Posted by: facetothewind | September 15, 2015

The European Invasion

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There’s definitely an anti-immigrant sentiment brewing here in Europe. I saw 3 of these stickers in Belgium. Although I don’t have much reason to appreciate Islam for its extreme views on women and gays, I tore the signs off and threw them in the trash. To me this is the same as “Kein Jude” in Nazi Germany. This kind of harsh swipe is not necessary. But, Europe has some major challenges ahead as its hard-won progressive values are clashing with Islam.

After the QM2 crossing it was on to London to meet up with John Johnson and then onward to “the Continent.” Bruges, Belgium — which is all about chocolate, beer, and mussels — was the first stop. So I indulged in all of them…

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But Bruges also feels like a place that has been discovered by the Chinese tour groups, something one has to take into account before considering visiting a place now. Bruges has for decades been swamped with tourists, just like Paris, Venice, Barcelona, or any of the major tourist attractions of Europe. Before the Chinese arrived they were ridiculously crowded. Now adding the millions of Chinese who travel in large groups, these places are unbearably crowded.

I can’t blame them for wanting to see these places — they didn’t become tourist attractions for being boring places. They are extraordinary and we all should see them. But the “we all” has gotten to be too many. People of Barcelona have already spoken and said the benefits of tourism are not worth the hassle. I personally feel like I’m visiting these places for the last time as the world’s traveling population has now exceeded the numbers that make visiting these historic places pleasant. It’s sad that the world has reached a critical point in its population such that quiet enjoyment of a place is getting harder to find. And I know we’ve not seen anything yet. With this mass exodus from Syria, it seems that Europe is coming unglued. I want to hunker down somewhere far away.

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Bruges is one of those places that was once quiet and breathtakingly beautiful. I was here 31 years ago. It was sleepy in October, 1984. At age 19, I recall lonely walks up the cobblestone streets in search of mussels and French onion soup with the sound of horses clippity clopping and bells ringing from the tower. The smell of mussels and soup still fill the winding streets, but so do the tourists and the clippity clop of thousands of feet and the herding of groups to their idling buses. The tower now plays a cheesy version of Beethoven’s 9th over and over and everywhere is the site of people doing selfies with selfie sticks with the fingers in the air doing the V (for what?) or to pinch the little statues in the background. Somehow it spoils the place. And the locals told me there is never a low season for them. It’s packed all year long. Mark my words: there will come a time when you will have to make a reservation and buy a ticket to visit a place much as you do Disneyworld…2 for Venice, please.

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John and I had a day when there seemed to be no cruise ships or major tour buses plying the town. The next day it all hit. We had to shimmy alongside thousands of people exiting a cloister. I left out the annoyingly crowded parts in my photos — I want to remember Bruges as a sleepy medieval town before cell phones and selfie sticks.

Here’s the rough cut video of the trip arriving by ship in Southampton, England and then on to Oxford, London and then the Eurostar to Bruges, Belgium…

And here’s a photo collage of Bruges and London mixed in together…

Next stop: Amsterdam

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Responses

  1. Yes, the touristed hordes have taken over. My favorites have always been the people who don’t actually see what they’re supposedly looking at — they just show up, pose, snap a picture, and move on. It’s like a dog pissing in a spot to mark its territory. “I was here. No idea where, but I was here. And this picture proves it.”

    The anti-Islam signs are obnoxious. And predictable. Good for you for ripping them down. I’ve long since given up trying to understand why so many people in this world — millions of them, everywhere — cling to their bigotry. It’s obviously nourishing them in some way. More’s the pity.


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