The new face of travel in the 21st century
Nowhere in the world is truly safe anymore; that’s the sobering reality of life in the 21st century. Like the Paris attacks last November, I learned about the recent events in Brussels through social media. Facebook is the new way of getting one’s news. Simply from seeing individuals’ profile pics sporting the flag of another country in solidarity, you know that something horrific and senseless has happened.
Just as the Paris attacks struck at the heart of normal, everyday life (a concert venue, a local restaurant), in a way the Brussels attacks struck at the heart of the institution of travel-the departures terminal of an airport. The place that thousands of people around the world pass through every day to get to their new destination. The place that with the exception of countries like Israel and Afghanistan has nothing to protect it against a heinous act of violence. (On a side note, I read a sobering article about security at Israel’s airports, in which visitors have to go through multiple security checkpoints before even arriving at the departures terminal.)
In 2010 Brussels was the first city I visited on my European trip (I’d also travel to Bruges, the Venice of the North with all of its beautiful canals, and Paris). While sure, Brussels lacked the outwardly stunning beauty of a setting like Bruges, it was still an immensely charming place to visit. That first moment when you step into the famed Grand Place is one of those travel moments you’ll always remember; the frites and gaufres (waffles) that are available on every corner allowing you to indulge whenever and wherever you wish. Even something as mundane as street signs I found neat to look at and photograph since they were listed in both French and Flemish, Belgium’s two official languages.
On our last day in Brussels, D and I decided to make the trek out to the Atomium. Originally constructed for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, this neat looking structure is over 334 feet tall (102 meters). As one traveler to another, I don’t recommend going. While I got a couple of photographs out of it (along with dismal gray skies, unfortunately), the inside was quite disappointing, the exhibits outdated. However, the real regret of going was that it took quite a bit of time to get there-a long ride on the metro and then a bit of a walk from the station, along with a flash mob of youths who made a portion of the ride quite uncomfortable for us with their slightly menacing behavior.
From the pictures you see of Brussels today since the attack, the city resembles a war zone. A major part of its airport is in shambles, soldiers with massive guns are patrolling its streets, and a general uneasiness has filled the air, not likely to dissipate anytime soon. But life must go on, and so must travel. Travel to this fascinating European capital and any other city in the world being threatened and inundated with ignorance, fear, and violence. For if we don’t, “they” win. And that can never happen.
Brussels, Paris, Ankara, Istanbul-the world is with you, now and forever.