My Thoughts on Today’s Violence in Berlin


After today’s horrifying events at a Berlin Christmas market, as we keep the victims and their families in our prayers, it’s natural for Americans to wonder what is the correct response. Let me share my thoughts.

I believe we owe it to today’s victims to not be terrorized by this event – and to not let our fears get the best of us. Especially given the impact of sensational media coverage and opportunistic fear-mongers, we need to respond intelligently and rationally.

I imagine many Americans will cancel their trips to Berlin (a city of 3.5 million people) or the rest of Europe (a continent of more than 700 million people), because of an event that killed a dozen people. As a result, ironically, they’ll be staying home in a country of 320 million people that loses 30 people every day, on average, in gun homicides.

It is simply not rational for Americans to stop traveling to Europe because of safety fears.

I also want to remind you that there are 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, making it the planet’s second-largest religion (after Christianity). Some German media are reporting that a refugee has been arrested in connection to this event. In the coming days, you will likely hear sweeping generalizations about people of the Islamic faith. Please remember that judging Islam based on a small minority of Islamic people is like judging Christianity based on Timothy McVeigh and the Ku Klux Klan.

To honor the victims rather than empower the forces of violence, it is important that we do not confuse fear with risk, that we do not overreact, and that we strive to build understanding between people. Keep on travelin’.


28 Replies to “My Thoughts on Today’s Violence in Berlin”

  1. Thank you for sharing the big picture. After hearing about this and the other news of the day I am still thrilled to be heading to Haiti in 2 month. In April and May, I’ll be traveling for 3 weeks in Greece and Turkey.

  2. Thanks Steve for your great wisdom!
    I visited France (including Paris and Nice) this year, three weeks each trip (met you in Paris in May when you and Steve Smith snuck up behind me while dining in a restaurant at Place des Vosges). I’ve always felt very safe in France and all of Europe. I’m going back to France for two three-week trips in 2017. They will NOT stop me!

  3. Terrorism, terrorists and terroristic acts are a despicably sad reality in the world I currently share living space with all fellow humans on our planet. I will no more bow to the heinous and cruel whims of any who foment hate and destruction than I would sprout wings and fly. Life, love and liberty are more precious to me and for those of us who have the very good fortune to get to make choices in how to live, I know we must support living and learning from each other, at home and around the globe. Travel, to far off places or nearest locales in my own neighborhood, opens my eyes, ears and heart to the world and the lives of others. I will happily continue to do so with vigor and intent. Thanks, Rick, for all you do encouraging, informing, educating everyone to “keep on traveling’.”

  4. Thank you Rick for your post and for your encouragement not only to continue to travel (the best way for humans to understand each other) but to point out how cruel it would be to see oneself compared to a criminal in any religion. I have heard about the Christmas markets in Germany for many years and hope that this heinous crime will not diminish the beauty and the traditions Germans hold dear.

  5. Greetings to all of you. Tom and I once had a B&B in Bath, and really enjoyed our “Rick Steves’ People” as friends. I loved travelling and meeting people and always encourage people to travel without prejudice. People are people – everywhere. There is so much kindness everywhere. In spite of the few who spoil God’s world. Thank you Rick Steves, your Team, and all your People. Continue to spread your philosophy and goodwill.

  6. Reports are the ‘refugee’ came from Pakistan in 2015, and claimed asylum under Germany’s open borders/open arms policy promoted by Merkel.

    It appears that Merkel’s vetting process has been as effective as our exiting administration’s vetting. I’m really glad to know we have recently elected a Leader who will put America first and establish a proper vetting process for our nation’s safety.

  7. I was on your France trip the week after 911, & I have just returned from Christmas Markets in Europe. In that time, there were no shootings, no stabbings, noone throwing themselves infront of a train, no one slapping their kids in public, And THEN I came home to babies abandoned in cars, innocent children & police killed. There is still love in the world; sometimes we have to leave the country to find it!

  8. I think the bigger sad picture here is that in the past the perspective of these attacks stayed realistic, but now with citizens all over the world getting influenced by the Donald Trump form of fear and isolation, you see other countries electing these dictator type personalities because of fear and want us all to be isolated and close our boarders to everyone if they don’t look like a typical “white person”. So I don’t really know how we are going to go forward and not fall into this trap of fear? This is much bigger than just keeping jobs in America.

  9. It seems that, by not offering tours in Turkey in 2017, Rick and his team are exercising caution and good judgment. I don’t think that decision is a symptom of hypocrisy. There is a level of risk involved whenever we leave our homes and up to all of us to assess that risk and make decisions with which we are comfortable. I’m not cancelling upcoming trip to Amsterdam and Brussels but I would not travel to Turkey at this time. I don’t think that makes me a hypocrite. Of course others have the right to disagree with my sentiments.

  10. Like most things, charm is in the eye of the beholder. I visited Europe 15 months ago and found it as charming as ever. I think it helps to follow Rick’s tips on avoiding the main drags and tourist traps. In Venice, for example, there were some very crowded “un-charming” spots, but my husband and I cut right through them and found plenty of lovely spots.

  11. Thank you Rick for writing such a poignant response to such a terrible event.

    Craig Fogle, how has Europe lost its charm? I’ve traveled to major cities and rural areas in Italy, Netherlands, UK, France, and Germany on multiple trips over the past 18 mos. I’ve noticed more places have wifi, a few more armed guards are present, and more people checking bags at museums/points of interest. The buildings, the culture, and the food are all still there.

  12. The fact that Ricks organization is being criticized for being prudent about his tours to Turkey is ridiculous. The is not talking out both sides of his mouth. It is not his personal fault that Turkey has become a very unstable place! I have faith that if Rick’s tours are still going to a country than you can be confident that it is a safe place to travel. What you should be doing is a little research on what is actually going on in Turkey.

  13. I disagree with Rick’s comment. The world is not safe from Islamic terrorists. We should not turn a blind eye and pretend Europe or the western society is safe. This is a big problem.

  14. There is no connection between Christianity and Timothy McVeigh’s atrocious actions. That’s a red herring the left throws up to make the claim that terrorism isn’t related to radical Islam and that American examples of terrorism are not limited to radical Islam. They have to go back to 1995 to make this very thin claim while ignoring the many instances of domestic terrorism with a connection to radical Islam.

    Mr. Steves’ overall point is valid but it is undermined when he tries to make the case that there is a history of American Christians killing the way radicalized Muslims have killed over the last two decades.

  15. In 2015 13,286 fire arm homicides and 35,092 motor vehicles deaths occurred in the USA. Maybe evidence of the tenets of a democratic society. One could cynical argue that most of the perpetrators were Christians; this would be completely without foundation. Seems USA citizens kill more of there own than terrorists regardless of ideological beliefs.

    Mike, Shaun, Tom et al, myself and many others are interested in the outcome of the your American experiment of electing Donald Trump. I hope it works for you. If it doesn’t you may have reason to be fearful. I live in Perth, Melbourne and Hobart in Australia. We are generally an egalitarian society and the vast majority are accepting of immigrants and refugees who are of the Islamic faith. There have been some incidents, but most of us do not fear either the people or their faith or the fact that close by Indonesia is the most numerous Islamic society. Bali is our favourite holiday destination.Our soldiers died in Europe to defend the right of any one living in Australia to worship freely and also for others to disagree with this view regardless of the outcome, but not for government to dictate a persons religious views. Our High Court has upheld this view. I thought your constitution guaranteed this right to freedom of religion above all other parts of the constitution regardless of the outcome. Perhaps I am wrong.

    I am a Christian with Anglo-Saxon heritage.

    As an aside I offer the following observation. During the visit of Barack and Michelle to the UK they were driven by 94 year old Prince Phillip from Marine One to Buckingham Palace. Only 400 metres (400 Yards), but shows the affection between these two heads of state. Barack for all his mistakes has presented as a statesman. Will be interesting to see how Donald is perceived. At present he appears brash and bombastic and perhaps selfish. I hope he learns quickly from the example of Queen Elizabeth how to represent all people of the USA.

    My children travel regularly to Europe. Two sons, and my brother in law were in Germany in August for a conference, and then travelled on south to Croatia to visit friends. Had a great time and felt safe at all times, but are all seasoned travellers and do not fear other peoples and their cultures.

    My five children all visit their friends in the USA regularly and usually feel safe and comfortable and encourage me to visit. And vise versa. I have yet to visit the USA, like Rick I find north Italy and Switzerland a beautiful, peaceful and historically interest place. After all Australia only has 200 years of European style history. I have close friends who live in the alps areas and look after me and my family. Also Asia is closer. I will visit at some time and the apparent violence in your society and radical views of some will not scare me, nor will I presumptuously refrain from visiting because your style of democracy is different to mine. I value highly the lives of American servicemen and women who died during the battle of the Coral Sea and subsequent engagements against the Japanese. I also love the Japanese people, they are a different society to the one that we went to war against.

    I note that the President of the USA needs to be protected from his own people for fear that an American citizen may exercise his apparent democratic right to shoot at him. The Queen demonstrates no such fear, though prudent care is taken. The Australian prime minister, a wealthy man from previous business activities, often travels on trains, busses, trams and to other public places. We don’t all agree with him and many will let him know verbally, usually with good natured banter and Australian humour, but we do not want to kill our politicians no matter how much we may disagree. There are mentally disturbed people in our society and hence our PM has discreet protection. Your cavalcades sadly hint strongly at a paranoid nation which fears its own citizens.

    Mike, Shaun, Tom et al, it may be best if you refrain from travelling to Europe as at present you demonstrate a mental approach of fear and so would be unable to enjoy or understand the diverse views and accompanying culture.

    Rick Steves, I enjoy your website, videos and other products, keep it up and traveling. May I suggest that you consider Hobart Tasmania as a place that you may enjoy for yourself. Particularly over the Christmas New Year period or mid February to mid April.

    Kwiw Simon, if you haven’t heard the Baggy Green gave the Black caps a complete whitewash in the recent ODI day/nightighters. Makes up for our drubbings by the Allblacks!

    If my spelling is different it is because I use the Oxford dictionary.
    Keep on travelling because I, my wife, children and grandchildren and relatives do.
    Regards and best wishes for the new year
    Ron Australia

  16. I worry that the latest terror attack will lead to a further erosion of my freedom. The US never embraced the “Keep Calm and Carry On” response to adversity.

    I do not know Rick’s reasons for canceling Turkey tours, did not know he had done so, but I dropped my Turkey travel plans when Erdogan started locking up journalists.

  17. I think we better all start worrying about this ramping up of Nuclear arms between us and Russia. I am amazed that no one is a bit worried that for the first time since the 80 we are discussing the building of larger Nuclear arms.

  18. Dear Mike and Tom.
    I was not attempting to address “is Islam compatible with democracy”, but rather the: I will not travel because….
    Looking back I presented my observations badly and apologise to you and others.
    Tom, I do not think my country is better than yours, rather I was trying to make the point that I would be stupid to use those reasons mentioned not to visit the USA just because I cannot comprehend some practices and cultural differences. Obviously I stuffed up my argument completely. My children love their American friends and the country.
    I won’t presume to be an apologist for Rick Steves. He is big enough, old enough and ugly enough (aussie humour) and eloquent enough to develop his own arguments. But I don’t see him as advocating Islam or excusing the action of radicals, but rather encouraging us not to allow the action of radicals to make us fearful.
    Yes, I agree Islam has great difficulties with democracy, so would Christianity in its purist form. A theocracy with Jesus as King; executive, lawmaker and jurist with no democracy. Best debated elsewhere.
    Both our developing democracies have things not to be proud of. Slavery and segregation, most of us realise now are not democratic. In Australia my grandparents’ generation treated the indigenous aborigines abominably.
    Back to travel. Perhaps I have been lucky and had enjoyable times. Funny thing happened in Milan. An Italian hotelier insulted me in Italian because I was an Australian. Bad luck for him as my Italian school mates and girlfriends had taught me rudimentary Italian. So I gave it back to him in Italian. Look of shock on his face cause me to break into laughter. One moron does not speak for everyone. I still think Sophia Loren is gorgeous.
    I enjoy travel for work and pleasure and do not intend to allow any terrorist to get inside my head or change my life. Of course I will always need to be prudent, not reckless and try and be balanced in when and where I go.
    On a better note. I hope you all enjoy the New Year’s fireworks displays where ever you are. The Sydney harbour ones are spectacular. Enjoy your favourite drink. It will likely be hot as hell down here, so the ladies will have bubbly and my misogynist mates and I will be drinking our national drink, ice cold beer.
    Best wishes and heartfelt apologies if I have upset anyone.

  19. Rick-thank you for everything you do, not only opening our eyes to global travel, but for your fearless dedication to speaking out against ignorance and standing up for tolerance, education, and cultural awareness. We need more people like you on public television. Thank you, thank you, thank YOU!

  20. Thanks Ron, your writing is great and very thought out. As you explain it is a complicated situation, not as simplistic as some want it to be.

  21. Agree Rick. I flew to NY from Ca 7 days after 9/11. It was hard. With each of these events, it becomes more challenging not to let fear be in the forefront. We will “keep on traveling” as long as we can put our love for traveling well head of our fear.

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