Due to the rise of terror attacks throughout Europe in recent years, the European tourism landscape has changed drastically making it less inviting and harsher to the traveler. Drastic measures are taken to ensure the safety of tourists and citizens, but in doing so the romance of history has been ruined. It seems little choice but to position the military at landmarks and museums in most European cities. At first it’s confrontational, there are military personnel walking around inches away from you with machine guns at the ready, then it becomes the norm.
Once you get past the strange feeling of having people walking past you holding machine guns, your awareness of such a strong military presence doesn’t diminish but you do normalise to it.
With the recent attacks in Barcelona and the spade of attacks that have gripped Europe and the UK in recent months, military presence in tourist destinations has proven to be a necessity.
I was in Brussels in June and as I was exiting my hotel room, 3 heavily armed personnel walked past me. To say my heart stopped for a moment is an understatement. At first I was startled as to why there were 3 armed army officers in my hotel- your first instinct is a terror attack. Then I was advised by a friend that resides in the city that the hotel I was staying at was a base for the military and also offered them use of their amenities.
Should we ever get used to this? Unfortunately we have had no choice. I would have to argue that whilst I don’t like it (as many would agree), there is no choice but to take drastic measures to try and ensure that citizens and travellers are as safe as possible. Passing through scanners, bag searches and other security checks are mandatory at nearly every historical site or museum through out Europe and the world these days.
Because of the military presence many terror attempts have been foiled or deterred. For instance the attempt at blowing up the train station in Brussels Central in late June of this year may not have been foiled had the military not been present at the time, as have many other attempts in major cities.
These are difficult times and as such being a traveler it has meant that we have had to adapt to a vastly changing landscape. Unfortunately because of this it has meant that the romance and wonder you felt at landmarks such as the Eifel Tower and the Colosseum have diminished, and that feeling of being lost in a world of imagination has been replaced by the harsh reality of this new world.