This is going to be the last time for a long while, that I’ll write this: Welcome, Mr. President!
Mr. Obama is visiting Berlin, I learned last night. I called a staff member in the evening. She has left the office and had forgotten her grocery shopping under her desk, so I gave her a call. She has a couple of days off and her stuff will be rotten on Monday, when she is due back at work. She was still on the road, when I reached her, stuck in traffic. She complained, that with Obama arriving, the city was jammed, as roads were closed everywhere along his way from the airport to city center. Thus the news from our guest’s arrival got through to me.
I do remember the havoc, official state visits cause to city traffic. Over the years, police has found a way to deal with regular visitors, like heads of state, diplomatic delegations of all sorts or Royals of various descent, that is acceptable to everybody. They have some moving squads on motorbikes, that echelon from traffic light to traffic light ahead of any convoy with guests enroute from or to Tegel airport through the city. They switch off the traffic lights and block the road to let the convoy through, as it moves along, immediately switching the lights back on, after they have passed. Thus, traffic queues up a little, but never longer than two, three minutes, and everybody is happy.
However, every time, American or Jewish high ranking officials are in town, security is a lot heavier than with any other guests. Side roads along their route get blocked off completely and gutters are sealed in advance. Helicopters are overhead, following the convoy in the air. I rember well, as I used to live in one of the side roads to Tegel airport. So I was caught off guard every time, wanting to leave for work or arriving back home, unable to pull out of or into my road. Sometimes, when talking to the officers on post at the crossing, they would check my numberplate to confirm the address and let me pass. Most often, they weren’t allowed to and I had to move along, damned to park anywhere on the route, the government’s guests chose to take, sometimes miles away from home. Or else, in the mornings, I was going to be late for work, no matter what. I just had to sit and wait, until regular traffic was allowed to move again. Many times I wished, they would just load the visitors into the helicopters instead of driving them through town.
Now, that I live in suburbia, those minor hassels are not bothering me anymore. And I can simply delight in the fact, that Mr. Obama is in town. I am happy, he spends two full days in Berlin. This morning, I checked the White House official schedule, to find out, whether, and if so, where, one could go and see him, as I have a day off today. But no information is given there. Berlin’s official site does give some information. He stays in a hotel right next to Brandenburg Gate and the US embassy, dined with Mrs. Merkel last night (BILD reports, that they ordered Currywurst, THE Berlin snack) and will meet other European leaders like the French President and the British, Italian and Spanish Prime Ministers tomorrow here in Berlin. Tomorrow afternoon there will be a press conference given. But no public appearence is planned so far. Bummer. He seems to be taking a day off today, by the looks of it.
Maybe he is just sightseeing, enjoying a day in Berlin? I doubt it, albeit it is a nice thought. I guess, he’ll meet some of his own staff here, diplomats and members of the military, to say goodbye officially. Maybe have some diplomatic talks and prepare his own administration at the embassy for the shift in power, just taking place back home in the US. Who knows.
Anyways, I am happy to have him one last time. I really like this man. I think, he did a great job over the last eight years, considering the obstacles he faced from the opposition in Washington during his term. Of course there are always things, one can criticise about his years in office, and rightfully so. But to me personally, he has been the most inspiring public person in my lifetime, so far. And that must count for something, as I am not exactly young anymore. So, once again: Welcome, Mr. President!
p.s.: I got to take my staff’s groceries home, saved me from shopping last night. Will reimburse her on Monday.