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Held up at Knife point in a Gay Bar

So travel isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.

Unless you are abnormally lucky, you will come across some frustrating, annoying and sometimes downright scary situations during your travels.

Sometimes I feel like I have more bad luck when I am travelling than most, generally in regards to travel delays and stuff being stolen. I have been lucky in the fact that I haven’t had many violent altercations. None at all, in fact.

Well, except this one. And it was a doozy.

It was back in 2007, when I was backpacking through Europe with one of my best friends Kurt. This trip quickly turned into a series of misfortunate events – from various thefts, missing a flight unknowingly by 2 days, train delays, overspending my budget and having to sleep in a park where all of my bags were then stolen while I was sleeping.

I thought nothing could top that last one, but less than a week later something did.

Berlin marked the halfway point of our two-month trip so my boyfriend Trav, and Kurt’s friend Eddie flew out to meet us for 4 nights of fun in Germany’s capital.

On our first night together, we headed out for a drink and ended up at a quiet gay bar. Sitting down the side of the bar in a nook with couches, we had a couple of drinks and were enjoying catching up.

On the way back from the bathrooms, an English guy in his thirties asked Eddie what the time was. Eddie told him and he took that as an invitation to sit with us, plonking himself down without asking if he could join us.

Usually I love meeting new people and even though we thought it a bit unusual that this guy would just sit with us without asking, we joined him in on our conversation.

He started making snarky comments and ridiculing us. Riled up, we asked him why he was sitting with us when he obviously didn’t like us. Things escalated pretty fast from there.

He kept being nasty, we asked him to leave, he asked me for a cigarette when I lit one up, I said no, he went to grab it, Trav physically held him back from me.

Things get blurry around this point but from what I remember there was a bit of a tussle then suddenly he was waving a serrated hunting knife at us.

We were trapped in a corner, with a glass coffee table between us and this crazy knife-wielding man. We couldn’t make a run for it. He was blocking our only escape and as the bar tenders were around the corner, they couldn’t see what was happening. There were no other people in our section of the bar.

I felt genuine fear.

He was acting very erratically and was so angry and charged with energy that he was shaking. He would thrust the knife towards all of us over the table in jerky stabs, laughing maniacally and yelling ‘Who’s the joke now?!’

Somehow we managed to stay calm and spoke to him clearly and concisely, telling him that we didn’t think that he was a joke and to put down the knife so we could talk about it.

It’s funny, you never know how you are going to react in a situation like that. I thought that I would be one of those people that scream hysterically, pounding my fists on the assailant’s chest and crying . Turns out that I was very calm in the face of danger, we all were.

Looking back now, I am really impressed and proud of how we dealt with the situation. None of us lost our cool despite being terrified.

Unfortunately speaking to him calmly didn’t help and his crazy rant continued. Then he grabbed his bag and showed us the contents.

It was completely full of knives.

He started pulling different ones out, of different shapes and sizes, waving each one at us across the table.

Now we were really scared and started wondering if we were going to get out of this unharmed. Was this going to turn out to be our worst nightmare come to life?

The maniac started to take a particular interest in Trav and I quickly stopped fearing for my own life, and started fearing for Trav’s.

He put the tip of one of the knives against Trav’s stomach and was shaking with rage, yelling within centimetres of his face.

I tried to get his attention, I think I asked him to leave Trav alone as he hadn’t done anything. I was so scared I was going to see my boyfriend killed in front of me that I don’t remember what I said but I think it involved some desperate pleading. I vaguely remember him calling Trav homophobic and saying he hated him.

I’m not sure how long he held us captive for. It seems unbelievable that no one else could see what was happening so it must not have been for long. Maybe only a few minutes but it felt so much longer.

He started saying how he wanted to take Trav outside to fight him. We went along with it because we knew we would have to pass the bar and then finally someone would see what was happening to us. I tried to stay between him and Trav as we were walking out, I was scared if I walked ahead like he wanted me to that he would stab Trav.

He pressed the knife to Trav’s stomach and pulled it across. Luckily the knife was blunt and it didn’t cut him.

It is unclear in my memory what happened exactly as we walked past the bar. There was some shoving and shouting, the bar tenders got involved and the crazy guy was taken outside while we stayed in the bar.

He stood outside the door taunting us, with a triumphant smile on his face. He saw how much he had scared us and he was feeding off it.

Trav was so angry, he actually wanted to go out and fight him. I dragged him to the toilets with me so we would be away from the nutter and to stop Trav from going outside. The knife may have been blunt but I am sure with enough force he could still do some damage.

The bartenders said that they called the Police but seemed quite calm about the whole situation. The crazy man continued to stand outside the door, watching us and laughing. One of the bartenders went outside to talk to him.

We waited and waited. The crazy man left. The police never showed up. The bartenders were unfazed.

Something was wrong with this picture.

Was this guy a local lunatic who had done this before? It seemed like one of the bartenders knew him and they didn’t seem worried that he was a threat. We started wondering if they had even called the police at all.

We were very shaken and stayed for another drink to calm our nerves. I was terrified that he might be lurking around somewhere outside so when we did finally leave, I took an empty beer bottle with me as a weapon.

Luckily we didn’t see him again.

This incident definitely marred my time in Berlin. I know that this could happen anywhere and I didn’t feel unsafe in Berlin other than that night but it is hard for me to separate this event from my memories of Berlin. Everyone always raves about what a great city it is but whenever I hear it mentioned, I instantly think back to that crazy man waving a knife at us.

And the bartenders that didn’t give a damn.

Have you ever been held up at knife or gun point? Do you think if this happened to you that it would affect your experience in the place it happened?


How I was Held up at Knifepoint at a Gay Bar in Berlin

34 Comments on The One Where I Was Held Up at Knifepoint in a Gay Bar in Berlin

  1. You write in such a captivating way! And holy moly, your whole trip does indeed sound like a series of misfortunate events, and this is definitely the crazy cherry on top! What a relief you all got out of it unscathed.

    – Laura //

  2. This is INSANE. It’s hard to believe anyone could be unfazed by this – whether he’s the local lunatic or not, he could still follow through with his threats one day. What a scary situation – it sounds like the beginnings of a horror movie. I’m glad you all made it out relatively unscathed.

    • I know right? I was shocked by the indifference of the bartenders, the whole experience put a dampener on my time in Berlin and I came away not really liking it. I would like to return one day to give it another chance

  3. OMG. I’m so sorry. It must have been a frightening experience and really strange that it happened in a gay bar of all places where security tends to be tighter. I’m glad that you and your friends were not hurt.
    I’m an expat in Berlin and have always felt extremely safe both as a woman, and a person of colour. Safer here than in my own country in England. I’ve been mugged in London! However, the fact that the bar staff didn’t call the police is strangeness in itself as German people practically call the police for noise, lawn-mowing, illiegal BBQ’s, parking, not buying a train ticket, and everything else. Grrr!

    Even though you had an awful experience. Please come again and give Berlin another chance. It really is a lovely city. Promise.

    • I have friends that have been mugged in London but I was lucky that I never was during my 7 years there. I will totally give Berlin another chance, I know that there are crazy people everywhere and we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The guy was actually British but he was speaking German to the Bar staff so I think he must have been an expat too

      • Hmm. A London mugging. It really wasn’t pretty but thankfully, I wasn’t hurt and I didn’t think he was a “professional” just an opportunist who wanted my bag and my money. I actually got my keys back as it had a security chip and someone posted it to my bank who posted it to me. (although I changed the house locks of course)!
        Yeah, I’ve met a few British expats like that here. It’s the beers you see. It’s all so cheap and then they get carried away, but that’s absolutely no excuse. I try not to socialise with those guys as they bring nothing but trouble LOL!
        Whenever you come back, let me know and I’ll show you MY Berlin! 🙂

  4. This sounds terrifying. You should name the gay bar, if you can remember what it was called. People need to know if the staff working there don’t give a crap about the safety of their patrons, nor seem to care about people with bags full of knives wandering around! Glad you both got out physically unscathed.

    • We were so shocked by how indifferent the bartenders were about the whole situation! I would definitely name it if I remembered (it was back in 2007) – it might not even be there anymore as bars tend to have a short shelf life.

  5. This is simply crazy and I’m glad it turned out as it did despite being incredibly scary, at least no one got wounded. It’s a shame it ruined your experience and memory of Berlin, but it’s completely understandable and I think I would have had the same if it happened to me.

  6. What a terrifying situation! I do always appreciate those situations though where I think I’d be a wreck but acutally manage well, so good for you for managing to be so calm!

  7. I have never been held up by knife point but have been held up in Chicago three times by gun. To tell you the truth though, a knife seems more disturbing. Glad everything worked out ok in the end.

    • Wow THREE times in the same place, that’s disturbing! I loved Chicago and didn’t see any of the crime but I am have heard that it has gotten pretty out of control. I’m not sure what is scarier – a knife or gun – the thought of getting stabbed completely freaks me out (probably more than getting shot) but you don’t have to be close to someone to shoot them. Both pretty scary!

  8. Yikes! I can’t believe they didn’t call the police, that is disturbing in and of itself. It doesn’t seem like you guys did anything to provoke him so he clearly has issues but how frightening. One time when I was traveling for business in Atlanta, Georgia a bunch of my co-workers and I were out late and started to walk back to our hotel when two guys jumped out with a gun. I think they more wanted to scare us than anything but when you’ve had a few drinks, your reflexes and instincts aren’t always too good. The guys we were with pushed us girls and we ran for it to the closest hotel lobby and called the police. Our friends showed up a few minutes later safe and sound and we all then took a cab one more block to the hotel where we were staying.

    • That sounds really scary! The thing with guns too is they don’t have to be super close to shoot you when with a knife, to do any damage the perp has to be close. I’m happy to hear you all got away unscathed!

  9. That sounds wayyyy too scary for me. It’s interesting to hear your lack of reaction to the situation. I wonder how I would have reacted. The whole situation is definitely crazy and I’m glad everything turned out okay. No wonder the whole thing kind of marred your experience in Berlin.

    • I was very surprised how I reacted too, I was terrified but stayed calm on the outside (I cried later on though, once it was over). You never know how you would react till you are in that kind of situation. I would love to go back to Berlin again and make some positive experiences

  10. Scary! I don’t know what’s worse – that he had a bag full of knives or that the bartenders were unfazed! Who’s unfazed by a guy running around with a big knife?? I’m glad everything worked out ok. Between that and having your stuff stolen, I’m surprised you didn’t just call it a trip and head home then and there.

    • I know right! It did almost scare me more that the bartenders were unfazed. That trip was one bad situation after another and I was in tears and nearly gave up a couple of times but the good still outweighed the bad, especially looking back on it now

  11. Awful situation, and I can definitely understand how it would kind of muck your trip to Berlin up.
    This is the #1 issue of people getting drunk in public places: a lot of them lose control and become belligerent. While I love getting inebriated from time to time, when I’m drunk I stick to dancing, singing, laughing and, well, drinking some more! 🙂

    • I think he might have been on something heavier than alcohol as well as having some mental health issues. I’m the same as you, I don’t get really drunk very often these days, especially when I’m travelling because drunk tourists are definitely a target!

  12. Holy crap on a stick. What a terrifying experience – no wonder Berlin can’t evoke warm fuzzy feelings for you! I’ve never been held up by gun or knife, but I tend to envision worst-case scenarios like that all the time, whether at home or traveling. While here in the U.S., I’m not *as* worried about it because I know the laws and know what’s within my rights for protecting myself and act accordingly. But when I’m abroad, I can’t just go out and buy a knife (let alone a gun!), especially since it’s illegal in some countries to even own a Swiss Army knife, so it’s definitely a small worry in the back of my mind when I’m traveling. Anyway, I’m glad no one was hurt, and I hope something like that never happens to you again!

  13. This is a crazy story, but I’m glad everything turned out OK in the end! It’s pretty bizarre that the bartenders were unfazed when a crazy man with a bag of knives was in their bar!

  14. Not scary as yours, but I experienced the most discriminating feeling when I was in Kunming, China. I and my friend were buying scarves from two street vendors. They immediately noticed that I am not a Chinese and asked my friend (who is a Chinese) what country I came from. As soon as they learned that I am from Philippines, they ranted out all their opinions regarding the issues between China and Philippines over the disputed islands. And then the man pointed his index finger at my face while saying in Chinese “Your country is stealing our own islands…blah blah”. He did all that while smirking with self-regard pride. To be honest, during those moments, I want to get his finger and bite it off. I understand the issues between our countries but it does not excuse him to disrespect people as he pleases. (note: that issue was an “ongoing” discussion of our governments so no final conclusion as to who really owns the islands)

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