Please sign in to post.

Security in Germany, 2017

Rick Steves has some new TV episodes about great German cities. During the discussion with PBS host personnel between episodes, Rick says that the refugee crisis in Germany is nothing to worry about and will not affect tourist travel.

Enjoy your tour and don't be frightened away from tourist sites, just be aware of what's going on around you and anticipate what might happen, so you can avoid it or get away from it safely.

I know some will disagree. I will only say that I was not a tourist or a visitor. I was a fulltime resident. And I kept my eyes and ears open, and read German newspapers and listened to my German neighbors and friends. Just the other day, the US State Department issued a warning about travelling in Europe, to include Germany. This is the reality today, sad but true

Posted by
21647 posts

I find it interesting when someone's first post is primarily to spread fear. So I don't how much creditability to give you or your posting. There are a number of regular posters here who live in Germany. It will be interesting to see their responses.

Posted by
13390 posts

14umbra, thank you for the heads up. What I saw in Cologne an Bonn last year didn't make me feel real comfortable either. It wasn't the homeless it was the healthy young men hanging out in groups of 4 or 5 on street corners and seemingly working the commuter trains. I've never felt particularly threatened by homeless. But then again, how I "felt" often has little to do with reality as my personal feelings define nothing, other than, well, my personal feelings. Still I have been under the impression that with something like 400 miles of border fences either built or being built and with changing attitudes, even with the German government, that things were going to be better this year. Lets wait an see. We might be surprised. I'm optimistic.

Posted by
6446 posts

Why James, are you expecting this thread to get entertaining? :)

I'm also always skeptical when a 1st time poster is not asking a travel question, but rather making some kind of statement (politically motivated or otherwise). And I would also like to see a link to the mentioned State Dept warning as I can't find it either.

I'd also like to note that very very few of the incidents in Germany were committed by refugees. I read about many more violent incidents in which the refugees were the victims.

Posted by
6850 posts

But if you are travelling as a single/couple/family, you are definitely advised to be on your guard ALL THE TIME.

Sounds like a great way to spend your vacation. No thank you, I'm not that paranoid. Also, I don't believe that a resident perspective is exactly transferable to a tourist. I would like to see some hard data on how many tourists were victims of violence, please provide info. I've seen figures (via a Bloomberg article) for how many refugees were victims of violence.

Posted by
8193 posts

Lubitsch, thank you for your response.

Posted by
12759 posts

"I know some will disagree." I disagree. You were there for five years? Where?

From 2011 to 2016 I was in Germany every single summer, May and June. In 2014 it was the last week in April. 2013's visit in Germany was the shortest, ten days. I traveled solo on each of the five years in Germany, north to south, to the east, and to the Dutch border, took night trains on every trip except in 2013, saw nothing out of the ordinary, (anti-social behaviour), except that I could spot out "newcomers" I took RB trains and IC / ICE trains. You take enough of each of those trains, you can bet who is not going to be on which train. I was at stations late at night , esp Berlin Ostbahnhof ..nothing out of the ordinary

Last summer's trip I saw at Frankfurt Hbf announcements made in German then followed by that in English the Roma were working the station. I saw them at the station. You heard, " Achten Sie auf Ihre Wertsachen!" or, more often, "Lassen Sie Ihr Gepäck nicht unbeaufsichtigt!" You hear likewise at the airport...no big deal. In 2015 I did not hear those announcements.

Of course I am on my guard more now in Germany than I was 10-20 years ago, so what, still irrelevant, still Kindergarten compared to here. . That also depends where too. In the eastern part I was in towns where you yourself are the only foreigner in the streets and everywhere you go...Neustrelitz, Bautzen, Rheinsberg/Brandenburg, Frankfurt an der Oder, etc. I can spot out the "newcomers," esp these so called , punk wanna be toughs ( let them come to Oakland). You can tell by several ways that "they" are newcomers if you know what to look for.

"non-German" tourists... That description fits me exactly since the locals, and presumably the bad guys, will immediately see me as a tourist and a non-German. Who were these "non-German tourist victims?"....Asians, Italians, Spanish-speaking True, that in certain Hauptbahnhöfen I saw more of a police augmented by DB Sicherheit presence, some patrolling, others just standing and watching, ie, at Nürnberg and Hannover.

True, too that certain train stations are known to have negative reputations more than others, eg, mention Duisburg Hbf, see the reaction by Germans. Berlin Zoo isn't too appealing either, there is no practical reason to go Berlin Zoo (not even to eat). They should play classical music in front of Berlin Zoo just as it is done in front of Hamburg Hbf., constant classical music is what you hear.

Posted by
12759 posts

No laughing, James, highly frivolous. . Seriously, I know what you saw as you've reported here and I would not down play it at all. In 2016 upon being back in Germany and Austria after the refugee crisis, I know what I observed as different in daily life there from prior observations and trips, and will do likewise in two months upon landing there, well, two and a half months for Germany.

At Munich Hbf after arriving on the night train at 0600, I saw the "skinnies" hanging out in front of the station where the Burger King is located...another difference from the past.

Posted by
4637 posts

Well, I will be in Munich this June, I will see and compare now with the time seven years ago and write here what I saw with my eyes even if it would be politically incorrect. It seems to me that both sides are exaggerating: "something terrible is happening all the time" or "nothing is happening, nothing changed." But as my grandma used to say "Golden middle way", the truth is probably somewhere in the middle of both extremes. I will find out soon.

Posted by
16421 posts

I'm scared. NOT!
I am glad I got to attend the Bayreuth Festival in 2015 without the new security measures (no more "bring your own pillow" for the rock hard seats). But then I have to go through metal detectors for Green Bay Packer games, Milwaukee Brewer games, and even a "Salute to Vienna" New Years Eve concert in Clearwater FL of all places.

Posted by
5493 posts

There's some truth in all of this. Some of the asylum seekers in Germany are Syrian bombing victims. But 40% of arrivals are not fleeing death and destruction, do not ultimately qualify for asylum on such grounds, and end up staying in Germany for lengthy periods. "The average asylum applicant thus spends just over a year in Germany before finding out whether they'll be allowed to stay." That's a lot of idle time. And there have been enough newcomer criminals/terrorists among them that most Germans appear to be fed up. "In Germany, 71 percent of poll participants believe somewhat or very much in the idea that some of the refugees coming to Germany are dangerous."

http://www.dw.com/en/slim-asylum-chances-for-40-percent-of-refugees-in-germany-report/a-19032005
http://www.dw.com/en/germanys-migration-agency-taking-longer-to-process-asylum-requests/a-37683146
http://www.dw.com/en/many-europeans-worry-about-refugee-terrorists-poll-says/a-19468591

There were a huge number of attacks against immigrants last year. But altogether, I don't see why tourists to Germany should get terribly worked up about their personal safety. How many Americans have been injured or killed in Germany recently? There's not a lot of evidence that immigrant tensions there impact tourists. I'd be more fearful of a car accident.

Posted by
2 posts

If you want to believe there is no problem, believe it. If you want to understand that the situation in Germany is not the way it used to be, take heed. I’m not saying don’t go there, I’m not saying to be afraid while you’re there, just be aware and cautious (don’t be oblivious, as many tourists tend to be). I don’t disagree with warnings about the USA and other places. There are plenty of areas in America that I would never try to visit. But for those who envision Germany as the idyllic tourist paradise that it used to be, with no security problems anywhere except certain sections of the biggest cities, it’s not like that anymore. I didn’t just live in Germany for 5 years – it was 15 years total. I lived mostly in northern Bavaria, in rural areas and small towns. Of course, local experiences differ in a country as large as Germany, but if people are honest, they will admit that this sort of thing was essentially nonexistent in years gone by. But it happens now. Certainly, it’s not all done by refugees or non-Germans. But it’s there, a lot more than it used to be. To ignore it, to pretend it doesn't exist, is naïve.

My mistake - it was not a warning from the US State Department, it was a travel caution, listing Europe but not specifically Germany (although, of course, Germany is in Europe).
https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings/worldwide-caution.html

Posted by
13390 posts

The lines have been drawn. Sides have been chosen. Take no prisoners and cede no point!

More popcorn please.

Ilja, Fred, the truth does generally lie in the middle, but you will never reach that point in 21st century discourse.

Posted by
2879 posts

But if you are travelling as a single/couple/family, you are definitely advised to be on your guard ALL THE TIME. Whether checking in/out of hotels, renting a car, at rest stops on the Autobahn, standing in line at tourist destinations, and ESPECIALLY when using public transport, you need to be looking around and be aware of what's going on all around you, particularly behind you (non-German hooligans recently kicked a woman down the steps from behind at a train station). When waiting on the platform to board the U-Bahn (subway) or other train, do not stand near the edge of the platform so you can get on the train quickly. Stand back by the wall - people have been pushed off the platform onto the tracks when they weren't watching their backs.

I grew up in an allegedly safe, upper middle class suburban/rural white community in the 50's and 60's ( very small world) and yet my parents taught me to be aware, prepare, and use safety procedures, including the ones discussed above (and more). We were always taught how to protect ourselves, be aware, know the exits, stand back from the edge, etc...prepare for the worst. I've learned that 4 - 5 boys/men in a group are best to be leary of, regardless of race, location; group mentality, that sort of thing. That being said, I was taught to try anything I wanted to try. I was also taught to speak/chat with everyone, regardless of station in life, treat people with respect, enjoy people, and 'but by the grace of god go thee', etc. I was taught not to be afraid, but aware. Consequently, I find a lot of the above to be just common sense, but perhaps presented in a more fierce tone than need be, and not just for Germany or any specific place.

Posted by
671 posts

For some perspective......how many shooting deaths occur in the U.S. every year compared to Germany and Western Europe?

Posted by
12759 posts

@ James...well put, specifically "in 21st century discourse," but "take no prisoners," ...not very 18th century, is it? One's can draw conclusions or more accurately, generalizations based on one's observations depending on time and place. The key is time and place but it is still evidence to support the validity of your conclusions.

Obviously, very true, nowhere is it the same as it was prior to end of the wall. The Germany I saw and knew in the 1970s and '80s (6 trips then all over W Ger) was gone by the summer of 1992 on first post-wall trip. Still, there are places to be obvious in Germany. I am aware of surroundings, some places a lot more so, say at Hannover Hbf, Düsseldorf Hbf, or Hamburg Hbf, but not so in places like Weimar, Minden, Hameln, Neustrelitz, (very peaceful, quite places), Schwerin, etc. They just get minimum "security attention" Like anywhere else you develop a "feel" for a place, even more so and easier if/when I eavesdrop on what locals are talking about, ie tap into their conversations.

Over a five year period one does see the differences and changes in people, structure from observations based on the year before or the past years. I saw one obvious difference between the 2015 and 2016 trip in Germany, aside from just police presence.

Posted by
85 posts

I'll be in Berlin in June, and will be back here with an objective report on this topic, and a subjective report on my experience in general.

Posted by
13390 posts

Turning political and fear mongering and ranting and raving about ranting and raving on the rise; excellent! I need a drink to go with the popcorn. Or maybe a box of those chocolate crunch candies!

Posted by
384 posts

For some perspective......how many shooting deaths occur in the U.S. every year compared to Germany and Western Europe?

Robert, EXACTLY!

I grew up in south Sacramento when it when from Klan Kountry to Gangland in the course of about a year. The shootings became so common that I could tell what kind of weapon was being fired by the sound it made. One night, my friend and I were riding our bikes to get some beer when we saw a guy laying on the ground in the middle of the K-Mart parking lot. We thought the dude was passed out, but when we got to him, we saw he was missing part of his head. We didn't even wait for the police to show up -- we just got the hell out of there. I had two friends executed point-blank by the gangstahs. They weren't even bangers, they were just in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time. I understand things have gotten worse since I left that place about 20 years ago.

So when I hear OMFG TERRORISTS, I laugh. Terrorism is having to dive to the floor in your house because the local bangers have a beef and have decided to settle it with gunfire. Terrorism is not being able to walk down certain streets in your own neighborhood for fear of being killed. Terrorism is your five-year-old sister showing you the loaded gun she found in the street after a shooting and her thinking it's a toy (yes, this happened).

I don't fear Boeings in NYC and I don't fear refugees in Paris. I fear the armed hot-head in the lane next to me on the freeway who is having a bad day and looking to take it out on anyone who gets in his way: accidentally or not. Compared to that sh*t, Europe is paradise.

Posted by
2004 posts

Mike Beebe: once more I wish there was a "like" button, I would be using it for your most recent post. You (sadly) certainly know where of you speak. Thank you for the personal perspective.

Posted by
737 posts

I've heavily edited back the OP's post. It's either that or the whole thread comes down. We're fine with disagreeing with Rick and you'll find that we leave disagreements up all the time. However, take this as a reminder to avoid sensationalist references to news (it's news because it is exceptional and not the norm... stirring up fear is what sells the news). Things have certainly changed, but let's keep it in perspective. The OP's reminder to simply be aware of your surroundings is a good example of that. Thanks to everyone for their measured responses and opinions.

Posted by
10938 posts

Fred.....I was at Hamburg HBF in October and didn't hear any classical music. I want a refund....:)

Last time I was in Berlin I stayed near Berlin Zoo Station. (A reminder, it is across the street from the Christmas Market that was attacked a few months ago.) It was a little seedy but nothing compared to some U.S. cities.

I was in Berlin in October and November of last year and will be back again next month. I didn't see anything that alarmed me. However, this time I'm staying in the Mitte.

Posted by
8064 posts

I deleted my posts. You all can carry on without me.
Good night and don't let the bed bugs bite.

Posted by
5 posts

As many posters have commented, humans live in the presence of risk. We are at risk of harm from everything from a sinkhole collapse to a terrorist attack. Each person has to gauge his or her appetite for risk when undertaking any activity, such as traveling to Europe.

Last summer, my wife and I spent 18 days in France. Although we were used to seeing police officers and other public safety personnel here in the U.S., we were (at first) surprised by the presence of French military patrols in so many civilian spaces. We saw squads of camo-clad, submachine gun-toting elite French troops at TGV stations, and at monuments. It was a sobering thing to see the troops, weapons at the ready, watching the Strasbourg cathedral through mirrored sunglasses.

Would the presence of the risk that the troops were guarding against discourage me from returning? No. I am willing to take that risk, and it is less than the risk that I will be run down in a Seattle crosswalk by some idiot driving an SUV and texting at the same time.

One more thing. I'm taking that low risk now, while Europe is still intact. In the past several years, we have seen the terrorists destroy ancient art that offended their sense of what was acceptable. We don't know how long it will be before they turn their sights on Western art and architecture.

Posted by
8193 posts

Ah Jo, I missed your posts! I was hoping to read your perspective. I can only imagine it is quite different from the OPs, before editing.

Posted by
8193 posts

Mike Beebe, well said. And exactly right.

Posted by
12759 posts

Basically, Frank II, your observations correspond with my own. True, Berlin Zoo is a bit seedy and true, nothing like US cities, as we have here in SF in the Tenderloin. I might have gone over to Berlin Zoo once during the last trip since I don't need to anymore. About your refund, you say you did not hear classical music played right outside of Hamburg Hbf, where a ton of bicycles are parked, where you exit the station itself, take a couple of steps to walk straight down the stairs into the Bahnhofspassage. It's the Kirchenallee exit area where you hear the music. It's well possible the music was not on. I heard it in June 2016.

Posted by
12759 posts

@ James....Recall the prophetic words (if he actually did say them) of the Greek king as he departed from the Italian boot, "What a wonderful battlefield I leave for the Romans and Carthaginians."

I'll be in Berlin this time in June for two full weeks staying at the usual Pension, will observe in that city and elsewhere in Germany, such as North Rhine Westphalia to Cuxhaven to Kiel to near the French border to Frankfurt an der Oder. Geographically, it will cover a lot. Totally agree with Mike, on a given week-end, ie over a period of 36+hrs, there could be 10-12 shootings in the immediate Bay Area.

Posted by
4637 posts

Everything is relative. My friends from Europe are afraid to come to visit me here in America. They are afraid of being shot. When I tell them that Americans (some) are afraid to go to Europe because of terrorists, they are just laughing. "How come they are not afraid of being shot in their own country?" And those who are not afraid won't come they say because they don't want to be bullied by our immigration, customs and TSA. They think we have police state and practically dictatorship here. Misinformation on a great scale. I suspect Putin. And our new executive branch is not helping to improve image there.

Posted by
1736 posts

We travelled for three weeks last fall. No incidents, BUT one fellow guest at breakfast, a german from Hanover, stated that there were about five areas in his city that he regarded as unsafe.

Posted by
671 posts

I grew up in Northern NJ. I went to Newark for my draft card when I turned 18. That was the only time I ever went to Newark due to a fear of something bad happening. Perhaps the 1967 riots helped to cement my teenage perception of the city. In contrast, I never felt that way about NYC and traveled there frequently alone or with friends. I imagine that Newark is safer now, but my guess it's still more dangerous than any city in Germany. I think Mike B's comments put things in perspective. Regarding Mrs. EB's comment about being stabbed - well, that is also a possibility anywhere nowadays, but I think in the U.S. you stand a lot greater chance of being shot.

Posted by
12759 posts

In the 1970s the hearsay or what I heard of Newark in Calif was that it was one of those cities "back East" with urban blight, to put it euphemistically. On Hannover: when traveling you stop/transfer at several urban train stations in Germany, among them Hannover Hbf., you notice more of a police presence relative to others (at random, by time and place), you knowing something has happened.

Posted by
13390 posts

Fred, I have heard that the skin head neo Nazi movement is having a bit of a resurgence in Germany and Austria; and hostilities towards Jews is on the upswing in France. Its been a long time since i have seen a klan march in my part of the world, but i have seen the european equivelent a couple of times in recent years.

But lets face it. What we are talking about here are pretty Infinitesimal odds of being victim of anything violent either in Europe or in my home town. At least if you demonstrate just a little common sense......

Posted by
12759 posts

When you have a million or more Muslim refugees (perceived to be dangerous, correctly or incorrectly, ) enter the country, of course, there will be a reaction, which has manifested itself in a skinhead/neo-Nazi resurgence. That massive entry served as a catalyst We can be glad even as visitors to Germany that the authorities are committed to their Basic Law (Grundgesetz), Germany's Federal Constitution. Keep in mind too whenever "they" stage a march (even when it's peaceful) with a heavy police presence, there are counter marches that far exceed the numbers of macho skins/right-wing punk wanna be types. Was it after the San Bernadino shooting tragedy that more than half the states of the 50 (29?) passed resolutions saying " No Syrians" Schluss, James.

Posted by
13390 posts

Fred, you do have a point, although i would argue some parts of it, but it is why discussion is healthy. You and I agree on maybe 60% of life, but your persuasion is generally so intelligent and so tempered that it is easy to respect you and your point of view 100%.

This is sort of off topic and we will probably get it hacked, but Fred, where I differ is in blaming the migrants for the swing to the extreme right. I cant help but to believe its the "Central Planning" of the EU that got the ball rolling. The EU began benign enough but once the ball started rolling it quickly grew into an old Soviet style central planning machine. I think that's what the extreme right was capitalizing on. The migrant issue is just more fuel on the fire. We just don't seem to be able to remember and learn from history.