- Empty autobahns, abandoned streets, shuttered windows
and lines of soldiers and policemen stationed for mile after mile of his
route - President George W Bush had a distinctly frosty reception yesterday
on his arrival on the banks of the Rhine in the German town of Mainz.
- At a lunch hosted by Chancellor Gerhard Schrder, Mr Bush
made much of how he was literally following in the footsteps of his father,
who made a memorable trip to Mainz in 1989.
- But the contrast between the two visits could not have
been more marked. Mr Bush's father, the first President George Bush, was
hailed as a friend and statesman when he appealed for a special relationship
between Germany and America. The current president suffered a hail of insults
from the moment Air Force One touched down at nearby Rhein-Main military
- Air passengers were left fuming as the authorities bowed
to the wishes of American officials and took the unprecedented step of
clearing the airspace for Mr Bush's arrival and departure. Hundreds of
flights at Frankfurt's main airport were delayed and dozens cancelled.
- As the presidential entourage sped over the Rhine into
the seemingly abandoned city in a snowfall and along streets lined by police,
the imagery was reminiscent of a Cold War summit.
- Much to the outrage of many locals, five autobahns had
been closed, the Rhine was blocked to traffic, and most businesses were
shut. Residents had been told to step on to their balconies "at their
own peril" for fear that the president's security "might misunderstand
the gesture and act accordingly".
- But by midday the centre came back to life as demonstrators
gathered to vent their anger at Mr Bush. "We don't want your type
of freedom" was emblazoned on the back of one float, in a pointed
reference to Mr Bush's call to spread freedom around the globe.
- A survey in yesterday's conservative daily, Die Welt,
showed that 70 per cent of 30- to 44-year-olds said they did not see why
Germany should remain grateful for America's role in helping the country
to rise from the ashes of Nazism 60 years ago.
- Die Welt declared that Mr Bush's charm offensive was
just not going to wash with the Germans. "While the USA tries. . .
to significantly lighten up the bad mood in the transatlantic relations,
the alienation of the Germans from their once most important ally and friend
- The Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper handed half a page
of space over to the "ghettoised" Mainzers in which they vented
their spleens. From the undertaker who complained he could not pick up
any bodies in the city centre because of the restrictions, to the heavily-pregnant
woman who had to decamp from her home to a hotel in case she was prevented
by the security measures from getting to hospital, the moaning seemed to
know no end.
- Mr Bush later travelled to an American army base where
he had a far more enjoyable reception - thousands of soldiers cheered and
roared as he addressed them.
- © Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.