Workers digging near Gatwick Airport yesterday uncovered a grenade.
This wasn’t terrorism, though. The grenade is believed to date from the Second World War. Workers uncovered the grenade near the airport’s railway station. Bomb disposal experts carried out a controlled explosion to get rid of it.
While it didn’t pose any great risk except to the poor hardhat who dug it up, rail and flight services were briefly halted until the grenade was destroyed.
This odd event isn’t so rare. Europe is littered with unexploded ordnance from both world wars and other conflicts. In the Balkans, experts are still trying to remove the millions of landmines planted during the Yugoslav Civil War. Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, has 14,000 known minefields. In France, bomb disposal experts have to deal with huge amounts of unexploded ordnance, some even dating back to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.
[Photo courtesy J-L Dubois]
With airport security on the rise around the world, it isn’t surprising to see long, fairly exhaustive lists of what you can’t take on the plane. Who among us doesn’t know someone who’s lost a lighter or bottle of shampoo at the security line because of these restrictions? It just seems endless.
Well, it gets crazier than what you’re seeing here in the United States. A reader just sent me this photo today, taken at the Bogota, Colombia airport’s security checkpoint. Apparently, it’s important to itemize the types of weapon you are not permitted to bring on board.
Is this level of detail really necessary? I mean, who the hell would think axes, tear gas or a “Ninja Star” is acceptable for in-flight entertainment. Seriously, an effing sword?! This is nuts.
So, if you’re passing through Bogota, make sure you do not have a “Hand grenade or any grenade,” likely referring to the sort you’d affix to an RPG for an M203 grenade launcher. Those things can be expensive, and it would suck to have to surrender it at security.
A Tourist Information Center was just erected in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan valley. Customer service lessons are in progress – already making the region friendlier than most airlines – but it may take some time before Afghanistan is ready for regular visits. After all, seven U.S. soldiers lost their lives in the war there yesterday. If you think Afghanistan is ready for western tourists, you are out of your mind. Even if the fighting doesn’t stop you, look out for landmines and hand grenade fishing.
In the Bamiyan region, which is not where the recent fighting involving U.S. soldiers took place, the locals are eager to transform their province into a destination for tourists interested in history. At present, 20 people are receiving customer service training to convey the marks of the past on this region to any guests who may be interested.
And, it might actually be working.
This year, more than 400 foreigners did visit the region (likely not including those in uniform), with airport and hotel reservations up more than 100 percent from 180 for the same period in 2008. If these sites are cleared of landmines by October, as expected, the draw could be even greater. Fortunately, there will be a pizza place ready to serve when the rush comes.
Afghanistan is going green. The war-torn country has declared Band-e-Amir its first conservation area. While it may be premature to book your trip to this spectacle, at least there’s hope that you’ll get to enjoy it someday.
Band-e-Amir, like the rest of Afghanistan, has had a rough run over the past 30 years. Let’s face it: that’s how long the country’s been engaged in one war or another. The region’s snow leopards fell victim to the conflict between Soviet troops and mujahideen in the 1980s. Of course, the great Buddha statues were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.
The fighting is reportedly in other parts of the country, these days, which the locals will attract foreign visitors. The lakes are the major draw, assuming you’re willing to subject yourself to a brutal daylong drive from Kabul. The destination may be billed as safe, but the journey certainly isn’t. Head into Afghanistan at your own risk.
For now, local merchants have their fingers crossed for Afghan tourists. Westerners, one would assume, would come much later.
If you do throw caution to the wind, be sure to follow the rules. Fishing with hand grenades is no longer allowed.
Among the local practices that are now banned: no more fishing with hand grenades. If you role the dice, don’t worry. The rangers tasked with enforcement are paid less than $60 a month and can be on duty for up to 24 hours at a time.