Still Breathless in Barcelona

For those of you, who are trying to visualize this whole pick-pocketing thing, and are laughing at it. Here is the picture right next to the scene of the event.


I can almost see the ‘Futbol, Futbol’ gangster enjoying a hearty meal with the 50 Euro loot he made the previous night. This is where the regular day would start anyway, outside Hotel Abba. In the days after the ‘Barcelona Burglary’, Abba took a strange liking to me, taking me through all the other strange robberies that had happened to his hostel guests or (in-mates). Suddenly, I didn’t feel so bad, he also ended almost every discussion with his strong Armenian accent saying, “Be carephul, and don’t make me say again, I told you so.”

Ok, his grammar was a little muddled but as long as he wasn’t strangling my throat, I didn’t really care.  Barcelona was simply beautiful, the day would begin by walking through the ‘Las Rambla’, the city center in Barcelona. Spanish entertainers with their card tricks, restaurants serving the delicious Paella ( Folks in our group preferred to refer to it as ‘Rajma chawal’) , Prostitutes and beautifully crafted statues depicting Spain’s history. Ramblas has it all…

2388004119_8b948465a7_b Juggler

courtesy:  warrenjwells courtesy:le nana asturiana

A walk-down from Las Ramblas in the evening takes you to the Barcelona Harbour which at night is lit only by the lights on various boats coming into the shore.


Hey, Barcelona wasn’t so bad after all. The next day a touring member and me made our plans to go and visit the Nu camp, the revered home of the Barcelona Football team. For the first time in the trip, I decided to take out and use my Dad’s preserved treasure – ‘The Euro Translator’, a Translator which translates multiple European languages into English.  As we walked down the crowded Ramblas, I suddenly heard my name being called out. Who on earth, would have a similar sounding name in the heart of Barcelona, I thought. I turned around and it was one of my oldest school friends – co-incidentally also the person I had made my last European trip with. For 2 friends to be in the same foreign country, same city, same street and pass each other at the same time on the same day,  the odds are brain-numbing. There really was some strange bond between me and this city.

We carried on – the Noucamp is far more imposing than the Santiago Burnabeau. Far bigger – more imposing. Infact in the Noucamp, Real Madrid or for that matter Madrid itself is almost a 4 lettered word.

Nu_camp_2 Nu_camp_3 Nucamp1

After frolicking all over the Nou camp, and posing with absolutely everything on offer, it was time to use my translator and find out the way back home.

I checked my pocket, the translator was gone.

To find my Translator in a stadium where most people spoke only Spanish was going to be a horrendous task, I soon gave up and instead spent my time on the far more useful task of figuring out how I would break the news to my Dad. (Without being asked to go back and look for it)

The Segrada Famillia was the next spot, this World re-known Church is almost a symbol of Barcelona crafted by the World famous architect Antoni Gaudi. Construction for the Church began in 1882 and continues till today. Hell, they only plan to complete it by 2026, and we thought, delayed projects was only an Indian thing. When asked, apprently Gaudi famously said, “But, my client is in no hurry.”


This beckoned us into New Years Eve, and the place to head to on New Year Eve was without doubt the city square – Las Ramblas.  And that’s the way it is in most European cities. At 12’0 clock – our group came together for the signature shot


And almost immediately after, a couple of what looked like Bangladeshi’s in the crowd set off a few fire crackers, and there was a mini-stampede. Almost, as if it were some sort of a tradition, all members of the Catalan decided that now was the time to break all their Beer bottles. And they broke them one after another and carried on marching. While everything made of Glass in Barcelona was being shattered, the group of us Indians stood dumb-struck even losing each other until we all met back at the Hotel after 2 hours.

We made it to a night-club to celebrate our re-union, the site of a Mediterranean Sun-rise and a Spanish blonde –  ensured that the new year was brought in with the required pomp and splendour.

Barc_New_Year New_year_3

As we made our way back to the Hotel rooms – at about 6 AM in the morning, atleast 3 Barcelonians tried the ‘Futbol, Futbol’ trick on me. Even in an inebriated state, early in the morning, I wasn’t going to fall for that one.  Next, in the tube on the way back, me and my buddy witnessed the mother of all cat fights, 2 Catalan women were tearing the hair of each other, wild shrieks, hands, nails, paws and all , they could so easily have coached our Vijender Singh to a Boxing gold. Apparently women getting into a physical fight is not so uncommon in these parts.

What remained was my birthday celebration at a Spanish bar, made all the more memorable cause I managed to knock to the ground the drink of a Spanish bike junkie.

It’s a good thing that our 4 day journey in Barcelona came to an end cause at the rate I was going, there was a good chance that I would’ve lost all my money, my belongings and my teeth. We then proceeded to Tenerife where sanity for the most part returned.

About 8 months later, in September 2007, I received a call from Deustche Bank, she said in her squeaky voice, ” Sir, just calling to confirm transaction of Rs. xxx- Euro transaction.” Say what?

I rushed home and took a look at my statement.

There in my statement, were a number of mini-transactions ,Autopista Del Sol, Autopostas Alimar SA..the list was never ending.


I was flabbergasted, even the Banking records showed that I had blocked my card. I spoke to my Bank and the risk manager informed me that apparently this was a new trend of frauds in Spain. Someone steals a credit card, he in turn sells it to folks who man the road toll-gate. The collector at the road toll-gate collects money from cars passing by, swipes the card in return and pockets the cash. Since all the transactions are below the floor level, they can even be executed on a blocked card. What was this? The great toll robbery?

What’s more is that since all these transactions were below the floor level ( 10Euros) none of them could be tracked, meaning that the toll collector could continue doing this until the card was physically taken away from him.

I went through the arduous process of filing a FIR, which the cops said they would accept only once they carried out their investigation (Without my credit card number, please note). Every subsequent month, my credit card bill would contain Spanish toll booth transactions and I would send an email to the Bank asking them to reverse the charges. Two months ago, the trend finally came to an end, either Mr.Futbol futbol got caught or his accomplice.

I couldn’t really care. There was no doubt in my mind – Barcelona might have been one of the most beautiful cities in the World, but it was going to be a long long time till I stepped in there again…

14 Responses to “Still Breathless in Barcelona”
  1. Sanna says:


  2. Pabreja says:

    Harrowing experience. I still dont get this floor concept – I mean I understand what you are saying – but why would a blocked card have a floor level below which it will operate – in the last 10 years I have blocked / cancelled atleast 10 credit cards because I have misplaced them – so they all could be misused under the floor level?

  3. Karna says:

    Huh what were you saying? Sorry, i was looking at the blonde

  4. Sidd says:

    Dude, I’m laughing, though I must admit it’s mostly at and not with you!

    P.S.: Trying to remember if I used my card at the Spanish autopista tollbooths.

    P.P.S.: Scanning bank statement for Spanish-sounding references.

  5. Sudhir says:

    Hi – Thanks Sanna.

    Interesting perhaps, not so if you’re the victim though 🙂

  6. Sudhir says:

    Pabreja – In Spain – I’m guessing yes. They all can 🙂

    As long as you don’t lose your card in Spain, it should be quite ok.

  7. Sudhir says:

    Hahahaha… Karuneeeeeesh. The Blonde is actually an integral part of the mystery.

  8. Sudhir says:

    Haha…Warrier. Apparently self deprecatory humor is completely in, works very well with the women–so I’ve heard. 🙂

  9. Sisto says:

    Nice post da …

    If I were you I’d look on the bright side … Atleast you got the credit card reward points.

  10. Too much. Just too much. Enough said.

  11. Sudhir says:

    Sistoooo… trust you to think like that.

    When there’s a fight on – look on the bright side, you can always make a dash for the Fried rice!

  12. Sudhir says:


    I know man – twas quite crazy. Maybe you should give it a shot on your next trip too.

    Kidding 🙂

  13. Sisto says:

    Absolutely machan … if only more people thought like that we’d have no issues with world peace!

    For all I know, you’re probably taking my case about the fried rice thing after having happily hogged it along with me.

  14. sudhirsyal says:

    Haha… yeah it was amazing.

    Also – please note the 2 day gap between replying to comments.

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