New Years Eve in Germany seems to be about three things: Shopping, Drinking and Fireworks. “OK,” I can hear you thinking, “I get the Shopping– but Drinking and Fireworks?” …Nah, its the other way around, yes? What is the deal with the shopping? Well, for that you have to understand the proclivity of Europe, especially Small Town Europe, to close down at the drop of a hat. People don’t generally work in shifts, so every business takes at least an hour to close down for lunch- including many restaurants. For the same reason, many businesses will also shut down for weeks on end for vacations. Once for the winter holidays, and then often again for a summer break. This includes doctor’s offices, restaurants, and small department stores. Grocers don’t usually do this, but they still have very limited hours by US standards. Everything is closed Sundays, of course. And National Holidays often result in extended shut downs. For example, I mentioned before that the stores were closed from Sunday through Wednesday this year for Christmas. Sunday because it was Sunday, Monday because it was Christmas Eve, Tuesday was Christmas, and then Wednesday was Boxing Day. Thursday, Friday and Saturday everyone went to the malls to exchange things, get missing items, etc. Then another shutdown Sunday. Which brings us to New Years Eve.
Since, of course, everyone was having a party, that meant that New Years Eve was THE DAY to go to the Supermarket. But, the markets were only open 1/2 day (since the employees want to party, too!) You know how you have to drive around Mall Parking lots for a couple weeks before Christmas in the States? Grocery stores were like that yesterday. And the lines inside went 1/2 way through the market itself. It reminded me of old propaganda photos of Soviet Russia during the cold war. Everyone lined up in their winter clothes waiting stoically to get through to buy their stuff. Only, perhaps a little different than those photos, 2/3 of the people there were only buying booze and fireworks! LOTS of booze and fireworks.
And since the kids are out for the holidays, the store was also full of small German People being cute and really bored with the lines. As David noted “Booze, Fireworks and Kids- what could go wrong?”
This year David and I were fortunate enough to get invited to a New Years Eve party with some of his co-workers. It was taking place at a Geek House inhabited by several Black Forest coworkers and aptly named The Pink Castle. It is a huge old ornate Victorian with turrets and 3.5 stories. The Black Forest gang has the top two. I could tell we were at the right house because I spotted Emily’s Canadian flag in her window BUT, that didn’t mean we had any clue how to get in. The lower story was clearly inhabited by a family, and we didn’t wish to disturb them. However, neither of the entrances we discovered seemed to connect up. Having been to a couple German homes with odd entrances, I started into the dark back yard to investigate. “Where are you going!” David asked alarmed! I acquiesced. But, soon it became clear that around back was pretty much our only remaining option. So, crunching along gravely dirt, we felt our way to the rear of the house and encountered this:
Ummm… that couldn’t be right, could it? Still, it did lead up. David gamely made the climb, and discovered our friends up top! Any easier way up? Well, they admitted, there is an elevator, but it requires a key…. Blessing my choice not to wear stiletto heels, I followed.
And we had a lovely time! (I apologize for missing some folks with my photos, the low-light meant I came out with more blur than I would have hoped)
Around 11, David and I ditched out to spend the actual Countdown time with the kids. Did I mention that we also had to climb DOWN those stairs? We hadn’t been drinking, but I rather worried about those who would be leaving later! One thing I will note, though. Midnight in winter in Germany, outdoors metal staircases get COLD.
We managed the final challenge fine and were home to share some Prosecco and watch the amazing fireworks.
But, really you need to understand how amazingly universal the fireworks are here. Here is a video from our balcony to give you an idea:
For about an hour the sky is just crackling. No matter where you are, you are literally surrounded by celebration! Then, everyone migrates back inside for bed or more partying. And New Years Day is very very quiet
Hoping you and yours have a loving, healthy, prosperous, wonder-filled 2013!