Berlin is so far away and Germany so close. The magnus opus of the lavish murals in the aula regis of the Goslar Imperial Palace shows Wilhelm Eins and Filius Friedrich Wilhelm on horseback, surrounded by symbols from 1000 years of German history: Alsace and Lorraine as beauties clad only in a hint of dress, the master builder Bismarck with the hammer, Ludwig II humbly hands the Hohenzollern a crown. Barbarossa and Queen Luise float high in the sky. Maximum fan service for friends of the German monarchy. On the stage in front of it, the combo "Future Jazz" plays big band versions of classics that are quite yesterday's.
Right now they are giving "Michael, you forgot the color film", actually by Nina Hagen, who has as much to do with Goslar and the emperors as the guest of honor of the evening with Goslar. But of course the song is played for Angela Merkel, it's been her official favorite song since the tattoo last Bibberwinter.
The former chancellor doesn't recognize him immediately and then smiles very politely. Nobody but her can really believe that she is actually here. In Goslar.
Merkel has only made four public appearances since she left office. The first at the DGB (that was a bit weird), the second at a book presentation in the Berliner Ensemble (that was PR), then at the beginning of the week at the new Helmut Kohl Foundation (good photos with Merz) - and now as Speaker at the "1100 Years Goslar Ceremony". Actually, Merkel was the ceremony. It was the only item on the program, before and after there was only a welcome by Mayor Urte Schwerdtner and just a bit too much "Future Jazz".
So everything on Merkel, who appeared in a beige jacket and very wide, black trousers. Of course, she couldn't avoid the question of why she was here at all and answered it right at the beginning. After all, the federal party of the CDU was first founded here in Goslar, in 1950. The second reason smiled, because he was sitting in the first row, a little apart next to the ambassador of Indonesia: Sigmar Gabriel. In a kind of "grand coalition renaissance" she accepted the invitation of her old vice chancellor and comrade in Cabinet III in his hometown of Goslar.
In addition, and that was the general reason for her visit, she simply wanted to thank everyone who keeps the municipalities running - since the Harz city is neither one of the oldest in Germany nor is it in her old constituency - the local politicians, the volunteers, the helpers.
She sat down for her speech – the knee injury. Then an exactly four-minute ride (the colleague from the "Zeit" who was sitting next to me stopped) through 1100 years of Goslar history. "I didn't give up my penchant for numbers and dates when I was chancellor," Merkel said and got started: 47 churches and chapels, 167 historic ponds, 313 historic buildings. Favorite city of Henry III, municipal water supply since the 14th century, member of the Hanseatic League until 1576, in 1632 the Swedes came. 28 victims by burning witches. Then Adenauer came and proclaimed the goals of the CDU: "Secure peace through freedom" and reunification.
Merkel covered a wide range, came from an English city friendship to the deceased Queen, who had received her “at Windsor” last year, and later to Michael Gorbachev, who made German unity possible. Chancellor anecdotes, expected and always gladly accepted. But then quickly on to the current requirements that the people in the municipalities would have to tackle “on site”: climate, digitization, demographic change, Corona. Refugees. The Challenges of Russia's War of Aggression in Ukraine. Thanks for that. Thank you Goslarers.
Of course, according to Merkel, she would not comment on current government policies. But there was a small impulse: Although Russia clearly violated all applicable international law on February 24, one should not lose sight of the goal of a European security architecture - with Russian involvement. Something like that sounds strange the day before Putin annexed more Ukrainian territories, and Merkel knew it too: "Today, this goal may seem as unrealistic to us as Adenauer felt about reunification in Goslar in 1950."
After the “color film”, the background of which Gabriel whispered into the ear of the Indonesian Excellency, who then probably felt like Tom Hanks in “Wetten, dass...?”, the mayor brought the musicians into a corridor in front of the stage. "I'll change the protocol here now, this is a unique opportunity for a photo with Angela Merkel." Snap, snap, snap. Then Merkel took command and led the ensemble up onto the podium with a mischievous cousin look. The better photo motif, Germany's splendor and glory painted on the wall in the background. Learned is learned. Applause. Applause. Applause.
It was really nice in Goslar for everyone. The mayoress, proudly wearing the imposing silver mayoral chain, praised and thanked Merkel more extensively than a social democrat has probably done before. The audience, which was important to us, an average of Goslar's civil society, applauded Merkel's every move, happy about what had been achieved, but above all about the fact that Angela Merkel had now officially recognized it. While her other former deputy announced in Berlin with his traffic light comrades that they would distribute 200 billion euros, Angela Merkel caressed the souls. Not with money, but with a few words and your presence. Federal President.
Goslar is one of the cities that the Chancellor was probably referring to when she spoke of the "Germany in which we live well and happily". With all the urban serenity and all the gloomy images from the other province, one must not forget that this also exists. In a strange way, Goslar was a homecoming from abroad for Merkel. A visit to the Germany that she had made the goal of her chancellorship. Whether that was successful or not – that was not up for debate that evening.