Insider’s guide: Europe now

Europe has been in the news a lot lately for all the wrong reasons, but is it all really as bad as the media portrays? Tom Neal Tacker gives you the lowdown on Europe now.

Terrorism threats, refugee crises, economic meltdown and industrial strikes.

If you read or listen to the news, none of this is old. In our 24/7 continuous cycle of information overload, it’s all too easy for fear and trepidation to give us pause regarding travel, particularly to Europe.

I can report from the ground in Europe that the reality is different to what news services would have us imagine.

For the last five weeks I have travelled by train and bus from Amsterdam to Berlin, from Berlin to Dresden, Dresden to Cesky Krumlov via Prague, back to Prague, from Prague to Krakow, Krakow to Warsaw, Warsaw to Vienna, Vienna to Ljubljana, Ljubljana to Trieste, to Padua and finally to Rome.

berlin train 

One train (Katowice to Krakow, a regional commuter service), ran approximately 20 minutes late on a wet, cold mid-week day. Fellow commuters, mostly Poles returning home to work, though one Chinese couple from Chengdu who were ‘doing business’ in Poland, asked me in halting English if “this is right train to Krakow?”, was the single train journey I’ve taken that was delayed.

All the trains and buses were clean, fast running and efficient.

The train stations all look normal—for Europe this means: big cities, large noisy crowds or in smaller regional cities, quiet calm bustle.

Police and security presence is minimal, though evident. Uniformed officers patrol stations as in most other Western cities. Nothing unusual there.

Rome is boisterous as ever, its Termini Station is undergoing another facelift but everything functions as per usual.

termini station

Restaurants, cafes and bars are crowded, packed with merry-makers (if the establishment has a favourite reputation, it’s very crowded). Museums and galleries, stores, markets and parks are all places of popularity.

Indeed, the only singular peace I’ve found when not holed up in the personal space of a hotel room is in the higher reaches of some public parks I’ve explored. Ljubljana’s wonderful Tivoli Park is one example of this, spread across a huge area from a grassy plain to steep forested slopes, where I almost climbed to get a better view of the city but gave up because of rain.

This isn’t to ignore the realities of crime and terrorism. They both assuredly exist.

What I convey here is this message: the world is safer now than ever before.

News reporters’ jobs are to inform viewers, readers and listeners about what is happening around the world that is deemed ‘newsworthy’.

Fair enough. They get paid to report.

News services are mostly money making machines. Commercial news services earn income through subscriptions and advertising. It’s incumbent on them to fill air-time with stories.

Sadly, fear sells news.

While I wouldn’t say fear is altogether a chimera, it is exaggerated.

What I can verify firsthand is this:

People in Europe (as in many other parts of the world) live as you do.

They have families, homes, maybe they have kids or pets too.

Just like you.

They deal with threats of terrorism as you do, with some fear and trepidation, hesitation perhaps when deciding where to travel.

For the first time in living memory (since WW2), France and Italy both have seen a reduction in tourist numbers, largely due to perceived terrorism threats and refugee crises.

My advice is never let fear gain precedence over reality.

Imagination is a wonderful human quality; it blesses us with wonders while cursing us with hesitation.

Don’t let imagination rule out the reality of adventure where your imagination truly soars above amorphous threats.

Europe is brimming with cultural connections waiting to be made real.

If your roots are European (own up to your White Anglo-Saxon Protestant heritage), as mine are, Europe is home base.

If your roots are spread from somewhere else, lucky you! Europe is a melting pot of people from around the world, who’ve come here to find work, a home and their own connections.

What hasn’t changed is Europe as a general destination is open for business.


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World’s most dangerous countries
Is it safe to visit Italy?
Europe in full bloom

Written by Tom Neal Tacker

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