Europe is still safe for a vacation - Curt Yeomans

There is no reason to fear the recent travel advisory for Americans traveling to Europe. Just remember to be cautious, is all.

As you have probably heard by now, the U.S. Department of State, earlier this week, issued a travel alert for people currently in, or about to head off to, Europe. As the Associated Press has reported, security and intelligence officials, both in this country, and across "the pond," fear that the terrorist organization, al-Qaida, may be planning shooting sprees in popular tourists attractions across Europe.

A travel alert, according to the Associated Press, is one step below a full-blown travel warning, which would advise Americans to not travel to Europe.

U.S. officials have stressed they are not telling people to not go to Europe, and I think that is the right move to make. Yes, terrorist threats are serious business, but I do not think we should go as far as an all-out warning.

Why do I say that? Well, I have seen the levels of security in place in some of the more popular parts of Europe, when there is no threat. I have confidence that terrorists face somewhat of an uphill battle in attacking people over there. I want to stress that I am not saying it cannot be done, but I am saying it will not be a cake walk.

I'll give you two examples of strong security that I have seen in Europe on my own travels to that continent.

I am particularly thinking of Italy, where the Arma dei Carabinieri, a military corps that is also a civilian police force, is every where. It is not uncommon to see at least a hand full of Carabinieri (as they are called for simplicity) staked out at every tourist attraction, as well as all the major piazzas. They even have surveillance vans stationed in some popular tourist areas.

And, the Carabinieri are not alone, because the presence of the Italian national civilian police force (yes, there is more than one), the Polizia di Stato, is just as obvious as the Carabinieri. In fact, it is not uncommon to see both police forces on patrol, at the same time, at the same sites.

But, just for the sake of having extra security, there is also the Guardia di Finanza, which is the police force that is a corps within the Italian Army, that acts, under the authority of the country's minister of economy and finance, as a police force. On top of all of that, there are the city and municipal police departments. In other words, the Italians go all out on public safety.

But, France is not to be overlooked, either. You may not see the French police presence nearly as often as you do in Italy, but that does not mean they are slacking on security. There is a police station located at the base of France's biggest tourist attraction, the Eiffel Tower, and based on my own observations, they are not there to be your friend. They are there to, simply put, enforce the law, and keep people safe.

I learned that when I watched a police officer throw a youth through a temporary fence -- for throwing a half empty bottle on the ground at the Eiffel Tower, and then refusing a police order to pick it up (and then resisting arrest).

The big thing, however, is that they went to their MILITARY to provide the back-up muscle for public safety, and they are present in a lot of places. You see armed soldiers every where, especially in the metro (or subway) stations. Trust me when I say it was a shock to see French soldiers patrolling the subway platforms with heavy-duty military assault rifles.

Before you even get to the platforms, however, you have to pass several other soldiers. So, if you are thinking about heading to Europe, do not let the travel alert stop you. There are measures in place to keep you safe. You do stand a good chance of being able to go over there, and enjoy yourself. And, that's the important thing. Europe. is a great, unforgettable place to visit.

Why let some terrorists spoil your fun?

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.