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The following incidents happened a year and a half ago when we were visiting Barcelona (the post was half-written and forgotten in the draft folder).


I(Chris) lived in NYC for many years (even before Giuliani became mayor) and had not been a victim of crime.  I walked through Times Square with thousands of tourists daily for the last 10 or so years and had not witnessed a pickpocket or mugging incident.  But in Barcelona, for just 9 days, we had three stories to tell.  They all happened on Barcelona’s fairly modern, brightly lit subway platforms.


No crime was committed in the first incident.  One night when we were changing trains at a station in the city center (Urquinaona), after we reached the second platform, Sis whispered to me that three men at the end of the platform followed us and looked at me in a suspicious way.  Well, there were a lot of people changing trains but when I casually looked over,  I agreed with Sis’s assessment.  The three men pretended they do not know each other, yet they kept walking up and down the platform, exchanging glances.  The train arrived, we got on, and that’s the end of the story. Perhaps we were oversensitive?

The next night, we were taking the subway home and had to change train at another centrally-located station (Pg. de Gracia).  As it was late, the platform was rather empty.  When the train door opened, I stepped onto a carriage after Sue. Sis was behind me.  Suddenly, I felt someone tugged at my bag and Sis said to me, “Be careful, someone is trying to pick your bag !”  I looked at my shoulder bag with the camera and wallet and it was halfway unzipped.  It all happened very quickly.  A man who was standing at the landing of the carriage got off the train immediately as the train door closed.  I was half-way to becoming a victim.  This pickpocket was apparently operating solo. I stared at him and he stared back as the train was leaving the station.


Sis explained: when the door was opening, there were plenty of space on one side to board the train. But this man cut in front of her as I was stepping on the train.  She then saw him reaching into my bag.  So she slapped the hand and raised her voice. She was my heroine.


On our last day in Barcelona, Sis had already left a day before. Sue and I were doing our last bit of sightseeing.   It was around noon, when we walked down the stairs onto a platform at the Verdaguer station. I noticed three guys in smart street wear standing near the entrance, just like any typical young European tourist. But all three were looking at me at the same time – and just for a little bit too long – which seemed a bit unnatural – did I look strange or something ?

As the train pulled in, we noticed the three guys running towards a door.  I told Sue to avoid using that door and used another one further down.  After the last two incidents, I learnt to not rush onto the train but to hang back so that there is nobody behind me when I step onto the train. As soon as we were aboard, we heard people yelling and a woman screaming. These three guys were trying to take either a camera or a handbag from this Asian couple – we only saw them struggling with something that had a strap.  As the doors were closing, the gang got off while holding onto the thing and the couple would not let go – so they all ended up getting off. We did not see how it ended but there were hardly any one on the platform as the train was leaving.


Asian tourists are every where in Europe  and particularly the nouveau riche  – they love to splurge and flaunt. Many are walking around with armfuls of famous brand shopping  bags  – marking themselves as easy fat targets.


Another incident which happened on the same Barcelona trip was described in an earlier post – Close Encounters of the Shifty Kind. Check it out.

All the above pictures were taken in Barcelona, although the train platforms in the picture were not the ones where the incidents happened.

Ah, the joys of travel.


One Comment

  1. Lucky and narrow escapes.

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