Beware of Spanish Street Cleaners…
Barcelona. Vibrant hub of the Iberian Peninsula. Full of life and character. Worst place ever for a group of 5 college girls to travel alone.
We arrive in Barcelona on a Thursday evening, looking forward to a fun and relaxing weekend getaway from Madrid (our study-abroad home base). Worn out from traveling, we flip through our guidebook and choose a chill, relaxing bar for the night’s festivities. Fast forward a couple of hours, and we’re wandering aimlessly through the streets of Barcelona and staring at a rundown apartment complex at the address of our so-called relaxing bar.
As we stand on the sidewalk, deciding our plan of action, two street cleaners (you know, the men in the bright neon jumpsuits hosing down the streets…) make a plan of action of their own and choose to attack us with their hoses. We run, trying rather unsuccessfully to avoid the blast of the high power hoses. Finally, they stop and begin talking to us. A member of our group decides, “Hey, these guys would be a GREAT source of information about Barcelona nightlife. Let’s ask THEM where we should go!” They direct us toward an “amazing bar” on a street off Las Ramblas (the main pedestrian street in Barcelona), ask for a kiss on the cheek in return for their services (SKETCH!), and off
Fast forward about 15 minutes, and we’re sauntering down a dark alley at 1am, speaking English loudly and being typical American girls. Dumb. Common sense? None, apparently. Suddenly, I see a man pop out of nowhere and drag the smallest member of my group (think: 5′ 0″ petite blonde) into an alley by the handle of her purse. I’m in shock. I turn towards the alley to save my friend, but am hindered when yet another sketchy man grabs MY purse, yanking back my shoulder. I scream, he throws me to the ground, and we begin a vicious game of tug of war with my purse. One other friend channels her inner gangsta and begins beating the men with her own bag. Our other friends stand listlessly in shock. Eventually, the men back off and leave empty handed. I stand, shaken and bruised, and begin bawling. An older British couple approaches us (why were they in an alley at 1am? who knows) and the cute little old man says, “Did they take anything?” We shake our heads, and he responds, in his full-on British accent, “Just your HONOR?” We head back to our hostel, painfully aware of our surroundings, arms linked for dear life, clutching our purses, and speaking Spanish.
Great intro to Barcelona, right? Things can only get better from here, right? Hmm…not so much. The next morning, we decide to stroll down Las Ramblas, full of tourists, street vendors, and activity. That’s gotta be safe, right? Ehh. We’re walking along, minding our own business, enjoying the nice weather, when all of a sudden, a random man in a gray hoodie walks by us, unzips his pants, and exposes himself. We’re disgusted and offended, but try to shake it off. Yet alas, we walk for a few more minutes, and the guy passes by us AGAIN and pulls the
same stunt. At this point, we’re thinking this is pretty ridiculous and are starting to fear for our well being. As we see him circle and approach us a third time, my “inner gangsta” friend proactively takes a warrior’s stance and screams “STOP! GO AWAY! LEAVE US ALONE!” before he can even reach for his zipper. Problem solved. On to the next adventure.
At this point, we’ve dealt with muggers and flashers. Surely we can just relax and have a safe trip at this point, right? Psh. Later that afternoon, we decide to visit Parc Guell, a famous park designed by Antoni Gaudi. It’s about dusk, and we have to traverse a large wooded area to reach the actual park. The sun is setting, and it’s really quite a tranquil scene. I’m glancing around at my surroundings, appreciating nature as we walk along the wooded trail, when all of a sudden, I see a fully naked man running down through the forest towards us. Seriously. Completely nude. Honestly now? What is the deal with you Barcelona men?! I scream “AHH! NAKED MAN!” and begin running. The others follow, not entirely aware of what’s going on. He continues to pop up randomly along the rest of our stroll, though, from behind bushes, trees, and wire fences. If my friends didn’t believe me at first, they did after the several repeat visits.
Moral of the story? Travel with guys. Be aware of your surroundings. Use common sense. Most of all, stay away from neon jumpsuits, gray hoodies, and wooded areas at dusk.