Josef and I, together with twenty friends and contacts from the Austrian Women’s Federation for World Peace, had a guided tour of the Austrian Parliament, personally arranged and facilitated by Christine Marek, Member of the Austrian Parliament.
The tour was particularly fascinating, not only for the educational value of learning about the architectural structure of the building, the historical roots of the chambers, the incredible history that has transpired in these halls, the rebuilding after the bombing during World War II. Most moving was the personal testimony that Ms Marek included as she led us through the halls and chambers and explained her own relationship to these houses of parliament which she will soon be leaving as a Member.
We heard about the reconstruction and replacement of two marble columns in the great hall – only the kindergarten children she guides through these chambers notice the base of the two new columns which are bright and shiny, compared to the others.
We sat in the seats of the members of parliament and heard about the use of filibuster as a parliamentary tactic, both in history (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_Lecher) and more recently (http://www.wissenswertes.at/index.php?id=politik-filibuster).
We sensed the need to become more politically conscious and also became aware of some of the shortcomings of the current political system.
Above all, the declaration that the houses of parliament are for the people and that many public events, apart from guided tours, take place here. Ms Marek spoke passionately about her initiative to form a parliamentary choir. Members of seemingly opposing parties sang together and even staged benefit concerts raising thousands of Euros for worthy causes. One of Ms Marek’s prime regrets in leaving parliament is that there may be nobody prepared to take over this role to keep the choir going after she leaves.
It was a fascinating tour for us, the significance of the building representative of the historical multi-nation state of Austria through the years, the personal testimony of one who has contributed from within these structures and the link to music as a bridge of peace.