(Berlin) King Charles III arrived in Berlin on Wednesday for his first foreign visit as sovereign, seen as an “important European gesture” after the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.
The white plane decorated at its end with the colors of the Union Jack landed at Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport shortly after 1:50 p.m. (7:50 a.m. Eastern Time).
He lined up on the tarmac in the military zone of the airport, where a red carpet was rolled out at the bottom of the stairs.
The King and his wife Camilla, welcomed by the German Chief of Protocol and the British Ambassador, will go to the Brandenburg Gate where they will be received with military honors by the Head of State Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
It is the first time that such a ceremony for a state guest has been held at the foot of the emblematic monument, which was also a symbol of the partition of the city for three decades.
The famous Unter den Linden avenue was adorned with the British flag in honor of the sovereign and the queen consort, expected on site around 3 p.m. (9 a.m. Eastern time).
The visit is a solemn occasion to celebrate the relationship of friendship between the two countries.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who will accompany the king throughout his trip, described his arrival as an “important European gesture”.
The royal couple is eagerly awaited by the curious, some of whom have queued for several hours in the hope of gaining access to the enclosure where the ceremony will be held.
“This is the King’s first visit to Germany. We want to celebrate, no matter how long we wait,” says Anja Wieting, 50, a shoe store employee who came especially with her 18-year-old daughter from Oldenburg in the west of the country.
“ A monarchy would give luster and hope to Germany. I think it would do us good,” adds Sylke Freundentahl, 56, a Braunschweig educator, expressing an aspiration not shared by the vast majority of Germans.
Maik Mattes, 21, a student in Munich, came to Berlin for the Easter holidays.
“ I am here a bit by chance ”, but it is “ a good opportunity ”, he told AFP. “ Seeing live is better than on television ”.
Up to 1100 police officers are mobilized, reinforcements from other regions have been requisitioned as well as 20 explosive sniffing dogs. Several axes will be closed to traffic in the center of Berlin.
“ The royal couple has expressed the wish to speak directly with the people of Berlin ”, police director Thomas Drechsler told German media.
The king will then go to the presidential palace in Bellevue to attend a reception dedicated to climate challenges. Charles has a longstanding commitment to environmental protection.
A banquet will follow with vegetarian options on the menu, in honor of the king. Guests will be able to choose for the main course between spinach tartlets accompanied by mushrooms and free-range chicken. German wines will accompany the dishes.
The program in Berlin will continue on Thursday. The king must in particular meet with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, walk with the mayor of the city in a market, deliver a speech in the Chamber of Deputies and meet Ukrainian refugees.
The royal couple’s trip to Germany will end on Friday with a stopover in Hamburg, the port metropolis and the country’s second city.
The couple were originally due to travel to France first, before Germany, but that trip had to be canceled due to social unrest over pension reform in the country.
Elizabeth II’s last visit to Germany in 2015, during the time of Chancellor Angela Merkel, sparked great enthusiasm in the country.
His most significant visit dates back to 1965, in a Berlin divided by the wall. It is seen as the moment that sealed the reconciliation between the two countries after World War II.
His son should also expect a warm welcome: he knows the country well and has visited more than 40 times, according to the British Embassy in Berlin.
In addition, the Germans remain great admirers of the “Royals”, from a “ very long tradition ” of monarchs, and their “ great interest ” is not about to dissipate, assures AFP Michael Hartmann, sociologist at the Technical University of Damstadt.