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Merkel dreamt of US road trip 'listening to Springsteen'

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Berlin (AFP)

If the Berlin Wall hadn't come down, German Chancellor Angela Merkel would have become a pensioner five years back and embarked on her dream US road trip listening to Bruce Springsteen.

"In East Germany, women went into retirement at 60. So I would have already picked up by passport five years ago, and travelled to America," the 65-year-old told Spiegel magazine in an interview Tuesday.

"Pensioners in the GDR (German Democratic Republic) were free to travel -- those who are no longer needed as socialist workers can leave," said Merkel, who was born in West Germany but grew up in the communist East.

Merkel said she would of course have also used her travel freedom to visit West Germany.

"But I would have wanted my first trip to be to America. Because of the size, the diversity, the culture.

"To see the Rocky Mountains, drive around in a car and listen to Bruce Springsteen -- that was my dream," Merkel said.

The US rockstar was hugely popular in East Germany and even played a rare gig there in 1988 as communist leaders sought to placate the GDR's increasingly restless young people.

Asked if she would have driven an American cruiser on her trip, Merkel said she prefers smaller cars.

"But it should be something better than a Trabant," the chancellor quipped, referring to the dinky and famously unreliable "Trabi" car made in East Germany.

Speaking at an event at a Volkswagen factory in the eastern town of Zwickau on Monday, Merkel recalled that she had been in line to get a Trabant but it never got delivered in time before the communist regime came crashing down.

Merkel's musings come as the country is holding a string of events this week to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 -- a momentous occasion that led to the reunification of Germany a year later.

Merkel was born in the port city of Hamburg in 1954, but her father, a Lutheran clergyman, moved the family three months after her birth to a small-town parish in the communist East at a time when most people were headed the other way.

She grew up in Templin, Brandenburg and would eventually become the first East German to take the top job in reunified Germany.

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