & Noble store. I was glancing at a book, when a fairly attractive red-headed woman "bumped" into me. She smiled and apologized as she slipped her hand into her pocket. I didn't think much of it at that moment; it was busy and the lanes in that store aren't particularly wide. A moment later another woman came up to me and whispered, "I'm not sure, but I think you just had your pocket picked." Her patting my pocket before I could react confirmed it: my wallet had been neatly lifted. When I brought this to the manager's attention, he reviewed the surveillance camera's footage. It was a textbook manuver: her hand eased into my wide-opened pocket (a stupid oversight on my part) and scooped my wallet up just as she contacted me, then transferred it into the deep pocket of her own long leather jacket. The female pickpocket was caught about a week later, where she made the mistake of trying to filch the money clip of an off-duty cop(!) I got back my wallet, which had my now-cancelled debit card and ID still inside. (Ironically, I kept my cash in a different pocket that day, which on most days I normally don't do). I can only imagine what kind of show you had to put on for those Greek authorities; did you have money hanging out of Alex's pocket while you pretended to slip it out? :) Anyway, I hope everything turned out for the better, and I hope you enjoyed my story of why I never wear a pocket without zippers, buttons, or flaps! Most Sincerely, Sean

Hi, I came across this and have to admit I found your frustration over the floor numbering a little amusing. Perhaps I can give some explanation:

I think its a matter of convention. In Greece, buildings will often have a 'hemifloor' or half floor between the ground level ('Isogeon' meaning 'equal with earth') and the 1st floor. So you climb 5 flights of stairs to get to the 4th floor, counting the hemifloor. (Greek elevators often are labeled: I (ground), H (hemi floor) and then 1, 2 and so on.) Not really sure why this is, though I would guess that (many of) the building designs are in a way standardized, and, if put to a residential use the hemifloor is used, while for retail uses there is no hemifloor allowing the ground floor to have a much higher ceiling more suited for stores, restaurants and whatnot.

Glad you had a good trip otherwise and interesting story.

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on November 26, 2004 12:27 AM.

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