Robbed in Berlin: I lost my iPhone!

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After finally getting an iPhone in December (thanks Mom & Dad!), it seems we were not meant to me. I was robbed in Berlin two weeks ago and my iPhone was stolen in the kerfuffle. Well, it wasn’t really a kerfuffle…more like a quick grab-and-go. Sad story.

Here’s the gist:

At 23:05 on a Wednesday evening, after a delightful reunion with some friends, I was on my way home. At the Hermannplatz u-bahn (a pretty popular square and interchange in Berlin), I decided to walk the short distance to my apartment rather than grab a bus or wait for another train. Not more than a hundred meters from the platz, I was walking down the street when lo and behold, my iPhone was quite literally snatched out of my hand. Turns out there’s a word for that: Apple picking.

Here’s what happened. I was walking briskly down the street (even in April, it’s still damn cold in Berlin!) when a man standing at the sidewalk grabbed my phone. By the time I’d turned around and yelled “hey!” he had slipped it behind his back and into the hands of another guy behind him. All together there were five of them. I couldn’t tell where my phone had gone and then before I knew it, they were off. Running down the street and around the corner.

Understandably, I was in a bit of shock. Though I’d just come from a nice night out with some friends, my emotional stress level was already high. I was sad, sick and felt more-than-a-little destroyed from a less-than-stellar day (week). With my phone being pulled out from my own hand… well let’s just say it didn’t help my mood. I couldn’t nor wouldn’t run after them. It was late; I was tired. And in the bag at my side was my passport, my German visa paperwork and my very expensive laptop. So really, they got the cheapest thing on me. But still.

Thankfully there was a woman standing nearby who saw much of the whole thing and she promptly dialed the police for me. Just a few minutes and they’d arrived. I got in the police car (how exciting! I thought). We drove in the direction that the robbers had gone, hoping I could spot them. After 5-10 minutes of driving around Hermannplatz and Neukölln, the officers drove me to the local Neukölln police station so I could make a statement.

I had to wait for a civil police officer to show up so I could file the report. By now it must’ve been 23:30. Not sure if it was good or bad luck, but I had my passport and all my official German paperwork on me so that made things slightly easier. I described what happened in extensive detail (as much as I could remember) to the officer who simultaneously translated it into German. She even lent me her iPhone so I could quickly change a few passwords to make sure the robbers couldn’t get anything of my iPhone. I’ve never filed a police report (I suppose I’ve been lucky) so it was an interesting experience—still one I’d rather not repeat, though. I didn’t make it home until nearly 1:30am and then had to go into work the next day. Life goes on.

Perhaps my luck has finally run out

No more iPhone notifications – maybe this is a good thing?

And I’m iPhone-less once again! Though it sucks to have been robbed in Berlin, I’m pretty much over it by now. I won’t lie that it dampened my feelings about the city immediately, but luckily I have excellent friends and a lot of support here (and abroad). So any stress or worry that I might have had is now gone. For almost two weeks now, I’m officially without a phone (no SIM card, no Instagram…nothing!). And I actually kind of enjoy it. There’s no reading e-mails on the u-bahn or tweeting and checking-in when I’m out. Maybe not the best way to do things as a blogger, but I’ll power through.

This whole “getting-robbed-in-Berlin” fiasco really irked me at the beginning. I was stressed and nearly tempted to just rent a Europe car hire, get on the autobahn and drive drive drive. Back when I was a teenager and actually had a car, getting on the road was usually how I could calm my temper or relax. Something about the open road, yadda yadda yadda, Jack Kerouac or something. Driving is a cathartic experience for me…especially at night in the dark, on an open road. Ahh…memories…

I’ve had an exceptionally lucky few years—from winning travel contests to finally getting residency and a visa that allows me to live in Europe (well, Germany). Maybe this was just the world trying to balance things out a bit? I’m actually quite okay with that.

I won’t lie that I was pretty stupid with some things regarding my iPhone. I certainly used to take it out fairly often (umm….always?) in public—on the train, while walking on the street. I don’t think I ever went more than 6 minutes without touching the phone. Besides that, I also never installed the “Find my iPhone” app which the police could certainly have used to track it down. Nor did I have a password for the lock screen.

Apparently this happens regularly in Berlin—especially Neukölln. The officer told me that there’s a report like this nearly every day. Not only that, but just the week before this happened, two friends had their phones stolen out of their bags at a bar in Neukölln. When I moved to Berlin, lots of people told me this area of Berlin was unsafe. Even now with my iPhone stolen, I still don’t agree. Just bad luck. Maybe it’s a bit more prevalent in Neukolln than other areas of Berlin, but I wouldn’t go judging or disregarding an entire neighborhood simply because of it. Life goes on. It’s an experience.

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20 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. I have filled out three police reports from robberies, it is always an interesting experience. The more you travel the more you have a chance of getting robbed. My sister’s first day in Ecuador someone grabbed her camera right out of her hands. You can’t get down about it, they are basically professionals and have it down pat, as you said you were just unlucky.

    • Yeah – they are definite professionals. I’d been “traveling” or living abroad for over two years and this was my first thing that was stolen! Oh well.

  2. Boooo. That stinks, Adam. :( Same thing happened to me in Rio de Janeiro but knives were involved so a bit traumatic. However, I did enjoy a month of being iPhone-less. Something very freeing about that, non? :)

    • Aw, thanks Jeanette… I was definitely lucky that it wasn’t much more of a serious mugging.

      Now that I’ve got a Lumia 800 smartphone for the next few weeks, I kind of miss *not* having a phone! But I am using it less than I usually used my iPhone… helps me keep my sanity!

  3. Hey Adam,
    Really sorry to hear about the loss of your phone.
    I think It’s time for me to invite your for dinner though!

    • Hey Daniel!
      It’s actually been quite nice to go without a phone for a while. Dinner sounds good, though!

  4. So sorry you lost your phone, but wow you handled and wrote about this with such calm! I would have freaked out if it happened to me. Thanks for the lesson — no more walking around with my phone out in public (not without a steel grip on it anyway!)

    • Thank you Edna!

      I waited over a week before I wrote this because I knew I was in such a bad mood right afterward. But after I calmed down and other parts of my life fell into place, I was quickly able to turn my mood around!

      And yes—definitely keep a tight hold on your phone!

  5. Omg, this post just scared the shit out of me. Apple picking?! Never heard of it but so glad I did because it seems like only a matter of time before it happens to me. The thing is practically glued to my hands when I’m walking around since I’m obsessed with taking photos. Perhaps I will look into some sort of permanent attachment to wear…a bondage-style leather leash bracelet to ensure it’s safety. Didn’t know Neukölln had that reputation either, that’s usually where I stay.

    Glad you and the rest of your more important belongings were ok. How much longer are you in Berlin, btw? I’m sure you already wrote a post about this, will not be lazy and check right now :)

    • Hey Larissa,
      Nuekolln has this kind of reputation b/c it’s developing (“gentrifying”) at a pretty fast rate. But really this could happen anywhere. Kreuzberg has plenty of petty theft as well and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about the same in Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain just because of the large amounts of tourists….

      See you in Berlin this summer :)

  6. Oh Adam, I am so sorry to hear this news. I would be GUTTED without my phone so I am crying inside for you.

    But a huge well done for not letting it get you down, thats a great example to all of us who travel.
    I wish you lots of happy memories in Berlin to cloud over this horrible experience.
    Colleen

    • Hey Collen – thanks…. I try not to let these things bother me but sometimes it can be hard…

  7. I had never heard of Apple Pickings but I so love the word for that. I mean really that is brilliant. Okay back to your post… ahh I am sorry seriously I know I would be pissed as hell. I mean they snatched it out of your hands. I am glad though that you reacted the right way and just let it go because you did have much more valuable things on you and had you got those taken things would have been worse.

    Oh & do you have to carry your passport on you? I never do… I am scared someone will rob that from me.

    • Hey Jaime,

      When I learned the word “apple picking” last week I thought it was a perfect description! Brilliant :)

      And no, I don’t actually carry my passport on me but I had just been to a government office in Berlin for some paperwork about my residency and that’s why I had it. I was extra careful all day with it but I guess not as careful with my iPhone!

  8. geez, that is said. i’m just glad nothing of this kind has ever happened to me yet while on a trip… though i also couldn’t say that i’m not used to being robber. living in a third world country, i’ve been robbed so many times before, i’ve lost count. but i learned my lesson well. i’m always wary now of the places that i go to, whether it’s here in the philippines or any other country i’m visiting. i can’t afford to lose my gadgets. LOL.

    hope you’ll get an iphone soon…

    • Hey Gladys,

      I suppose theft is more common in some places than others. I think it’s a pretty universal thing. I also think I was lucky to have gone so long without being robbed—definitely going to be just as careful in the future!

  9. That sucks dude! I’m always walking around with my iTouch and it’d be so easy to be another statistic as well.

    • Well, be a little careful when you’re walking around in Berlin this summer… I think it’s the season for theft!

  10. :( Adam, that flat out stinks! Glad you are okay and over it though. You’ve given me confidence in the police here. Not that I want to find out, but I often wonder what happens with the whole English vs. German thing.

    • Thanks Sarah,

      The police here were very friendly and efficient. The woman who recorded my testimony also spoke excellent English which was a relief.

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