Embassy Days Part 2: Shortcut to Europe

12 May

After last week’s awesome meanderings around the world, I couldn’t wait for this weekend’s adventure: Europe. We started early and on the outskirts so we beat the crowds. Our itinerary centered around food and dogs – the two most important things in life

Slovakia

Egg artists

At our first stop we were greeted with tiny cups of delicious food and wine. At first we were leery of the sauerkraut, potatoes and bacon but it was perfect. As we pined for more, we wandered around the airy rooms admiring the tables of glossy travel brochures and displays of traditional costumes and modern art.

I really enjoyed looking at the decorated eggs. One woman used a technique, which my family had actually tried at Easter this year, where she used a razor to etch a continuous design around the egg. The woman said she had learned from her parents and practiced for years (seven?).

Austria

Austria was chosen because the promotional materials promised apple strudel demonstration. We didn’t see the demonstration by sampled some nice flaky pastry and juice from an Austrian fruit that I can’t remember – Red Bull and coffee were also available.

Live musicians played and little girls in dresses twirled around the room. Keeping with the food theme of the day, we tasted cold-pressed pumpkin seed oil.

Sugared and caffeinated, we boarded a shuttle and traveled to our next country.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic had the most extensive and detailed presentation,  all centered around the theme of movie. Apparently, many films —including big Hollywood blockbusters such as the “Bourne Identity” and “Mission Impossible”— have been filmed in the Czech Republic. I was excited to recognize “Closely Watched Trains,” a film from my European cinema class, on a poster.

As we walked up to the embassy, a youth choir was singing (some of them had been on the Metro with us). Then, a comedic Renaissance stage combat team demonstrated different types of fighting including swordsmanship.

And, of course, I must tell you about the food we sampled: The Bohemian spa wafers reminded me of a flat, fancy sugar ice cream cone (but in a good way – there were flavors like hazelnut). We also tried kolaches, traditional Czech pastries, from Bistro Bohem, the only Czech restaurant in DC. Mine was kind of like a pudding, but again, in a good way.

Hungary

Cute summary of embassy days: younger generations carrying on traditions and teaching others

So my favorite stop of the day was of course Hungary because of the kutya – dogs! I was so excited that as soon as I chomped my way through a pretzel-type thing and made my way through security, I strode determinedly through to the embassy and didn’t stop until I found a dog.

In a room across the patio, I man had a friendly long-haired dachshund and I asked if I could pet it. Content, though slightly disappointed that that was the extent of the dog experience,  I continued down the steps and out into the embassy’s backyard and saw the most glorious sight: dogs, several of them, running around. Before I had asked a random guest to pet his dog but now I had found the real deal.

I had seen vizslas , the Hungarian hunting dog, on Animal Planet but never in person.  Their playful energy and rust-golden coat and matching eyes hooked me instantly. One super friendly sweetie covered my face in wet-tongue kisses and then tried to sit in my lap.

Talking to the dog’s owner, she told me the butt-to-owner position is a common stance for vizslas. She thought it was unique to her dog but at an event with other vizslas she saw dozens of other dogs doing it as well. They like to see what’s going on around them while staying close to you.

In addition to the vizsla, Hungary is known for the puli, a herding breed that bears a remarkable resemblance to a mop (or, as you might remember from the beer commercial, a head full of dreadlocks).

 

After I had fulfilled my doggie needs, my friends and I headed down to the most concentrated cluster of embassies in DC. We wanted to go to Belgium for the chocolate, but the line was too long. We wanted to go to Finland, but the line was too long. All of the embassies had lines that rivaled those of popular Disney rides during peak tourist season.

At that point, I gave up. My feet were tired and it was hot. There’s always next year.

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