Thousands line Berlin river to cheer Queen

Valentine Low, Berlin

he queen visited Angela Merkel, the chancellor, at her offices Theo Schneider / Demotix
The queen visited Angela Merkel, the chancellor, at her offices Theo Schneider / Demotix

Thousands of people lined the banks of the Spree in Berlin today to watch the Queen take a river trip through the centre of the German capital.

On the first full day of her state visit, she travelled in an open pleasure cruiser with the Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by President Gauck and his partner Daniela Schadt.

Onlookers cheered from the banks and waved union flags, while hundreds of schoolchildren screamed from a bridge as the Queen passed below.

The Queen was formally welcomed at Bellevue Castle, the official residence of the president, Joachim Gauck. The president, 75, who led the commission into the crimes of the former East German secret police, the Stasi, is separated from his wife and lives with a woman who was not born when he got married. Daniela Schadt, 55, is a former journalist who was born in 1960, the year after his marriage to Gerhild Radtke. The couple separated in 1991 but never divorced.

Later the Queen met the Angela Merkel at the Chancellery. The two women have met twice before, when the German chancellor came to Buckingham Palace in 2008 and 2014.

The Queen appeared delighted by the enthusiasm of her reception. She smiled warmly and waved a lilac-gloved hand at the crowds as President Gauck pointed out the landmarks.

The duke – leaning casually with one elbow on the outside of the boat – also appeared caught up in the moment, beaming as he too waved at the onlookers.

One group of schoolchildren, wearing T-shirts that proclaimed them to members of Class 6B, sang God Save the Queen in English.

There was only one note of dissent, a lone protester in a bird mask who shouted something unintelligible at the royal party as a sound system boomed out Give Peace a Chance. He was swiftly moved on by the police.

For a journey designed to show Berlin to the Queen, and the Queen to Berlin, she travelled in the Ajax, an “express cruiser” built for a German brewing magnate in the year she was born, 1926.

Her choice of outfit suggested that her mind was on the last time she travelled on a boat on a river on an unseasonably cold summer’s day: she was wearing exactly the same silver and white outfit that she wore for the Diamond Jubilee river pageant, when she paraded on the Thames on a day so cold and wet that Prince Philip went down with an infection.

Although it was no warmer than it was for her day on the river in 2012, at least the rain – which had been making sporadic appearances – held off. Ten minutes after she disembarked at the Bundestag, it started raining again.

The 25-minute – about 3km – journey took her past some of Berlin’s best-known landmarks including the Tiergarten, Berlin’s second-largest park, created in the 16th century as a hunting ground for the King of Prussia; the Chancellery; the modern Bundestag; the old Reichstag with its Norman Foster dome; the imposing glass facade of the new Berlin Central station, and a national centre for contemporary arts nicknamed the Pregnant Oyster.

When Berlin was divided, the river marked the border between East and West in that part of Berlin, and several people drowned trying to escape to the West. Onlookers were forbidden from trying to rescue them.

Quelle: The Times (

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