Last Wednesday was the 25th anniversary of the reunification of Germany and I happened to be at the seat of the European Parliament at the time. Let me tell you, Chancellor Angela Merkel is mighty fine. Oh, and President François Hollande was there too.
Let us begin with the run-down of the day. For those not in the know, Strasbourg is home to the European Parliament, among other institutions. I showed up a little before two in the afternoon in front of the European Parliament’s gates. I waited there for my group’s chaperone, an incredibly British man named Terrance. I was able to spot him coming without ever seeing him before—he was that British. However, before Terrance showed up, I had the unique pleasure of watching all of the, to put it mildly, eccentric protestors outside the gates. Most all of them were penned up behind a ‘free-speech zone’, guarded by police. They waved flags and ranted about who knows what while very serious people gazed at them like they were zoo animals.
One of the zoo animals actually gave me his business card randomly. Or, rather, one of his lackeys did. He was an elderly gentleman who was dancing rather poorly to some accordion music whilst carrying a doomsday style sign. It read something to the effect of a prophesy of Jesus coming down to Jerusalem to take the throne of David, rule the world, and so on. According to his card, this man was “The ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ Irish Dancer.” He is perfectly willing to perform at weddings, birthday parties, and other “functions” apparently. Give him a ring if you dare.
This Irish gentleman also wore a big ass Star of David on his chest. According to his rather, erm, unique business card, here is why:
“On my Costume. It represents two things:
- The Throne of David, which will be re-established in Jerusalem at the Second Coming of Christ. On it Christ will Rule the World as King.
- the State of Israel-the Star of David is its National Flag. It is more the Israel of the future, when Christ will reign, than the Israel of the present.”
This is an exact quote, strange capitalization structure and all. So, that was amusing to say the least.
In any case, after the arrival of the most British man in the world, my friends and I entered the European Parliament. Let me tell you, whoever was the architect of this place, he deserves a raise. Upon entering the central plaza, we were greeted by a line of all of the EU member states’ flags. In front of them was a gorgeous statue called Europe’s Heart. Past them was the entrance to the Agora, a massive semi-circle which is hollow on the inside. At the center of the Agora is a massive, glass sphere. Once inside the Agora, one can enter the Parliament proper. After passing through a European version of the TSA, we were inside.
What followed was a whirlwind of security movements, chaperoning, and general bureaucratic wonder. Security was tight in part because of the anniversary, but also because two heads of state were in the building. That didn’t stop a French law student I met who somehow smuggled her way into our tour group. A tour group made up of only foreign exchange students, with a specific attendance list. I have to behonest: She had some major cojones.
That risk paid off for her though. She was granted a seat along with the rest of us inside the veryfamous European Parliament chambers. It was nothing short of magical. The chambers are situated inside a giant wooden orb inside the Parliament building. It looked sort of like the Epcot ball in Disney Land, except it was made of polished mahogany. There were several entrances to this interior orb, at various floors of the building. A series of bridges and escalators wrapped around it like a spider’s web, allowing members and guests multiple methods of entry. We were sent to the top level and after crossing over a skybridge to get inside, we were greeted by a full and rowdy European Parliament.
Once inside, I was afforded the chance to wear the super neat translation headsets and listen to a smooth voiced Scotsman translate the opening speech of François Holland. Then, an even more mild-mannered British gentleman translated the speech of Angela Merkel in real time. I could get used to this whole thing, I thought. During their speeches, the parliament members openly cheered and booed like boorishly vocal attendees at an open-mic. I was utterly stunned by it all. The decorum was very much unlike that of the United States.
However, we were shuttled out by a fairly curt Belgian lady way too soon and sent into a conference room to watch the rest of Angela Merkel’s speech. Apparently there were others on the guest list too, and our time was up inside the orb. Inside the conference room we watched the scathing debate that followed between as many party leaders as their were different languages. There was one common denominator between them all: Of all the tonal flavors at their disposal, they all chose salty. And my oh my, was the saltiness strong with them.
Of course, next time I’ll put on my International Relations nerd hat and explain what I thought of the substance of their speeches and the impact behind the saltiness of the debaters.