Saturday, May 11, 2013

European Union Embassies' Open House

A Whole New Meaning to Going Dutch

Each year, I seem to discover a new favorite country at the European Union Embassies' Open House. Two years ago it was Austria (hard to argue with good strudel) and last year... Hungary (dynamite goulash.) This year, I stayed close to home; yet was still able to crown a new champion... one, others may find difficult to unseat in the future. Ladies and gentleman, may I present the Royal Netherlands.

Michael Caine took his fair share of jabs at the Dutch, as snooty Brit Nigel Powers in Austin Powers in Goldmember; but even Austin Sr. couldn't find fault with the lavish layout at 4200 Linnean Avenue, NW. The Netherlands Embassy really outdid itself, providing an endless array of food and giveaways, including a Heineken beer glass, free beer, full size ice cream and lots more. Remember that one cool house at the end of the block, that used to go crazy for trick or treaters on Halloween? I suppose it's a coincidence that the Dutch Embassy was decorated in black and orange? Me think not. All jokes aside, it was an especially impressive display... vaulting to the top of my must-visit list for next year.

Lest you think I'm just in it for the freebies, the Netherlands wasn't the only Embassy in town today. I visited eight out of 28 participating venues (France and Germany split the tab this year) and each one had two things in common: Long lines and generous staff. Imagine opening the doors of your office to thousands of perfect strangers. Yuck, right? In addition to the Dutch, I also visited Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg. All were impressive in their own right.

Dutch Embassy went all out
Music DJ at the Netherlands Embassy

Back to food (that didn't take long, did it?) I couldn't help but notice that most Embassies were now charging for food and drink. Not cool. Last week's Around the World Embassy Tour was especially guilty, with some lines for food only. Nothing's worse than lining up for over 20 minutes, only to find out you have to shell out at least $5 for a few bites of international cuisine. Is the world economy that weak?

I don't think people should expect full meals, but surely each Embassy can afford to give away a free candy or savory nibble without trying to turn a profit? I can go to a food court any weekend (and not have to line up all day in the sun.) Next year, I'll be sure to keep a tally of who's charging (and for what.)

Good eats at the Embassy of Hungary

Chimney Cakes at the Embassy of Hungary

As always, getting around was a breeze thanks to the super efficient shuttle system. Five routes (Blue, Green, Purple, Red and Yellow) ferried folks around all day with minimal waits. I like to walk, but it's nice to know you can hop on and off with relative ease. Wouldn't it be swell if Metro ran so well?

Visitors outside the Czech Embassy

Free shuttles moved thousands of visitors