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Pickpockets and Barcelona (Continued)

September 6th, 2018 · 1 Comment · Barcelona, Spain, tourism, Travel

So, back in Barcelona. Hard to avoid the place when it remains one of the world’s great cities … and when visiting friends and family (from the U.S.) stage through the Spanish town on visits to Europe.

But it also has that one major problem that has not been resolved.

And this is not about a potential breakaway from the rest of Spain and independence for the “autonomous region” that makes up Catalonia — where Barcelona is located.

This is more visceral, at least to foreigners.

Pickpockets!

We did an organized, four-hour bicycle tour of several of the city’s highlights, most of them in or near the Gothic Quarter, the oldest past of Barcelona. Where the city’s cathedral is located, on the edge of a warren of tiny streets.

The problem of pickpocketing slammed me a few years ago, when I was relieved of my wallet while riding a metro train after a Madrid-Barca “clasico”.

Whenever we come to the city, and it has been a half-dozen times since retirement at the end of 2015 … the topic of pickpockets troubles my mind.

Earlier this week, I had a close look at a pop-up ad by a clothing-maker that advertises “pickpocket-proof” cargo pants. It involves a zippered compartment hidden at the bottom of a pocket with snaps. It looks impressive. But I have not invested, yet.

Most of this is not news to readers of this blog. (I twice have had my pocket picked.) What changed this time was some input from a local.

Paola is the 34-year-old woman who led our 14-person pack of (mostly middle-age-or-up) bicyclists. Some of whom were a little shaky on their three-speed bikes, testing the idea that people “never forget” how to ride a bike.

Leading that many struggling cyclists must be like herding cats, with more than a dozen of us strung out behind Paola, a small, trim woman. She led us through the tight spaces of the Gothic Quarter (“single-file please!”), and later into fairly significant traffic on a ride up to the Sagrada Familia — the famed Gaudi-inspired basilica edging toward completion.

One of the things Paola said will stick with me, because she brought up the issue of pickpockets with absolutely no prompting

“I hate it,” she said. “It makes me very angry.

“This is a great city, a beautiful city, and these people try to ruin it with their stealing.” (And our eyes shifted to a sketchy looking character who had just moseyed up and sat down while pretending not to stare at the 14 expats on bikes.)

Turns out, she recognized the guy — as someone she sees regularly and someone she believes is a thief.

Paola said it “is still a problem”, in part because punishment of theives caught in the act is punishable in Barcelona by a 400 euro (about $472) fine — which usually is paid by fellow criminals so quickly that the pickpocket is back on the street before a victim can fill out a police report.

Paola rued the reputation pickpockets have given to a city with so much to offer. “A place everyone wants to live in,” he said.

“I meet people visiting the city, and the first question is not about the Sagrada Familia, it is not about the museums, it is not about great restaurants. The first question is always about pickpockets, and that is a terrible thing.”

Anyway, after two and a half days here, I haven’t had my wallet lifted. Perhaps because I am more aware of potential troubles — like being bumped or pushed on a crowded subway car.

I fear the reality is … I will be ripped off again some day, if we continue multiple annual trips to Barca.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 David // Sep 7, 2018 at 8:53 am

    Don’t know if I have the specific brand you’re talking about, but I have some hidden-pocket travel pants and I feel a lot more comfortable in pickpocket-friendly areas with them. Don’t know if anything is truly pickpocket proof, but I figure they make it easier for them to go elsewhere.

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