Wednesday, April 7, 2010


[ Committee Meetings ]

After catching myself fascinated by the interconnected network that is the Deutscher Bundestag, complete with its underground hallways, bridges over rivers, glass walls against cold steel and stone braces, I can admit the unsuspecting surprise that it was for me to be completely in awe once more in Berlin. And this was just me gawking through huge glass windows into the foggy horizon letting my imagination piece history together in my head.

The agenda that I had peeked my interest further. After my initial tour of the Bundestag following lunch, surprised by which building I ended up in, or which artwork [ and from which country of origin, rendering its meaning to the entire complex] garnered the hallway, I shadowed one of the assistants and visited a small roundtable meeting for Sports politics in which Dr. Knopek would be in attendance.

Taking place in the “engine of the Bundestag”, the long Löbe hall - die Abgeordnetenbüros und die Ausschusssitzungssäle des Deutschen Bundestages [ Committee meetings and representative offices of the German Bundestag] - with cylindrical towers of roundtable meeting rooms, we were able to sit in a narrow viewing level over the meeting – just enough room for a slim row of seats and foot space overlooking the meeting below, placards of politicians names and parties in place.

The meeting didn’t have much debate – the topics covering rather common ground topics including planning for the Women’s World Cup that will take place in Germany next summer, as well as promoting Munich as the national candidate city for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. In the round room, half lined by glass walls that looked out to another building that I may have crossed through, the other half lightly stained wood, the politicians trickled in, a small coffee cart came around if anyone requested anything [to find out later that lunch was rather nonexistent, and kaffee und kuchen breaks were largely part of the meetings themselves.

It was very interesting to view the procedure order of the meeting, including attendance to the powerpoint presentations and questioning that revolved amongst the representatives of different parties. I had a brief opportunity to observe the general parliament assembly last time I was in Berlin, but this was a new opportunity to see some of the more detailed aspects of policy making in the German democratic system.

The day continued back in Dr. Knopek’s office, where I was able to meet him once more, and this time to hopefully redeem myself for my rather clumsy first impression at my quasi-interview that happened on my first day. Sitting in the office with the other assistants and taking part in the conversation of the meeting that just took place or other events of the day was very reminiscent of my opportunity to meet my representative in Washington D.C. before departing to Germany. [mind that the flat screen television in the room had nonstop coverage of the Parliament assembly that seemed to always be in order]. The very personal meeting added another layer to my impressions of the life of a German politician – at some moments relatable to what we envision our American representatives to be – blackberry toting and firm handshaking speedwalkers with a talent for the art of smalltalk – yet also, somewhat foreign and new to my observations.

That afternoon I had a bit of freetime to myself – not much, but enough to get lost like I thoroughly enjoy in a big, new place, and just enough to make mental notes of places already closing but I had to visit next time I was in Berlin – the Cathedral, the Egyptian museum, the east side gallery. The evening was not over though, since I had a scheduled time to meet with Dr. Knopek and another assistant at a very frequented kneipe, a bar, that was a favorite of Berlin politicians.

Being a Wednesday seemed to have no impact on the attendance at the joint, since it was completely packed. The walls lined with memorabilia of many decades of the capital of Germany – the bar traveled to Bonn for the many years that the capital was there. A soccer game was on the televisions, people from casual attire, to loosened neckties after a long day of work collaborated in the bustling corner hotspot, and from our small table I was able to take it all in. I was sitting with a politician – scratch that, a representative of the German Bundestag – in a classic Berlin pub, a favorite of politicians, following the conversations loosely flowing between work agenda, aimless chitchat, as well as the soccer match coming in and out of focus. How do you find yourself in such a situation? I wasn’t even in Berlin 12 hours… and how much I had already seen and done!

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