Cold weather, ice, snow and blizzard force winds continue to wreak havoc with those attempting to travel on the “Continent”, particularly those traveling in Eastern Europe. Section of the Danube River in Romania have been closed to traffic and other sections have frozen over for the first time in twenty-five years. See this detailed review at CNN for more information. These articles from the UPI and France24 provide details on various aspects of the continued weather troubles plaguing Europe.
Early today a gunman in Liege, Belgium attacked a bus stop with hand grenades and then began shooting with an automated rifle. The attacker took his own life, ending the terror on the streets of this popular town. Three were killed and 123 wounded or injured during the attack. The attack occurred at the Place St. Lambert, a hub for the city’s public transportation and the gateway for shopping within the city (including its seasonal Christmas Market). More details can be found at Reuters.
There is as of yet, no indication that this was anything other than the action of a deranged man with a history of violence and drug problems. Nevertheless, travelers should remain alert whenever traveling and be especially aware of their surroundings when visiting crowded shopping areas during holiday seasons.
Reuters reported today that a street crime wave has hit Brussels, Belgium, also known as Capital of Europe. There has been a marked increase of window bashing on parked cars to steal interior contents, as well as an uptick of street robberies, with some thieves showing guns during the crime. Note that the crime rate in Brussels is not all that high compared to other locations in Europe and around the world. However, the local police chief may have inflamed the situation when he pointed his finger at immigrants and drug addicts as the main source of the “crime wave.” See Reuters for the complete details.
If you will be traveling in downtown Brussels, exercise caution about where you travel and ask at your hotel about local crime and whether you should walk or have a taxi arranged to take you to your proposed destination.
Ever since Steven Spielberg began working on the movie the Secret of the Unicorn featuring Tintin, Belgium has become one of the focal points of the comic strip world. Visit Brussels, the official website of the city of Brussels has a page devoted to activities that will surround the grand opening of the movie, which premiers in the city. In addition, we were pleased to find that Brussels has a Comic Strip Center with exhibitions on various comic strips and comic characters, including the Smurfs.
If you are a Tintin fan, see our guide to the Best Places to Visit in Belgium, where we detail the Herge Museum (Herge was the creator of TinTin) that is located in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. In addition, you can find more details on the Comic Strip Center in Brussels on our page on the Best Places to Visit in Brussels.
The EUobserver is reporting that trade unions in Belgium are considering blocking all access to Brussels (roads and train stations) during the March 24th European summit of the European Union. The summit will be held in the building of the council of the European Union at the Rue del la Loi. See this article at the City of Brussels website for more details about the Safety Zone that will surround this area during the summit.
The plan for the strike has not been formalized and it may not occur. However, if you will be traveling in Belgium on or near the date mentioned, we urge you to pay close attention to local news sources and to avoid the area of the strike does take place.
Well, it appears that Europe is ablaze with strikes. On Monday there will be a train strike in Belgium that will impact the country and rail services to Belgium from other countries. See this article for more information. In addition, the BBC has a good description of the problem for the Eurostar from London to Brussels.
The countries of Europe are often attractive travel destinations in the autumn. The crowds of summer have departed, as have the high temperatures and uncomfortable humidity. The changing leaves add color, while the cooler temperatures seem to convey a vibrancy that is lacking during other seasons of the year.
Unfortunately, in 2010, autumn seems to be destined to be remembered for strikes. An article in EUbusiness indicates that “radical” Europeans want to force the nations of the European Union into depositing billions of euros with the EU Government in Brussels. In turn, these monies would be forfeitable by any country country that fails to tighten national spending as much as is required to move them back within the deficit spending levels required by EU law.
The first action for creating the deficit reduction plan will be considered on Wednesday in Brussels where it is expected to generate a protest strike of over 100,000 people. A similar protest will take place in Spain on the same day, with other demonstrations planned, but not yet scheduled, across the countries in the EU. Since most member states of the EU have broken through the deficit barrier and are attempting to cut public spending (including changing the retirement systems), it is likely that strikes by concerned citizens will plague EU countries for the rest of the year and, perhaps, beyond. In fact, solving the differences of opinion among member states concerning this issue will be crucial to the future of the European Union.
We recommend avoiding demonstrations or getting anywhere near strikes or gathered strikers. It’s not that we agree or disagree with their stand, it is just that when we are on a long deserved vacation we intend to enjoy it. It is our belief that the easiest and safest way to do that is to avoid all public demonstrations when you travel.
We have added a new attraction to our best places to visit in Belgium. It is the Musee Herge, which honors the work of the creator of the famous TinTin adventures. The new museum is open to the public starting June 2, 2009 and is in beautiful building located in the “university town” of Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, about thirty-kilometers southeast of Brussels. See our guide to the Best Places to Visit in Belgium for more details including a map showing the location of the new museum.