Diary of an Expat, Part 71
Corruption; seafood
One of the easiest ways to judge the worth of a city is to see how long it takes to get a cab.

Cities with functioning public transportation systems, I think, are also likely to be cities with high cab densities; these help to solve the last mile problem, and fill in areas where mass transit is impractical. More to the point a city where you can stick out your hand and immediately get a cab is a city in which cost-benefit analysis of car ownership is skewed even further again it.

Berlin ranks fairly well up there. My experiences with Berlin cabbies have been relatively though not universally positive (I still recall a cab driver who spoke only enough English to shout "today is a good day to die!"). London, also, and for that matter Helsinki — a city where, at my company's home office on the outskirts of town, the space of time between summoning a cab by phone and the cab's arrival is not always long enough to get your coat on first.

So. Barcelona.

Barcelona has a decent, if not staggeringly impressive, multimodal public transportation system with street cars, subways, busses, etc. The main thoroughfares are well-served and it's easy to get from the airport to downtown, and from downtown to other parts of the city, even without dipping into traffic, presuming that you're willing to put up with a bit of walking.

(Considering that it was snowing in Berlin when I left, the answer is "yes, you are" — Barcelona is a welcome, wonderful break this time of year)

However, Barcelona when Mobile World Congress is in town is a delightful, seething cauldron of corruption, so there is that, and I am a little irritated about that. Myself and a few coworkers split up into three groups of three, and each hailed a cab from the airport to the same hotel, via the same route. We had the same amount of luggage (one bag per person) and left at the same time.

One of the groups had a Spaniard. The other had an Indian, and an Indian cab driver. My group was able to communicate the address, but nothing further. I watched on my phone, and we took a direct route — I assume, at least, since all three groups arrived at the same time. The group with the Spaniard paid €24, as did the group with the Indian. The group with the blatant foreigners paid €41, which is, incidentally, complete and utter bullshit.

So thanks Barcelona, for getting my week off to a good start. At least the cabs are punctual and effective at getting you where you want to go. This is, I guess, the most basic mission of the taxi. Coming from the United States, though, which is a pretty noncorrupt country, and moving to Germany — a very non-corrupt country — it's always just a little bit irksome.

On the plus side they do have fantastic food. I really love Spanish food. It's... okay, in Berlin, but the paella is ridiculous here, and let's face it: the closer to the water you can get, the better the seafood.1

So my day is salvaged at the last moment.

1. Though for opaque reasons. As romantic as the thought is most of the seafood you get in port cities is, of course, not "fresh off the docks," because the likelihood that you want to eat the specific type of fish of the specific variety and quality that the fishermen have to offer is pretty low. A lot of seafood is shipped globally. It has been my experience, though, that port cities with a "seafood reputation" at least make the effort to make it decent, which is not what you'd get in, say, Topeka.
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