11:55 pm, December 31st - New Year's Eve. Standing on Unter den Linden just a few blocks away from the Brandenburg Tor; in the midst of a few thousand of my fellow revellers it's apparent that for 355 days of the year Berliners are sane humans but New Year's Eve brings out the "pyro" in both Berliners and visitors alike.
One day every year, December 31st to be exact, anyone in the city of Berlin, or any German city, can legally buy the most amazingly high powered fireworks made (by US standards) just about anywhere. In fact we bought our fireworks pack in a stationery store of all places! The entire day is spent in anticipation of sunlight leaving so the day's purchase of skyrockets can be unleashed into the darkening sky without repercussion from the police or other authorities.
Dinners are planned with almost military-like precision so that meals are completed prior to midnight when most of the noise and lights of the fireworks erupt. Then the party moves outside to let the real festivities begin… fireworks that look like mortar boxes are set off in the street just a few feet away…fireworks of gold, green, red, orange and even a purplish blue scream overhead, launched from the building rooftops lining the street… sometimes ducking around a building corner for temporary cover is required in this free-for-all madcap frenzy of pyro-activity. But oh, the adrenaline rush and excitement of watching the sounds and colors associated with the exploding all around you is so utterly contagious!
After the fireworks are finally done and the last lone flash and scream in the air is over the crowd slowly disperses, with most wandering toward the closest well-known Ubahn stop. Tag along with a local and catch a less crowed subway line just around the corner to get back home within a reasonable length of time. Beware tho, even on the Ubahn and the Ubahn station you can encounter firecracker activity so stay alert! If one lands next to your foot you can either move away really fast or (if you are lucky) stomp on it really hard with your shoe to put it out!
Venturing outside the next morning, New Year's Day, brings a shock to those who are new to the Berlin style of NYE partying. On the streets and along the sidewalks sit massive amounts of spent fireworks papers, bottle rocket sticks and finished fuses — it looks like a war zone! By the next morning though (January 2nd) the masses of debris are neatly swept up into piles 2 to 3 feet deep alongside the streets awaiting pickup by the trash collectors!
My advice—if you EVER get the chance to travel to Berlin for New Year's Eve, GO! You will never forget the experience!