Passport DC Comes Back to Town
On any given Sunday, there’s always some foot traffic on Massachusetts Avenue along Embassy Row, especially if the weather is ideal and spring-sunny as it was on May 7.
But hey, what was this: crowds pouring into the British Embassy and coming out with tote bags emblazoned with the flag of England? What were the lines of people snaking around the block, making their way to the Embassy of Greece, the Embassy of Ireland, or the Latvian Embassy? And just what was going on at the Embassy of Finland?
It was the beginning of the fourth annual Passport DC celebration, an ever-increasingly popular city-wide event produced by Cultural Tourism DC, with the participation of over 60 embassies, which fling open their doors to the general public in a wildly successful annual event that celebrates the international presence of world embassies in our city.
Looking at the crowds, you could well agree with Cultural Tourism DC Director Linda Harper, who said: “Passport DC is a chance to honor and explore the many cultures that are represented in Washington, DC. There is no better place to have this grand celebration…a truly global city.”
This all began four years ago when member embassies representing the European Union decided, without out much elaborate planning, to hold open houses for most of their embassies, allowing tourists and residents to come in and visit, meet embassy officials, and share in the cultural offerings and history of the respective countries. Some 70,000 people showed up.
The European Union folks knew they were on to something and joined up with Cultural Tourism DC to produce what is now a month-long celebration of international culture and conviviality. Last year, around 160,000 people participated in the events that make up Passport DC.
Round one was another edition spearheaded by the European Unions called Shortcut to Europe, and the British effort looked to be the splashiest affair, like a sweet hangover from the recent nuptials of Prince William and his Katherine. You could tour the English gardens, which included an impressive, essence-of-horse-nobility sculpture of a horse reputed to be a famous British racehorse whose kidnapping was never solved.
British soldiers, real ones and dressed up ones were there. There was whiskey tasting, music and a bit of English pudding, and it was all very English—proving once again that we may have rebelled against the king to form a more perfect union, but we still love our cousins across the pond.
The embassies were far flung: Ireland, the Brits, Iceland, Latvia, Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal, Finland (all along Mass Ave.), and the Embassy of Austria and Slovakia at International Square, France and Germany on MacArthur Boulevard, and the list goes on. From the looks of it, the celebration will probably exceed last year’s crowds, the weather gods permitting.
This weekend, it’s the All Around the World Embassy Tour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. all over the city, featuring 35 embassies from six continents. Needless to say, the embassies won’t just be from all over the world, but will be located all over the city. They included the Bahamas—a very popular destination last year where the annual festivities of Juckanoo will play a key part; Australia where you can hear the didgeridoo, an Aboriginal musical instrument, among other activities; Bolivia, which is now called the Plurinational State of Bolivia; Ghana, with a splendid display of its unique arts and crafts; and the Republic of Iraq, a free democracy. In fact, you can blaze a trail through the countries most affected by recent upheavals from Egypt to Bahrain. History in this city is alive and moving full steam ahead.
There will be shuttles available and special bus stops to the various embassies and residences which are scattered throughout the city
Other upcoming events in May include the National Asian Heritage Festival and the Fiesta Asia Street Fair, May 21 at Pennsylvania Avenue between 3rd and 6th Streets, which also celebrates Asian Pacific Heritage Month. Live music, dancing, Pan-Asian Cuisine
May 21 will also feature the annual Meridian International Children’s Festival, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
There will also be special events on a daily basis at embassies, museums, and international cultural centers like the Goethe Institute and the Mexican Cultural Center, including jazz concerts, Kids World Cinema, Embassy Series concerts, the Eurovision Song Contest, workshop and classical music, film and so on.
For a complete list of all the events, times, schedules and locations for Passport DC, go to the Passport DC section of the Cultural Tourism website at www.culturaltourismdc.org