Oh Barcelona! A Travelette likes nothing more than to travel and what a better birthday gift to myself than the chance to meet you in person? You’d be my first introduction to Spain and as I boarded the plane, my heart skipped a few beats. Yes, I was nervous. A girl who prefers Eastern European destinations, I wondered if I’d love you as much as everyone told me I would. My worries were for naught, as it turned out to be love at first sight. You immediately stole my heart with your hot sunny weather, delicious tapas, savoury wines, Gaudi architecture and classical guitar performances … but then you stole my wallet.
It happened in the Clot metro station. I was smiling and there was a bounce to my step as I walked to catch a subway over to the Gracia area to take a Flamenco lesson. Knowing you to be a little dodgy and even shady, I kept what I thought was a close watch on my belongings. When I looked down to check my purse (for the 100th time), I discovered it unzipped and wide open. In complete shock, I searched frantically and of course , 80 euros, my Canadian ID, bank and credit cards, not to mention a designer wallet, were now gone. Completely unnerved, I couldn’t figure out how had this happened without me realizing?
Seriously Barcelona. Why did you have to go out and ruin it for us? Why couldn’t you give me with a joyous holiday romance that left me feeling happy and giddy, wanting more? Didn’t you think I’d want to come back? Instead you left me feeling bewildered, frightened and frustrated. You actually made me cry … and more than once. You became nothing more than a “bad romance”.
The theft resulted in me missing out that fun Flamenco lesson and spending the day in my hostel on the phone with banks to cancel my credit cards and with family/friends to see who could wire me cash. I even had to spend a couple hours visiting different Western Union offices to get the cash. The first one I visited had no cash. Don’t ask me how this is possible?! The second one was closed. The third one was open but asked for a tracking number which I didn’t have. It required me using my Blackberry to call to a friend in Canada to get the information, which I’m sure will cost me a million dollars in roaming fees.
Admittedly, my friends told me to be careful. They advised me not to ever leave my bags unattended, to use a money belt, to avoid watching street performers on La Ramblas, to make sure I left some money and ID at the hostel … the warnings were aplenty! Several friends described how they had been robbed themselves, some even on more than one occasion.
I took their warnings into consideration but honestly thought that if I survived solo trips in South American cities like Quito, Lima and Rio de Janiero without getting robbed that I’d be fine. Europe’s far safer right? Wrong. Unfortunately, theft in Barcelona is all too common. The thieves are elite professionals and will strip of your valuables in a New York second.
When I tearfully walked back to hostel and told the reception staff what had happened, the lady came out from behind the counter, hugged me and said “Darling, this happens every day.” Several people from my hostel told me how they themselves had been robbed. One girl was robbed 15 minutes after leaving the airport when she was mobbed by a group of teens on the train. When researching about what to do after getting robbed, I came across a quote from the blog of someone who had a similar experience that perfectly captures the current situation “Getting mugged in Barcelona is almost a cliche.”
It just isn’t right. Why isn’t more being done to deter the incidents of theft? Why don’t the local politicians and law enforcement officials do more to stop this kind of thing from happening? You’re a world class city, don’t you want us to visit you and be able to feel safe? Do you want to have the reputation of a third world country? I implore you Barcelona, please do something to address the issue.
Despite my experience, I’ll visit you again. I see your potential and will give you a second chance. I really want to take that Flamenco lesson! Although I’ll be super guarded and may resort to ridiculous measures like stowing my cash away in my bra or even worse … wearing an ugly money belt.
Have you been robbed in Barcelona? Share your story and leave a comment.
*post written by Cheryl Howard.Tweet