A few weeks ago my friends and I went on a little trip to Europe without even leaving DC! The European Union Embassy open house day in the capitol allows the public to visit different embassies around the city and experience different parts of their country or culture. Many places had samples of food or drinks, information about technology and companies that originated in their country, dance showcases, sport demonstrations, and house and ground tours. We were only able to get to a few embassies since they are spread out over a couple of miles and the lines to get in were very long, but we had fun experiencing the countries we got to go to. It felt a bit like spending the day at an amusement park where you stand in long lines to then only spend a few minutes on a ride. There were definitely some countries that were more exciting/worth the wait, but it really is a gamble deciding which to go to. You can’t know until you get inside what a country has to offer or how long the wait will be so you just have to pick and choose and hope for the best.
We started off the morning with the British embassy since it was near where we parked and it was the one I was most excited about getting to. Even though the line was long we buzzed right through because they had a good system down for bag check and security. Britain was definitely a good start to the day since they had lots to see and do within the embassy. We got to meet the British ambassador and his wife, see part of the garden and residence, look at fancy British cars, take photos in crowns and knight masks, and talk to different people who worked at the embassy. They also had booths with all sorts of information about the UK, with everything from tourism to economy information. We spent a good hour in England and (at least I) thoroughly enjoyed it
Winston Churchill’s statue outside the British Embassy.
The dining room and morning room in the Ambassador’s residence.
Wes, Megan, and I having fun with the Shakespeare-inspired photo booth.
Next we headed towards Italy (because obviously), but we saw that the line there was really long so we decided to go up the street to Denmark first. We couldn’t tell how long their line was so we just hopped in and decided to wait it out. It ended up taking us over half an hour to get into Denmark because they only had one person doing security. By the time we got in we were all super tired and getting quite hangry so we decided to take a break and sit in the shade for a bit. I bought a fresh squeezed juice from a juice bar they had set up which had pineapple, orange, and spinach in it and was super delicious! It was the perfect energy boost and so refreshing on a warm day. We also got to try the national dessert which was sort of an extra fluffy, vanilla marshmallow covered in chocolate, and yes, it was as delicious as it sounds! After our short rest we walked around the Danish court yard a bit, tried charging our phones on a stationary bike that connected to a charger, and read about some of the ways Denmark is improving on clean energy. There was a lot of cool information and the booths we visited we interesting, but none of us felt it had really been worth the long wait we had endured for it.
Breaking a sweat while trying the phone charging bike. Can you imagine what great shape we’d all be in if we had to exercise to keep our electronics charged?!
After Denmark we walked down the street towards Italy, but decided not to stop there since the line was even longer than when we had gone by before. We voted to head for Ireland instead since that was Wes’s top pick, but it turned out to be quite a walk. We stood in line for a while again there, but this time we got a bit of entertainment from some local step dance groups that were performing outside with a live Irish band. The inside of the Irish embassy was pretty small and they didn’t have a lot to see, but we got to learn about the sports of camogie, hurling, and Irish football which are all super cool (I totally want to try playing camogie now!), and on the way out we got to grab samples of some delicious cheese and scones.
Outside the Irish embassy.
By the time we finished Ireland it was getting later in the afternoon so we decided we would start heading back and only stop at another embassy if the line was really short. We were also starving so we were on the lookout for anywhere with food (there is NOwhere to get food close to the north side of Embassy row). We passed the Islamic Center of Washington and ended up stopping there because they were having a bizarre in the courtyard and it looked like they had food inside. We ended up getting some great, homemade Middle-eastern food which cured all the hangry vibes, and ate out on the front steps of the center. The building is absolutely beautiful outside and Wes said the mosque inside was even more amazing. Megan and I didn’t go in since you had to take your shoes off and have a certain amount of skin covered (Meg was wearing shorts), but we still got to enjoy the courtyard. As we were finishing up outside it started to rain so we decided to head back to the car and call it a day. Turns out our car was 2 miles away, and the light drizzle quickly turned into a steady rain so by the time we got back we were all soaked. Luckily it was a warm rain so even though we were dripping it wasn’t too cold!
The beautiful Islamic Center from the outside.
Final Conclusions on the day: Embassy open houses are definitely a cool experience, but the whole day can be a bit overwhelming. I would certainly recommend doing it, and we will most likely go again next year, but I think it would be better to have more of a set plan than we did. We went into the day assuming we’d just go wherever the shortest lines were or what looked the best, but nowhere had a short line and you cannot tell until you are inside whether the wait will be worth it. I think the best way to do the day is have everyone pick one place they really want to go, deal with however long that line may be, and just do those places. Even if they turn out to be disappointing, it is better to stick with a plan than try to go with the flow for this event (and this is coming from a girl who is ALL about the flow). And definitely bring snacks and water or else you too will be very grumpy come early afternoon! But all in all it was a fun adventure to try and one we look forward to doing again. Next year we will have to try out the non-EU embassies too!
Have you ever done an embassy day? How did it go for you? Do you have any tips on how to make the day more successful? Let me know in the comments below!