Europe: A Retrospective. An exhibition coming to every resident of the UK in 2019. And coming for good.
All liberal people who enjoy travel, and the cultures of other countries, will be mourning this day: the day after our Prime Minister states there is ‘no going back’ on Brexit and the triggering of one of the most wretchedly over-discussed ‘Articles’ in the history of British politics (Number 50) becomes a lamentable reality.
Of course, travel and culture writers should not really do politics (and only a certain kind of novelist – not my kind – can deal with the topic effectively). The temptation is particularly great, however, when I see all of the values I adore in travel and in life being impinged upon – Her Majesty’s Government preferring trade deals with the US or China over those with the EU, and in so doing supporting some highly dubious policies, the general ‘head-in-the-sand’ attitude that somehow Britain will prosper alone like the formidable power she never was at any time post WW2 AND not least the day-to-day consequences for British travellers such as the long waits at passport controls or the restrictions of rights to live and work elsewhere on the continent that we relished for so long.
Anyway, the liberal voices spoke up too late. And they are not going to change anything now by so doing.
But our stint as part of a forward-thinking part of Europe deserves celebrating somehow. In my business – writing about travel – few more travel books will be released before the continental drift accelerates, the last mooring ropes are severed and we become a rudderless ship captained by an Ahab amidst a very stormy ocean: an isolated little island from which travelling elsewhere in the continent will be significantly tougher. It’s a fairly historic period that just began on March 29th. It will be the last hurrah, the final time we can revel in how good we have had it in terms of European travel. A period to be made the most of. A period that will only last two years and then give way to an era far more insular, less pleasant and certainly no more effective at boosting the economy or preventing terrorism.
As it happens, the release of the two latest books I have contributed to is extremely ‘timely’ to say the least. One – the new Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget – is a veritable bible for those who love continental travel. Users of its subsequent edition, to be published in 2019, will likely have to cart a ton of visas around with them on their European odyssey. The other is a first edition – National Parks of Europe – and its publication now is poignant when you consider all the beautiful spaces we thought nothing of taking off to for a weekend will become that much more complicated to factor into holidays. Last minute impromptu vacation? Allow time for the trek to London, the queue at the Embassy and a few days’ leeway over and above their standard visa processing time because of the sheer volume of applications officials will be inundated with.
Times – and books – to be cherished indeed. And RIP Europe as we know it.
Buy the new Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget (I wrote the Finland and Denmark chapters)
Buy National Parks of Europe (I wrote the chapters on Finland’s and Romania’s National Parks)