Odessa Nightlife; Getting Arrested (twice) and Bribing Police (twice) in Ukraine
Never mess about with police in other countries. Repeat. Never mess about with police in other countries. You know the rule Johnny boy, but why do you never learn. (Sorry mum!). I’ve been arrested a few times on my journey to every country in the world. It’s never a good thing. I was arrested twice smuggling myself across the border from the Ivory Coast to Libera once, once in Nigeria for wearing ‘camouflage cargo shorts’ (Woah those boys are corrupt!). Once in India, and I’ve paid more bribes in Thailand, in both Chiang Mai and Bangkok where I’ve lived, mostly motorbike related. But always corruption-related! But the Ukrainian police? And twice in one day? Odessa Nightlife was a wild experience. Give me a break, boys!
There scam set-up was so professional too. Be warned. Here we go.
Ibiza Bar, Odessa, Ukraine
Ok, so a bit of context is in order. I’m was Odessa, Ukraine. It’s a fun beach town, and a bit of tourist hotspot, especially for Russians. The city is quite nice but only has enough clout to keep you occupied for a couple of days. The catacombs outside the city are sweet, but the tour last 40 minutes, an hour max. So what else is there to do? Copy the rest of the Russian tourists, and drink. Probably too much.
It doesn’t take me, as an Irishman, much convincing to join a party. So I headed, with my buddy, to Ibiza beach bar, in Arkadia, to grab a few late afternoon beers. We sat down, and the set–up was beautiful. ‘Ibiza Bar’ was well named, it was right out of the Spanish Island. High-end, modern, beautiful people. I was out of my price range here, and a little out of my depth. But hey the beers going down a treat. Even if I couldn’t really afford them! But well worth it considering the gorgeous surroundings.
The Scam and the Arrest
Anyways, the sun was shining and the view was good. All the beautiful people were dotted around casually. We had only planned to have one or two beers to pass the time. But you know how it goes. So we stayed and mingled, drunk a few cocktails and the afternoon got later. We could see the dress code changing, so we decided to head back to the hostel and change our clothes. We’d be back in a couple of hours and would be coming back here for a proper party to experience the infamous Odessa Nightlife later that night.
We left the bar around 4pm, just my friend and myself. We casually strolled 20 feet outside the bar and passed a food stall. The stall was VERY conveniently located right at the bar’s entrance. I didn’t think anything of it and strolled passed. Thinking about how we’d get back to our accommodation.
“Mr, Mr, Mr“. A lady, overweight, blue perm, about 60 years old. She chases a couple of meters after us. “Beer, beer“. She beckoned us over to her food stall. Reached underneath and grabbed a couple of ice-cold beers for us. Perfect for our journey back to the hotel. The old lady opened the beers before we could even pay, and she hands them over to us. Waiting for my change, chatting to Ian, before I even had my first sip 2 police officers stormed over. The taller officer grabbed me from behind aggressively. He forced both hands behind my backs.
I dropped my beer, but it didn’t smash. Just frothing over on the floor. I didn’t even get the first sip! We were marched to the nearby police cells, probably just a 10 minute walk away. It was all a blur. Where had they come from? What had we done wrong? Is this a shake-down? This isn’t quite how I had planned my later afternoon.
To the cells
We were pushed into a cell. The rooms were tiny. 2 concrete cells and a tiny corridor. We could see out, 2 policemen on a small metal chair. They were in good spirits, but every time they turned to me, they were super aggressive. I tried to talk my way out of the situation, but as the 3rd, then the 4th and then the 5th policeman came storming into our cell, their nightsticks primed, I thought perhaps ‘less talk, more money’ could be a better solution.
Bribery in Ukraine
These guys spoke English around the same level as my Russian I.e almost zero.
They took to shouting a few words in our direction. “Protocol” “Official” “Very bad” “illegal” and finally “200 Euros”. Ah, I see. Here we go. I think they assumed, first that we were wealthy, and second that they would break us down quickly, but they were wrong. And so the game began.
I was pretty sure we were in some murky territory here, bribing officials in Eastern Europe isn’t the greatest plan. But what could we do? I got out my fake student ID and told them I couldn’t afford that, I was a broke student and €200 euro is madness. I have €20 Euro. That’s all I can afford. Awkward silence. We are escorted back to the corner of the cell while the police discussed it.
More haggling, more sob stories about being broke travellers. We were poor students visiting eastern Europe. It’s too much etc. More chatting in the corner. Back to the cells again. This went on for about an hour and a half. I was getting a little worried actually. Late afternoon had turned into the early evening. I really didn’t want to spend a night in the Ukrainian cells. That wasn’t on my bucket list. I suggested to Ian we just pay the €200 euro and get out of here. But he held firm. Silence.
Then, out of nowhere, a reluctant nod. We had settled on €40 And outstretched hand. A handwritten ‘receipt’ on a post-it note for our official fine. The cell was unlocked. The aggressive pretence was instantly dropped. And as I stepped out of the building, the youngest officer hurriedly chased me. In trouble again? Nope. He handed us our 2 (not flat) beers back as we left! Wow.
Round 2 with the police; Arrested Again
Relieved, we threw the beers in the bin. We hadn’t even drunk them. What law had we even broken? I guess drinking on the street? It’s hard to know. There was no real communication with the police apart from their demands for money. Anyway, finally, we made it back to the hostel. Our plan to party that night wasn’t over. If anything, we needed it even more now. So I took a quick shower, drunk a bottle of the cheap Moldovan cognac we had picked up when we traveled to Transnistria. Within the hour we were back to Ibiza bar, or that was the plan. Odessa Nightlife, we are ready for you.
By now, the alcohol mixed with the adrenaline and relief of the police encounter was pumping through our veins now. And that cognac was potent stuff! We made it back to the Arkadia area, where the Ibiza bar was. We bumped into a group of drunk Ukrainians hanging around the bus station. On their insistence, we joined them in downing some of their horrific homemade wine. That didn’t help our level of sobriety. On we went down the boardwalk further.
Public nudity and Second Arrest
Nature calls. We needed a pee and there are no toilets around. But the walkway, en route back to Ibiza Bar, dissects a small forest so we took a quick jump into the forest to take a leak. It was dark, so we weren’t exactly sure where we were. As (bad) luck would have it, we were peeing in public just 30 metres from the police cells we were in 2 hours previously.
Marvellous. Two police hear the commotion, they charge out of the cells. My buddy is startled (and rather drunk). When the police turn on their flashlights to find us. Ian stumbles down the embankment. Head over hills down the hill. Thankfully he’s not injured so he picks himself up and dusts himself off. When he stands up, he’s about 2 metres from the leading policeman. Perfect. And so the arrest process begins AGAIN. On we went back to the SAME BLOODY POLIC STATION again. And a whole new set of policemen were on duty.
“Protocol” “€200 euro”. Here we go again. Different police offices, same deal.
This wasn’t how we planned our Odessa Nightlife experience. However, fortunately, from our last bribery negotiation, we now knew one Russian number. ‘Soruk’ meaning 40. So we took his “200 euro” chant, and raised him “Sorak”.This time we were armed with experience. We were more assertive and perhaps even a little belligerent (probably something to do with that cognac). Anyways, after the 12th repeat of Sorak, he cracked, took the money and we were off again. Phew. We knew the way from the cells to the Ibiza club this time. Finally, we were off.
Thrown out of the club. Night over.
Drama over. Or so we thought.
$10 into the club and we were having a blast, meeting cool people, dancing the night away. My friend, the one of the peeing and tumbling fame, wasn’t having quite enough fun apparently. The reason I know this? I look around, his shirt had been flung in the air, jeans on the ground and he was running towards the high-end swimming pool in the centre of the bar, pulling off the best bomb I’ve seen in a long time. 10s all round if you ask me.
But the bouncers didn’t agree and proceeded to throw us out the entrance we so eagerly waltzed through not so long ago. And here we were with a self-imposed early end to our night which started so promisingly, 2 police bribes deep, a set of wet clothing, and a harsh lesson in how not to behave when you party in Ukraine. Ah Odessa Nightlife. What a night. Happy travels!
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