We spent last Saturday evening in Frankfurt (with Gary’s brother Chris–Hoover Brothers European Tour, Part Deux!) and while we were sitting at a stoplight, Gary noticed an advertisement for an Angela Merkel (the current German chancellor) political rally. I had nearly forgotten we were in the heat of campaign season, which is unusual for me, the political junkie. The thing is, the only television I’ve been watching is beamed out of London. The news I’ve been reading is from all the American websites where I’ve always collected the news. And, let’s face it, the German election for chancellor is important but not ever big news.
A few days later, Jack and I hopped on the train in Königstein–always a popular activity for a two year old boy–and rolled into the Frankfurt Hauptbanhof, the main train station and scheduled site for the Merkel rally. After getting our American fixes–McDonald’s for Jack and Starbucks for me–I pushed Jack in the stroller outside to the gathering crowd. It had many of the sights and sounds of an American-style political rally: eager fans, plotting protestors, and thumping music from the Black Eyed Peas, Pitbull, Lady Gaga, and the like. But it was all scaled down to the size of a rally for a U.S. Member of Congress or a Senator. Germany has over 82 million people which makes it densely populated and everything gets crammed into smaller portions. The Polizei were present but amazingly scarce considering the chancellor was arriving.
It was a few minutes past the start time and the crowd starting pushing forward making it harder to keep Jack protected. It turns out there was no need to worry about that. My nearly full Starbucks cup, which I had set on the ground for a moment, toppled over, sending my drink toward the toes of at least 25 people to the left of me. While I was crushed to see my Starbucks float away, it’s a brilliant way to make room for yourself in a crowd.
It was all starting to get exciting when some politician stepped up to introduce Merkel. Jack decided to stand up in his stroller to get a better view. Throughout the man’s entire remarks, one of the protest groups called Operation Übernahme (basically communists/socialists), started blowing whistles and honking horns. Then when Merkel made her way to the stage, and the rest of the crowd cheered, the whistles kept blowing, horns kept honking. They didn’t stop. Ever. Merkel had to speak over them the entire time. Do groups like this think they’re going to change anyone’s mind by completely annoying them? Then when one of them shouted at Merkel, she paused and said “Ja, ja…” and made some comment that made the rest of the crowd laugh. I have little idea of what she said during those 20 minutes but I was impressed by her poise and conviction. There were no “ums” or “ahs.” Her delivery was smooth, confident, and she held the crowd in her grasp. Election day is September 27.