Safetywise, Budapest ranks 36/100 on the Numbeo Quality of Life Index 2013; on my personal index of cities in which I’ve lived, it’s the safest. I’ve never felt threatened or afraid. I know the parts of town I shouldn’t venture into alone or after dark. And I will happily leave a place after five minutes if it simply doesn’t ‘feel’ right.
I’m savvy enough to keep my bag close to hand, although I’m often stopped by random strangers on the tram or metro and advised to close it. But so far I’ve been lucky. An old family friend once told me that I had guardian angels working 24/7 in shifts; by the law of averages, given my penchant for wandering city streets, venturing off the beaten track, I’ve gotten away relatively unscathed. His theory was that while predators can smell fear, my particular brand of naivety is odourless. Perhaps bad things don’t happen to me because I don’t expect them to. (How naïve is that I wonder?)
Last week, I was shocked out of my complacency and may well have to revise my safety rating for Budapest. There’s a new bar/club open on Andrassy where a friend of a friend got more than she expected. On sipping her drink, she found herself unable to move or speak. She was on her own, helpless. Two guys approached, took the money from her wallet, and were physically removing her from the premises when another friend spotted what was happening and thankfully intervened.
Her drink had been spiked, most likely with a Ketamine nicknamed Kati. (Ketamines are usually found in animal tranquilisers apparently.) From what I gather, Kati and her friend Gina, first appeared on the Budapest scene a couple of years ago; popular party drugs, they’re also used to render victims immobile.
This sort of stuff goes on all over the world and rationally I know that there is no earthly reason why Budapest should be an exception. But emotionally, in my naivety, I had thought that it was. Amidst the sound of shattering illusions, I’m hearing the faint whisper of a tannoy mimicking airport announcements around the world, heralding the future: Please do not leave your drink unattended. Unattended drinks will be removed by security.
First published in the Budapest Times 11 October 2013