Don’t go to Madrid


Not unexpectedly, I’m back from my Grand Tour of Europe and i haven’t had time to blog during the trip, so it looks like i will have to do so retrospectively. Anyway, thanks for tuning in!

The photo shows bruises sustained on my elbow and knees when tackling youngsters who robbed me on day 3 of my trip. Yes, unfortunately, the first thing of interest i can write about on my Grand Tour of Europe is my experience of being pick-pocketed (technically speaking being robbed), in Madrid.

Upon leaving the hotel after checking out early in the morning (8am is considered early in Spain), two youngsters followed us, one of them blasting away at me in his native Spanish language which i couldn’t understand of course. The entrance to the metro was only 30m away, and they trailed us down into the metro entrance. I could guess he was asking for money, and i ignored him. Then he started kicking my legs, and moments later i suddenly thought that he could be aiming for my wallet, and true enough, my wallet was gone! i went after him, and he passed the wallet to his accomplice. I tackled his accomplice down to the floor, but couldn’t prevent him from passing the wallet back to him. My wife was in a state of panic and in her effort to help, she held on to my legs instead of the accomplice’s. So they managed to get away while i was immobilized (duh!). Anyway, they were “kind enough” to return my wallet. He took the cash and stuffed 10 Euros back into the wallet. Credit cards and driving license intact, phew! One passer by who came by a minute later stopped to help, and he advised us to report the incident to the police and he said “I’m sorry”, the only English phrase he could manage.

All in all, not a big loss (<S$300), no major injury, no credit card or other important documents lost. We were able to continue on with our journey, albeit feeling affected by the incident for a good few hours. This was already the best outcome possible, for which i’m thankful, and this was actually a good “lesson” to help me prevent the next pick-pocketing incident from happening while in Barcelona (yes, a second time within just 3 days! More on this in a follow-up posting on how to be safe while in Europe).

This is the first time, after 5 times of traveling around Europe, including Eastern Europe, that i have ever been pick-pocketed. And it happened twice within the same country – Spain, done by locals who make a profession out of pick-pocketing tourists! While this is not a problem exclusive to Spain, the fact that it happened to me twice within 3 days shows that the situation is particularly bad there.

On closing, i’m saying “don’t go to Madrid” not just because of the unwelcome event, but more so because there’s really nothing much to see there. If you’re into art, you can go to the Prado museum (where you can see the magnificent “Las Meninas“ by Velãzquez). Plaza Mayor, which is supposed to be the main plaza in Madrid, is one of the worst i’ve seen in all of Europe. Don’t go to Madrid.

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