Here I am, Scottish but a UK citizen nonetheless, in the German capital of Berlin attending StallwÃ¤chterparty, a political summer party, celebrating Europe and the partnership between the countries that make up the European Union. So how did it feel being part of this prestigious event, representing Scotland, when the country you live in is tangled up in the whole Brexit disaster?
When I received my invitation to attend this years StallwÃ¤chterparty from the office of Winfried Kretschmann, the Prime Minister of Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg, I admit I was shocked. Why me? The nerves kicked in. What could I possibly have to offer? Would it be awkward? But most importantly, could I bring anything I’ve learned back to Scotland with me?
Before the start of the parliamentary summer holiday, the federal state of Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg has been organising a summer party, StallwÃ¤chterparty (Stable Guard Party), for guests since 1964 within the state parliament building in the diplomatic quarter of Berlin. Over the years, it has developed into one of the most prestigious events in politics. The event allows guests an opportunity to interact with esteemed politicians, business leaders and diplomats as well as journalists and renowned personalities from culture, sport, film and television, all under one roof.
Each year, a theme is chosen as part of the celebrations and in 2019, it is not surprising that the theme was Europe and its inhabitants. Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg does not only see the European Union as an economic community, but rather a community of shared values and successes that are to be celebrated by people who want to shape a future Europe from within.
As the only invited representative from Scotland, I made my way to Berlin eager to find out more about this region of Germany, how Scotland is viewed and of course, to experience an event, unlike anything I had ever been to before.Â
On the day of the StallwÃ¤chterparty, I had lunch with the Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg team together with some fellow bloggers who were representing their own countries and some journalists. To give us a taste of some local delicacies, we met at a restaurant called â€˜Die Maultascheâ€™ to try a distinctive Swabian dish, Maultasche, typical of Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg. Reminiscent of ravioli, maultasche is a vegetarian or meat-filled pasta dough with various herbs and spices. I paired mine with a Swabian potato salad. Delicious but extremely filling.
Over lunch, I had the chance to learn more about the Southwestern region of Germany, Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg. Bordering France and Switzerland, Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg is the third-largest federal state in Germany with Stuttgart its largest city.
It wouldnâ€™t be wrong to say that Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg is rather similar to Scotland as over 40% of the area is covered in
An outsider, looking in
When I walked into the Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg State Representation building later that evening, I instantly felt at ease. As an â€˜outsiderâ€™ going into this prestigious event, with zero knowledge of German, it was always at the back of my mind that I may not be welcomed. I neednâ€™t have worried as everyone I encountered throughout the evening was so hospitable.
Stalls from businesses, such as Facebook, Porsche and Mercedes Benz, whose headquarters are within the Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg capital Stuttgart, aligned 3 floors. Each stall made their space inviting and interactive for the attendees. Due to the style and nature of the event, you never knew who you could be standing or sitting with.
While I was inline to get some food, I struck up a conversation with an Ambassadors attachÃ© upon him hearing I was from Scotland. We spoke in great lengths about his love of Scotland, his Highland Road trip a few years ago and his work in the Embassy. While outside for some air, I found myself in a discussion regarding Scotland and Brexit with the Mayorâ€™s assistant. Later in the evening, while waiting for one of the entertainment acts to start, a prominent business leader spoke about a recent holiday he took in Scotland, why Brexit is bad for Europe and his love of Queen Elizabeth. I honestly do not think that any other setting would allow this level of interaction, and that is what makes the StallwÃ¤chterparty so popular. That and the free bar.
Throughout the evening, I also spoke to Lidl about the Eco-friendly initiatives they are implementing across stores in Germany this year, food and drink providers on why the weather helps make the region of Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg the best for fruit cultivation and wine, played interactive games to test my knowledge of Europe (I passed!) and had the chance to check out the new Hybrid 4×4â€™s from Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. One of each will do nicely, thanks.
Working in the IT industry, I loved FZIâ€™s stall who devised a robot and showcased â€˜Hollieâ€™s Patisserie,’ in which the robot decorated a sugar cookie for you based on your inputs. I could have spent hours learning more about Hollyâ€™s creation.
As a representative from outside Germany, I was interested in visiting stalls from countries all over the European Union which were showcasing their local food and drink. Ireland, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Greece, Sweden all had tasty treats on offer. Although, I was saddened not to find a stall representing Scotland (or the UK). Tunnocks Tea Cakes, Shortbread, Whiskey, Smoked Salmon, even Irn Bru. Iâ€™m sure they would have gone down a storm with the guests. Maybe next time?
CafÃ© Europa Jazz Band, Porsche Big Band, Franco-German comedian Alfons and Spanish-German singer Alvaro Soler provided some entertainment throughout the evening, allowing guests to let their hair down and have fun. It was a party after all. In hindsight, sitting through a
Europe deserves to be celebrated
Growing up around the world exposed me to various cultures, backgrounds and religions which at a very young age, opened my eyes to a world different from my own. I grew up in multicultural environments and fully immersed myself in my surroundings. Looking back, it made me appreciate what can happen when we fully open our eyes, explore, learn more about other cultures than our own and push ourselves to get out of our comfort zone. I have my parents to thank for my upbringing and instilling that in me.
Iâ€™ve never really spoken about politics before on my blog and under normal circumstances, I doubt I ever would but the situation that Scotland is currently in is no normal situation. Europe and Brexit is a topic that needs to be discussed. In the UK-wide ballot, Scotland voted 62 to 38 per cent to remain in the European Union. Scotland wants to be a part of the EU. Alas, due to losing the Independence referendum in 2014, with 55.3% voting against Independence, Brexit is unwillingly inevitable for Scotland.
In my eyes, scare tactics were used in the run-up to the Independence vote and if the topic of Brexit was brought up back in 2014, I can honestly say that I feel Scotland would have voted in favour of Independence.
This week saw the appointment of Boris Johnston as the new Prime Minister for the United Kingdom. A man who champions and is determined to follow through with Brexit. To me, whatever happens, come October 31st, Scotland will never stop being part of a united Europe, I will always feel European and judging by the people I interacted with at the party, they feel exactly the same.
From Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg to Scotland, Im Herzen Europas.