• Germany's news in English
 

'Michelle is more popular than her husband'

Published: 19 Jun 2013 15:55 GMT+02:00

"I went up that tower yesterday!" Ruben Zoehout told The Local, pointing to the top of the watch tower at Bernauer Straße from where Michelle Obama and her daughters were surveying the remnants of the wall which once divided Berlin.

"It's such a special feeling to think they're up there at almost the same time," he added.

Zoethout, a Dutch civil servant, drove all the way from Holland for the Obamas' visit. "I came to absorb the atmosphere," he said. "I got up at 6am this morning. Usually I find it hard to get up but this is just so exciting."

For Zoethuot, Michelle Obama's visit to Bernauer Straße - one of the few places in the city where original parts of the wall remain - is particularly significant.

"This is about creating a memory. Some of my friends said I was stupid to come all the way. But this is such a special moment. The world is moving closer together," he said.

Berliner Claudia Wulff, as she craned her neck to get a glimpse at Michelle at the top of the tower, was not quite so impressed. "I'm a little disappointed we didn't get a wave," she said. Then added with a chuckle, "especially as this is such a women's event!"

Wulff, who lives in the neighbourhood, nevertheless acknowledged Michelle's visit to the area was "exciting." However, she believed there wasn't "much of a relationship" between the United States and Germany.

"I mean, he's telling us to sort out the euro crisis," she said. "Although I suppose he's right."

Her friend, Bibi-Sabira-Dul, who has roots in Pakistan and Afghanistan, piped up. "I'm very disappointed about Obama's failure to close Guantanamo Bay ... I would tell Michelle that myself if I could."

"There are innocent people in Guantanamo," she told The Local. "Obama needs to realise that practicing your religion is not the same as being a terrorist."

"Otherwise though I am quite content with him," she said and agreed that Michelle Obama's visit to this particular spot was important.

"This is where freedom began," said Sabira-Dul. "It's the centre of world freedom. This place is a reminder that division doesn't work."

Click here to see people gathered at Bernauer Straße to see the First Lady and her daughters.

For Sabira-Dul however, the gap between the Islamic and Western world is one politicians have so far failed to bridge.

Another person worried about bridging gaps of a much more concrete kind was Nam Tan, a software developer who works on the other side of the road, which police had cordoned off.

"I work over there!" he said. "I walked all the way around because the trains weren't running. But now I'm stuck. I'm going to be late and I have a meeting."

Tan wasn't surprised however that Michelle Obama and her daughters had come to Bernauer Straße. "It's part of Berlin's history." he said. "It's the first place anybody coming to Berlin would go."

For others gathered at the stretch of the former wall, Michelle Obama's visit corresponded with their own first trip to Berlin. Christine von Hof, who lives outside of Frankfurt, had never been to Berlin before. "It's simply unimaginable to think that this spot marked the division of the entire city," she said.

Fellow German, Ulrike Full - a teacher - and her son Nicolas, were also hoping to get a glimpse of the First Lady at the historic spot. "My son was learning about the Obamas at school," Full said. "I went to the museum here recently," she said. "I would definitely recommend everybody visit it."

Full said the Obamas were particularly popular among young people. "I'm talking about 15 and 16 year-olds," she said. "For older people, it might be a slightly different story."

Rudolf Nielsen, who is holidaying in Berlin this week, stumbled across the scene at Bernauer Straße by chance. He thinks the relationship between Germany and the United States has become more meaningful.

The First Lady, Nielsen said, was "more popular than her husband" though he acknowledged that her role was "easier," or at least “different”.

Kate Ferguson

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
North Korea mistakenly outraged at Berlinale
Kim Jong Un has accidentally wounded his dignity while trying to stop his dignity being wounded. Photo: DPA

North Korea mistakenly outraged at Berlinale

North Korea turned harsh diplomatic language against Berlin's film festival in the mistaken belief that The Interview, the James Franco and Seth Rogen comedy about a murder plot against dictator Kim Jong Un, will be screened there. READ  

Let's officialize Muslim community: Berlin mayor
Muslims at prayer in Berlin's Sehitlik mosque. Photo: DPA

Let's officialize Muslim community: Berlin mayor

SPD party leader Raed Saleh wants to create a contract with the Muslim community similar to the one between the town hall and Christian and Jewish groups that grants them official status. READ  

Cities see slower house price growth
Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg. Photo: DPA

Cities see slower house price growth

A trend for ever-faster growth in house prices across Germany was reversed in 2014, as prices rose by four percent compared with seven the previous year 2013. READ  

Court probes abuse at Catholic boarding school
The monk at his court appearance in Munich on Thursday. Photo: DPA

Court probes abuse at Catholic boarding school

A monk and former teacher at a boarding school in the Bavarian alps pleaded not guilty on Thursday at his trial for abusing two pupils and attempted abuse of two more. READ  

'Fight harder' against corruption: activists
Bribery photo: Shutterstock

'Fight harder' against corruption: activists

Campaigners say the states can do more to fight corruption after a report showed that Brandenburg, Saarland, North Rhine-Westphalia and Hamburg had the highest numbers of cases. READ  

Renzi woos Merkel amid Florentine splendour
Angela Merkel and Matteo Renzi speaking in Florence. Photo: DPA

Renzi woos Merkel amid Florentine splendour

The eurozone's deep divisions were set to be given an airing in Florence on Friday as Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel days before crucial elections in Greece. READ  

Merkel offers Russia free-trade agreement
Photos: DPA

Merkel offers Russia free-trade agreement

Germany would be prepared to negotiate a free-trade agreement between the European Union and Russia as a way out of the deadlocked Ukraine conflict, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday. READ  

Get more 'gigaliners' on roads: Minister
Photo: DPA

Get more 'gigaliners' on roads: Minister

Environmentalists and train companies reacted with outrage to Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt's plan to allow more giant "gigaliner" trucks on motorways before they've passed a trial period. READ  

Police arrest suspect in asylum seeker murder
Demonstrators in Dresden with photos of murder victim Khaled Idris Bahray

Police arrest suspect in asylum seeker murder

Police in Dresden have arrested a man on suspicion of killing his flatmate, an asylum seeker from Eritrea, on Monday January 12th. READ  

Meet the women fighting German tabloid sexism
Photo: DPA

Meet the women fighting German tabloid sexism

After a false dawn for campaigners against daily topless models in Britain's Sun newspaper, The Local talks to the women campaigning against sexism in Germany's biggest-selling tabloid. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
The rise and spread of Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Photo: DPA
Politics
The Local's report from Pegida's largest ever demonstration.
Sponsored Article
Top-notch tech boosts bilingual schools
National
Six stories that will rock Germany this year
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Photo: DPA
National
What were your favourite news stories of 2014?
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

1,438
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd