Charles III has visited Germany 40 times before but the monarch will never have seen anything like Wednesday’s welcoming ceremony for his first foreign trip as king at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.
Spectators lined the sides of the square in front of the Gate, waving German and British flags as a military band marched towards their position ahead of the royals’ arrival.
The well-known monument served as backdrop for the first time for the military honours accorded to visiting dignitaries when they visit Germany.
The Gate is the country’s most powerful symbol of unity after years of postwar division. For over three decades it stood just behind the Wall which divided the capitalist West from the communist East Germany.
The British monarch, accompanied by Queen Consort Camilla, was greeted by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the landmark to cheers from well-wishers, who had been standing in the cold for hours to catch a glimpse of the royal pair.
Juergen Edelmann, 52, was among those who had arrived hours ahead of the ceremony to ensure he got one of the 1,500 available spots on the square.
“It’s very special to have the honour to welcome a king to Germany,” said Edelmann, who works in communications at a hotel, describing the British monarch as a “friend”.
– Day out –
The entry queue brought Edelmann together with Nico Beetz, 20, who had travelled about 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Prenzlau to Berlin for the spectacle.
“You simply must seize the opportunity. It’s not often that a king comes to Berlin or Germany where you can see him so close up.”
Anja Wieting, 50, who works at a clothing store, took several days off to drive five hours to Berlin with her daughter Lili, 18, for the spectacle.
“It’s the visit of the king in Germany. We want to celebrate it, regardless of how long the queue is,” she said, adding that she finds “big ceremonies and state visits by royals great”.
Silvelin Fiebig, 65, accompanied by her daughter Stefanie, 39, may make the effort to see the king more than once.
Charles has a planned visit close to the retired kindergarten teacher’s home in rural Brandenburg on Thursday.
“I’m already thinking about whether I should go,” she said.
– ‘Good feeling’ –
At the airport, the royal couple received a stately welcome.
Standing at the top of the aeroplane stairs, they were given a 21-gun salute and a military plane flypast.
In the visit heavy with symbolism, the colour of Camilla’s dress drew the immediate comment from rolling news channel’s NTV presenter who called it a “European blue”.
The Queen Consort also made an impression on the crowd by the Brandenburg Gate, where she was accompanied by the German first lady Elke Buedenbender.
“I have always wanted to see the royal family in real life,” said 20-year-old Selma Tahirbegovic, a student.
“We loved it,” said Kathy Robertson, 63, who comes from Britain but has lived in Germany most of her adult life.
Robertson and her friend, another British Berliner, were “coming away with a good feeling because they made the effort”, she said.
On her way down the line of spectators, Camilla complimented a paper crown with a Burger King logo being worn by 19-year-old Andreina Riera from Venezuela.
“I never imagined that could happen — her noticing me!” she said. “I’m really happy.”
© Agence France-Presse