Posted by: GeekHiker | April 18, 2013

Dublin, Ireland – The Incident

[Continued from this post.]

I first saw them on the other side of the field, three men walking directly towards us with a decidedly less-than-steady gait.

I felt uneasy about them the moment I saw them, but pushed the thoughts from my mind.  If there was one thing I’d learned from my travels, it was that while a certain sense of street-smarts was necessary, my own gut had proved too often to err a bit too much on the side of paranoid.  Besides, I had a couple of locals that I’d just befriended right next to me, and they didn’t appear (on the surface, at least) to be overly concerned.

As we sat on the bench, they sauntered right up to us, and started talking.  They were clearly inebriated in some way and, sighting the large green wine bottle one of them was holding, I simply concluded that they were drunk.  They were definitely young.  Early twenties, I supposed.  One was taller than the other two, standing directly in front of Irish K.  The shortest one was using a crutch and seemed to have a sprained ankle.

For the first five minutes, the conversation was pretty friendly.  They asked us where we were from and that sort of thing, and we replied, keeping it light.  It was a stilted, odd conversation; the type of conversation that takes place when one side is drunk and the other totally sober.  We tried to keep it friendly, and continued sitting, lest our standing be perceived as any sort of challenge.

Then it all went south.

They first demanded Irish K’s cash, which he handed over.  Then they demanded his cellphone, which he also handed over.  For the moment they were ignoring me, but my phone was in my front pocket.

The next fifteen minutes or so are kind of a blur.

One of them said, several times, that it “wasn’t right to hit a girl.”  Irish A would end up untouched, physically.  Irish K and I weren’t so fortunate.

Irish K’s cellphone wasn’t enough.  The tall guy who was confronting him started to slap Irish K.  Then he started to hit him.

Irish A tried to intervene, but to no avail.  They wouldn’t hit her, being the gentlemen (*cough*) that they were, but they also wouldn’t stop hitting Irish K either.

That was when the other two turned their attention to me.

I remember them going after the cell phone in my pocket.

I remember trying to fight back.

I remember being shoved down onto the park bench.

I remember being kicked in the side of the head, my skull between the park bench and the boot that left a bruise on my jaw and neck.

I remember the stars in front of my eyes.

There are things I don’t remember, too.  Things I was told later, but fit with certain flashes of memory I have.

At some point, the guy with the aluminum crutch lifted it over his head and slammed it down on my skull.  I don’t remember this.  Either I was dazed or just wasn’t looking in the right direction, but I have no visual memory of the silver crutch coming down at me.

I do know now that it would lead to the three-inch gash on my scalp.

I may not have any visual memory of that crutch, but it fits with a memory I do have of a massive hit on my head.  Like the kicks, there were stars in my eyes.  Unlike the kicks, I remember my skull vibrating from the impact, my ears ringing.

The crutch was later found nearby, bent or broken in two (I don’t recall which) and with blood on it.  My blood.

I never saw when the guy holding the wine bottle took a swing at my head with it, and missed.  Irish A told me about that later.

Don’t think I haven’t thought about the fact that if that bottle had connected, I might not be telling this story at all.

I don’t remember being scared.  I’m sure I was, but in the rush of adrenaline that hit my system, and the rapidity with which things were happening, there wasn’t ever a clear “I’m scared” thought.  It all just… happened.  Higher-level thinking went out the window.

I do remember yelling out “why?” over and over again.  I’m embarrassed to admit that, for some reason.  I didn’t scream, or call for help, just yelled out “why?” again and again.  It seems like such a stupid, useless thing to say in retrospect.

I do remember my glasses being knocked off, and how, for whatever reason, it became my mission to recover them.  I remember crawling off the picnic bench to pick them up off the ground.  Somehow, I held on to them the rest of the time, and the lenses still have cracks and scratches.  (I won’t be able to replace them until I’m employed again.)

There’s a couple of flashes of memory.  At some point I moved to the other side of the bench, then somehow I ended up on the grass a few feet in front of it.  I have no idea what was happening to the other two at the time.

For some reason I held on to my backpack almost the entire time.  Of course I should have handed it over immediately, but in the heat of the moment, some instinct just had me continue to hold on to it.

Don’t think I haven’t questioned myself about it since.

I eventually did hand over my pack.  My wallet too.

Somehow, the cell phone was forgotten entirely.

Even after getting the pack, the guy was too messed up to know what to do with the contents.  One moment he was holding my SLR above his head in celebration to his companions; a moment later he’d dropped it to the ground.

A minute later, they all started to run off.  (Irish A would later tell me that during the ordeal, bystanders in the park saw what was going on and did nothing.  I wish I could say I was at all surprised by that, but in our non-involvement world, I’m not.)  Irish A & K’s friends had started to arrive, and were chasing them.  I don’t really remember that.  I just remember standing in the grass, completely dazed, blood coming down the side of my face, yelling something about “that guy took my wallet.”

The Guardi (police) showed up a few minutes later.  What happened in the intervening time, I don’t remember, though I do know I never lost consciousness.  No doubt I was in shock, though.  Despite that, somehow I had the wherewithal to call my bank and cancel my credit cards.  In the end, all my travel wallet contained was a bunch of receipts, two cancelled credit cards, and about forty euro.

As my fellow victims and I were being led to the ambulance, we saw another person loitering about the scene.  It took us a moment, then we realized why he was familiar.  It was one of our attackers, so strung out on whatever he was on that he apparently couldn’t find his way out of the park and had wandered back to the scene.  He was taken into custody.

A short ambulance ride later and I was at a Dublin hospital.  My jaw and hand were both x-rayed.  No breaks appeared in either.  The open wound on my head was closed with a series of staples.  Since the adrenaline was starting to drain from my system at this point, I remember each staple going in being enormously painful.

When Irish K and I met in the hall a short time later, I would discover that his nose had been broken, along with some bruising from the punches.

Next was a stop at the Guardai station, where our contact information was taken, business cards received, and instructions given to return the next day to give our sworn statements on what happened.

Irish A & K’s friends gave us a lift to the local pub.  I called my Parents from outside the pub and asked them to send money via Western Union since, for whatever reason, my backup credit card failed to work at the local ATM.  Or maybe, still being a bit shaky at that point, I just couldn’t work it.

I have no idea if going out for a beer, held in very shaky hands, is a good idea after being assaulted, but they were giving us rides (a far better option than walking across Dublin in what was, now, nighttime) and being around other people seemed like a good idea at the time.  The beer helped to calm my nerves somewhat.

Somewhere along the line, I managed to post the following on FB for my friends back home:

So, my first day in Ireland, I did the following: I went to see the Book of Kells, I went to a museum, I went to a pretty park in a nice part of town where I met some very nice jugglers, we were mugged and had the crap beat out of us for a few quid, I got to see the inside of a Dublin hospital and the inside of a Dublin police station. Kind of a busy day.

Other than going back to the station to give my statement, no big plans for day two…

So I guess I retained my sense of (morbid) humor.  (To wit: at the bar with the others, I joked that I should keep my blood-stained t-shirt, and have it printed with “I went to Ireland, and all I got was this bloody t-shirt”.  My fellow attackees and I found this enormously funny.)

After the beer I was given a ride back to the hostel.  With the adrenaline gone from my system, my entire body was sore on the thin hostel bunk.

It mattered little.  Sleep came quickly.



  1. I’m leaving for Ireland tomorrow as a solo traveler… this makes me a little scared! So happy you’re ok!

    • I’ll touch on this more, but really, it could’a happened anywhere, to anyone. Wrong place, wrong time…

  2. That must have been such a horrific experience! It was hard to read… Glad that you survived, though. Hope writing about it makes you feel a little better!

    • Writing it was fairly cathartic…

  3. Oh man… I was holding my head in shock the entire time I read this. I am so sorry this happened to you, my friend. The first time I went to Ireland, our tour guide wouldn’t let us go out one night because some guys on a previous tour had been beaten up in that part of the city. I guess they call them “the fighting Irish” for a reason. I’m glad they didn’t do more damage and I hope they caught the other two thugs. And I hope karma comes back to bite them hard.

    • What part of the city were you in?

      • I traveled all throughout southern Ireland but the town we couldn’t go out in was called Sligo. I don’t know how far it is from Dublin. The last time I was in Dublin, Mr. W was sick, so we didn’t do a ton of touring either. I hope maybe you can give it another try someday and have a complete 180° experience.

        • I hate to say it, but Ireland isn’t exactly high on my list of travel destinations, as you might imagine…

  4. Sorry to hear that! Please don’t let that taint your opinion of Irish people. There is a few scumbags in Dublin alright but wouldn’t expect them to be hanging around Merrion Square. Did they ever get charged by the guards? It’s always the same filth doing these things and they’re all known to the Gardaí anyway so hopefully they got them!

    • That was one universal response from everyone in Dublin who I told about it: shock that it happened in Merrion Square. No one can accuse me of wandering into a “bad” section of town…

  5. Ohmygod I’m so glad you’re okay. This is absolutely terrible. My jaw was on the floor the whole time I was reading, I’m so sorry that happened to you. Yikes, staples?? I am glad they caught one of the criminals and I dunno, just really glad you’re okay.

    • Yeah, staples are the new stitches. They even gave me the, uh, “staple remover” to take back home with me!

      • You’re kidding, really?? Oh goodness. I can’t believe you were almost not even going to go there either. Ugh. 😦

  6. An amazing and sad read, my friend. Now that you have the ugly out of the way I hope you can concentrate on all the good of your travels and share some of the beauty with us as well.

    Do not let the ugly overwhelm the beautiful.

    • Trying not to, my friend, trying not to…

  7. Even though I knew what was coming, I still dreaded reading this.

    Much worse to have written this. To have gone through this.

    I’m glad you got through.

    • Thanks. I kind of am too! 🙂

  8. oh my gosh. This is awful. What a terrible way to round off your trip! I hope the Gardaí caught all the remaining idiots… and I kind of hope the people who watched and did nothing feel remorseful. I know its a natural instinct, but if ever theres a time to snap out of it and help your fellow human being, that would have been it.

    • I don’t really blame the people who didn’t get involved; the “non” involvement thing seems to be pretty common, so much so that many theorize it’s human instinct. Moreover, whatever they were one, it would have taken several people to subdue them, I would think.

  9. Oh that’s not okay! I’m sorry you went through that!

    • Yeah, not the best end to a trip, eh?

      • No, it’s not. But you handled it very well. It was a scary experience, and it robbed you of feeling safe. I think it’s brave you posted about it, and I hope it helped you.

  10. […] get back to all the Dublin stuff in a day or two, but today I’m going to do a brief Earth Day […]

  11. This I why I go to the North….

    Good on you for getting this out. I hope it ‘unblocks’ you and helps you go forward.


    • I’m sure it could have happened in the North just as easily…

      I hope it does too. Time will tell, I suppose.

  12. […] from this […]

  13. […] the morning, we flagged a cab and made it back to the hotel. We’re lucky we didn’t get mugged (our hotel was across the street from the park where Geek Hiker was […]

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