This morning I took the bike tour with Steph and Kathryn. It was fun riding around the city, and I enjoyed hanging out with the girls. The tour was informative to some extent as well. However, I didn’t think it was worth the €22.
Afterwards, Steph, Kathryn, and I walked back to the hostel. On the way, we passed a side street where I saw several clusters of men and women just standing around. It was still only midday, too early for the partygoers, so I wondered what was going on. I took a closer look. The women were dressed and acting quite provocatively. Yes. They were prostitutes. I had thought they only did their business at night. So I was wrong.
We returned to the hostel, and the girls decided to nap. It wasn’t such a bad idea. It seems that the “siesta” – afternoon nap – is a reality here. I thought it was only myth. However, most stores and businesses shut down during the afternoon, and the streets lie deserted. I indulged in this local custom as well and found my two-hour nap very refreshing. Afterwards I went for a walk around the neighborhood.
By and by I found myself at the the street where I had seen the prostitutes earlier. This time I walked right down the street. Most of the women stood leaning against the walls or standing in doorways on both sides of the street. I watched a man walking in the opposite direction down the sidewalk as one of the bigger girls (they came in all sizes, I noticed) slapped her arm against his stomach. He was caught off guard and stopped abruptly. She raised her eyebrows at him and asked him something. He stopped to talk to her. I was glad I was on the road and not on the sidewalk, even though I had the feeling all eyes were on me. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder, and a young woman appeared at my side. She was a petite, pale girl with blond hair down to her shoulder and light blue eyes. As she turned to face me, a police car passed by at the end of the street. She immediately took her hand off my shoulder and walked a few paces ahead of me. I continued to walk along. Once the car disappeared, she turned around to face me and grabbed my arm. I knew immediately what was up.
No, esta bein. “No, it’s Ok,” I told her.
“What?” she responded in English. “I just want to talk to you.”
She was still holding my arm. I stopped.
“Where are you from?” she asked me.
“New York,” I responded. I tried to get her to release my arm, but she held on tight. I was amused.
“Where are you from?” I asked her.
“Romania.” She pulled me to the sidewalk.
No, esta bien, I said again. No me gusta. “I don’t like it.”
“What don’t you like?” she feigned surprise.
No esta bien, I insisted.
“You’re so beautiful,” she crooned. “I love you.”
I laughed. This was definitely the fastest a girl had fallen in love with me.
“Thirty euros only,” she persisted, getting down to business.
No, gracias. “No, thanks,” I responded. No puedo. “I can’t.”
We were at the end of the street. She was still holding my arm.
Tengo que ir. “I have to go,” I said firmly. I pried her hand off and turned to go.
“Bye,” she murmured wistfully and returned the way she had come.
I continued my tour of the neighborhood and later in the evening I found that I had to pass through “Prostitute Street” again. I realized I was a bit nervous. I took a deep breath, looked straight ahead, and marched down the center of the road. I made sure not to make eye contact. This time I got a few suggestive hisses, but no one accosted me. I didn’t see the Romanian girl anywhere. For her sake, I hoped she had found work.