How to get your backpack held for ransom in Athens
After 2 wonderful days in Athens, I was due to head to Milos for some r&r on a Greek island with white-painted buildings, donkeys and shady bougainvillea shaded cafes.
Not wanting to take my large backpack with me, I asked my airbnb host whether I could leave it a his house (after I had decanted everything of value from it into the smaller bag I would be taking with me) and pick it up when I returned to stay on the 28th.
He said that would be fine, he might not be home, but use the keys I already had, stay and leave 31 euro for the night in the bowl in the kitchen. He also said that it would probably be best to keep my locked backpack in the laundry so it was out of the way.
I left at 5am the next morning to catch the metro to the port, and then a 7am ferry to Milos.
2 days later whilst chatting to a local guy at a beach bar in Pollonia, my phone was in range of a free wifi connection, and downloaded several very very irate messages from the Athens guy (whom we shall call H, for head case).
H demanded to know why my backpack was “illegally” stored at his house, and why I had his house keys. It is also worth noting it had taken him 2 days to figure this out. He was also now charging me 10 euros a night for my backpack’s stay, to a total of 90 euros until Sunday.
I emailed back very confused and reminded him that we agreed I could leave it, and that I had his spare keys as he had said to keep them until I returned on the 28th for the night.
H would not even reply to my email, he just cut and pasted his original message again. In fact I received that original message 4 times as a response.
I then turned to my bar companion, who upon reading the emails said, “you have a problem I think”. Hmm, yes. I left him at the bar after arranging to have dinner the following night – we would meet on the beach where we had first chatted.
Upon returning to my room, the B&B owner lent me her phone to call H. Not so hilariously, he wouldn’t speak to me, and said his emails said all there was to say. I replied that if that were the case I wouldn’t need to ring him and that we had an agreement whereby I was returning on the 28th, so why had everything changed?
H still wouldn’t speak to me in full sentences but did mention he was now leaving Athens on Wednesday and so if I wanted to get my backpack on Sunday, it would cost me 90 euros.
All the relaxation I had gained in the last 2 days evaporated and I returned to my room to think my way through this little mess.
The next day I changed my plans and took the bus back to Adamas to arrange a ferry ticket back to Athens for Tuesday. I managed to also stand up my dinner date by not showing up (or even being in the same village) so I hope he put 2 and 2 together and realized I had to go suddenly to sort out my issue. Sorry Pantelis.
H then kept emailing outraged threats “if you do not give my keys back, I will sue you”. Which was funny at the time and then I got sad about it. H then demanded I pay 50 euro now for storage for the days to Wednesday and send him the receipt.
Because this was now officially a Greek saga (I now totally understand that phrase), his bank was of course, in a different village to the one I was now in. Luckily I had already rented a scooter, and so I mosquito-ed off to pay my bag’s ransom and photograph the receipt for my own proof.
A date and time was set for the handover, Syntagma Square, central Athens, 6:30pm Wednesday night. An exchange of house keys for my backpack. H had mentioned he had got the police involved, which I thought was a fantastic idea, although I didn’t actually believe he had at all. I said I wanted a police officer to be there when we did the swap, at which point the tables turned. I shouldn’t worry about my backpack, it was safe blah blah blah.
True to form for this stressful little drama, the ferry was an hour late and I could not get a free wifi connection to advise H, who apparently was only waiting so long as his time “was very hectic”. I spent the entire cab ride to the square scanning for a connection and ignoring the taxi driver who had doubled the price of the ride.
After getting to the square, I leaped out of the taxi so quickly I grazed my knee on the vinyl of the backseat, thrust the correct money at the taxi driver and went to find H. I ended up having to call from the Nike store to ask where he was, and in now true fashion, I was told to come across the park to him as he wasn’t lifting my backpack again, it was too heavy.
Through the whole experience, I did truly think my backpack was fine, and that I would get it back. Everything of real value I had with me, so it was mainly clothes, sneakers and toiletries I had left. I had left it locked and I did get it back in the same condition I left it.
I am not sure whether this was a scam, something he did to get extra money or whether he just wanted to go away for the weekend and decided having house-guests was too much bother.
I guess the really annoying things were that I had to return to Athens earlier than I had planned, I had to deal with a nutcase, I went through 1/4 bottle of rescue remedy, I missed a dinner date, and that this experience has colored my first week in Greece somewhat. I will also hasten to add that every single other person I have met here has been helpful and kind. Sometimes you just run into w@nkers.
Still, I have my backpack back, I am safe, happy and healthy. I am now planning to head to Hydra for my last couple of days in Greece for relaxation 2.0.