European Diary: Room 6033, Swissotel; 8:30 p.m., Wednesday; June 16, 2004; Berlin, Germany

Today S. and I went to a traditional Germany pub for lunch. Far from creepy, it was charming – dark, with old photos and a menu heavy on starch and meat. The food – Bratwurst, Kartoffeln, Sauerkraut – was excellent. S. got to taste a Berliner Weiße mit Schuß (rot) and a Glühwein (ick). It was empty as it was 10:30 in the morning. We ate a very leisurely meal, an hour and a half, then chatted with the waitress. She said something very interesting. “I would move any place else if I could. Germany is dead.”

Tonight we were going to go to Bar als Venunft (So-Called Bar) to see a Kabarett. But Kabarett is not what it was in the movies. It is either political sketch comedy performed in a theater, which I’ve read has grown stale after an energetic life in divided Berlin,; or it is a chanson night in places like this. S. was sidelined all day. Her cold has returned. And once we got to the place, which was like a carnival with mirrored tents, she didn’t have the heart for it. At the driver’s suggesti9n, we went to Paris Bar and had two house specialty drinks, the Barman’s Special, which shellacked me, and a lavender-flavoured Ciel de Paris and some risotto.

My only regret about Berlin is that we didn’t walk around that much (exploded feet) and that we didn’t spend much time in the eastern area. Reunification has resulted in a larger city, connected to the rest of the country. It’s lost its special nature. But a lot of other people gained that fearful gift of freedom. I read that European unemployment is thrice that of the U.S.

The European Parliament elections, which took place two days ago, were characterized by two things: widespread apathy from the voting public and anger on the part of the 30% that did vote. Protest parties, in most countries the conservative opposition, or specialty parties like the U.K. Independence Party, won overwhelmingly. There was a lot of concern over the overwhelming cost of the E.U. and the underwhelming amount of good people feel it’s done in their lives. There have also been scandals regarding the amount of pay and perks E.U. ministers get, including the ability to claim an almost tenfold return on air travel expenditure.

The bureaucratic jargon, inefficiency and petty complications of the E.U. rules are also cited as major objections. As an example, all E.U. legislation and other major documents must be translated into each of the 20 languages of the 25 member states. As of this summer, with the addition of eight new members, this has created a backlog that E.U. officials estimate at 60,000 pages, growing to 300,000 within three years. A suggestion was made that English, the de facto lingua franca, be made the European Union’s sole official language. But that was met by a great protest. It was asserted by the majority of E.U. representatives that the implication that the European Union could get by without the minutes from the water rights committee’s May minutes being translated into Flemish was the kind of arrogant imperial American cultural colonization that makes any of the European-prosecuted genocides seem like fender-benders in comparison.

I blame myself.

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