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Putin Eyeing a Beach House on the German Coast

What makes the leader of the largest nation in the world, who could hurl Europe back to the Ice Age at the flip of a switch, dream of the German Baltic sea coastline? It is an affair of the heart.

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Heiligendamm on the Baltic sea is Vladimir Putin's dream destination

Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning to buy a luxury villa on Germany's Baltic coast, German tabloid Bild reported on Friday.

Putin, 53, has begun negotiations with the Cologne-based investment group Findus, which owns the villa in the exclusive resort of Heiligendamm, the newspaper said.

The villa is said to have hosted the family of the Russian czar around the turn of the 19th century, and Putin is expected to refurbish it in grand style with marble, rare wood and silk carpets.

But why?

Ostseebad Ostsee Kempinski Grand Hotel Heiligendamm

"Excuse me, Mr. Putin. I'll be out of your way in second."

Heiligendamm is the oldest beach resort in Germany. It was founded in 1793 by Great Duke Friedrich Franz I von Mecklenburg. It prides itself on its classicist architecture and blandish nickname "white town by the sea." European aristocrats, known for their peculiar tastes, were frequent visitors until the 1930s.

But -- let's be frank about it -- Heiligendamm is not exactly a tropical paradise. Madonna did not shoot the video for "La isla bonita" in Germany, and for good reason.

Women in Heiligendamm are not wearing gorgeous flamenco dresses, and men are not even remotely close to being swarthy guitar players with bushy eyebrows and a vaguely mysterious look in their eyes. On an average Baltic sea vacation, you are more likely to suffer from hypothermia than a sun stroke. The local specialty is Mecklenburger Speckkartoffelsalat (potato salad mixed with chopped bacon), and not -- contrary to popular belief -- piña colada.

So, if you are the president of a country that temporarily switched off its gas supplies to an entire continent -- for the same reason that the dog licks itself, because it can -- why would you bother? What is Putin seeing in Germany's short and brisk summers that we, mere mortals, are not?

High class entertainment

Schröder begrüßt Putin in Berlin

A big bear hug for my best buddy!

Bild quoted diplomatic sources as saying the Russian head of state wanted to buy the three-storey house because Germany is hosting the G8 summit -- annual meeting of the richest nations in the world -- in May 2007 in Heiligendamm.

While other dignitaries will have to graciously accept accommodation at the Kempinski Grand, one of Germany's most luxurious hotels, Putin will get a chance to show off in front of the other big shots by throwing chill-out parties at his own beach mansion.

But it's probably more than that. It is no secret that President Putin and former Chancellor Schröder are best buddies. When it became more or less obvious that Schröder's days as chancellor were numbered, Putin gave Schröder a small cheer-me-up gift in the form of a Russian-German pipeline deal worth 5.7 billion euros ($6.7 billion) and a job on the gas consortium for his post-chancellor days of leisure.

Grand Hotel Heiligendamm Luftaufnahme

Putin wants to throw the best G8 summit party ever

Now, that's friendship: taking care of your buddy, when he needs it the most. German politics, in fact, has probably not seen that level of cross-cultural intimacy since Soviet President Brezhnev kissed East German President Erich Honecker on the mouth.

So can we blame President Putin for wanting to be closer to his best friend? Of course not.

We can only look forward to the reports from the G8 summit in 2007.

"Hey, Tony, what's up?"

"Nada, Jacques. Gotta go to Volodya's beach house."

"Is Angie coming?"

"Dunno. Hope Gerd will be around, though. He sure knew how to party."

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