Congressman Juan Vargas and his staff are getting ever more familiar with Germany, thanks to repeated free trips there provided by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and Robert Bosch Stiftung, two big charities funded by German industry.
This past spring, Vargas and his wife Adrienne spent a posh five days in Berlin and southern Bavaria’s Schloss Elmau luxury hotel, ringing up a total tab of $17,200, paid for by the two foundations. “I hope this experience will expand my understanding of the political dynamics both in the U.S. and abroad in order to provide solutions to current policy questions before the U.S. House of Representatives,” Vargas said in his disclosure filing for the junket.
Last month, Vargas’s chief of staff Timothy Walsh set off on the “senior congressional staff study tour,” paid for by the same sponsors. “This trip will expand my understanding of current transatlantic issues,” wrote Walsh in his justification for the October 11 through 16 Berlin junket. Total transportation expenses ran $2936, with lodging costs of $857 at Berlin’s Grand Hyatt and meals worth $460.
Monday afternoon, according to a draft itinerary, was set to include a tour of the German capital (entitled “Historic Overview of Berlin — 70 years after World War II”) and an opening dinner at Lutter & Wegner, commended by the New York Times for its wienerschnitzel.
There also was the requisite drop-by to see the American ambassador and a trip to the archives of the Stasi, the notorious East German secret police. Between discussions of the European refugee crisis and the prospects for expanding trans-Atlantic trade, the group managed to fit in dinner at FAME. “Be it as a culinary start for a long night partying at ‘Kater Blau’ or for sheer curiosity to get to know the critically acclaimed ‘Beef Fillet in red wine sauce’ by FAME chef Juval Diezinger — there are plenty of reasons for going to the FAME restaurant,” notes Top10Berlin.de.
The final night was spent at Katz Orange, another favorite of the Times, whose reviewer Gisela Williams in November 2012 described the clientele as an “upscale crowd of international hipster families, Bavarians with an aristocratic bearing and older, food-loving tourists. (The restaurant is also rock ’n’ roll enough for Lou Reed, who recently ate there two days in a row.)”