Warsaw is a historians delight . It’s a city that has withstood the test of times and has risen from the rubbles after being razed to the ground during the second world war . It is also home to a number of individuals who have shaped the world in which we live, both scientifically and culturally . One can sense and smell history on its modern , medieval and quaint streets .The moment you step into its international airport , you come face to face with a piano and statue of one of the worlds greatest musicians – yes the airport is called Chopin International Airport .In the evenings , you can hear wafts of music drifting from its beautiful small cafes .
In a city with that kind of aura , the last thing that one expected was to be cheated .
And ironically , that’s the first thing that happened to me !.
It was a cold windy day when I stepped out from the bus that had transported me from Krackow to Warsaw .The route was stunning and we passed through many towns and open fields alternatively . Just before we pulled into Warsaw , it started to drizzle . The sky became heavily overcast and visibility dropped . At 3.30 pm when we reached Warsaw , the neon lights had started stabbing the darkness .
I had booked myself in a apartment which was just a 10 minutes walk from the Defilad Square which is where I got off the bus .Defilad Square is easily one of Warsaws’ most iconic modern buildings .I was staying behind Marszalkowska street just across the Square . Marszalkowska is one of Warsaws’ main arterial streets running north to south .
My host Eliza had told me to walk from the square to the apartment . “ It’s a 10 minute leisurely walk. If you take a taxi , the meter wont even move beyond the starting fare which is 5 Zoltis ( 1 zolti is equal to 18 rupees)” .But when I stepped out of the air warmed bus , the cold wind hit me .Besides – it was drizzling .In my hand baggage , I had a wind cheater and a sweater .I quickly put them on .The drizzle was steady . My shoes were getting wet and because of the strong wind , the drizzle slanted into my body rendering my umbrella useless and wetting me .
I gave up the idea of walking . There are local apps that work in Poland and I had downloaded two of them .Uber and Ola ask for verification etc of your debit /credit cards , so I had found MyTaxi and ITAXI very friendly to use . However , when I started to search them for a cab , they showed “ your taxi is 8 minutes away”. In 8 minutes , I would be drenched and would fall ill . That’s the last thing I wanted .
A cabbie must have been viewing my discomfort , because after sometime , I saw a cab ,start towards me from a few yards away . He pulled up and asked
“ Need a taxi”. Yes , yes I did and before he could could say anything , I had pushed my two bags into the cab.
It felt nice inside the cab .It was warm and it was nice to get away from the drizzle .
For the first time , I looked at the cabbie carefully .He was bald – without even a single hair .He was shortish and built like a boxer . And when he opened his mouth to talk , I could smell alcohol .Vodka !

“Where do you want to go”? he asked .

I showed him the address on my phone which said “Dabrowskiego 12”.
I think he realized that the distance was too short and that I did not know how far it was from where we were, otherwise I would have walked.He nodded his head and asked me as to from where I was
“ India”, I said proudly .
“ Lovely country , pretty women”, he said and blew a kiss into the air .
He then switched on a small screen on the cars dashboard , which started displaying photos of nude women .
“Even Poland has beautiful women . You interested ?” he said .
“ No” I said .
“No ? No ?” !!he said , very surprised . “ You are ok” ? he sneeringly asked !!
“ No . Not okay with sleeping with women I don’t know and love” ! I said .
He continued to make small conversation – about how cold it gets in Poland and how difficult it becomes to drive. All of a sudden , I realized that it had been more than half an hour and we had not reached my destination .But hadn’t Eliza told me it was a 10 minute walk ?
I asked the cabbie about my apartment .How long would it take ?
“ We are just about to reach it ” .And then “ Dabrowskiego very complicated roads”
I knew that it was straight road , but he had detoured .I had been tracking it on Google maps .By now ,i had realized that he was a cheat .But it was too late .The horses had run away – there was no point in shutting the stables now .
We finally arrived outside the apartment .The drizzle had not stopped , though the wind had .I asked him for the bill
“150 Zolties” he said . That’s 3000 rupees for a ride of less than 90 rupees .
“ I AM NOT GOING TO GIVE YOU 150 ZOLTIES” I nearly shouted .
He looked at me angrily .” You want to go to the POLIZEI” (Police) ?” he asked .
I realized that if a cabbie can be so rotten as to double as drunken driver and pimp , then it obviously cant be without the collusion of the police .
But I was not going to give up .
“ No take me to the Indian Embassy. I know the Indian Ambassador personally” .( I was not telling the truth !).
“ No I will take you to the Polizei” he said .
“ No take me to the Indian Embassy” I repeated .We argued for sometime .He reached for a bottle and took a swig of it
“ Want some water” , he asked
“ No thank you .Thats not water . Its Vodka and I don’t drink during daytime”
This continued – arguments and counter arguments , when all of a sudden he said
“ Okay 100 Zolty you pay me ” .
I thought for sometime .Here was a guy who looked criminal , was high on alchohol , and physically very tough and mentally very corrupt .I was in a foreign land , wanted to get into my apartment and have a hot cup of Darjeeling Green Label with some croissants that I was carrying from Krackow .
I yielded .I think it was a practical thing to do .
He dissaappered though I took a photograph of his taxi as it made its way away .
Foreign trips are like trips anywhere in your own country . One has to be careful that one doesn’t get cheated .
I am dreading my trip May end to Rome enroute to Toronto . It is a city notorious for pickpockets !!. I have friends who lost their purses after trying to protect them like they would their children !!
But then travelling abroad always challenges and sharpens one mind .Always .And its worth it !!