Backpacker Gets Drugged In Sofia, Bulgaria

A story about taking candy from strangers.

Photo by Alexandr Bormotin on Unsplash

** Republished from 2016 **

There I was, blacked out, being picked up off the floor of a bar in Sofia, Bulgaria by strangers. I was horrified. I was embarrassed. And most of all, I was alone and terrified. “How did this night come to this point?”, I thought

It was a Sunday night during my 3-night stop-over in the capital city of Bulgaria. I thought I would try to get a taste of Sofia’s nightlife so I decided to see what the city had to offer. My hostel receptionist at Nightingale Hostel recommended a bar not even 100 meters away from the hostel: The Muse.

The Muse was a nice venue. A couple of times a week they will host live music from individuals and small alternative bands across Europe. Unfortunately, Sunday nights are not popular nights to have live music, so I had to settle for the 90’s alternative (my favorite) iPod shuffle.

On top of all of that, it was the only place in Sofia where I encountered exclusively English-speaking people. I met a couple of guys from California who said they were chasing love back to Sofia and, in addition, a guy who had bounced back and forth from Malta to Sofia his whole life. I had just finished studying in Malta at the time, so there was a lot of common ground between the people I had just met.

Things were going well, I had just finished my second Bulgarian beer of the night, I had made friends with 4 or 5 people — including the owner of the bar; I thought it was going to be an enjoyable night.

Instead, it became unforgettable for a different reason. One of the guys from Oakland, California came back into the bar reeking of reefer. Regrettably, I asked these strangers if they had any marijuana on them and he invited me outside to the back alley of the bar. He gave me my own joint and we had a few laughs. Everything was all right at this point.

Upon returning to the front porch of the bar is when things started to take a turn, and I could tell something was up. I had never been this twisted after two beers and a joint in my life. My first thought was that the joint must have been laced with something. I remember not even being able to stand up straight without losing my balance. I bounced around, avoiding falling into the people around me, bracing myself with each wall I was falling into. Finally, one of the guys asked as I was stumbling around trying to gain my balance, “Dude, is everything alright?” I told him no, and that was the last thing I remember before it happened.

According to the owner of the bar, I blacked out, fell forward and smashed my head against the door frame of the entrance. I was out for five minutes, frozen on the floor. The next thing I remember is my new “friends” picking me up from off the ground and being the center of attention to the whole Sunday night crowd at The Muse. Imagine the terror. When I first awoke, I had a hallucination that the group helping me up was stuffing me into an elevator. I had no clue where I was or who these people were.

When I was able to locate myself, amidst all the conversations around me about whether or not the police or paramedics should be called, people started offering me “sugary drinks” to help my blood pressure. At that point, I was fearful I was in some kind of set-up nightmare and was sure this drink would contain more drugs. I declined, although looking back; they were probably just truthfully concerned for me.

Luckily I had made friends with the bar owner, or else something could have gone terribly wrong. I didn’t get anything stolen from me and the guys were gone before I could fully understand what was happening. My new “friend” had given me a type of synthetic marijuana that your body reacts to differently than normal and I didn’t figure that out until after the fact.

When I snapped out of it and was able to stand up and walk home, I didn’t know where I was and I couldn’t find my short way home to my hostel. It took me four times as long to get home. I was embarrassed. I was confused. I was scared. And I was ashamed that I made the decision to trust someone I knew nothing about. I got lucky and certainly learned my lesson that Sunday night in Sofia.

Even when an environment feels closer to home for you, don’t be misled into trusting people just because they speak the same language as you or are from the same country as you. Always stay alert when traveling.

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