For a group so reknowned for orderliness, the Germans (or should I say the Berliners) sure surprised us on Sylvester (New Years Eve).  The excitement and noise of fireworks built up all day long, so that by the time we headed out shortly after nine, there were children and adults everywhere letting off fireworks.  On the U-bahn, people were letting off fireworks in the underground station, which was deafening, and twice the driver got off the train in the station and threatened to get young guys thrown off the train if they didn’t stop.  We had decided to go to Mano, a cozy bar right on Lausitzer Platz, and since we got there before 10, bagged a couch at the window.  Great crowd, great music, perfect atmosphere.  At twelve, the bartenders dashed around with free glasses of Sekt, and everyone stepped out onto the pavement to see the most amazing fireworks – people on rooftops, on the street, on balconies, at open windows, all firing off incendiary devices as much and as often as they could – and this lasted all night long.  It was funny to see people right beside you letting off tiny little fireworks while amazing ones lit up the sky, and the elevated U-bahn rattled overhead.  This must be their moment of power, of disobedience, of anarchy, and they want to do it even if nobody sees their fireworks.

Tons of Berliners leave Berlin for Sylvester, they find it too offensive, too noisy, too dangerous – and yes, there were tons of police cars, ambulances and fire engines on the go all night, presumably dealing with people who had burns.  It was a total surprise to us to see how mad the Berliners go – I’m very used to a population that speak quietly on their mobile phone on the U-bahn for fear of offence, always stand to the right on the escalator, follow all codes and rules to make life easier for society.  It’s like getting a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card, and going completely crazy. On the way home Goerlitzer Bahnhof, always a bit edgy, had two groups of youths squabbling over selling drugs (obviously a bonanza night for drug sales), and as I was trying to edge past, one genuinely concerned young man helped me through and shouted over to the squabblers “Lass die Oma durch!” (“Let the Granny through!”).

The following day, the roads were littered with rubbish – wrapping, spent fireworks, empty bottles of Sekt, and it remained that way for days.  Even now, the red dust of the powder is ingrained in the cobblestones, and the remains of the cardboard packing is mashed into the roadway.  I went back to University the following Monday, and had a tough week readjusting, while also saying goodbye to Barry.  All the dreams you have before a visit never work out exactly as you expected, you have marvellous moments, but a visit is like your life in microcosm, and you have just got into the right rhythm by the time it’s time to go home.  The rest of my week, I felt as if I had forgotten my German, couldn’t express myself in English, and was in dread of the mountain of work I had to tackle, which of course I planned to tackle over Christmas, and didn’t.  However, the week is over, things look better from this side of it, and I can be thankful that it still hasn’t snowed.  Happy New Year!

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