The sailors of the Gorch Fock, a German training vessel docked at the Inner Harbor since Aug. 25, are rich with tales about America -- but they're a bit poorer in the pocketbook.
"Baltimore's been absolutely great, except for the robberies and the muggings," said Lt. Achim Winkler, the ship's press officer. "But really, for a crew of 200, three people in three weeks isn't too bad."
Flipping through a ship's log book, Lieutenant Winkler verified that a crewman was mugged as he visited Little Italy, on the first day the ship docked in Baltimore.
"They boxed him, and gave him a blue eye," Lieutenant Winkler said.
Then, on Aug. 29 and Sept. 8 -- while at The Block, called the "The Red Light District" by the sailors -- two other crewmen were mugged.
Sailors from around the world go sightseeing after docking at the Inner Harbor, and police say an occasional mugging isn't uncommon. But the Gorch Fock voyage got more than its share, police said.
"There were two guys . . . one put a pistol, like this," said Seaman Karl Kuepfer, 22, who put a finger to his temple during a description of the Sept. 8 robbery. A second man then frisked him, he said.
"They took $200, and another $200 in German marks . . . and my MasterCard," he said with a laugh. While he was in New York City, two muggers stole the same card from him while he was shopping on Broadway on July 4, and he had just gotten it replaced.
In the two other muggings here, thieves took money, watches and a necklace, as well as one sailor's German Naval identification cards.
City police said no arrests have been made in the cases.
The Gorch Fock, a three-masted bark on a 9-month trip that has included Boston and Philadelphia, leaves at 10 a.m. today for the Azores. While in Baltimore, the sailors saw a baseball game, suburban shopping malls and Fells Point bars.
Seaman Kuepfer, who lives in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg, which has a population of about 300,000, said being mugged twice in America hasn't dimmed his view of the United States.
"We have bad areas in Nuremberg, and you learn to avoid them," he said. "The Red Light districts here are more dangerous."
Lieutenant Winkler said the German naval officer trainees, who have volunteered for up to 12 years of study and naval service in hopes of a career in the navy, are allowed to go off the ship nights and weekends.
"We were told the Inner Harbor area is safe, but don't walk two or three blocks away," he said. "We tried to warn them that if you walk away from the Inner Harbor, it's dangerous, especially in the dark."
As for Seaman Kuepfer, he said he has called Frankfurt, Germany, to have his MasterCard replaced. Seaman Kuepfer said he should be getting his new card in time for Christmas, about the same time the Gorch Fock returns to Germany.