Brussels, Belgium, has three train stations. Ruth and I arrived at Midi, and, because we had been repeatedly warned about theft, we were on high alert until safely in the cab and on the way to our hotel. Midi and the area around it were seedy.
Three days later we were leaving from Gare Centrale for Luxembourg. We had been in and out of Centrale several times, and it seemed a bit less threatening than Midi.
Waiting for my cousin Tom to arrive from his separate hotel, Ruth and I were standing in front of a large sign near the ticket office which somewhat reduced exposure when Ruth decided to go for juice and coffee. First mistake. I was left with four bags to watch.
Someone behind me asked, “Is this Sud?” I turned and said, “No, it’s Centrale.” Second mistake. I had taken my eyes off our bags for a couple of seconds.
The man whom I had only glanced at disappeared and so did Ruth’s second, smaller bag. Just that fast.
When Tom arrived, he walked around the almost deserted station looking for the missing bag. We theorized that the thieves would take a look inside, find nothing of value, and toss it. Then I tried and in the process found three strolling police officers to whom I reported the theft. They did nothing. They weren’t even sympathetic.
Luckily, there was nothing of great value in the stolen bag. But the thieves now had our very old cell phone that they used to make many calls. Ruth’s medication was fairly easily replaced in Luxembourg City. The only irreplaceable personal item in the bag was Ruth’s travel diary.
The next day we learned that a young woman found it on a public bus. Everything was still inside. She used the cell phone to contact our daughter Lisa. The problem then became how to get the bag back. Johnny, the man behind the desk at our hotel in Luxembourg City, advised us to return to Brussels to get it, and he was right. I should have done just that but didn’t.
The problem now is how to get it to us in the United States. It’s very expensive to, say, FedEx it, and we can’t expect a poor student to assume the cost. Of course, we would reimburse her and add a reward if she would send it, but the girl can’t be expected to know that we’re good for the money, and we’re reluctant to send a large amount of cash to a stranger. Any ideas out there?
Be very careful when you travel, especially in high traffic areas like train and bus stations where criminals lurk. One time at Miami International Airport, we were nearby when a young man suddenly realized that someone had just taken his wallet from the rear pocket of his jeans. If you relax, you lose.