- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 24, 2015

BERLIN (AP) — Waving to cheering crowds as she began a three-day state visit, Queen Elizabeth II met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday and rode in an open-topped boat along the Spree River in Berlin.

The 89-year-old monarch and her husband, 94-year-old Prince Philip, started their jam-packed day at Berlin’s Bellevue Palace, where they were greeted by President Joachim Gauck, Germany’s head of state, and his partner, Daniela Schadt.

The British royals signed a guest book before going back outside and shaking hands with dignitaries and others.

Elizabeth strolled across the grounds with Gauck for a formal greeting by a military honor guard and band that played ‘God Save the Queen’ as well as the German national anthem.

Gauck and Schadt then joined Elizabeth and Philip for a leisurely boat ride along the Spree River. The royals waved at hundreds of school children who packed the bridges along the route, holding British and German flags.

They then headed to the chancellery and met with Merkel.

Earlier, the British royals were met by crowds outside the Hotel Adlon, where they stayed, as they walked along a red carpet and climbed inside a Bentley limousine to take them through the city. The iconic luxury British car brand Bentley was taken over by Germany’s Volkswagen in 1998.

Thursday will be spent in the financial hub of Frankfurt, with time blocked out for the queen to meet the public in the city’s central square.

On Friday, the royal couple plans to meet with residents of Berlin in Pariser Platz before traveling to Lower Saxony for a visit to the former Nazi Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Bergen-Belsen was liberated by the British on April 15, 1945, and Elisabeth plans to visit a memorial there and meet with aging survivors and liberators of the camp.

The queen and Philip also made state visits to Germany in May 1965, May 1978, October 1992 and November 2004.

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