Tag Archives: Washington D.C.

Cultural Tourism Passport D.C.

A tour of the embassies in Washington D.C.

Of Brassy happenings in the capital

By Sarah Harmon

Freelance writer

Washington D.D. – Growing up, you were always told that it’s impossible to be in two places at once, especially two different countries that are oceans apart. But what if that’s not true after all? What if I told you that I was in eleven countries during the course of one day and eight countries the following weekend?

Freelance writer Sarah Harmon

On the first two Saturdays of every May, a large number of foreign embassies in Washington, DC open their doors to the public from 10 am to 4 pm. This year had 42 countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe participating in the Around the World weekend and all 28 countries of the European Union for the EU weekend.

Since you couldn’t possibly fit in seven per hour one weekend and almost five per hour the next, planning ahead is the best approach. Thankfully, a majority of the countries are within easy walking distance of each other on or near a section of Massachusetts Avenue known as Embassy Row.

Pictured above are dancers from Estonia and a stamped passport from the cultural tour around the world embassies in Washington D.C. in May.

The enormous German Embassy is considerably off the beaten path, but the EU weekend had shuttle buses to make it easier to get there and to other groupings of embassies that are several blocks away from Massachusetts Ave.

For the Around the World weekend, the best starting point is Dupont Circle where the friendly folks from Cultural Tourism DC will give you a map showing the locations of all participating embassies, and you can also buy an official Cultural Tourism DC Passport for $5 to have stamped at each country you visit. For the EU weekend, the European Union Delegation building is within sight of Foggy Bottom Metro, and they’ll be happy to give you your map, free passport, and various other “I Love EU” goodies.

The moment you step through the door of any of the embassies, you have legally departed the United States and are in Sri Lanka, Morocco, Latvia, or whichever country owns the site. Many of the buildings are posh Beaux Arts mansions constructed during the Gilded Age by contemporaries of the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers.

Colombia and Chile both have lavish grand staircases that you can’t help but imagine a woman in a turn of the century ball gown with long gloves gracefully descending. They’re showing off a lot more than extravagant architecture and furnishings though. This event is all about exposing visitors to their culture, music, art, history, food, and people.

Music in Afghanistan Embassy

South Korea could be heard from a block away as the DJ blasted K-pop while visitors from all over the world grooved on the dance floor. Meanwhile, children in Botswana had the opportunity to make a colorful paper windsock before having a chance to sample a traditional Botswana’s snack. While the ginger infused pineapple juice there was delicious, most Americans were probably not adventurous enough to sample the dried caterpillars, regardless of how much protein they may have. The Portuguese Ambassador himself greeted many of the visitors to his country before they watched an informational video, snacked on delightful custard tarts with Port wine, and were given t-shirts with the statement “Portugal: 900 Years Young.”

Travelers who dropped by Morocco truly felt transported across the Atlantic. Their courtyard was transformed with large cushions placed on beautiful carpets under tents. Ladies in attire quintessential to West Africa offered small pastries similar to baklava and hot tea from a gorgeous silver teapot while live music was played. Henna tattoos were also available there for a fee.

A top destination of the Around the World Embassies for foodies was Chile. They offered samples of bread dipped in olive oil with herbs, red and white wine, mussels flavored with cilantro, several types of fruit, and pisco sour cocktails. Lovers of dance particularly enjoyed the Kyrgyz Republic. A trio of ladies periodically performed choreography typical of their country. Elements of Bollywood integrated seamlessly with movements similar to those used in belly dance with a hint of Russian influence.

In Estonia, dancers were not only performing, but inviting members of the crowd to participate and learn how to do something a little like a mix of English Country Dance popular in the 19th century and Polka. The Latvians got some entertaining reactions from sharing samples of their traditional beverages. To be fair, they did warn innocent victims that the herbal liquor called Black Balsam was very strong. Many Americans still were a little unprepared for the 90 proof liquid blending spices and pure vodka. Those visitors who are familiar with the Czech Republic’s Becherovka, on the other hand, found it to be delightful.

For those  who are intrigued by a particular region but are hesitant to travel there due to safety concerns, this is a perfect alternative. As a single woman, I would not feel comfortable traveling to Iraq or Afghanistan, but I found the embassies to be charming and the people exceptionally friendly. Notably, in the Iraqi Embassy, a woman in a stunning traditional dress was selling paintings of her homeland. When she’s not painting, she’s a forensic toxicologist here in the United States. She loves the country of her birth, but she is very excited about soon receiving her permanent Green Card.

Traveling around the world gives a unique opportunity to expand a person’s horizons and help them appreciate the beauty in our differences and in similarities they may never have imagined previously. Passport DC gives the opportunity to get a bite sized vacation to countries that many people would not ordinarily think of when planning their next trip, and in some cases, countries that most Americans have never even heard of. Want to see the world but don’t want to spend hours on planes or trying to recover from jet lag? The first two weekends of May in Washington, DC make it simple. This is your chance to prove your physics teacher wrong because thanks to this event, you really can be in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and South America without ever leaving the capital of the United States.

The featured photo: The Luxembourg Embassy in Washington D.C. Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg stayed after the Nazis invaded her country in WWII.

Now this was a brassy happening Brassy in Washington D.C.

Coyright (c) 2017 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.


Lincoln Tribute

Writer Sarah Harmon participates in the Lincoln Tribute

Note: The article is Sarah Harmon’s account of the two-day Lincoln Tribute held in Washington D.C. at the Ford’s Theatre this week.

“The Lincoln Tribute was definitely unforgettable and I am so glad I was able to experience it,” Harmon said.

Sarah Harmon
EW writer Sarah Harmon in Paris

Lincoln Tribute, 150 anniversary

By Sarah Harmon

EW Emma’s Writings

“Lincoln shot! Condition considered hopeless!” Those were the headlines around America this very week 150 years ago. The night of April 14, 1865 changed the history of the United States forever when actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth jumped down onto the stage of Ford’s Theatre screaming “Sic semper tyrannus!” (Thus always to tyrants) and ran out the back of the theater after shooting President Abraham Lincoln. What should have been a time of celebration that after four long years, the Civil War was finally over immediately became a nation in mourning for one of its greatest leaders.

Lincoln Tribute
The box with the flag on the upper right of the theater picture is where Lincoln was sitting when he was shot.

The National Parks Service, Ford’s Theatre, and Civil War buffs everywhere have eagerly anticipated the commemoration of such an important turning point in American history. Museums throughout the D.C. held special exhibits in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and Lincoln assassination, and Ford’s Theatre in particular opened a special exhibit featuring artifacts that had not been all brought together under that roof since April 1865. Notable elements include the Derringer pistol Booth used as well as the bullet itself. They also show the objects that were in Lincoln’s pockets that fateful night. Perhaps most interesting of those was a Confederate five dollar bill.

Lincoln shot 1
The brick and white building is Ford’s Theatre during the vigil.

The two-day Lincoln Tribute at Ford’s Theatre began at 8 am on the fourteenth with a behind the scenes tour of the theater and concluded with the 7:30 pm performance of the play “Freedom’s Song: Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War” on the fifteenth. In addition to the usual spring performances of the one-act play “One Destiny” and the Detective McDevitt walking tour, several dozen living historians were on the sidewalks of Ford’s and across the street at the Petersen House, where Lincoln died. Both days included a panel discussion of the parallels between Lincoln and his legacy in America and the life and legacy of South African president Nelson Mandela. From 9pm to 10:15, the moment  Booth fired the gun, a special performance, “Now He Belongs to the Ages,” took place on the stage at Ford’s. It was streamed live online and at the National Portrait Gallery for those unable to get tickets inside the theater.

The show began with music and an introduction by Colin Powell. Actors and historians shared words spoken by and about Lincoln including some criticism from his peers to remind us that the sixteenth president was not just the perfect marble version in the Lincoln Memorial, but was a man with faults who loved to laugh, tell stories, and be a loving father to his sons as well as his nation.

Lincoln Tribute
Crowds during the candlelight vigil on Tenth Street with Petersen House on the left and Ford’s Theatre on the right at 11:30 p.m.

The sound and emotion of 150 years of history reverberated through the theater and Portrait Gallery courtyard as the audience  joined in singing “Amazing Grace,” a song Abraham knew and loved. Following the presentation, most participated in a candlelight vigil in honor of the president’s last hours, which he spent laying diagonally on a too small bed in Petersen House.

Actors in the crowds would suddenly burst into a monologue, telling of how she saw Booth just that afternoon or how he held Lincoln’s head while the doctor examined him. It truly felt almost as if the entire block traveled back in time a century and a half. The vigil and tours of the theater continued throughout the night and culminated in a ceremonial wreath laying outside Petersen House at 7:22 am, the moment Lincoln passed from life into history.

Artifacts at the Ford's Theatre on display.
Artifacts at the Ford’s Theatre on display.

John Wilkes Booth wanted to be a hero for the Confederate cause by murdering the American President. He hoped that it would help to erase the name of the Great Emancipator from time, but in fact, his actions did more than any other single episode to make sure that the name of Abraham Lincoln would echo forever throughout the ages.

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