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Old 06-23-2012, 08:53 PM
Location: Bay View, Milwaukee
2,181 posts, read 4,203,378 times
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* In Rabat, Morocco, in the 80s, a friend and I had just checked into an inn and walked a few blocks away. Suddenly, we were accosted by police and summarily put into a paddywagon crammed with several locals. At the police station I used French with an officer to explain that my friend and I were just travellers, and he told us to go back to our hotel, get our passports (we only had copies, and the hotel kept the originals), and return. So, we left the station, and a block away we were accosted again and loaded into another paddywagon. Returned to the same police station, someone there drove us to our hotel, had us get our passports, and drove us back. Now, the officer cursorily inspected the passports, and let us go--provided we pledge allegiance to Allah and the Koran. And so we did, we were released, and enjoyed the rest of our stay in Rabat.

* There were some creepy encounters in Europe in the 80s: an old guy in La Coruña, Galicia, who groped me, chased me, and tried to coerce me into sex.... A security guard at a store in Madrid who supposedly suspected me of shoplifting, and ordered me to drop my pants for him so he could frisk me.... And a middle-aged guy on a train in Hamburg who bought beers for me, then tried to convince me to go home with him "to meet his mother."

* Also in the mid-80s: I was in a section of San Sebastián in Basque Country when a political riot suddenly occurred. I gathered with several people into a tiny ice cream shop while people outside threw bottles, overturned cars and sidewalk tables, etc. 15 minutes later, all was quiet.

* In the mid-80s I was with a friend in front of a church outside of Toledo, Spain, when several cars came our way. It was the Queen of Spain (Reina Sofía)--she was driving (!) but had bodyguards in the car with her and in the other cars, and they basically just made a U-turn in the church parking lot.

* In late June 1997 I went with a friend from Buffalo to Toronto for a day, and I wanted to show him the Royal York Hotel, which I was rather fond of. We entered through the bottom floor and thought it was odd that there was no one around, and then we ascended the staircase.... We found ourselves amid a throng of people waiting for Queen Elizabeth and the Prince to arrive. Of course, we stayed and moments later they appeared, but didn't linger. We had a close-up look because our entry took us right to the Queen's red-carpet walkway.

* There haven't been quite so many odd or uncomfortable experiences in recent travel, but last year in a small Albanian city my partner and I kept running into a specific old man out on the town who was very friendly and tried to communicate with us. It doesn't sound too unusual, but it really was.

* In Greece, as we turned a corner and found ourselves facing a rather sketchy-looking road, some guy came out of nowhere and told us, in English, to avoid that road. Then he was nowhere to be found.

* It was quite the trip to be in Madrid in 2008 when Spain won the European Football Championship. Demonstrations and protests are common occurrences and can be interesting enough, but to be in central Madrid when football wins a major victory is like being in the eye of a wild storm. A few people kissed me, and I have no idea who they were....

Last edited by Empidonax; 06-23-2012 at 09:23 PM..
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Old 06-24-2012, 12:17 PM
Location: Duluth, Minnesota, USA
7,653 posts, read 15,353,700 times
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I was in Tampa, Florida, on my last day of my research internship. I was due to fly back to Duluth that day. To celebrate, my Mexican friend and I were going to have a last lunch together. He, of course, had to invite his Mexican partner, her Spanish-speaking roommates, and a professor from their program, and in traditional rural Mexican style, was running 30 minutes late. We had to walk to another building a fair distance away to collect the others, and it was in a parking ramp we crossed that the warning siren went off and a recorded message played over loudspeakers. Not thinking much of it, we continued, got them, and waited at one of the shuttle bus stops for a shuttle bus. The campus was eerily deserted by this time. Around then I happened to pull out my cell phone and notice a text message from the University announcing that a gunman was running loose on campus. I joked with my friend's partner that the shelters were bulletproof. Right around then, an official van drove by and first told us to hide, and that they couldn't help us, but then a man, who was visiting campus to, ironically, consult on the campus's security procedures, got out of the van and brought us into a nearby building, and then to a place that was behind three or four locked doors.

By the time that the gunman was apprehended, we had absolutely no time to eat, and I rushed to my apartment to load up the taxi van that would take me to the airport just in time for my flight. After saying my final goodbyes to my fellow internees, the van brought us on time to the airport, and the first of my three flights began.

The first flight was to Chicago, which was perfectly uneventful and made pleasant by the fact that one of the audio channels fed to the headphones was a re-transmission of the pilot's radio. I listened interestingly as the pilot communicated with the different air traffic controls on the way from Tampa to Chicago, and always knew our approximate location, even without taking my GPS out.

In the Chicago airport (I can't remember whether it was Midway or O'Hare), I was a bit taken aback by the number of bars. It seemed like there were bars everywhere. I dined at a local Subway or something and made a comment about the high sales tax, which sparked an invective by the clerk, complaining that "everybody is leaving" because of it.

When I boarded my flight to Minneapolis the real action begun. Not too long after we lifted off the ground and while we were still over Chicago, a man yelled "The plane is turning around!" and screamed. He proceeded to make a ruckus and was summarily arrested by the air marshall and brought to the back of the plane to a holding compartment. The other passengers were shocked and a few were even so shook up that they began to cry. A woman or two were invited into first class. Wish I would have cried! Needless to say, I was a little bit worried throughout the flight and prayed for a safe arrival in Minneapolis. I was relieved to see the Twin Cities' skylines come into view.

(My third flight, to Duluth, went totally normal as usual)
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Old 06-24-2012, 06:21 PM
Location: North Dakota
7,749 posts, read 9,053,224 times
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I had two pickpocket attempts in Spain. The first night we were there a kid in La Rambla in Barcelona tried to steal out of my backpack. I could hear him unzip it and when I turned around he ran off. The second time was in Seville. A gypsy read my palm and tried to slip the camera off my wrist at the same time. A Good Samaritan from Britain warned me just in time.
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Old 06-25-2012, 05:50 PM
Location: ATL -> HOU -> DAL
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Reputation: 3491
Found about 15 bucks in quarters in a ziplock bag in a deserted gravel parking lot in New Mexico. Nice way to get money for a good meal!
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