On Monday King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands visited the German state of Lower Saxony, and on Tuesday they were in North Rhine-Westphalia.The aim of the two-day visit was to promote mutual trade interests and cooperations in areas such as renewable energy, creative industries, innovation and education at universities.
As they were quite close to the north of the Netherlands on Monday I took the opportunity to travel across the border. It meant getting out of my bed at 5.20am and take the bus to Oldenburg one hour later. I reached Oldenburg far too early at 8am. The visit to the Next Energy Campus of the University of Oldenburg started at 10am. The royal couple was welcomed at the car by the Prime Minister of Lower Saxoy, Stephan Weil, and the rector of the University, Professor Dr Katharina Al-Shamery. The public was somewhat disappointed as they hardly got the opportunity to see something of the arrival. The royal couple disappeared inside quite quickly. There were a few speeches, a panel discussion, and the couple toured a few research projects.
Being part of the media I had to leave by bus to Leer at 11am. Only later I heard that Willem-Alexander and Máxima had greeted the public after all, shook hands and accepted some flowers. In the meantime the weather had even become better. It was very nice and sunny, and I really wondered how the Queen could stand wearing black leather gloves with her great black-white outfit.
In Leer there were many more people than in Oldenburg lining the street where the couple would arrive. There were not only Germans, but also Dutch, who had travelled across the border just like me. After arrival King Willem-Alexander quickly went inside and was shown a ship simulator, while Queen Máxima stayed outside and visited the stand of the campaign “5 am Tag” (5 a Day) of “Frische ist Leben” (Fresh is Life). They want people to eat more fruit and vegetables. The Queen was given a basket full of fruit by a young girl and then received some information about the project. She was quite interested and when she left she accepted a strawberry, that she immediately put in her mouth. I can imagine she was getting hungry, as it was about lunchtime.
It was however not quite time for lunch yet. I was allowed inside to hear the speeches that were held before the lunch took place. An interpreter told Máxima what was said, as everything was in German. The Minister of Economic Affairs of Lower Saxony, Olaf Lies, gave an introduction, and spoke about the friendship between the Germans and the Dutch neighbours. Afterwards Katja Baumann, vice-director of the Maritime Centre of Competence Mariko, talked about the cooperation in maritime research and education. Hans de Wolf, working for the Dutch municipality of Oldambt spoke about cross-border cooperation in the area of employment. In the meantime I took the opportunity to have a look around. There were six tables for eight persons. On each table were apart from the plates, two knives, two forks, two glasses (one for wine, one for water), two baskets with baguettes and two small plates with Garlic butter in three different colours. Surprisingly nobody dared to eat from it during the speeches. The menu contained North Sea crabs and filled veal rolls. Only at about 1.30pm I was outside again and only then the lunch inside had started. It was way past the scheduled time of departure, when the royal couple finally came outside again, said goodbye to their hosts, and continued their trip to Werlte. There they were to visit the Power to Gas pilot plant of Audi. In the evening dinner was held at Wilkinghege Castle in Münster. I however stayed in Leer and returned home … it had been an interesting day.