Perhaps it is my inner nerd, but I found the EU Parliament, or the ‘Parliamentarium’ as the museum part is called absolutely fascinating. Not just a fantastic building, the museum had a really great exhibit walking you through all the relevant parts of European history that lead to the creation of the European Union. The timeline along the wall of important events in the recent histories of all of the member countries was great, as was the giant visual displays of the debating chambers displaying, in quite a cool, interactive way, how decisions are made, all of the processes, and how decisions affect people’s day to day lives.
After learning about a lot more European history than the standard WWI and WWII you get in high school (particularly eastern Europe, former Yugoslavia etc which get a bit left out IMHO), I was definitely a lot more appreciative of the whole system. Particularly after having been to many places that are still dealing with the effects of wars and regimes of a less democratic nature, I am now much more inclined to agree that the recent awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU is quite fitting. At first I thought it was a bit ridiculous and that those actual people who were awarded it before would probably be quite offended. I was initially of the opinion it was a tacky, cheap way to rally the troupes and stop people pushing the idea of pulling out of the EU in the wake of the Eurozone crisis. But when you see just how much conflict there has been in the region, all laid out on one timeline and so recent, it does change your perspective.
Seeing parts of Berlin still being rebuilt (complete with scattered bits of the wall), meeting people who remember lining up for days for rations in Krakow and visiting concentration camps, I am continually amazed at how so many countries so close together have given each other so much grief over the years and it made me realise that the EU really is quite radical.
I couldn’t help but wonder as I wandered just how much all of the fancy pants lighting and displays were costing, and I don’t think I’m the only one. Apparently it is fairly controversial (being opened in 2011, right as the Greek crisis turned into the Eurozone crisis). A cheeky google search reveals it cost around €20m. When I arrived I wasn’t sure if the audioguides were free or not, and when I asked, the girl behind the counter answered with a bitter “No, my taxes pay for it for you.”
I only wish I had longer there (I was on the way out to the airport, had my backpack and everything in the coat check) as it was really fascinating and I barely scratched the surface – you can also see the parts of the rest of the buildings. I’ll definitely have to go back.