Spilling more ink about Barack Obama’s speech in Berlin would be akin to spitting into the ocean. But that won’t stop us, particularly since we noticed coverage of the event was delivered mainly from the perspective of the speaker’s podium.
We bring you the other perspective from where we were: in the in the midst of the 200,000 people gathered in Berlin’s Tiergarten.
We traveled by car four hours each way from our current post in Prague, Czech Republic to Berlin, Germany. A significant time investment considering Obama’s speech would be drowned in a sea of punditry worldwide, but – like everything else on this journey – we wanted our own glimpse.
Despite the long security lines, the mood was jovial and excited, as if attendees were waiting to see their favorite band. American expatriates manned voter registration tables, and like any political event, there were single-issue fanatics including those in polar bear suits holding “Stop Global Warming” signs.
Like a summer rock festival, beer and sausage trucks lined the way through the streets bordering the Tiergarten. Towards the Siegessäule (Victory Column) where the podium stood, vendors hawked Obama t-shirts and clever pins (including our favorite “Obamafest” featuring Obama carrying giant beer mugs a la Oktoberfest). Obviously, entrepreneurial opportunism doesn’t stop short at political and diplomatic rallies.
And yes, every now and then you could hear an accented voice say “Yes we can!”
We found ourselves no more than seventy meters away from Obama’s podium, in an all-ages but youthful crowd. The audience, it seemed, came from across Europe and North America: Germany, Netherlands, France, Canada and America – and this was just within earshot. American flags were only outnumbered by cell phones and cameras hoisted high to capture a piece of history.
Ours, too. Enjoy the slideshow below. Or, view the photo set here.
*Oh, and for those unfamiliar, here’s a full explanation of the jelly donut reference, featuring John F. Kennedy’s “Gaffe That Never Was.”
Update, July 31, 2008: You can see for yourself that there were no free beer and bratwurst signs at the Tiergarten. And trust us, if free beer and bratwurst were available, we’d have been the first to find it.