Obama, fresh from a two-day summit of the Group of Eight industrial economies, placed his hand over his heart outside the sunny presidential palace as a German military band played "The Star-Spangled Banner," the American national anthem. He and German President Joachim Gauck inspected a lineup of German military troops before entering the palace, stopping to greet children who waved American and German flags.
The visit was attracting widespread attention in Germany. People waved and snapped photos as Obama sped by after his arrival and a thick cluster awaited the motorcade as it passed the Brandenburg Gate. An evening news show in Berlin devoted itself to the president's visit, highlighting "Das Biest," or "The Beast," as the president's armored limousine is called.
There have been a few small protests, including one directed against the National Security Agency's surveillance of foreign communications, where about 50 people waved placards taunting, "Yes, we scan."
Merkel has said she was surprised at the scope of the spying that was revealed and said the U.S. must clarify what information is monitored. But she also said U.S. intelligence was key to foiling a large-scale terror plot and acknowledged her country is "dependent" on cooperating with American spy services.
For Merkel, the visit presents an opportunity to bolster her domestic standing ahead of a general election in September.
The U.S. and the Germans have clashed on economic issues, with Obama pressing for Europe to prime the economy with government stimulus measures, while Merkel has insisted on pressing debt-ridden countries to stabilize their fiscal situations first.
But the two sides have found common ground on a trans-Atlantic trade pact between the European Union and the U.S. At the just-completed G-8 summit, the leaders agreed to hold the first talks next month in the U.S.