My companion Rudi (name changed by Rabotnik) has arranged an appointment. Olga is her name; she looks young and beautiful on the pictures, barely half his age. By chance, she also has time, so they agree on a meeting place. The whole thing seems a bit strange to me, but also to him. So we decide that I go along and unobtrusively post myself in the vicinity. Just in case. She wants to meet at the opera, which is about ten minutes to walk from our hotel. In front of the magnificent building of the Odessa Opera House, there is a spacious square, which center is a large fountain. Waiting we sit on one of the benches, there is free Wi-Fi available.
So I can use the time for surfing on the Internet, because I have removed my SIM card from the smartphone, for safety’s sake. I want to avoid that the device logs into the local net and produces horrendous roaming costs. After all, I could make a call at my provider for inexpensive 2.99 per minute in Ukraine, but euro, no hryvna.
It’s a quarter to ten and my companion makes his way to the main entrance of the opera. I follow him unobtrusively. Olga is here and she even looks like on the pictures. However, she seems to have another female companion in tow. Rudi turns and waves me to come over to them. Damn, with a quiet evening, it seems to be nothing today. As a courtesy I follow and introduce myself to the ladies. The second one is called Tatjana, a tubby one with overbite and crooked teeth. She doesn’t match my optical taste in any way and she probably fulfills the role of the keeper. They want to go for eat something, I am asked to go along with them. Rudi is already fallen into a hormone rush and I do not want to be a spoilsport, so I agree. Later this will turn out to be his luck.
Olga speaks usable English. She and Rudi seem to have a great time. Tatjana, on the other hand, hardly speaks only a few words of English. In a short time she puts a wealth of information in Russian into my ear, that my brain is unable to handle completely. At regular intervals, I nod benevolently and let her chat. Already I do not like this woman and my knowledge of human nature should not deceive me. We go to a restaurant which is only about fifty meters away from the opera. The inn looks bright, clean and is well filled. So we eat fine, empty two bottles of good white wine and talk. Tatjana sits next to me, eats like an animal, licks her fingers and drills quite uninhibited in the nose. Her intrusiveness starts going on my nerves and I let it feel her discretely. My friend, on the other hand, seems to have fun and I do not begrudge him.
He knows that I’m just here for his sake. Good if you can talk in a language that nobody else understands. So he lets me know in German, that he appreciates that I will turn around for his sake with this ugly matryoshka. After just over an hour, the bill is brought to the table. The price is upscale, but reasonable to the quality. He takes over the whole bill, I give him my part. In this country, the gentleman pays. In Germany too, but here they make no secret of it. The girls want to go dancing and I make a good face to the bad game. The unassuming woman orders a taxi via mobile phone. The club they want to go to, should be only five minutes away by car. But I wonder why we should need a taxi in the center of Odessa, where everything is within easy walking distance.
When we leave the restaurant, the taxi is already here. Tatjana takes the seat near the driver. I squeeze myself on the back seat, shared with the two others. There are no seat belts and I do not feel good either. The ride starts and we leave the center of Odessa. The alleged five-minute drive has now turned into twentyfive minutes and the area is getting worse. After all, the taxi stops in front of a club in the middle of nowhere, gloomy prefabricated buildings rise to the sky all around, the facades seem almost black. An ukrainian ghetto of the worst kind, I don’t see any people. This is followed by a heavy discussion between Olga and the taxi driver, who could allegedly not spend on 120 hryvna. After a dressing-down by the lady it suddenly works. Converted about four euros for more than twenty kilometers taxi ride are given.
With little desire, I follow the others in the club. Rudi pays the entrance fee and a bull-necked gorilla with a security T-shirt, about a little more than six feet tall, checks the women’s handbags and scans us for weapons with his hands. His forehead is low, his eyes are empty and he does not seem particularly talkative. I suppose, his intelligence quotient is not more like a slice of white bread would have. We enter the establishment, follow the ladies across the dance floor and sit down at a table. The equipment is cheapest; the table top consists of scratchy laminate floor. The club is deserted apart from two dancing guys and the staff. I do not care about anything good, it smells like rip-off.
During a collective visit of the men toilet, I inform my companion that the whole thing seems strange to me. He confirms my concerns, but he wants to wait for the things that are coming. A lucky-minded brain even obscures the view of reality. When we get back to the table, an unsympathetic blonde waitress brings the menu cards. These are written exclusively in Russian and the matryoshka is blabbering me with recommendations, wants to order a round of white wine. I tell her that I can read by myself and order a White Russian, which costs 120 hryvna according to the menu. The service comes back and our orders will be placed. The matryoshka begins to gossip with the waitress, because of the loud music I’m not able to understand anything. Apparently, she immediately has ordered for all of us.
I wonder and shut the menu. Shortly thereafter, it is served up and I get my drink, the worst White Russian I’ve ever tasted in my life. It tastes like pure vodka, except that somebody seems to have tipped some milk on top to make it look white. They probably want to fill me up, which I take as another note of warning signal. For the others there is served a round of the alleged white wine, for me it looks like champagne. Unobtrusively I sniff on Rudi’s glass and the penetrating smell of cheap bubbly piss insults my nose. I point out that this is not wine. Rudi asks his girl and then he waves off. Later in the evening, a fruit plate is served. Tatjana sitting next to me and is about getting intrusive again. I push her away disgustedly.
She asks me if I want to smoke a hookah, I refuse. That does not stop her from ordering one anyway. Occasionally I take my drink and otherwise I stick to water, which is also standing on the table. My companion dances with Olga, seems to be having a great time and lapse into thoughtlessness. My unsightly coercion interlocutor meanwhile presses the fourth glass of cheap champagne in the head and hangs on her hookah like a crack hooker. In the dim light of this shitty hole, she also looks like one, with the dark shadows under her eyes. It gets too unpleasant for me. I get up, go to the bathroom and ask the waitress on my way, to bring the bill. When I return to the place, the service is there and talks with Tatjana. From the bill, there is no trace.
Obviously, just one more round has been ordered here. Shortly thereafter, again more glasses of the alleged champagne are brought to the table. A few minutes later, the bill follows. I open the folder and can’t trust my eyes. The demanded sum is not less than 36040 hryvna, which is about 1200 euros. They want to cheat us, in fact massively. As evidence, I take a photo and inform Rudi that my concerns have been confirmed. He reflexively grabs a dull knife from the table and pierces Olga with a deadly stare. Well, he woke up after all. I tell him to put down the knife and that he should grab his shirt so we can get out of here as soon as possible.
1x White Russian: 120 г (about 4 €)
6x Bonaqua water: 120 г (about 4 €)
1x Water pipe: 5000 г (about 170 €)
1x Service fee 10%: 3300 г (about 110 €)
1x Fruit plate: 500 г (about 17 €)
4,5x Champagne Moët & Chandon: 27000 г (about 900 €)
All in all: 36040 г (about 1205 €)
I walk ahead, through the entrance area, where now strangely the waitress stands too. I pass the gorilla, open the door and I’m outside. Rudi can’t do this anymore, the waitress calls something and the gorilla stops him. I walk about ten meters away from the door, watch the scene for a moment and take a picture. Two guys storm out the door, telling me to stop. They approach me with swift steps and I lightly take over to the boxing position, which has gone into my flesh and blood over many years of training. I explain that they better should not try to stop me. They understand immediately what’s up. I seem physically superior to them and do not feel like joking. They raise their hands placatingly and try to persuade me. Better for them and also for me, because I do not know the ukrainian law as well.
I tell them that I’m going to call the police now and move quickly. Now I have a problem. I am in a foreign land in the worst imaginable place and I do not know who I can trust. I can’t make a phone call. Rudi is in the grip of these gangsters and I have to come up with something to get him out of there. With a heavy heart, I leave him behind and go on my way. My destination is the center of Odessa. I know the approximate direction and I can read the signs. In a nearby McDonalds sits a police officer but I do not know if I can trust the police in this neighborhood. I want to give it a try, but the glass door is locked. I knock vigorously against the glass and the policeman looks at me.
He looks up, shakes his head and turns back to his food. I hammer again against the glass, this time a bit stronger. He looks at me again, shakes his head again and don’t gets ready to move. I wish to that corrupted pig, that it would miserably die one day of fatty liver caused by fast food and continue my way quickly to the main road. It is in four lanes and in poor condition with railroad tracks in between, eaten away by the rust. I try to get back to the center by hitchhiking. There are comparatively few cars, nobody stops. I can’t blame anyone. I would not stop in this area either.
This is exactly where the principle of this perfidious scam lies, with which are tourists ripped off here systematically. They use girls as bait and lure the victims into a rotten quarter, twenty kilometers away from the city center and without any access to public transport. In a nightclub whose only legitimacy is the big rip-off, the trap snaps shut. You are supposed to spend expensive champagne, but the customer never sees the bottle. They rely on that you are intimidated, unable to speak the language and in the hopelessness of the situation you should pull out your credit card. However, they did not expect me. Of course, I’ve heard of such stories, but assumed that this only happens to naive people.
Now I realize how fast you could have been trapped by this way. I am annoyed with myself, especially because of not listening to my intuition. I should have pulled the emergency brake much earlier. In my case, I suspect the filthy pseudo crack whore as the driving initiator, probably she will get a bonus in case of success. I feel my pulse; it is amazingly quiet, maybe 60 beats per minute. I concern how Rudi may fare. He knows I will not let him down. I will come back, albeit with the cavalry. But first, I have to get away from this depraved area.
I pass a sparsely lit flower shop and a mile of food stalls, everything seems deserted. Only a few evil-looking figures sneak around, I do not want to talk to anyone here. A few hundred yards away, I discover an abandoned gas station and I ask myself if I’ve landed in a ghost town. I continue my march, a bull terrier leaps from the inside of a rusty gate, baring its teeth. In the background, gloomy skyscrapers rise menacingly into the black night. I walk briskly for about two kilometers towards the city center. Still, nobody stops. Suddenly I discover a dented black taxi on the roadside. I take a look through the side window. The driver lies on his seat and sleeps. Hardly I knock against the window and wake him up.
Translation from the german original version by Rabotnik