There I was, blacked out, being picked up off the floor of one of the many Sofia bars in Bulgaria by strangers. I think I was drugged. I was horrified and embarrassed. Confused. And most of all, I was alone and terrified about that. “How did this night come to this point?”, I thought. I had always been told to use your best judgment, but clearly, on this night in Bulgaria, I hadn’t.
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 bars and 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. It was below zero on a cold February night, so this option sounded perfect.
The Muse: I think I was drugged
The Muse is a nice venue. A couple 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. Bulgaria, and Sofia in particular, is a wonderful country. Inexpensive, mountains, the sea; it has everything that I consider selling points of a country. However, it is very hard to communicate in English in Bulgaria. At the time of traveling there, I had never been to a place that collectively spoke less English.
I met a couple of guys from California who said they were chasing love back to Sofia. I have to admit, after not speaking to any Americans for about nine months since going abroad, it felt comforting. In addition, I was speaking to 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 good, 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.
The night changed in an instant
Instead, it became unforgettable for a different reason. One of the guys from Oakland, California came back into the bar reeking of reefer. He asked him if I wanted to join him as he walked in the direction of the alley in the back of the bar. Regrettably, in the spur of the moment, I made the wrong decision. All of my life I have been told to use your best judgment, but it’s true that good judgment comes from experience. He gave me my own joint and we had a few laughs. Everything was all right at this point.
He was a decent guy. I usually don’t associate myself a lot with other American travelers. I left the United States to experience a culture other than my own. However, after nine months away from my own culture and alone in a country that doesn’t speak English as well as I had became used to in Europe, this was a welcomed occurrence.
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 think I was drugged in this moment.
Unable 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 that surrounded me asked as I was stumbling around trying to gain my balance, “Dude, is everything alright?”
Usually, I am able to compose myself in moments of struggle – no matter the struggle that I’m facing. I’m not the type of person that likes to get strangers (or those that are close to me, for that matter) involved in my issues. However, in this instance, I couldn’t control myself. Something had taken a hold of me and was controlling my entire body. I couldn’t keep balance because I think I was drugged in the back alley of The Muse.
“Hey, man. Hold still – what are you doing?”
I was stumbling in the middle of the circle we had formed to converse. I was making people dodge me as I watched my surroundings blur.
“It must be his first time ever smoking a joint, man.”
I started feeling one of my legs go completely numb and couldn’t use it at all. I began a small, off-balanced hop from one wall to the other – afraid and unable to ask the others for a hand.
“Hey, hey, hey, man. Watch the stairs – someone block the stairs. What is he doing?”
This wasn’t normal. I had never felt this before. Something happened to me.
“How much alcohol has he had?”
The porch we had gathered on was swinging. It felt like it was tilted at a 45-degree angle and constantly switching angles. I was helplessly flailing myself toward any wall or railing that was within reach trying to stable myself.
As the others watched and concern started to make its way to the face of the guys around me, I gave up.
“No,” I answered the concerns of the others around me calmly and with a mentality that had already given up on myself.
That was the last thing I remember before it happened.
I woke up supposedly five minutes later without a clue where I was. It felt like the men surrounding me were throwing me into an elevator and that’s the first thought that ran through my mind.
I’m usually an advocate of trusting strangers (especially when traveling) until they can’t be trusted. People are good, in general. That’s usually my philosophy. However, I was so confused in this situation, I had no idea what to do. Common sense safety told me not to trust anyone. It turns out I wasn’t being stuffed into an elevator. I was hallucinating. A few minutes later, I realized I was still on the porch of The Muse.
According to the owner of the bar, I blacked out (I think I was drugged), 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.
I was finally 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 positive any drink would contain more drugs. I declined, although looking back; they were probably just truthfully concerned for me. It’s hard to trust anyone when you’re as confused as I was.
One lucky experience after I think I was drugged
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 I had met were gone before I could fully understand what was happening. I found out that 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.
It’s true that good judgment comes from experience. Now that I’ve made the mistake of trusting a stranger too much, I have made adjustments to the way I travel and I’ll never be as free-will again. I should’ve trusted others when they told me to always use your best judgment, but the truth is that the moment caught me at a bad time.
When I snapped out of it, I 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 because of all the re-routing. Simultaneously, I kept looking behind my back and over my shoulder. I was paranoid and just wanted to be back inside my hostel.
Good judgment comes from experience
I was embarrassed, scared, and mostly confused. 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 when I think I was drugged.
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 and use your best judgment about everything.
Have any scary moments on the road? I’d love to hear. Use the contact page or my social media accounts to reach out to me!