Soon she will be off to indulge her low-level passion for making potato soup – but will she hang on to those 300-plus jackets she amassed over the past 16 years?
During all this time, Angela Merkel has been a kind of Empress of Europe, an extraordinary winner of four elections.
She has been around for so long, so omnipresent when movers and shakers who rule the world get together, we feel in some vague way we know her.
For millions of Europeans, Merkel was a steadfast beacon. With her at the forefront of the EU’s destiny there was a feeling that, come what may, she would steer a steady ship.
To be sure, we in Ireland were made to pay dearly for our spendthrift ways when the Celtic Tiger roared out of control.
But we took the medicine. One reason for the glum acceptance of our fate was a feeling that with Merkel at the helm, things would work out in the end.
Ireland’s love affair with the EU survived the traumas of those bailout days; we remained convinced that a Merkel-dominated union would not go off the rails. So we took our punishment, unfair or otherwise.
In that sense, we were like her own German voters.
Sober, steady, the ultimate safe pair of hands, we believed she would keep things on course, no matter what buffeting came her way. Our own political leaders have no doubt pondered the secret of her longevity, withstanding one crisis after another, year after year, swatting away those who would do her down.
Perception often masquerades as reality when judging those in positions of power.
The Merkel mix of understated effort and ruthless focus on getting her way made for an unflappability and assurance unmatched on the international stage.
There are countless accounts of how her drive for consensus and the middle ground would, in the end, get her what she wanted. So often her tactic of “the less said, the better” left more strident opponents flat-footed.
There were many confrontations where, instead of going for a win, she settled for what seemed an honourable draw. As for battles lost – well, there was always the chance to fight another day.
Yet for politicians here who may ruminate on her success, it is too tempting to see her career through rose-tinted glasses.
There is nostalgia in the air already as the German election signals the end of an era for the EU.
But despite all the accolades following Angela Merkel into retirement, there is also a surge of pent-up criticism as the aura of power ebbs away.
It is argued that she was helped by a golden era for German exporters, therefore avoiding domestic unpopularity by having to impose periodic bouts of belt tightening.
She is charged with long-fingering problems such as Germany’s difficult digital strategy and an education system badly in need of reform.
On foreign policy she was too often willing to look the other way on human rights issues in China, Russia and even Hungary, if it served Germany’s interests.
Maybe the most stinging criticism is that Merkel was “a manager, not a visionary”. She has, indeed, confessed her belief in the old mantra – politics is but the art of the possible. “Angela was an ordinary chemist, devoid of oratorical skills, charisma, political guile or a political agenda,” one observer concluded.
He was musing on how, at the age of 35, she started hacking her way through the political jungle.
But we now see she was a one-off. Temperament and character meant she was made to embrace the role fate had chosen for her. In that sense, her survival skills are not transferable; she was uniquely of her time and place.
We know she does impersonations of foreign leaders she met over the years. Her take on Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar, Bertie Ahern, Brian Cowen or Enda Kenny would no doubt stir a few laughs.
But humour can also be insightful. In such a scenario, the Merkel mask might slip a little, sending a signal from her secret inner life. Then we might better understand how she shaped our world, making her mark on history.