Sunday, January 1, 2012

Berlin on New Year's

I now have a good idea of what the bombing of Berlin at the end of World War II sounded like.  It sounded like last night.

Fireworks were going off right and left.  We didn't actually get to see too much of the "real" fireworks (the ones officially set off over the Brandenburg Gate) but we saw everyone and their brother setting off their own.  The streets were filled with throngs of people, of all ages, each drinking and setting off their own explosions. The sight of the 17. Juni street with fireworks all over was really beautiful.  Dagmar, Andrea and I toasted the New Year in great style.  2011 was a great year for me and I really did a lot that I am proud of.  I am excited and happy to see what 2012 has in store.

The sky was completely gray with smoke and all you could hear were the pops and cracks of fires and the sound of fireworks exploding all around you.  Everyone was celebrating the start of the new year and we did it in traditional Berlin style with French champagne and good cheer.  It was so exciting and festive, but I was very surprised at how sheltered I felt.  I am disappointed with the fact that setting off fireworks in Maryland is illegal and I have always held to that law when in Maryland, but I really felt like I had a sheltered upbringing when I saw Germans celebrate New Year's in Berlin.  They seemed to have no fear.  People were throwing fireworks towards others, some were daring each other to approach the lit ones, and I was anxious about the dangers they were in that they all seemed to handle so carelessly. 

Driving back from downtown definitely gave me some gray hairs.  Fireworks were being lit right and left and some of them were either being kicked towards us or just happened to be laying feet from where we drove.  People were crossing the streets intoxicated and in dark clothing, without paying attention to oncoming cars, traffic signals or crosswalks.  Dagmar seemed to handle everything very calmly, but there were definitely times I had to close my eyes and just keep my mouth shut for fear of distracting her.  Poor Eastwood was a mess.  He was trembling and panting terribly.  Each explosion only increased his anxiety and it wasn't until we let him out in Wannsee that he finally relaxed. 

Back in Wannsee, we finished our glasses of champagne and even set off our own fireworks (in a safer fashion than most of the people we saw downtown).  Dagmar had three rocket fireworks and I (who am used to sparklers and the little tiny ones) was really impressed.  They were beautiful!  We sat around and had a late night snack before going to bed.  I did watch a short film that Dagmar had recommended.  It's apparently a big deal in Germany around New Year's and is called "Dinner for One."  While it was funny (I could see the humor), it didn't really do much for me.  I talked to Kevin for a little bit before going to bed, but did set my alarm for 5:45, so that I could get up and blow Kevin a kiss for New Year's over Skype. 

He really is such a sweetie.  I am only so sorry that he isn't here in Wannsee with me.  I think he would have really liked it and I miss him.  I had more to drink for New Year's than I think I've ever had in one sitting.  I was definitely finishing off my 3rd or 4th glass of champagne before we went to sleep, but maybe the glasses weren't full ones because I thought at least Dagmar was drinking as much as I was (she kept filling the glasses...).

The Skype connection in the morning wasn't the best, but I still got to see my sweetheart, who was celebrating New Year's with his mother.  I am always touched to see how good Kevin is to his mother.  Not that he is not always generous and kind, but he really looks out for her in a loving way. 

After that, I just went to sleep.  And I slept.  And I slept.  And I slept.  I woke up around 2pm and completely undid all the progress I had made in overcoming jet-lag.  Ah well, early to bed tonight.  Uwe came over for our 4pm "brunch" of pancakes, smoked salmon, herring salad and fresh bread.  It was all very nice and Uwe was very charming.  I feel rather prejudiced against him because of his extra-marital affair, but in general, he has always been friendly and rather thoughtful.  I suppose that is why Dagmar married him in the first place, all things aside.  It was a very nice afternoon brunch and we finished off a second bottle of champagne (I only had one glass this time).

Tonight is Sunday, which means Tatort.  Lotta has already set the TV up to record it, just in case we're too tired, but I don't think we will be.  I've been looking forward to watching Tatort with Dagmar since I left.  Next Sunday I will be in Vienna!  I'm excited but also a little nervous because I do not have any travel books yet.  Fortunately they speak German but Hungary and Slovakia will be a whole different story.  My plan is to carry every important document in a travel belt, tucked safely next to my body, with only $20-50 in the actual purse I carry.  That way, if the purse gets stolen, I'm not SOL and can recover.  Fingers crossed.

Tomorrow, I want to go downtown again, but also to Aldi and to some English bookstores that Elena recommended and to the train station, to make sure my tickets are in order.  Again, fingers crossed that it all works.

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