The summer holiday is well and truly over for Angela Merkel.
The German Chancellor gave a surprise lecture to students in one Berlin school who also returning from the long break. The subject was the Berlin Wall, whose construction began exactly 52 years ago.
It was also a return to political campaigning ahead of next month’s general election, and a chance for Merkel to show a softer, more personal side to her young audience. With six weeks to go before the vote, she is entering the final stretch with a healthy lead.
“August 13, today it’s the 52nd anniversary of the construction of the Wall. This was the year, 1961, when I started school and my favourite lessons were languages as well as German and maths,” she said.
Merkel’s appearance drew the crowds with queues of students trying to get into the lecture hall, or catch a close-up glimpse.
“She was very sweet and small and seemed like, a normal, slightly elderly woman,” said one young female student.
“She told us lots about her personal life, what she did at school and with here friends. It was quite personal at some points and she laughed a lot. I have never seen her laughing. She comes across as very friendly. What she taught we knew mostly already from school, but it was interesting to hear what she did and how she felt about it,” said another pupil.
Merkel normally keeps her distance and is not known for working a crowd, but here she appeared at ease, and the students were clearly delighted to see her in the flesh.