New Year’s Eve or Silvester in Berlin: Fireworks, Pyromaniacs and Snow
Yesterday, while standing at the top of Mauerpark hill, it occurred to me, that so far, I have started every new decade in a different country. I stumbled into the world during the 80s, in the throes of democratic transition, in a Spain that had not had a popularly elected government since 1939 and whose current constitution came into force the 29th of December 1978. The 90s started in Copenhagen. A couple of months earlier my parents had driven down to Spain, their progress slowed by a pack of putt-putting Trabants on their maiden journey to the West. The millennium saw me in London, trying to make my way back from South Bank amongst a sea of drunken revelers, unaware that this would be my home for the next decade. This nascent decade found me, as mentioned, on top of Mauerpark hill surrounded by inebriated lunatics armed to the teeth with rockets and catherine wheels, in a scene reminiscent of a pyrotechnic Sarajevo, and almost guaranteeing that I would celebrate next decennium in a centre for the permanently shell shocked. Nothing had prepared me for this explosion of colour and gundpowder.
Street on Fire, the lesser known Kings of Leon number.
Mauerpark is a 5 min walk from my house and seemed to be a good venue for catching some fireworks, rather than being squashed to death at Brandenburg Tor. I was not however expecting an army of pyromaniacs who at the stroke twelve seemed to follow the Spartan command ‘On my signal unleash hell’. Spartans, of course, have more consideration of personal safety. While these Hellenic kamikazes might laugh in the face of death, Berliners hand her a rocket lightened with a cigarette while holding a sparkler and champagne bottle in the other hand. In 5 inches of snow. Then they light another cigarette, take a swig at the champagne and wait for the half kilo of gunpowder to launch. From their hand.
The police pushing their van out of the snow.
Mauerpark or pyromaniac’s paradise in the background.
To somebody who has lived in England for 10 years, where holding a sparkler requires wearing three pairs of safety goggles, this is rather refreshing and simultaneously bloody terrifying. It was obviously too much for my boyfriend, who is actually English, and who went into a catatonic state at first, tweeting to his entire London circle in a horrified stream of consciousness: ‘Aaah, Pyromaniacs!’, ‘Maniacs!’, ‘Fire!’ After half an hour and realizing that we weren’t dead yet, we started thinking ‘Yay, Pyromaniacs!’, ‘Maniacs!’, ‘Fire!’ We then happily wandered down the streets of Berlin, which a that point looked like the scene of a riot. Everywhere we turned there was smoke and hooded people hurling objects on fire. I was almost expecting Rosa Luxemburg running down Bernauer Strasse inciting the masses to revolution before being carried away by the Freikorps. Instead we went to get some much needed alcohol. The revolution can wait.