The next year, Merkel was granted permission to travel to Hamburg for a cousin’s wedding. After riding the miraculously comfortable trains through West Germany, she returned to East Berlin convinced that the socialist system was doomed. “She came back very impressed, but she came back,” Schindhelm said. “She stayed not out of loyalty to the state but because she had her network there, her family.” Merkel, in her early thirties, was looking forward to 2014—when she would turn sixty, collect her state pension, and be allowed to travel to California.

George Packer, The Quiet German, The New Yorker December 1 2014