Traveling in Europe During a Time of Uncertainty


Nikon D750 off the boat.

Wow, the trip is over already and I have visited three more European countries with eyes wide open. So much has happened in that part of the world while I was away too. The changes in the trip seemed so meaningless during this week of global uncertainty.

Nikon P510 by bus.

Sailing Cut Short

While we did not get more than two days sailing on the cruise ship, it was still quite an adventure. Some passengers were very pleased by what Grand Circle offered us as an alternative to our ship cruise with a number of days in five-star hotels, yet others complained incessantly at every opportunity for not getting the river trip they expected. Considering what happened in Europe this past week, disturbances to our cruise seemed quite trivial.


The Grand Circle contract does clearly state what happens in the event of disrupted travel where the company has the right to change travel plans at any time or for any reason – explicitly concerning water levels for boat travel like we experienced. The problem some faced was not being offered an option to return home.

Nikon P510

I had an opportunity to read the fine print while waiting in the airport in Amsterdam. While I did not see any references to what happens in the event of a world terror event, they do cover it in generalizations.


Nikon D750

Castle Photos

I was glad to see the amazing castle views, but sadly as a photographer, I was not very pleased with the photos taken from a fast moving bus on cloudy days. I hope you understand my photo dilemma. Window glare, blurred foreground motion, no telephoto lens, you get the picture. Contrast them to the D750 images taken from the BOAT, the type of images I was after!

Nikon P510 by bus.

At least we never faced those situations in Germany or the Netherlands.


Nikon P510 by bus.

People on Viking cruises had to leave France when the terrorist attacks occurred – after they arrived, or they made plans to sail to another country as tourist attractions and the airport were closed. When we visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the country participated in the moment of silence for the victims in the French attack. It was very moving.

While touring the museum, I have to admit a slight uneasiness knowing that other European countries might be in imminent danger as well. The museum was very crowded and seemed target prone. A funny thing I quickly noticed…


Nikon D750 on the boat.

The extremists did not really target the typical tourist draws…

instead looking to where people live, have a good time and feel safe to inflict maximum fear. Normal people doing everyday things. It is hard to feel safe anywhere in this time of uncertainty. Honestly, I don’t really care about their war between themselves, but their war against infidels. If the French enter this quagmire, it makes what, four nuclear nations involved? Governments deciding between life and death for millions.


Nikon D750

Another funny thing to notice…The day before the Paris attacks, suicide bombers struck in southern Beirut killing 43 people, and that same Friday a suicide bomber hit a funeral in Iraq, killing 21. The ISIS group claimed responsibility. It was reported by major media, but little interest resulted outside the region. We have become desensitized to places where such events seem to be a common occurrence.

While in the hotel in Amsterdam, we were watching CNN International and saw that Washington DC was warned by extremists threatening violence to us here. Our flight left Amsterdam for Washington, so it gave me pause.

As I sat on that very flight, I was listening to iTunes typing out this post. No internet on the plane though. “It is so sad what the world is coming to,” the only thought repeating in my mind.


Nikon P510 by bus.

On the trip last year to Eastern Europe, the news reported cruise ships were vulnerable to extremists booking rides to Turkey, then crossing into Syria by foot. Look what happened in a year’s time!

The refugees came by the hundreds of thousands.

Germany is expecting over one million by year’s end. How can any country screen this number of people? We got the news in Amsterdam that the passports were Syrian, at least one coming via Greece. Belgium was the country where the terrorists were based.


Nikon D750 on the boat.

Do we question the EU policy on accepting the large influx of people from these counties of conflict? I even read an editorial abroad stating that this may have been ISIS intent, to cause Western nations to fear all Muslims, thereby the Muslims fleeing this regime would feel unwelcome in nations where they were headed.

But you know…the real casualty of this war is the truth. We don’t know what is the right thing to do. You have to wonder if what is right is just staying out of this part of the world. Or is it just too late for that?


Nikon D750

It makes one wonder again what this world is coming to, and what future lies ahead for all of us on this small planet. I pray the world unites to bring the major religions under an umbrella of like-minded thinking to squash the extremists who commit these acts in the name of Islam. We should not have to cower or accept these brutal attacks of barbarism. We live in a world of reason, compassion, and civility (most of us anyway), yet in my opinion, these cold-blooded, fanatic believers are filled with nothing but extreme cruelty, rage and hate.

Our tour guide Thijmen, was from the Netherlands…

a very liberal country. So liberal in fact that sex and nudity is an open-minded topic or sight in some parts of Amsterdam. Plus pot is legal. His views on our country were a bit biased since visiting the US and seeing how we portray violence on TV. Violence of that nature would not be shown in their country. He talked on euthanasia also, sometimes an alternative in his country. To him, the US seems a bit backwards in its thinking.

So…what about what happened in France?

Being a young Dane of 30-something, Thijmen was a bit idealistic in his thinking on the refugees and the conflict in the Middle East. While we all can hope that dialog is the answer, I cannot believe that will ever solve the current state of world affairs. It can’t be negotiated, it can’t be ended by compromise. It is not like there is territory to divide or claim.


Nikon P510 by bus.

Thijmen mentioned that the EU should open talks with Turkey to help in settling the refugee problems facing the EU countries. The reasoning…the refugees will return to their own countries more easily, but it seems it is no picnic for them in Turkey either. Sounds like a reasonable plan for the EU to send funds to help both Turkey and the refugees, but if France teaches us anything, it is awfully hard to differentiate from those in need and those intent on death and destruction.

When traveling, you learn a lot…

about other countries and their citizens. I certainly can’t judge or even offer an informed position, but it seems counties around the world are leaning a bit more to the right. I think the US and Western European countries may start being a lot more intolerant of our tolerance or ambivalence to the way some want to exterminate us, thinking the opposition just a rag-tag group of small numbers. Even our friendly guide admitted leaning to the right in this regards.

Why was France targeted repeatedly?

He gave a talk on why France has been repeatedly targeted in his opinion. He said France was a colonial power that ruled much of the region of Syria and Lebanon for a century and these folks still harbored memories firmly established of French influence. The effects of that prior colonization led to the hatred today.

I have no idea of that history, but it seems to me the US and France now share in a war that will be difficult to know when and if it is ever over. If the Pope is right, we are headed to a Third World War which cannot be won. Pretty ironic to have castles, rivers and churches illustrate this post, don’t you say, considering what they represent with the churches’ past actions in all of this?


Nikon D750 by boat.

I guess you probably figured out by now that my flight was long, I was questioning everything, and I just could not stop writing. Anyway, I am home now, resting for a new, hopeful day tomorrow. My own internet connection… yahoo! Will catch up by Saturday I hope.

My health was a bit iffy the first week of travel, having my very own uncertainty. I see my cardiologist on Friday and have much to discuss. I hope the world gets fixed somehow! The news in France keeps on coming too.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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38 Responses to Traveling in Europe During a Time of Uncertainty

  1. swo8 says:

    Hi Donna, I’m so glad you are home safely. France is a target because of its colonial exploits in Northern Africa adnd the Middle East. They’ve had an ongoing battle with Algeria.
    I think much can be accomplished by dialogue. If they can bring peace to Ireland they can do it here. But you are right, it is truth that is the casualty here. We don’t know who to believe.

    • It really amazed me how long, through generations this hatred festered. Also how other countries influenced and built the animosity among nations. That is why it seems dialog will not matter – the indoctrinated have been conditioned to hate and they see no other avenue of existing peaceably with those they consider oppressors. The truth is never what it seems either – it is all with whom it originates.

  2. Welcome back, Donna and -to begin with- I hope all goes well with your doctor’s appointment.
    As for the world… I fear it is beyond fixing. Instead of seeking paths to peace and betterment, we choose conflict. As if centuries of lessons weren’t learned.
    Beautiful photos, my dear friend.
    Sending all my best wishes to you! 🙂

    • Thank you, Marina. I am hoping no more operations. I agree, the world is a broken place. Environment, civility, living side by side. The list is too long. The guide talked about the EU uniting to get one forceful army. He said then they could make a “fist” for all the world to fear. When the world’s people are in fear of one another – there is not much chance of turning back from that. Trust is lost. Belief in coexistence is lost. You are right, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” When will we ever learn?

  3. christie says:

    I returned from central Europe with my finale in Paris; on Monday before horrific event on Friday.
    Reflections on

  4. The most precious gift is the ability to take what ever life throws at you and making each moment special. It appears to me that’s exactly what you’ve done…I really enjoyed your photos, they touched so many special memories.

    • I found my health problems were a bit scary at first, limiting what I could do comfortably. I made one change and things settled down for the last week and a half. The boat would have helped greatly with this, but I made due. Thank you. I made the best of the photo ops too.

  5. Your photographs are lovely, Donna, even from a fast moving bus. The thoughts that you shared as you journey home bring the Paris horror so much closer for me. As you say, we just don’t know what the world has come to, but have to have hope for tomorrow. Glad you arrived home safely! Prayers coming your way for a satisfactory outcome to your cardiology appointment. Welcome home! P. x

    • Thanks much Pam. Coming home to those threats made it seem all that much more real. We were lucky to leave Germany for Amsterdam after hearing that a bomb threat was caught early at a soccer game in Hanover. Luckily it was a false alarm, but investigators found a suspicious suitcase inside or near the stadium and a second suspicious device at the city’s central train station. They determined, or at least surmised it may have been a test to see the reaction of police. We were not in Hanover (more north), but in mostly southern/western Germany, near the French border in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland then finally Hesse before busing off to Amsterdam. Some of the group went onto Belgium – one changing plans to return home. I really hope these attacks don’t make people afraid to travel. I remember myself not traveling by air for ten years after 911.

  6. rose says:

    I’m glad that you are home safely, and I hope that everything goes well with your cardiology appointment, Donna. I think we are all searching for answers these days, and they are not easy to come by. My heart goes out to the Syrian refugees who are fleeing from a horrific environment, but at the same time I think we have to be very careful about not letting in more terrorists by mistake. It’s hard to know how to handle this situation. It’s also interesting as you say that not until the Paris incident did we hear about the bombings in Beirut and Iraq.

    • Thank you Rose. I am glad you were in Passau. It was a most fascinating and beautiful place. My friend asked which town I enjoyed most and it was Passau. I too feel for the refugees, having spoken to some. It was hard conversing since few spoke English or German. They knew a few words as did I. But…I have to say I saw “gangs” of young Syrian men also. With bravado they marched down the street abreast, not moving for anyone. They were loud and scary. They had one restaurant in one town where they hung out like thugs. We had a home hosted meal and the family mentioned how the towns are getting 1/10 of their population in refugees. They do not know how to feed or shelter them. Food supplies are not enough for the residents and refugees. To me, this seems like it was planned. It happened far too quickly and was too organized by masses. Germans are also fearing this. They mentioned how some places are absorbing too many and fights have broken out. It will not be too long with winter coming that this hits a head.

  7. What a trip! You certainly visited in interesting times. I think that many people in the United States are generally fearful, and that’s not a good way to live. I think they’re scared of losing their jobs, scared of crime, scared of immigrants, scared of losing their status in society. Many of these fears are unfounded, but people are frightened just the same. It seems people around the world are scared, too. Instead of rushing to fight, I wish we would concentrate on a way to dissipate the fear.

    • Very true fear abounds, but the only way to dissipate the fear is to abolish the problem causing the fear. The Middle East culture is too different and the religion has become too warped by these fanatics to find any middle ground. Someone said, “There is no middle ground in war.” We have reached that point I am afraid. The Syrian Muslims I met were either afraid of me (women) or I was terrified of groups of them (men). I gave 2 Euros to help the Syrian refugees, but saw no one else in 30 minutes in Germany even look at the man by the table. It was sad. He was offering homemade jelly candy (very good by the way) even to those that did not contribute. It is sad it has come to this between cultures and peoples of differing backgrounds. I will never visit those countries and they have so much history and architecture to see. Experiencing their culture and foods would be of interest too. Not going to happen in my lifetime I am sure. Only a few years ago, Egypt became off limits to safe travel.This loss is frightening.

  8. Your observations are very much appreciated and I found them thought-provoking. What an end to your trip. Perhaps your fellow travelers continued to complain about the interrupted cruise because they didn’t know how to handle or process the much larger crisis that is uncomfortably close to all of us.

    • Thank you Carolyn. The French attack on the 13th may have influenced a few, but other people seemed genuinely concerned for their own affairs concerning the trip. The people who complained before the 13th also were still complaining after, making calls from the ship. I think it was assumed the squeaky wheel scenario would get results, and in a few cases we thought it did. But I can see your point. There are surely those individuals who could not process the magnitude of events.

  9. Denise says:

    Were there ever certain times? I think not. All we can ever do is be good and hope for the best.

  10. lula says:

    Donna, what a moment to travel through Europe! Here in Spain we see thing from very near, for geographical and similar social reasons, Spain is the southern gate from North African migrants to Europe, and there are fears, of course. Madrid suffered a very tragic terrorist attack on March 2004 with almost 200 dead by Al Qaeda members. There are many things to consider, history show us that the drawing of borders in Middle East at the beginning of XXth century by Europeans is part of the problem, therefore Syria and Lebanon present situations, or Iraq’s endless wars. Another issue is that now hyper connectivity let us know every single thing happening every second. My background in history studies have taught me that there is always a conflict in the world, but we weren’t aware the way we are now. It has its positive and negative sides. But the important thing is we need to maintain our believe in the world, people and our efforts to create a better world, we cannot give up.I like your use of river images for this post, I feel that life is a river. I am glad to hear to returned home safe and now is time to check on your health and relax a bit.

    • Thanks for your learned insight, Lula. I must admit to being shallow in this history. While we studied buildings through the ages, the history that created them has long been forgotten if we even learned it. I agree about the ease and speed of getting the information. Because of the speed, I bet so much gets lost in translation too. It is what I meant about truth. It is all in who’s telling the story. Spain is really in the midst of all this by location. I hope Spain does not get this round of attacks too. I am glad to have returned home. Thank you.

  11. Very thought-provoking. The attacks make me more inclined to visit Europe soon. As you say, you’re not really safe anywhere, and in my mind at least it is a form of quiet resistance to the killers. Plus I really want to see France again. Love all your photos of castles and rivers. Hope all goes well at your cardiologists’ appointment.

    • I was thinking about timing too. There are so many places to see and having these incidents randomly occurring makes traveling anywhere a crap shoot. Belgium just shut down a lot of Brussels. Thanks on my Dr. visit. I am back on a monitor while they decide what is the next step.

  12. Above all, you show the beauty of these free-spirited cities that have withstood many conflicts throughout history and which will continue to shine long after this terrorism has faded. Best of luck with your cardiology appointment also, I’ve been there and I know you’ll be fine. xx

    • It astounds me how some of these cities have rebuilt after being leveled. Do you think terrorism will fade? I think it will plague us for a very long time. What I have read, it only can be managed, not stopped.

  13. Kevin says:

    Beautiful photos. I think the past week has been a rollercoaster for all of us — I just posted some thoughts on my own process. Bottom line — I believe most people are good, most people want to celebrate life with laughter and food and pleasant company — and if we can honor what we all have in common, we could accomplish great things.

    • Thank you, Kevin. It only takes a small percentage of those not “good” to cause havoc, especially those that have little. With little to lose, the determination/conviction proportionally increases.

  14. Hope you now feel safe at home and it is a very distressing and confusing time. I travelled in Syria and Lebanon in the 1970s and the people were so hospitable. The tube bombings in London were homegrown terrorists with links of course. The ringleaders for Paris from Belgium. We have to address what creates such anger and brutality and find the criminals.It always worries me that there can be so much reaction, especially the media and very little reflection. However I hope we can be hopeful and find more long term solutions to create a more stable world. All the best to you and travel can sometimes throw up some tough situations.

    • I can believe you that the Syrians and Lebanese people are hospitable. Like was said in a comment in my newer post, “Not all Muslims are like this.” It only takes a handful to ruin it for the rest of them. It happens in the US too. It is probably why when I travel we hear what others think of us in the US. It is not because of us as individuals, but how our government portrays our way of thinking, whether we think that way or not. I was reading an article on where the terrorists are coming from (outside of Muslim countries) and to my surprise, Norway and Finland were on the list. Finland provided the highest number too. The group is like a cancer growing and spreading. Addressing the anger is logical, but in this case, we can’t get to the core of their religious issues. The anger is in our way of life. We are their problem. Stopping the brutality is a must, but how? The way nations approach a war does not work. Maybe they look in a different direction, like get the Muslims to police themselves. After all, the group is selectively killing Muslims as well.

      • Indeed it is very complex and have been on a course with Quakers this weekend in Birmingham. It is inspiring to listen to others about the small or not so small steps they take to create a more peaceful approach to the way we live our lives. I suppose I can not only hope but ask those in power that the response to this violence ensures a plan to create stability in troubled areas. Have just been speaking to a lovely elderly lady who went into garden design as part of her life journey. I thought of you and think that creating positive relationships with our environment is such a positive step. I appreciate the links we have.

        • Thanks for that insight. Quakers do have a peaceable religion. It is not a religion I guess as much as a way of life. While in Costa Rica all summer in 1994, we attended Quaker meetings. It was very enlightening. The community is rather large in Monteverde. Working with the environment is always a journey. Ups and downs, just like in life.

          • My children went to a Quaker school for a couple of years as teenagers. They are an interesting group and have had a big influence here in Tasmania. There is no chapel or preaching, the kids had a gathering once a week and simply sat quietly. This quietness and reflection is an important skill, I think. Something that needs to be learned and helps us understand life and cope with events, instead of rushing from one event or news item to another.

  15. That sounds a really interesting experience in Costa Rica. Will also read your latest post but will take a garden walk around these beautiful grounds of Woodbrooke while there still daylight. I hope your appointment and health issues are resolved soon too.

  16. debsgarden says:

    Welcome home! I also had the thought that western nations did not pay much attention when the violence was against those in middle eastern countries. Surely we realized the depravity of these people when they were burning people alive and beheading children? It is hard to reason with those who want you dead because of your way of life or because you don’t adhere to their particular brand of religion. Grim thoughts, but so much beauty on your trip!

    • Thanks Deb. Over in Europe, the news is pretty good at reporting events. But not as many pay attention to the countries where it happens so common-place. I agree. No reasoning with these extremists. They have their calling and we are the problem. That makes talking not an option. I am just glad there are so few of them (relatively speaking) at this time. It gives the world time to come together and squash them.

  17. Difficult times and difficult decisions which made for an interesting trip. Hoping all is well with your health Donna.

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