BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel's favorite animal is a hedgehog; she loves spaghetti and chicken soup and dreams of being an astronaut for a day.
Those were some of the personal details the chancellor revealed Sunday while answering questions from children at a special news conference one week before the country's general election.
Merkel patiently listened to a variety of questions during the Berlin event, ranging from what she would do to combat climate change to what was the best moment of her life. (Her answer to the latter: The day she met her second husband, quantum chemist Joachim Sauer.)
More than 150 children accepted the open invitation by Merkel's party, the conservative Christian Democrats, to meet the chancellor at a former department store that's been turned into a campaign building in the city's hipster Mitte neighborhood.
While some teenagers nervously read questions off notepads about livestock farming, coal-fired power plants and plastic pollution in oceans, younger children mostly were curious about Merkel as a person.
"When did you lose your first tooth?" a blond-haired girl asked while playing with a wiggly upper tooth in her own mouth. Merkel, smiling at the child, responded, "When I started school and was about the same age as you."
The German leader also revealed that her favorite color is the cornflower blue, her favorite piece of clothing is a comfortable cardigan and that she loves swimming and gardening.
"I grow my own potatoes, but haven't harvested this year's crop yet," she told the youngsters, adding that her sunflowers looked pretty good this year as well.
Merkel, who is 63 and doesn't have any children of her own, seemed to enjoy the kids' interest so much that she extended the question time, danced with the youngsters to pop music and invited all of them to pose for a photo with her — much to the surprise of her fluttered aides.
The children seemed to equally enjoy the company of their country's leader. Munching popcorn, ice cream, waffles and hot dogs, they enthusiastically applauded when Merkel entered the building and stood in line patiently at the end to get her autograph.
Merkel is seeking a fourth term during the Sept. 24 election. She has led Germany for almost 12 years and polls show she has a solid advantage over of her top challenger, Martin Schulz from the center-left Social Democrats.