1 January 2012

Happy 2012. Just Keep Your Head on a Swivel

The final day of my exile from Berlin involved going to Hamburg.  A friend had suggested that we go to see New Year's there, and any opportunity to escape the drunken foreigners in Berlin every weekend was most welcome.

Hamburg actually surprised me a lot.  All I knew of Hamburg was that it was an industrial and shipping centre for Germany.  That, and where the Beatles honed their chops.

I was actually quite amazed by the city's park spaces, the canals over confluence Alster and Elbe rivers, and the lovely churches.  The Reeperbahn reeked of kitsch, although I got the impression that the kitsch was actually somewhat intentional and self-aware at this point.  I also had lunch at a cafe where there were scores by Gyorgiy Ligeti (one of my favourite living "classical" composer) hanging on the wall.  More pictures.

After a rest, it was time to head down to the Elbe river for New Year's festivities.  However, since this is the one time of year that fireworks are permitted, people kind of go crazy.  The city became a place where mass chaos reigned, and the very loud reports of fireworks made it sound like actual gunfire.  People set them off anywhere, literally throwing them at the feet of others, intentionally or not.  Now, I understand the attraction to things blowing up.  I'm a fan of Mythbusters.  But the idea of just setting off fireworks wherever and however you want, particularly when the safety of others is concerned kinf of pisses me off.

Basically walking down to river, and back from it, from and to the U-bahn involved keeping an eye on your surroundings at all times to make sure you weren't going to get a firework shot or thrown in your general direction. 

What was supposed to be a professional fireworks show (which can be outstanding -- I have fond memories of sitting on the Charles Bridge in Boston with my friend Philip, watching the 4th of July fireworks show) seemed to be a show of fireworks launched by anyone and everyone who had the foresight to visit a store in the preceding days to buy some.  Wherever you stood, you were surrounded by explosions and an impressive light show which got more eerie and less effective as the sky filled with smoke and fog.

Fireworks bursting between two light standards, on a photo taken on my phone.
The sheer chaos abated, and the streets were littered with the remnants of fireworks and beer bottles, to be cleaned up today, January 1st.  I'm glad I went to Hamburg, and would like to get back to see more of it someday soon.  I'm also glad that I got to see a "German-style" "Silvester" celebration.  I do have to say that I prefer the less insane Canadian version, and the big public parties aren't my scene, but it's good to have experience the Hamburg New Year.

So, to my loyal readers in Canada, Germany and around the world, Happy New Year.  May 2012 bring you all you wish for.

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