On Saturday, May 9th 2009, embassies of the European Union in Washington DC opened their doors for the public. I was looking forward to the day and was planning to visit as many of them as I possibly could. A could not accompany me and the thought of walking around on Mass Ave by myself on a hot muggy day wasn’t quite appealing. Thankfully, E and E joined me and saved the day for me.
The entire experience was a lot more fun and rewarding than I had anticipated – the art work and furniture in the residence of the Dutch ambassador, the exquisite wood panelled walls of the embassy of Luxembourg, a walk in the manicured gardens of the British Embassy, learning more about Slovenia and Latvia while sampling their baked goods etc. However, the two highlights of the entire tour were the visit to the Italian embassy and the embassy of Portugal.

At the Italian embassy, I had randomly picked up a tourism brochure of the region of Veneto and was browsing through the many photos of the landmarks of that region, when E pointed to a picture of a beautiful sun-soaked piazza of a small Italian town, Marostica and said that she and E got married right there. Now for someone who comes from a nondescript plains of Central India, this is a whole different level of cool. I do not know of anyone else who can claim being married at a place featured in a tourism brochure. Bellissimo!!
The second highlight was the visit to the embassy of Portugal. After waiting for about an hour in the line outside the embassy in the hot Sun, we were let inside and while we were whispering under our breath that this better be worth the wait and the sunburns, the usher informed us that the Ambassador himself will be addressing us. We were escorted inside his office and he spoke to us for a good 20 minutes, patiently explaining us the glorious history of Portugal (mostly the sea explorations), his functions as the Ambassador and the relations of Portugal with the United States. He was gracious, witty and patient in answering our questions – even after a lady from our group almost offended him by asking if the Dutch colonized Portugal! Later on, he stopped me and had a one on one conversation about his friendship with the previous Indian Ambassador to the US and his fondness towards the Indian culture. The Port wine we sampled after that brief rendezvous tasted sweeter than it actually was.
If you ever find yourself in DC in the month of May, watch out for the events calendar for this once in a year opportunity. Not only will you be glad you did it, but you can boast that you visited a handful of countries in a span of hours – we did 8 in 5 hours. Anyone keeping records?