Thursday, 1 January 2009

Frohes Neues Jahr! Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve in Germany is called Silvester (also sometimes spelled Sylvester), after some Pope dude who lived in the 300's AD and got sainted. Why it is named after him in Germany only, the country which engendered the Protestant Reformation against the hegemony of the Popes, is a mystery to me. Hopefully it won't come up in the German Citizenry entrance exam.

What I also didn't know is that a Silvesterabend tradition in Germany is to reconstruct, at a street-by-street level, downtown Baghdad whilst US was giving the Iraqis Shock & Awe. Or so it appeared to us, as more explosive firepower flew around than at the liberation of Berlin.

The Germans collectively go firework crazy, throwing firecrackers around in crowds and shooting rockets horizontally down the streets. Having grown up on an annual frightening reminder on British TV of what happens if you don't obey the Firework Code, this all seems like highly dangerous madness. People were walking around with fireworks in their pockets and enough rockets to liberate Gaza, whilst casually smoking cigarettes. And I don't think Catherine wheels were meant to be lit whilst you are still holding them.

Our street was like a battle-zone, with all the neighbours coming out into the road to set off multiple barrage attacks until gone 2am. The poor cats didn't know what on Earth was happening, and we were considering retreating to the safety of der Keller.

Anyway, we had a lovely, peaceful, Indian buffet at Restaurant Satyam New Years Eve before making our way through the flak attack to see what the Silvester party by the Brandenburg Gate was like. As it was, because of the sheer numbers (over a million it was estimated) the Polizei were turning people back before they could get further than the Tiergarten. We watched it live later on television, and the bands playing were God-aweful MOR/pop, so we didn't miss much other than third-degree burns.

I think Germany must have used up its carbon-footprint quota for 2009 in one night but still, it was a lively, if noisy and scary, start to the year.

Happy New Year folks! Frohes Neues Jahr!

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