Sunday, May 26, 2013

Travelling Alone In Spain

Barcelona, Spain
I wasn't doing anything towards the end of 2009, so I bought a ticket for Barcelona, making a reservation in a private lodging with two Russian girls who were studying Spanish.  I thought I'd save on costs but it cost me 40 pounds per night for a 5' x 10' hide y-hole. I may well have lodged at the local lock-up for the room, and at least I'd have been served breakfast in the morning. 

I lugged my bag up three flights of stairs only to find that my room was the size of a broom closet, with enough room for only a bed.  One of the girls came in and slammed her bedroom door every time I saw her and I couldn't tell if she was smirking or smiling as she rushed by. The other girl I had contacted about the room talked my ear off for two nights, with the nasally tone of Fran Dreisher from The Nanny Show.  The kitchen was the size of a postage stamp.  To show my appreciation, I bought some wine for her my last night there and I started to talk and didn't let up, gnawing to the bone every subject I tore into and then pawed and gnawed it all over again from top to bottom.  She sat slack-jawed, probably amazed at how much I could talk. For the three days I was there she never asked me where I was from, which was pretty amazing.  

Anyway, the whole time in Barcelona not ONE person said hello to me on the street, it was such a huge difference after just being in Jordan where people welcome you constantly. I wouldn't complain so much except that I went to the bus station to get a schedule and even though my Spanish isn't perfect I can get by. When I asked about tickets, this woman looked at me from behind the booth and just waved me away from the window as if I were a fly and said 'no entiendo.' She didn't even try to understand what I was saying.  How can you miss with por favor, yo quiero un billetta una via por Valencia? Not perfect, but hardly indecipherable. So she blew me off and went back to picking her nose and I went to another window and I started with por favor blah blah blah and dude also waved his hand  'no entiendo' and shut his wicket.  By this time I was pissed.  'Okay,' I said, 'no entiendo this buddy.  Go fuck yourself.'  I guess I was in meltdown.  This was just after going into a music store to try out some accordions and the woman looked me up and down like I was a filthy vagrant who'd stumbled in after a piss-up (and I wasn't even wearing my thorny jeans) and before I was even out of the store she sprang to action wiping the accordion down with a cloth, as if I'd bled all over it.

I wandered around for two days visiting Picasso's museum, restaurants and shops, but I started to get depressed with an overwhelming sense of gloom. Now I know my Spanish is not perfect and I know that they're probably more fluent in Catalan, but I found the people to be brusque, even rude. The final thing for me was when I went to the train station to get tickets and the fellow behind the counter just stonewalled me when I asked him some questions, again about the schedule. He waved me off and turned away and I screeched  'What's with the hostility tourists get around here!'  You get the picture. Did they think I was American, or was that just the way they were?  What was telling was that night I was sitting in a small cafe by myself and the fellow beside me talked to me! He asked how I liked Barcelona and I said that although the city was amazing, the people were kind of cold. I didn't want to be too critical. He said, quote: 'Catalans just like Catalans.' I don't remember where he was from, somewhere in Spain, but that just about summed up my experience.
Say what you want about the Catalans, Barcelona is an amazing city.

streets of Barcelonastreets of Barcelona