The rockets’ beery glare…

I had no idea what New Years in Berlin was like. We were told there would be fireworks, and when the firework shops started opening, and we saw the fairly massive artillery in there, we began to have a clue. But only a clue. Where I grew up in Washington we had “Safe’n’Sane” fireworks — sparklers, cones that turned into fountains of sparks, some things that flew and spun but didn’t really explode all that much. Bottle rockets were accessible, but only on the reservations.

Here the smallest rockets, coming in packages of 10 or so, make bottle rockets look like childrens toys (which they are, ok, but still…).

With friends from the States and UK, we wandered out at midday. Even then, the noise of explosions was fairly constant. By nightfall, we watched people throwing large firecrackers out the windows at passersby on the street. Not seriously enough to cause any actual alarm, just caution.

Near midnight we brought our own rockets down to Unter den Linden, the street near the Brandenburg gate. The avenues were packed shoulder-to-shoulder with people; but everyone carried beer bottles for shooting rockets, and found cleared areas to shoot off their 100- or 200-rocket artillery batteries. The noise was constant, explosions and the  hiss of rockets shooting past every few seconds, flashes everywhere.

I used to be a bit fearful of big firework explosions; you lose that fast, because it’s too much like a war zone. Minus the actual violence. It’s hard to describe just how completely over the top it is: smoke drifting like thick fog, the smell of gunpowder everywhere, a pyromaniacal fantasy. I woke up with rocket burns all up and down the side of my pants, which means something must have hit me. I never even noticed. Behind us, at the Brandenburg, was a professional show. We barely noticed. All the amateur stuff was too out of control.

Pictures don’t really do it justice, but Aimee has some here and Brad has some here. There’s a YouTube video here taken at a park near our house, but it’s not nearly as crazy as the center of the city.

One Comment

  1. happy new year! I can relate a little to what you describe here– two years ago i was in amsterdam for new year’s and it was crazy too– alleys full of people setting off whole snakes of fireworks, thick smoke, and drunk, cheering people stumbling through drifts of exploded firecracker paper (fallen petals). your blog entry brought me back!

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