Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year--Hamburg Style

What do you call a situation where the entire city of Hamburg loses its mind at the same time?

New Year’s Eve.

To be fair, New Year’s Eve coincides with Silvester, which I understand to be a celebration of the saint of the same name. I’ve just never known a saintly feast to inspire such fervor. ;)

The revelry began Wednesday night. Soon after it started getting dark (around 4 pm), the booming began. Random fireworks here and there increased to an uncoordinated but unceasing barrage. I woke up on New Year’s Eve to the sound of church bells and fireworks. During the day. All day.

By nightfall it was a siege. The sky was a massive thunderstorm with lightning of various colors. Instead of rain, there was a layer of smoke and the smell of burnt powder.

On our walk to meet up with some of Larry’s colleagues for drinks and gaming, we saw a group of adults standing on the sidewalk watching a small boy (2-3 years old), who had just been given a sparkler and was lighting a circle of fireworks that had been set up in the middle of the street.

We picked up the pace.

After the first stop our group jumped on the train and headed over to another coworker’s new place; an adorable apartment in a high rise overlooking the Elbe. We arrived about 10 minutes before midnight to the sight of 50 people waiting in the lobby for the tiny elevator, so we hit the stairs for the 7-story climb. 

By this time the official fireworks were mingling with the everyday revelers to create an incredible sight. From the balcony we could see the harbor to our right and then across the entire downtown area to the Alster lakes on our left.

Unlike the fireworks I was used to in the U.S., the show did not build to a crescendo with a finale. It kept up an unrelenting sensory overload, complete with horns blowing from the ships in the harbor. (In the first video you can hear the horns starting as we hit midnight. The second video gives you an idea of the intensity of the show--imagine 45+ straight minutes of this).

Around 1 am we all went up the building’s roof for a 360-degree view of the city and the continued merriment. Although the fireworks weren’t fading, Larry and I were--we stumbled back into our apartment around 3:30 am, exhausted but still excited about our entry into the new year.

I hope each of you had a safe and wonderful beginning to 2016, and are looking forward to the adventures ahead!

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