The Saturday open market in Estremoz was crowded this weekend, with Christmas only a week away. I felt lucky when I managed to find a parking space in the square, and I wandered to the rows of vendors to browse their goods and see the annual Christmas market.

After only ten minutes or so, my phone rang; it was my friend Jackie, whom I planned to meet there. After her greeting, she said “Listen, I just got a phone call, and the police have your wallet.” Wait, what? I felt very confused, since I was sure I noticed my wallet when I stuffed the car keys in my purse. “They are at Maria’s,” Jackie continued, “are you near her shop?” Maria is the hairstylist at P’los Cabelos that Jackie introduced me to when I moved to Estremoz almost six months ago.

Christmas in EstremozYes, I was near her shop. Still confused, I looked in my purse for my missing wallet, which, of course, wasn’t there. “Why are the police at Maria’s? And how did they know to call you?” My confusion was increasing. “Don’t know!” Jackie replied. “I just know they called and have your wallet.”

I walked to Maria’s shop, a short distance from the market. Maria smiled and was able to explain with some interpreting, she didn’t have my wallet there, but the police found her business card and tracked her down. She wisely phoned Jackie to explain the situation. “You need to go to the police office.” Maria pulled up her phone map and showed me the place.

The station was only a five minute walk from Maria’s shop. On the way, I thought of possible scenarios: it must not have been a theft, otherwise the police wouldn’t have it. Or, maybe they would, maybe the money and credit cards were taken, and the wallet was discarded. Or maybe just the cash would be missing. That’s fine, I thought. I just hope my credit cards aren’t stolen, or my residency card or U.S. driver’s licence. I wondered how long this may take to resolve.

As I walked past the square, I heard the sirens of a firetruck and police car as they zoomed past me, an uncommon sight in the quiet town of Estremoz.

I found the station, and was pleased to find an open door with an officer at the desk. “Fala inlges?” I asked tentatively. Thankfully, yes, he spoke English. And yes, he knew about the wallet, but the officer with my wallet was in the square, where a car had caught fire, the explanation for the emergency sirens.

Spirit of Christmas in EstremozAs I walked back to the square, Jackie phoned again. “How did everything work out?” I explained and Jackie said she’d meet me there, near the smoking car. As I walked toward the police car, the young officer reached into the car and held up my wallet. He handed it to me with a smile, and as I thanked him, I took a look inside. All of the cash was there, my credit cards, my identification, nothing missing! He showed me a handwritten phone number and said something in Portuguese I didn’tunderstand. Just then, Jackie walked up and joined the conversation. She interpreted for me: that was the phone number of the person who found my wallet, the person I could thank for their honesty and kindness.

Jackie thanked him and told him we would go get a coffee – or whiskey! — to celebrate a good outcome. The officer told Jackie: “But she doesn’t drink whiskey.” Jackie said, “You’re right! She doesn’t drink any alcohol! How did you know?” “It’s police magic” the officer’s partner replied.

I’m not sure about that, but I am certain of the magic of Estremoz, and not just during Christmas season. Another reason to love this country, especially the slow-paced, unpretentious, honest and beautiful people in the heart of the Alentejo.


Thank you Marta Hoenig for this guest blog 🙏🏼
Photo credits: Josh Boot & Martha Dominguez de Gouveia via Unsplash

Write A Comment