Is Europe Safe?
I never saw thought I’d see the day when my family (ever supportive yet a little worried about me on my travels) would actually encourage me to completely skip the European leg of my return journey from India and tell me to instead head straight to the relative safety of Latin America but it seems that day has indeed arrived!
Regular readers of my blog will know that I have been travelling in India and Nepal for the past 3 months. I aim to leave India in a month or so and rather than take a direct flight back to England, I want to try and visit some of the other countries en route rather than merely fly over them whilst watching James Bond movies. My rough plan is to take a flight from Delhi to Jordan, cross into Israel and then get a flight to Turkey. From there I would sail to Lesbos and Italy before making for Paris by coach. My intention was to arrive at Calais to see if the post-Brexit door’s have been sealed shut on the channel tunnel just yet. Sounds good yes?7
However, since I have been away it seems all manner of chaos has broken out in Europe. Turkey recently saw a failed coup attempt which resulted in over 1000 deaths deaths, a police crackdown and may yet result the European largest genocide since the Balkan Wars if President Erdogan cannot be talked down from his promises to “purge” the military. Of course, notwithstanding its own internal conflicts, Turkey has been the victim of several Islamic State linked terrorists in the last 12 months both of which appeared to be targeted at Western tourists.
There have been stabbings and shootings in Germany and France which Islamic State has also claimed responsibility for and even some church services are now been held under armed police guard. Whilst the UEFA European Championships passed off without incident I have learned today that the Eiffel Tower, perhaps the most famous symbol of French Nationalism (other than the Statue Of Liberty…) is apparently under threat!
I last toured Europe 2 years ago whilst Inter-railing. The situation then could not have been more different, the atmosphere was relaxed and gentile and whist I saw armed police in airports, there was no hint of menace in the air whatsoever. I don’t think my family were worried about me in the slightest not even when I arrived in Transylvania where I could have been easy fodder for it’s booming vampire population.
But of course, since then we have had the horrific escalation of the Syrian War and the consequent spread of Islamic State. The world has changed in the last 2 years and in particular, Europe has changed.
A Person Isn’t Safe Anywhere These Days
Now when I tell my friends and family of my European tour plans, the advice (the plea even!) is to just forget it and come straight back to England. What is particularly interesting is that I have made it clear that my return to England will be a mere pit stop to see my loved ones, buy some new equipment and eat some proper Indian food, before I head out to Venezuela. It seems that my family are now happier with the idea of me heading to crime and chaos riddled Venezuela (the “most dangerous country on earth” and my personal favourite) than they are with me passing through Europe!
This all of course begs the question of whether Europe is safe for tourism this summer. In the wake of the Bataclan Massacre, Paris has certainly seen a decline in visitor numbers this year just as Tunisia and Egypt did in the last few years following similar terrorist atrocities. Therefore it seems clear that many holidaymakers certainly believe that no, Europe is not safe right now.
This is understandable emotionally yet quite illogical. Statistics show that you are still very unlikely to be killed by a terrorist and remain far more likely to killed in a plane crash, by a mosquito disease or by drowning in the sea and yet these constant dangers don’t ever detour would he holidaymakers do they now?
From my point of view Venezuela remains far more dangerous than Europe and I remain more likely to be robbed, kidnapped or shot dead whilst there than be killed by a terrorist in Europe. On the other hand, the average latin american hoodlum is only after the dollars in your wallet and will be satisfied with that whereas a terrorist wants your life and that is what scares people I guess; the indiscriminate, random murder spree that can now seemingly spring up in any mainland European destination.
Pull Up The Drawbridge?
Back home, I read with interest that domestic tourism to London seems unaffected even though the capital and indeed entire nation remains on high alert. Perhaps the mentality is that the danger is “out there” and we have the safety of the English channel, which protected us for 1000 years, to prevent weapons and terrorists infiltrating the country. Maybe the bloodshed in Europe even helped to create a “bolt up the fortress doors” mentality that swayed Brexit voters to choose to leave the European Union. If it did then it is also illogical as it overlooks the fact that most of the Bataclan terrorists were EU nationals just as the London 7/7 bombers were British citizens.
In case you was wondering, I have no intention of changing my European plans. I don’t think I am an especially brave person I am just hoping that I will be one of the many lucky statistics. Besides that, I know that few things in life are to be feared as much as rainy British summer time.