It was a rainy evening in Budapest and clock had ticked 9 O clock. Budapest is well-known for cruises in river Danube and we had booked tickets for the same. As there was still some time left, we moved to other side of road in search of a place to protect ourselves from rain. Umbrellas were of no use because of strong wind along with the rain.
We sat on the stairs of a big commercial building and the roof above us was providing a good shield against rain. There were few other tourists as well, who also looked like waiting for cruise tour like us. We sat there for 10 minutes relaxing after whole day’s city tour. The rain had subdued by now and other people started leaving. My umbrella had broken due to heavy wind, so we decided to wait for few minutes before we start towards the boat.
As we were just about to leave, a young man came to us with a map in hand and asked for the directions to a nearby street. We explained him the route as it was just two blocks away. Things were good so far. Then he asked about a currency exchange counter in the nearby area and we were about to tell him when we saw a cop standing next to us. I looked at him, then looked towards my friend and then surroundings. Things had changes in past few minutes that we didn’t realize. On a rainy evening , we were the only three people standing there in dark with no one around.
The cop looked at us and said, “It’s illegal to exchange money here”. That’s when I realized he only heard the word ‘currency exchange’ and assumed there is something wrong going on there. We tried to explain to the cop that we were just trying to guide this person to nearest currency exchange counter. The cop pulled out his ID card first, showed it to us and then asked for our passports.
Things were looking serious now as we were being suspected to exchange money illegally at a dark place very late in the evening. We were slightly scared to be in this situation in a new country. We calmed ourselves and told the cop that we had come for river cruise and showed him our tickets. But he didn’t pay much attention to tickets and kept demanding for passports. We told him our passports are at hotel and we can show him if required. The next thing he asked was to show him our wallets.
This was turning out to be more intense situation with each passing minute. We didn’t know whether this cop was real as he could have shown us a fake ID and we didn’t have any way to confirm it. But we had no other choice and trusted our instinct that he looked real. So I showed him my wallet which had few euros and some Indian currency. But the best part was yet to come.
As we were following the route Czech Republic -> Hungary -> Vienna and each country used a different currency, my friend had all of that in his wallet. So there was USD, Euro, Czech Crone, Hungarian Fort and Indian Rupees in wallet at the same time. When he showed his wallet to cop, we were looking at each other thinking in our heads why everything is making us a suspect. There was an obvious question that why we had 5 currencies with us specially when the cop was thinking that we were doing currency exchange. Luckily we didn’t have that much amount for any of the currency so total value was very less. The cop looked at the wallet and us for few seconds. I was thinking that if this person is fake then he may run away with our wallets next moment and if is real then we need to be prepared for more interrogation.
Few seconds later suddenly cop’s attitude changed completely. He was convinced that nothing wrong was going on. He said there is no need to worry and said, “Welcome to Hungary”. I had been welcomed in past by many people but it was a completely different way which I wouldn’t want ever again 🙂 . The cop had left by now and we moved towards our river cruise. After reaching boat we were laughing at what just happened few minutes back but were also feeling relieved as things could have gone worse. We had done nothing wrong but still just few questions from that cop was very disturbing. I knew now, how it feels like to be a ‘unusual suspect’.