We probably should have guessed New Year’s Eve would be different in Berlin. We asked at the front desk of our hotel where the fireworks would be, and accompanying the puzzled glance was the simple reply, “Everywhere”. In the DC area fireworks are heavily restricted. Individuals my not use them, even benign things like sparklers. Let’s just say Berlin sees it differently. This is a huge city. Very little green space. Few single family dwellings. Many, many fireworks. There were isolated booms when arrived on the 27th, which I foolishly originally mistook for the sound of lumber being off-loaded for all the construction. I mean, who’d be firing off stuff that far in advance of NY? Apparently EVERYONE. We opted to head toward the Brandenburg gate, sort of the Times Square of Germany, and were greeted by 8 PM by a fog of smoke and the fragrance of sulphur from fireworks that reminded me of many misspent hours of my youth when my brother Randy and I blew up an endless array of toy soldiers and stuff.
Since we got to within about 1000 meters of our destination by 9pm, and the police had already closed the approach, we opted to sit at the foot of the fabulous statute the Victory Column, along with a few hundred thousand of our closest friends. A red faced 24 year old Russian with closely cropped hair, a considerable girth, an endless supply of cigarettes and good cheer was eager to see that I shared something. We had brought our own champaign, but he offered first cigarettes (I’ve never smoked), then beer, then liquor, then weed, then something like Starbursts (which I took). I am pretty sure he had more of everything and was just searching for the right ice breaker. He was very nice, very loud, very drunk, and I’m happy we made it through the night without wearing any of him back to the hotel. The official fireworks went off on time (most things run on time here, but there were some many independent fireworks going off, they were somewhat anticlimactic. We made the 40 minute walk back to the room through a never-ending phalanx of people of every sidewalk firing skyrockets, tossing firecrackers, all with care in terms of not aiming at you, but the noise and goings on continued past the 2:30 we got to bed.
Of course, the aftermath was of interest to me. Who was going to clean this mess up? The answer is the German cleaning crews were in the streets by 9ish, with an array of weapons and a lot of person power. By the time we left for our plane out around 2, things looked pretty much back to normal. That was pretty amazing, because the amount of detritus was awesome. Check out these pics;
These aren’t flowers. This is confetti.
Look carefully. There are sticks from skyrockets in the little courtyard. We are 5 stories up.
I just like their port a potty logos.
More later. Off to Hungary.