Not “developing” Asia or impoverished Africa, it’s European capitals that feature on TripAdvisor’s list of 10 places to be most wary of pickpockets. While the list obviously reflects the travel predilections of the website’s reader/contributor community, it still makes for enlightening reading—and may possibly save you euros and much agony the next time you’re soaking in the sights in Barcelona or Rome.
Friendly warning: In Buenos Aires, Argentina, be wary of those overeager to help.
• Las Ramblas, Barcelona, Spain: A reviewer actually compared pickpocketing on the jampacked walkway to an accepted sport, such as soccer.
• Rome, Italy: The plethora of outdoor art and ancient buildings makes it incredibly easy for smooth operators to use their scissors or work their magic on bag zippers.
• Prague, Czech Republic: The famously beautiful Charles Bridge is lined with 30 baroque-style statues, thousands of tourists and, possibly, scores of pickpockets.
• Madrid, Spain: El Rastro flea market and the crowded metro are often cited as spots where pickpockets have an almost free run. Crowded museums are another favourite spot.
• Paris, France: From the Eiffel Tower to the steps of Sacré-Coeur and the underground Metro system, anywhere the crowds congregate, the pickpockets will too.
• Florence, Italy: Distractions abound here, from Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia to its replica at the Piazza della Signoria. Unfortunately, so do pickpockets.
• Buenos Aires, Argentina: Not stealthy stealing, beware of over-friendly locals who use mustard to fake bird-droppings on your clothes, and then offer to clean it up.
• Amsterdam, Netherlands: Fall for the canals and the friendly, laid-back atmosphere at your own risk: Pickpockets have been known to take advantage of countless tourists in this enchanting city.
• Athens, Greece: Countless ancient monuments make it a perfect destination not only for tourists but also sticky-fingered thieves.
• Hanoi, Vietnam: The charming Old Quarter is packed with monuments and colonial architecture. The city also features 600 temples and pagodas. All of these make for a perfect hunting ground for pickpockets.
To avoid getting your pocket picked, TripAdvisor suggests:
1. Never keep your wallet or valuables in your rear pocket. It’s by far the easiest target.
2. Beware of being distracted by a dropped hanky or money, or a mark on your clothes. If you lose focus, you can lose your belongings.
3. Pickpockets often work in pairs or groups. Be cautious with all strangers, including children or the elderly.
4. Stay alert in confined spaces and near passageways. Try to avoid standing near the doorways of trains as groups of pickpockets can rush at you when the doors open.
5. Before you set off on a trip, pare down the contents of your purse or wallet. The smaller the bulge, the less likely pickpockets are to covet it.
Not quite by the book
You’ve read the book, now you want to see for yourself all the Washington, DC landmarks Dan Brown mentions in The Lost Symbol. Well, you’re not alone; nor is this the only best-seller to trigger such a desire. Ahead of the launch of the book, the District of Columbia began running a series of ads, luring the legions of fans to explore the capital’s “secret side”. Many of the sites mentioned in The Lost Symbol, however, are not secret at all: From the United States Capitol (also home to the Statuary Hall and the Apotheosis of Washington fresco) to the Library of Congress Reading Room, the National Gallery of Art, Freedom Plaza and, finally, the Washington National Cathedral and the Washington Monument, a number of them feature on every tourist’s to-do list.
Literally: Steig Larsson’s Stockholm comes alive in a museum-organized book tour.
It’s a tactic Brown fine-tuned in The Da Vinci Code, which criss-crossed Europe, from Scotland to France, and had guides facing questions on the number of glass panes in the Louvre pyramid and tourists looking for the 135 bronze discs that supposedly marked the Paris Meridien.
With the 1 October release of The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, the English translation of the last volume of Steig Larsson’s blockbuster Millennium trilogy, some of the action now shifts to Sweden. The Stockholm City Museum has launched a 2-hour Millennium Tour, which covers the locations for protagonist Mikael Blomkvist’s home, the offices of the fictional Millennium magazine, the luxurious home of the entrancing Lisbeth Salander, et al, in Södermalm, in the southern part of the inner city. The guided tour also covers the places where the first book was filmed; it released in Sweden in February and a Hollywood version is rumoured to be on the cards.
The tour, available Sundays at 11am through May 2010, costs SEK100 (around Rs665). A cheaper option is a DIY tour: Arm yourself with the Millennium map, available in English at the museum for SEK40, and hit the road. To book a guided tour, contact the museum on 0468-50831659 or send an email to email@example.com