2016 a year to forget in many minds. We’ve had the road paved for Brexit, Donald Trump successfully running for presidency and lost legends such as David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Muhamad Ali.
Then there’s been one of the world’s shames, with middle eastern conflict resulting in the once beautiful old city of Aleppo reduced to nothing more than a rubble wasteland and many more lives needlessly lost.
Ramifications of events in those affected areas have also spread to Europe, and barely a day goes by when the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ fails to make a 10-o’clock evening news bulletin.
It’s also difficult to ignore the rise in status of Islamic State who have, so many times, left the continent on a knife edge.
They signed off last year claiming responsibility for the Bataclan massacre and shook a global city to its core, then Brussels was targeted at the beginning of this year, with bombings taking place in two locations across the city with the perpetrators being from the same terrorist cell as those who carried out the attacks in Paris.
Although perhaps not strictly related, there were mass murders in Istanbul and Lahore back in March and a shooting at an Orlando nightclub in June, in which there was 49 fatalities.
It, in some form, seems to have become a recurring theme and one which has certainly captured my own attention.
Nine months ago I wrote of my close-run decision to cancel my scheduled trip to Brussels in the wake of attacks in the Belgian capital, as explosions and Zavantem Airport and Maalbeek metro station took place just 24 hours before we were set to arrive.
It was a frustrating decision to make, but that paled in comparison to the pain suffered by family and friends of the victims and the city itself, who declared three days of national morning to remember the deadliest act of terrorism in Belgium’s history.
The actual trip, re-booked for September, went off without a hitch and I was left counting my lucky stars that the attacks hadn’t happened when we were there.
But it wasn’t the first time a similar incident occurred. Fast forward four months to France, and a nation gripped by the 2016 European Championships which they were hosting.
France were in the semi-finals facing Germany, with Wales and Portugal contesting the other, and fans were confident of going all the way on home turf.
The match days synced up quite nicely with my trip to Nice and Monaco, especially as the French city had a ‘fan zone,’ where football fans could gather to watch the game on a big screen, arena style.
It was a beautiful night for it, the sun was setting, it was warm and, by the end of it, there was a city in rapture after their country had advanced to the final of this tournament. Only Portugal stood between them and the Henri Delaunay Trophy, a feat which would prove too much to conquer.
Fast forward a week and the mood was a sombre one, not because of the result of the football, but because a Tunisian man killed 86 people and injured 434 others after driving a truck through a crowd stood on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais – the same place where I had found myself standing with a sizeable group of people just seven days previous.
That prompted another blog post, with these two horrendous events happening within range of scheduled trips I had planned.
Perhaps it boiled down merely to unhappy coincidence, I thought. That was until this past week when another truck was driven into a crowd of people at a Christmas market in Berlin, just 10 days before my trip to Germany to visit their second-biggest city – Hamburg.
Even though there is over 250 kilometres of distance between the two places, there is no doubt that Deutschland will feel threatened as a whole, much like France will have done following both of the Paris attacks and the one that took place in Nice.
To make matters worse, the perpetrator initially fled and was “on the loose” for more than four days, although reports suggest that the suspect was shot dead in Milan following a confrontation with two policemen.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, what happened in Berlin was swiftly followed up by an unrelated plane hijacking on an aircraft operating on an internal route in Libya. I’ve no plans to go to Libya in the immediate future, but I will be heading to Malta at the beginning of January and there are no prizes for guessing where that flight was diverted to. That’s right, Malta International Airport.
Fortunately, the hijackers were arrested and it all ended peacefully – but it would be naïve to ignore the warning signs.
Perhaps it is just a big coincidence that I happen to have plans to travel to these places in and around these worrying events. Surely anyone with half a brain would ask me my travel schedule so they know which countries and cities to avoid and when to avoid them!
It would be nice if humanity could learn from its transgressions and we start seeing less and less of these things, even though warning signs would suggest otherwise.
But as we approach the end of 2016, a year to forget in some cases, 2017 presents us with a chance to start afresh and make it a year to remember.