Thousands of people lined up Wednesday to catch a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth during her state visit to Germany. They wanted to see the pomp, circumstance and Her Majesty’s trademark wave, if only for a second.
Two armed sailors snapped to attention as the dark red Bentley rolled to a stop outside Berlin's Bellevue Palace and the 15 white-clad police motorcyclists who had escorted it sped off.
An attendant in a tuxedo rushed to open the door and Queen Elizabeth II emerged to a flutter of camera flashes. She was greeted by German President Joachim Gauck and his partner, Daniela Schadt, who curtsied to the Queen but bowed to her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Together the four walked through the presidential palace to the back lawn, where soldiers from the Staff Band of the German Army and the Guard Battalion of the Federal Ministry of Defense waited under a gray, atmospheric sky.
The ceremony was well scripted, the music a splendid display of German diplomacy. From a raised podium adjacent the military musicians, the Queen looked on as they played the British and German national anthems.
‘Something to tell the grandkids'
Wednesday marked the first full day of the Queen's fifth state visit to Germany since 1965, when she came here for the first time just four years after the Berlin Wall was erected.
Now in her twilight years, the Queen is expected to make this one of her last official trips abroad - a fact that made catching a glimpse of her that much more pressing for many Germans.
"She's 89 - you never know when she'll come back," said Patricia Kopecki, a 25-year-old economics and mathematics major at Berlin's Technical University, where the Queen attended a lecture later in the day. "It'll be something to tell the grandkids."
A short walk from her vantage point along Berlin's Street of June 17, Elisa Schorb-Schmiederer expressed a similar sentiment.
"She looks so agile for her age," said Schorb-Schmiederer, 54. "But this will probably be the last time we'll see her here."
A shot in the arm
When Queen Elizabeth II first came to Germany in 1965, her presence was credited with giving post-war British-German relations a much-needed shot in the arm. This time, much speculation has circled around the reason for the royal couple selecting Germany as one of their final destinations for a state visit.
German media have noted Prince Philip's German roots - he was born into the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg - and pointed out that London could be signaling its commitment to Europe as the British government gears up for a referendum on its European Union ties.
"The war was a long time ago, but I think her visit is still a sign of European unity," said Laura Giese, 18, a recent high school graduate, after posing for a photo with a cardboard cutout of the Queen in front of Bellevue Palace.
A royal spectacle
Germans' favorable attitude toward the UK remaining in the EU was reflected by the many paper Union Jack flags fluttering in the crowds that had gathered outside Bellevue Palace in the morning and along the banks of the nearby Spree River.
Like Giese, many people had braved the drizzly weather to witness the spectacle of a royal visit. They wanted to see the pomp, the circumstance and the Queen's trademark wave, if only for a second.
The streets around Bellevue, the Chancellor's Office and the Technical University had been cordoned off for blocks. Police stood guard on motorcycles, on horses and on foot. Hundreds of onlookers gathered with umbrellas, T-shirts and handmade posters emblazoned with the British flag or portraits of Her Majesty.
There was a flurry of excitement as the Queen made her way from the presidential palace to a waiting boat for a carefully scripted, 20-minute ride to the Chancellery.
"People went crazy. They were running alongside her boat," said Amir Eibagi, a 28-year-old tourist from California who happened to be walking along the Spree River when the Queen floated by on the "Ajax," a long, wooden vessel that carried her to a meeting with Angela Merkel.
Asked about the circumstances that led him to wait outside in the rain for a quick look of an elderly monarch while he and his parents toured Berlin, Oyvind Dahl from Norway just shrugged.
"Why not?" he replied. "It's cool to see the queen."