On the odd occasion, being a solo traveller isn't the ideal you dream it to be.
As any wanderluster knows, every now and again you can encounter a situation beyond your control, and that's what happened to me in Lisbon's Alfama district. Usually when I run into trouble overseas, it is through silly faults of my own (or misfortune); pick-pocketed in Istanbul, hospitalised in Berlin, luggage lost in Berlin, camera was stolen in Berlin (maybe I should avoid Berlin), however, this journey overseas whilst in Portugal, I encountered a close call and situation I had always been wary of.
My goal for the day was set on finding 'the street with all the graffiti', clearly a wealth of knowledge at the time, researching the name would have been handy, though due to how busy (possibly hungover) I had been because of the wedding, I decided to forgo planning and with nothing more than a vague idea of where the train station is in relation to Cafe A Brasileira, I travelled into the city by train with my best friends brother.
I was so freaked out that I ended up following them for around 10 minutes, although, as my luck tends to go, I had ended up in a part of São Miguel that had absolutely no people walking around. The couple has also observed that I had been behind them for a quite a while, I assume they thought I may have been a pickpocket and consequent to them checking over their shoulder for the 5th time, they quickly ducked inside a building. I tried speaking to them in English and they did not respond. It was at that point my internal organs jumped into my throat. Optimistic that I had managed to walk far enough away, or that he had given up, I turned around to see the man in the red jacket was 10 o so meters away, hands still in his pockets, increasing his speed, walking fast up behind me. Not knowing if he was going to attack or rob me, having no clear idea where I was and with anxiety sky high (wearing wedge heels on the cobblestone footpaths) I took off as fast as I possibly could, running away, ducking left and right down narrow, cobblestone back streets in order to confuse and lose him. I managed get away, although, in the process, I was completely lost.
The narrow, secluded streets in Lisbons Old Quarter. (Alfama District)
In the end, an hour later and with the help of a pair of British backpackers, I finally managed my way back to the square, eyes set on McDonald's to catch my breath and leech off their WiFi to contact my best friend. I ended up leaving Lisbon that day without seeing what I wanted to. People have asked me "why didn't you draw attention to yourself", "why didn't you scream?", "why didn't you take a photo of him?"... I felt as though taking a photo of him would have been too obvious, the man had his hands in his pockets the entire time and easily could have been concealing a knife or a gun; plus screaming (most likely) isn't going to help me or anyone assisting me if there is a gun involved.
Lisbon is a gorgeous city that I will be returning to time and again, I just won't be so daft as to walk around the back streets (of any city) alone and carrying so much crap on me. Portugal has a relatively low rate of violent crime, however, low-level street crime is common in Lisbon and the central, touristy districts of Alfama, Baixa, Bairro Alto and Belém are all hotspots.
Later in the evening at dinner, adding to the events of the day, I discovered that my best friends brother had ended up finding the street art location I had been looking for, stumbling across quite a bit of art throughout his wander through the city. Armed with his vague, yet, correct directions I planned my return for the following day, heading north this time and not south-east. It pays to do the planning, yourself.
by NATALIE MARIE
An Aussie girls guide to
Europe and beyond.
Sharing my love of travel, photography, fashion,
street art and music.
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