Where is Angela Merkel? The world’s most powerful woman appears to have pulled off something of a disappearing act, and Germans have been wondering where their chancellor is over the past week.
It’s not that Mrs Merkel has missed any official engagements; she is on holiday, as she always is at this time of year, and the vice-chancellor, Olaf Scholz, is chairing the cabinet in her absence.
It’s just that nobody seems to know where Mrs Merkel is or how she’s spending her time off. She is not on her usual walking holiday in the Italian Alps, though her husband, Joachim Sauer, is there — staying at Mrs Merkel’s favourite hotel with his son from a former marriage.
Her office in Berlin refuses to divulge her whereabouts, saying that it does not comment on her private arrangements.
The situation has set off whisperings about trouble in Mrs Merkel’s marriage — but she was seen with her husband on Tuesday night at in Munich, at a five-hour production of the opera Parsifal.
In trademark Merkel style, the couple eschewed a private box and sat in normal seats in the circle.
It is not the only sighting. A reporter from Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper spotted the chancellor at a Berlin department store on Wednesday.
The mystery has been added to by the fact that in Germany, unlike in other Western countries, freedom of information laws do not oblige the government to comment on where Mrs Merkel is or what she chooses to do with her time off.
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“I don’t want to hide the fact that I’m happy when I have a few days off and can sleep in a bit,” the chancellor said at a press conference before her holiday.
But after Theresa May cut short her holiday to join Emmanuel Macron for Brexit talks, Mrs Merkek’s disappearance has prompted questions about what exactly she is up to — and why she’s still in Berlin.
Most intriguingly, a few days after her holiday began last week she held talks in Berlin with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and Gen Valeri Gerasimov, one of the key Russian generals in Syria, who is under EU sanctions for his role in the Ukraine conflict, and needed a special waiver from the German foreign ministry to travel to Berlin.
Mrs Merkel’s office declined to comment on the meeting but the Russian foreign ministry said it was to discuss conditions for Syrian refugees in Germany to return to their own country.