BEWARE AROUND CATHEDRAL, Granada
I was approaching the cathedral when I became aware of someone very close behind me. When I turned there were two young women very close and right behind me holding city maps open in front of them. They did not meet my eyes and moved away so although I was suspicious, I thought maybe they just got a bit too close because they were busy looking at their maps. About 20 minutes later approaching a nearby Plaza, I turned again to see the same young women right behind me again with their open maps. I realised they were the same girls and I checked my backpack and found it open. I then realised that one of my purses was missing - one I was keeping loose coins in. There was about 12 euros only in it and nothing else, so I was lucky. The girls had disappeared by the time I realised the purse was missing. We then looked in a bin further along the road and we found the purse - empty of coins, also another purse with a car key and a computer flash drive in it, which we handed to the police. I was pleased to get the purse back but very annoyed to have been targeted. I had the backpack on my back and they had to pull the zip round to get inside. I think they used the open maps to cover their hands while they were trying to get access to the bag. I felt nothing !
I have a photo of the pickpocketers on my camera !!! Any ideas what I can do with it ??
Er - not really - in fact, as pestering goes it's pretty mild. Just smile sweetly, gently offer the rosemary they have pressed upon you back and claim that, despite being festooned by expensive gadgetry or other touristic bling, that you 'No tengo dinero'. If you speak any Spanish (or don't but want to practice), try striking up a friendly conversation - they soon get bored and try to escape your charms.
I had a bit of a scare as I was entering the gate to go along the side of the Cathedal. A gypsy woman immediately came up to me and grabbed my left hand, then asked if i spoke spanish. I said (now realising this was a trap) that no, only English (hoping to discourage her), and I don't understand a thing (which is not true), while trying to pull back my hand. I couldn't as she held it in a really tight grip. She said to open my hand palm up, that she was doing this because i was a nice girl, and she sees a bright future for me, blah blah. It was impossible to pull back, so I let her finish. She then handed me a sprig of rosemary, saying it's good for me, it's a gift blah blah. Then she said I needed to give something back for the gift (my hand still in her grip), i said, ok ok, -- what could i do, my wrist was already hurting in her iron clamp, but i signalled i needed my left hand to open my purse. I took out 1 euro, but she said, no, she needed more! I said no, that's it, and turned to go. I walked away as fast as I could.
I was an easy prey for these women (i saw there were several of them making the rounds, checking out likely victims) as i was alone, obviously a tourist (with a camera around my neck), a woman, and the fact that tourists would likely feel a bit lost entering that gate, as the church's orientation is a bit confusing being hemmed in by buildings, and if one was looking for the church entrance, a few seconds of disorientation was enough for these women to snatch your hand.
When entering this gate, just walk as fast as you can, don't stop to linger!
Take some rosemary with you and try selling it to the gypsies!! It works every time, they try walking away from you but if you are persistent they will try to give you a few cents. Once you know where they keep their money you can nick it
and then leg it down one of the back alleys of the Albaicin On a more serious note one of them did once cure me of cynicism but alas it was short lived and in a matter of hours I was even more scathing than before.
So let's back up in my story. While I'm getting the Muslim guy to write my kids' names in Arabic, my husband is shooting photos of the cathedral. He finally stops what he's doing and sees the gypsy woman doing a chant and holding a sprig of rosemary to our son's forehead. Concerned that she might be putting a curse on him, my husband tried to intervene with no success.
So now fast forward to where my son is asking me to pay 5 eurodollars to the gypsy lady for the sprig of rosemary. I said "No way", which immediately caused the gypsy lady to become agitated and spew forth a few angry gypsy expletives, and then pretty fluent English. She said, "Look, I am poor. I have no money. I need 5 Euros."
Putting my negotiation skills to work, I said, "Look, I am not paying 5 euros for a twig, but I'll give you this," and I pulled out a coin that had a 20 on it. What are those, anyway - 20 eurocents?
At this point, she was deeply insulted and became livid. This approach usually works well on me in my professional life, too, so I immediately pulled out another 20 eurocent piece and offered that as well.
By now she was yelling and screaming. We were uncertain what kinds of horrible curses she was heaping upon us, but we knew they were not good. At this point, I just wanted to leave with my Arabic names and get the hell out of there.
But then, by some stroke of luck - not good for me - coins started falling on the ground out of my coin purse right next to the gypsy lady's feet. By the time I could stop this flood of money spilling out onto the pavement, a total of 8 eurodollars had spilled out onto the pavement right next to the gypsy woman's feet.
Convinced at that point she had some kind of magical powers, and not wanting to be the recipient of an evil eye, I said "Oh all right! Here, take them all!"
Lesson learned - you can't turn your back on your kids for ONE MINUTE - even when they are 18 years old.
We wanted to visit the interior of the beautiful Granada Cathedral, but it was closed for the afternoon until 4:30 pm and we weren't planning on hanging around that long. So, I did the next best thing and asked the Muslim guy sitting near the entrance to write my kids' names in Arabic for them on a fancy piece of paper. Unbeknownst to me, my son was being accosted behind my back.
The Muslim guy finished his scribe duties, and I was getting ready to pay him. My son (a big 6 foot 3, and apparently penniless 18 year old) came up to me with a sprig of rosemary in his hand and said, "Mom, I need 5 eurodollars for this."
I said, "What? No way! We can just go out and pick this stuff in our back yard. I'm not paying for that!"
He said, "Mom, you don't understand. This gypsy lady is insisting," and immediately an angry gypsy woman appears from out of nowhere, hand extended, and demanding 5 eurodollars from me.
At this point I need to back up in my story, so please go on to the next tip. The saga continues...
Yes, everyone else has mentioned these ladies, so thought I'd add my twopennyworth!
I encountered them around the Cathedral area. Well I was well warned after reading other VTers experiences, so I was prepared!
I was approached by my first rosemary wielding lady, but I just said no and carried on with no problem. I spent quite a bit of time during my 2 days passing through this area, and although I was approached each time, didn't feel threatened. I did see a Spanish looking man get rougher treatment though, as one of these ladies grabbed his arm and appeared to be hurling some abuse/curses at him (but I don't know if he'd said something offensive to her first)
As someone else mentioned, most of the ladies look similar ie certain age, dark hair, aprons, skirts and T-shirt. However, I did spot a younger, thinner woman with blonde (bleached) hair in t-shirt and jeans wielding rosemary bunches too!
Has anyone ever purchased their proferred herb?
If you go near the Cathedral for a walk, don't pay attention to these gipsy fortune tellers. They will read your fortune in your hands lines if you let them.
After that you are supposed to pay them "as much as you want" ("la voluntad"), but no matter how U give them they always want much more!!!! If you decide to do it, pay them no more than 1-2 euros. Be carefull, their husbands or brothers are nearby and can make a scandal around you because you do not pay what they scream.
In the area surrounding the Cathedral, you are likely to be approached by gypsy women trying to foist sprigs of rosemary into your hands. I think the scam is supposed to be that once you accept it that they expect you to give them money for it but it's also been reported that they are looking to see where you are storing your money with the intent of relieving you of it later. In any event, don't take the rosemary, don't give them change and keep an eye on your valuables when you see them around.
What I really want to know, however, is who dreams up these scams? Like, I'm walking down the street and I need rosemary for what? To cook with later? Actually, I think I read somewhere that it's supposed to bring you good luck....
If you are in the vicinity of the Cathedral in Granada be aware of the ladies who try to get you to take their offering of the herb, Rosemary. These women will pester you to take it and then want you to give them money. Under no circumstances should you feel obligated to give them money; once they have got you to open your wallet or purse they will not leave you alone begging for more money or even lifting your wallet or change purse if you are not careful. Do not fall victim to their ploys.
One woman was so persistant that I take the rosemary and then I noticed she had her hand on my fanny pack fortunately it is a security pack and is not easily lifted) I sent her packing with a very strong "Vamanos!" (Go away) and you should consider doing the same.
Around the cathedral area (where you'll find mainly tourists) you are sure to be stopped by gypsy women peddling lavender. They will thrust it in your chest and even threaten to curse you. They are easy to spot: They are all short plump women with long dark hair and many wear aprons (this is not a generalisation). Oh, and of course they brandish lavender! Don't worry they are not dangerous and only want to make money (whether you approve of their methods or not). If you don't want lavender or to give them money DON't make eye contact with them as you walk past. If they say anything to you just say 'no gracias' politely and walk away. DON'T make any more conversation with them, but DON'T be rude.
They are annoying, but it's a fact of life in Granada and you have to deal with it the best you can. Don't ever feel intimidated they won't do anything bad. I personally don't like lavender thrust at me and have learnt to side step them. Keep an eye out for them and walk as far away from them as possible.
I hope this helps.
This is no worse than around any other big cathedral in Spain, but do watch out for gypsey women trying to put sprigs of rosemary in your hand.. its a trick to get money our of you.. There are pickpockets also.. use the usual precautions.
If people suddenly come up to you, starting to read your palm, just leave. Don't talk to them. They'll tell you a few things about your future and demand money from you, and they get mad and threaten you if you don't pay. This happened to me and scared me quite a bit. Luckily I was helped by a friendly tourist, but my friend payed them more than 10 dollars...
You'll see lot of them (in the cathedral area and in the Alhambra area). They'll want to read the palm of your hand or give you a rosemay branch. When you see them just look to other side and keep walking. Don't say nothing to them, ignore them and keep walking. Otherwise they'll start talking to you and will be difficult to get rid of them.
Throughout Spain I was warned of the gypsies and there were two warnings. They are either going to try and sell you flowers as you can see in the picture or they are going to try and pick pocket you!!
These warnings are most likely well deserved but in my experience I saw very few gypsies. Maybe it was the time of year? For me a simple No Gracias got me on my way but a little extra caution will most likely go a long way!