Charles III in Germany for his first foreign trip as king
BERLIN: Britain’s Charles III arrived in Germany on Wednesday (Mar 29) for his first state visit as king, with the trip billed as “an important European gesture” to maintain strong ties after Brexit.
The royals’ plane, with “United Kingdom” marked on the sides, landed at Berlin-Brandenburg airport shortly before 2pm.
“Ahead of our first State Visit to Germany, we are very much looking forward to meeting all of those who make this country so special. It is a great joy to be able to continue the deepening of the longstanding friendship between our two nations,” said Charles and Queen Consort Camilla on Twitter via the Royal Family’s account.
Standing at the top of the plane’s steps, the royal couple were greeted with a 21-gun salute as two military jets made a flypast.
The British Union Jack was flapping alongside the German and European Union flags along Berlin’s central Unter den Linden avenue, which leads to the Brandenburg Gate, where Charles will receive a formal welcome.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and German first lady Elke Buedenbender will greet the royal couple with military honours at the landmark, the first time it has provided a backdrop for receiving a state guest.
During his three-day visit, Charles will become the first monarch to address the German parliament, with a speech on Thursday, before travelling to the port city of Hamburg on Friday.
The decision to call on the EU heavyweight first is widely seen as an attempt to build post-Brexit bridges, with Steinmeier calling it “an important European gesture”.
The choice of Germany for Charles’s first visit, after a planned trip to Paris was postponed, showed Berlin was a “key partner” for Britain as it seeks to reset relations with the EU, daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote.
Well-wishers arrived at the Brandenburg Gate hours before the royal couple touched down in hope of getting a glimpse of them.
Anja Wieting, 50, who works at a clothing store, took 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 told AFP, adding that she finds “big ceremonies and state visits by royals great”.
Teacher Sylke Freundentahl, 56, had been waiting in the queue since 9.15 am before being let into the secured zone.
“I am a royal fan,” she said, adding that she will try to travel on Friday to Hamburg as well.
“The British royal family garners a lot of interest” in Germany, said Michael Hartmann, a sociology professor at Darmstadt Technical University, noting the bestseller status of the tell-all memoir by Charles’s son Prince Harry.
The fascination with the House of Windsor has not dimmed since the death last year of Elizabeth II, Hartmann told AFP.
The late queen first visited Berlin in 1965 when the city was divided between a capitalist West and communist East, a trip that was seen as a key step in post-war reconciliation.
Charles himself has been a regular visitor to Germany, with the British embassy in Berlin saying that he has been to the country 40 times.