Locals cheered as Obama saluted them with a “Grüss Gott” – a traditional greeting – against a stunning backdrop of pine forests and snowcapped mountains, telling them: “That was without question, the best Alpine horn performance I’ve ever heard.”
In what will no doubt be seen as an open invitation to a local lederhosen tailor looking for some publicity, the president said he had forgotten “to bring my lederhosen, but I hope to find some while I’m here”. But the German chancellor was decidedly cooler than usual during her welcome speech. Despite using his first name, and addressing him in the informal du form, she immediately made a veiled reference to the tensions between the US and Germany over the scandal surrounding Germany’s intelligence agents allegedly helping the US’s National Security Agency to spy on officials and companies in Europe.
“Although it’s true we have differences of opinion from time to time, the United States of America is our friend and essential partner with whom we cooperate closely because it’s in our mutual interest,” she said.
Welcoming the two days of talks, during which, Obama said, “we’re going to discuss our joint future,” he referred apologetically to the massive security operation involved in staging the G7, which has upset many locals. “I know it’s a lot of hard work when I come to town,” he said.
He then asked Merkel if the talks could be held outside “over a glass of beer” rather than up at Schloss Elmau, the luxury hotel where the seven world leaders will be meeting, “but I think we’ll have to negotiate with the security people,” he said.
The two leaders, along with Merkel’s chemistry professor husband, Joachim Sauer, then sat down with locals for a specially brewed G7 summit banana and clove-flavour weissbier, weisswurst and pretzels, all of them appearing to swig back the beer, despite the early hour.
Obama sat between a local dairy farmer and Krun’s mayor, while Merkel was next to the village bank manager and his wife.