Thursday, September 05, 2013

Europa, Europa

"Who do I call if I want to call Europe?"
-Henry Kissinger

Well Henry, we might start by calling the ICJ on you for your role in indiscriminate bombing in Southeast Asia, but that is a different story...

I got up early on tuesday (if it's tuesday...), and checked out of the hostel.  I wasn't going to pay an extra 8 euros for the same bed I had been sleeping in.  So I put my stuff in storage and headed off through the city center on towards the European Parliament.  If I geek out over U.S. State Capitals, this one was sure to be a doozy.  I stopped for petit dejeuner at a lil cafe, and kept upping my order from a coffee, to a coffee and pan au chocolat to the petite dejeuner special that included a cup of OJ as well.  The pan au chocolat was passable when dipped in cafe.  Mon dieu, I have become a Frenchman for my pastry sensibilities.

I wandered through town, stopping for an early lunch of a salty crepe with an egg and cheese cooked in the middle.  It was a hot, gooey delicious mess.

I arrived to the European Parliament, and walked under signs and pictures welcoming Hravatska (Croatia) into the EU.  The former Yugoslav nation is the 28th state to join.

I tried to wander my way directly in the parliament, but was check and sent back to the Parliamentarium- the museum for visitors.  I passed back by an ad hoc basketball court and nationbranding table for Slovenia. I Feel SLOVEnia, the banners declared.  I stopped at the table to ask what this bit of nationbranding was all about.  Apparently Slovenia is hosting the FIBA EuroBasketball Championship later in the year, so they set up a bball court for various delegations from the EuroParliament to shoot hoops, while the passed out literature and knickknacks.  I grabbed a couple of pens and an apple as I chatted with the rep.  I have seen worse branding campaigns, at least this one was working with the country name in a semi-cute fashion.

I passed through security, and grabbed an audioguide in the bevy of languages.  I was walking into the museum when suddenly a female security guard ran after me.  I couldn't take my (empty) water bottle into the museum.  I surrendered my plastic bottle with a laugh, and chuckled further at this Eurocracy as I entered the museum of European democracy through a hall of scores of languages welcoming me to Europa.

I passed through models of the European Parliament buildings in Strasbourg, Brussels and Luxembourg that the audio guide explained.

I walked down a level through pictures of a ravaged Europe in years of war under the Great War and its subsequent.

The simple truth should be repeated time and time again.  A fragmented Europe leads to war, oppression, misery, and a United Europe leads to peace, freedom and prosperity.
-Richard Nikolaus von Coudenhove-Kalergi

I passed through the war years that ravaged Europe, and came into a hall dedicated to the evolution of the European Union.

It all began with Jean Monnet, and a crazy ideas that post-war Europe should share its coal, iron and steel. Monnet pushed his idea to Robert Schumann, the French Foreign Minister.  Understanding the context of the times, it is almost inconceivable to think that a France and Germany just a few years out of war would share the elements that make such conflagrations possible.  But push the idea, they did.  And the documents on display outlined the outlandish ideas.

The West German PM Konrad Adenauer played partner, and the two nations who led the world to two World Wars agreed to share the materials necessary to cause it.  And thus, the European Coal and Steel Community was born. The first supranational organization included Belgium, Holland, Italy and Luxembourg as well.

"For peace to have a chance, there must be a united Europe."
-Konrad Adenauer

But alas, Eurocracy struck a second time as I stopped to take a pic of farmers in Austrian standing on a combine marked "Marshall" after the man with a plan.  The security guard came over and told me that pictures of singular images were forbidden.  Really?  I laughed.  He apologized, but made me delete the the photo.  I could see he felt bad and a bit dumb.  He then informed me that I could take a pic of the whole wall, just not a singular image.  Europa, Europa.

I passed through the interactive displays of the European community enlargement, through maps, news and pictures from the day. 6 to 28, over the decades to come as I wandered through the pics that punctuated the history of the last few decades.

I passed downstairs into an interactive display to discuss the European Parliament.  It gave an interesting discussion of the different parties that cut across country lines, and sit based on ideology.  It had an interactive terminal with all of the 500 plus delegates, introducing them member by member based on country and party.  I looked over some impressive resumes, but admit that like Henry I still wouldn't know who to call.

I moved onto to a map of Europe with different points on different cities.  The map was interactive, and when you dragged a screen machine over, you got a little video about the different things that the EU did related to various cities and various issues.  Like a Euro healthcard that offers access to urgent or emergency healthcare in all states, and reimburses any charges for a doctor's visit where doctors charge.  Or on the Euro Voluntary Service- a pan-European Peace Corps of sorts.

There was also an interesting movies on the parliamentary procedures of the EU.

Finally, there was an interactive movie section of different individuals in different countries, discussing their lives and how various EU programs affect their lives.  It was an interesting bit of pan-European EU pd to show a personal, tangible connection of the supranational organization to average Europeans.

I left the Parliamentarium, and couldn't weasel my way into the hall so I headed back to watch a lil sLOVEnian-sponsored bball.  There was a bit of gastrodiplomacy in the form of free Slovenian beer, and different foods.  I had a bowl of tasty bean stew with a crust of bread before I headed on.

PS: TAKE THAT EUROCRACY!!  Suck it, courtesy of photocropping and General George Marshall.  MARSHALL PLAN, BITCHES!!

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