Jun 12, 2011 - 2:23 PM
We are a family of five Asian women and we had just returned from a 12-day trip to France and Switzerland. While preparing for the trip, we visited various travel forums on France and Switzerland to obtain information regarding the two countries of our choice. We read a lot about pickpockets on the metro in Paris and were very guarded when we spent the first two days of our trip there. After spending another three days in Strasbourg and Colmar, we crossed the border into Switzerland via Basel. Our four-day trip in Switzerland began well in Zermatt. However, the UNTHINKABLE happened as we were switching trains at Spiez for Interlaken. When boarding the train, three of us headed into the carriage first with our luggage. The other two of us decided to leave our luggage at the luggage compartment of our carriage. Out of the blue, two male Caucasians emerged from the same carriage and one of them even helped my aunt(in her early 70's) with her luggage. We were so grateful that we even thanked the man for his socalled kind gesture. What happened next took us completely by surprise. The two men then blocked my aunt's access to the carriage with their pot bellies. One stood on her right while the other stood on her left. In a split second, one of them unzipped her sling bag which she had carried IN FRONT OF her and fished out her wallet with her passport attached to its side. While all this was happening, i was standing just behind her and was completely oblivious as to what had happened. When we finally got into our carriage, my aunt noticed that the zipper of her sling bag was open and her purse in it was missing. Just a few seconds prior to this discovery, one of my sisters decided to head to the toilet near the luggage compartment and noticed a little red book on the floor. It was my aunt's passport. We don't know if the pickpockets deliberately dropped the passport as they were only interested in the money or it dropped off the purse acccidentally as the pickpocket was fishing it out of my aunt's sling bag. This incident took us completely by surprise as we had not read anything about pickpockets on a Swiss train. We thought we were in SAFE and SECURE Switzerland and that we would not have a problem with pickpockets unlike cities like Paris and Strasbourg in France. We tried to ask for help from the conductor of our train but he just couldn't be bothered to help us. All of a sudden, this particular Swiss conductor didn't seem to understand English and said something to us in Swiss instead. This incident taught us to be VERY vigilant when looking out for pickpockets in France and Switzerland. Trust me when i say that this was not our ONLY encounter with pickpockets during our first trip to Europe. When we were walking about in Interlaken, we were also followed by a pair of potential pickpockets at the Interlaken West train station. During our last two days in Paris, we used the metro and RER extensively and again, we found ourselves being targeted by pickpockets. We could tell they were pickpockets by the fact that they were more interested in eyeing us and trailing us than in the arriving trains at the platforms. I decided to post this as a warning to my fellow travellers. Be very careful when you use the public transportation in Europe(and the rest of the world, i guess!).