My revelation came to me in a cafe in Vienna.
I was passing through Austria by train and had enough time to get some lunch. So, I went to a cafe on Keplerplatz and (when in Rome) ordered a wiener schnitzel.
I had been thinking about my previous day’s visit to the Parliamentarium, the EU Parliament’s visitor centre. Going there had been something of a pilgrimage, having found myself on the Remainer side of the Brexit chasm. But even without that, surely finding out how democracy works is a noble and worthwhile exercise. The trouble is, it’s all rather…dull.
So while I was in the cafe with a brace of schnitzels, working out how and where to start tucking in, I realised what is missing from the Parliamentarium.
When visiting Cadbury World at Bournville, you get given a handful of chocolate bars to scoff as you walk around. This doesn’t just bribe you into going round the exhibits, it engages your most susceptible senses in an immersive experience that will make you fall in love with Cadbury’s forever.
Every visitor to the Parliamentarium should be given a massive wiener schnitzel on entry.
Bear with me on this.
The Parliamentarium currently starts with an exhibit on the ruins of Europe in 1945. It might at first seem like a reasonable place to start. After all. isn’t that where the EU story starts?
That just shows the motivation for creating the EU.
It would be like Cadbury World starting in 1824 with John Cadbury, but they don’t. They start with the Aztecs and the mighty Montezuma on his throne demanding his upteenth cup of cocoa.
So, while you are working out whether to continue nibbling your Fruit’n’Nut or switch to a Curly Wurly, you have more empathy with the Aztec guys who had no idea that their civilisation was about to come to a devastating end.
At the turn of the 20th Century, the Austro-Hungarian Empire couldn’t sate its appetite for schnitzels and sausages and was a big importer of pork from Serbia.
Being the big-boys of MittelEuropa, Austria-Hungary didn’t like little Serbia attempted to get out of stifling trade agreements and the Pig War ensued in 1906. By 1908 other big-boys like Russia got involved leading to a grudging peace.
If we learned all of this while munching our flesh frisbees, perhaps we might get a better feel for why the Hapsburgs would gamble prosperous MittelEuropa in a quest for even more power and control.
We’d also, as with Cadbury World, develop a deep subliminal attachment to Brussels, equating EU directives with porky treats.