BERLIN, GERMANY: I arrived in Berlin after a much delayed eight hour overnight train from Munich which did not bode well for the confusion that was to come. There was a blizzard and it snowed non-stop for the entire evening. Three things I learned while in Berlin for New Year’s Eve: 1. The German people love their fireworks. I have gotten word from others that this is quite common in many European countries. However, this fact does not make it anymore easier for a Canadian to experience for the first time. I’m not talking about little cherry bombs, I’m talking about ground shaking sounds like a real bomb going off kind of fireworks. The streets were packed wherever you went and people happily lit fireworks and threw them at each other – perhaps a term of affection? On the subway, the chime would go off signaling that the train was leaving the station. People on the platform would light firecrackers and throw them into the subway car as the doors closed, igniting a smoke bomb or minor explosion. When it hit midnight, everyone seemed to light their remaining fireworks and it no longer was dark outside.
2. There was an aggression in the air that was palpable. I first felt it when in a subway station talking on a public telephone. A rather large man approached me and drop kicked the phone. I was not sure if he was angry at the phone, if he was angry at me or just angry in general. I didn’t get a chance to ask him. While waiting on a subway platform, a brawl erupted beside me and the gang of opponents tumbled down on to the tracks. The computerized sign that tells you when the next train arrives had a two minute count down. People were laughing and pointing while I was in shock thinking these crazy drunk people are going to get run down by the oncoming subway train. They all made it out alive and collectively decided to take the fight outside.
3. There were many public displays of inebriation. In Germany, as in other European cities, you are allowed to drink alcohol in public. I like this idea, I think it is good, I mean, why not? People were walking around with bottles and you could feel the drunkenness. As the night wore on, the city seemed to turn into a bad drunk. One of those people at a party that has too much and crosses the line. Fights broke out (see no. 2), people were passed out in the street, puking, yelling at each other. In the aforementioned fight on the tracks and after the participants had decided to take it outside, I witnessed another equally strange and questionably stupid incident. During the fracas, an unopened bottle of alcohol must have fallen out of someone’s pocket and left on the tracks. Another witness of the fight – a young man – saw the bottle, looked around to see that the fighters had gone, jumped down on the tracks with the oncoming car, grabbed the bottle, stuffed it in his pocket and hopped back on to the platform as the train arrived at the station.
I finally had to return to where I was staying, it was all too much. The next morning I woke up early and walked through a city that looked like a war had happened the night before. Broken, empty bottles lined the abandoned streets covered in a thin dusting of snow that was black from the residue of the fireworks. Never had I experienced a New Year’s Eve like this in Canada.