Few thought it possible. After decades of producing depressingly average acts that established Germany -- despite a victory in 1982 -- as a perennial bottom feeder at the annual Eurovision Song Contest, most assumed that Grand Prix glory would forever be beyond the country's reach.
But on Saturday night in Oslo, Lena Meyer-Landrut, a 19-year-old who is only just now finishing her high-school exams, enchanted 100 million viewers across Europe with her girl-next-door delivery of the poppy love ballad "Satellite" ("... I even painted my toenails for you ..."). Her first-place finish touched off ecstatic celebrations in Germany that continued into Sunday after she was welcomed by 40,000 people when she returned to her hometown of Hanover.
"Lena, we love you," screamed the Monday headline on the tabloid Bild, a paper that ignored Lena's rise to stardom throughout the spring because she refused to grant the publication interviews. A number of German politicians also called for Lena to be awarded the Federal Order of Merit, the country's highest civilian decoration.
Authenticity and Geniality
Even Chancellor Angela Merkel sent Lena a grandmotherly greeting, saying "I congratulate Lena Meyer-Landrut on her super triumph in Oslo. Lena impressed me with her authenticity and geniality. She is a wonderful example of young Germany."
But the celebration has quickly given way to part two of the song contest. Now that Germany has earned the right to host the show next year, a number of cities have already begun competing for that right.
Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit said on Sunday through a spokesperson that "Berlin would of course be delighted" to host the contest. "The Grand Prix would fit well with the city and with its creative potential."
But immediate rejoinders came from other wannabe hosts. Hamburg Mayor Ole von Beust said: "For years, the city has closely followed the Grand Prix, and we will do everything we can to bring it to Hamburg." Lower Saxony Governor Christian Wulff also threw his hat in the ring for Lena's hometown, saying "it would be great if the Song Contest would come to the media capital of Hanover." And even North Rhine-Westphalia Governor Jürgen Rüttgers expressed interest, calling his state an "outstanding site for the Eurovision final."
Ultimately, of course, German politicians will have very little influence on the contest's location, since it is the prerogative of the event's organizers and Germany's television channels to decide.
In the meantime, though, the country has given itself over to Lena-mania. Thousands waved flags and cheered Germany's new hero on as she took the stage in Hanover on Sunday for yet another rendition of her winning song, belting out the by-now universally known English lyrics in a unique accent that can only be called Lena-esque.
The country seems particularly taken with the guileless manner with which she has dealt with her instant stardom. As recently as the beginning of this year, few had heard of Lena. But after five straight years of miserable performances, German public broadcaster ARD tasked television host (and Eurovision veteran) Stefan Raab with finding a potential star. In April, Lena emerged from the pack, and then quickly rocketed to the top of Germany's singles charts. Heading into Saturday's competition in Oslo, she was seen as something of a favorite. Search engine Google even predicted her win shortly before the competition.
And she may be back next year. After joining Lena on her procession into the city center from the airport, Raab grabbed the microphone and said: "I think would be fitting were the victor to be allowed to defend her title next year."
Given Germany's recent Eurovision history, that might not be a bad idea.