"One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Germany on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878." Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad



Happy New Year's!

I have quite a bit of catching up to do, but I wanted to start with one of the most memorable events of the past week--Silvester. This is what the Germans call 'New Year's Eve.' Apparently December 31st is also St. Silvester's Day (yet another saint I was unware of), and for the past several hundred years the Germans have been paying tribute to him every New Year's Eve.

This New Year's Eve was memorable not just because we were celebrating it in Germany, but also because it was the only day all of my family was together with us in Heidelberg. My newly prego sis and her husband and my newly married brother and his wife were in town along with my parents. So we did our best to make the most of the day, and night.

First on the list, a festive dinner at a local German brewery. Notice the size of the beverage of choice.

Uncle M, the Father, Uncle T

Bratwurst, sauerkraut and potatoes--does it get more German than this?

Then we went for a quick walk around the town. This is about 10 p.m. Notice the empty bridge.

Penelope with Uncle M

The castle was all lit up and ready for the festivties, and apparently also in search of Batman.

Uncle T and Aunt A

Then back to the apartment we were renting in the Altstadt to wait until midnight.

Aunt J didn't last too long.

Starting at 11:30 p.m. things really started picking up. We walked back to the old bridge to join in the action. The streets were packed with people.

the Father, Me, Aunt J, Uncle T, Aunt A on the old bridge with the castle in the upper left corner

The big difference between New Year's in the U.S. and Germany is that in Germany there isn't an organized fireworks display. Instead, everyone brings their own bundle of fireworks and sets them off wherever they feel like it. As midnight drew near, things got really crazy. There were people shooting off fireworks all around us. On one side of us a guy was holding up an empty wine bottle and lighting large bottle rockets in it. On the other side of us a girl was shooting off roman candles. A few feet from us a group of people were lighting M-16's and throwing them off the bridge. Craziness. Pure craziness.

From our location on the bridge we could see fireworks going off in all directions--by the castle, across the river, on the mountains, on the streets below. In some ways it seemed a more grand display than the organized fireworks displays that I have seen in years past. The fireworks went on and on, but when a stray firework exploded at our feet we promptly decided to leave our spot on the bridge and push our way through the crowd and into safety.

The strangest thing that evening was that we never spotted a single policeman, firetruck or other regulating force. Although the alcohol was flowing and the streets were crowded with people setting off firewords left and right, there was no fighting or signs of aggression as you might expect in such a large boisterous gathering. The partying went on through the night, and the streets and squares were littered with broken glass and fireworks debris. But when we awoke the next morning, the streets were already cleaned up, and things were set back to normal. Altogether it was the most unique and exciting New Year's Eve celebration we've been a part of.
So long 2009. Here we come 2010....

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