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Lubeck: And a super New Year


The sounds of rockets firing filled my ears. Smoke engulfed everyone around me in the narrow, snow-covered street. For as far as I could see in either direction, rockets were being propelled into the air amidst a shower of orange sparks, flying up into the dark night to explode in a colourful umbrella of more sparks. I crouched down in front of the plastic bottle standing in the street. In my left hand I held a small wooden stick, attached to which was a rocket with a short fuse. In my right hand was a cigar. I swung around a bit so Bec could get some footage of me, “Careful, careful,” said the man next to me whilst lighting his own rocket. Shit, I nearly had a rocket up the arse; not the best way to start a new year.

Cause folks, this was New Years, German style.

New Years eve had started quietly. In the days since Christmas, Jane and Sam, and Trickey and Sarah had left to head back to the UK, and Gab and Marr´y had arrived, meaning there were six of us to spend New Years together. In the afternoon, Bec, Karen and Benno, and Gab and Marr´y had taken Gab and Marr´s hire car for a drive up to the coast. I had stayed behind to get some writing done, and finish my book.

Benno and Marr´y had earlier mentioned buying some fireworks from ALDI to set off later that evening. Sure, I had agreed, but I´d been a little skeptical; it isn´t really a common thing back in Australia. In fact, I think backyard fireworks might be illegal; nothing like a free democracy that lets people make their own decisions. As I walked through the streets of Lubeck looking for an internet cafe, my skepticism began to waver, and was soon erased; every second bloke I passed in the street seemed to be carrying a huge sack of fireworks. Not just kids, but grown, middle aged men, walking about with rockets that looked that they´d just been sent from the US army in Iraq. I was quickly learning; when it comes to celebrating the New Year, the Germans don´t fuck around.

Our celebrations began at our apartment, with another great dinner, this time of steak and vegies (including brussel sprouts, doused in butter and dished up with bacon, mmmm, delicious. Never thought I´d say that, did ya Mum). All through dinner, the sound of backyard fireworks rung out across the sky. Pop….. pop….. bang…..pop…..whoooosh. With a few drinks under our belts, and after a bit of dancing in the loungeroom, we decided it was time for our own fireworks. We had returned to ALDI late that afternoon to find that all the rockets had been sold, and so we got the next best thing.

It was around 11.30pm when we headed down to the river to set them off. We had a long box, like a 2 x 4, with a number of holes coming out the top, and a single wick at the end. Marr´y laid the box in the snow beside the river, lit the wick, and then scrambled up the snowy bank. Then, the box exploded in a shower of white sparks and noise, with shots of colour extending up into the sky like mini fireworks. We all cheered and danced about for the 30 or so seconds it lasted, thrilled by the colour.

From there, we headed to our planned destination; the discotecque on the boat that our taxi driver had pointed out. All excited, we stepped onto the gangplank, but were disappointed to find that it didn´t open until 12.30am. Bugger.

We strolled along the river to the other discotecque the taxi driver had pointed out, but its 7 euro entry fee seemed a bit steep given we only wanted to kill 45 minutes before returning to the boat. We turned up a small street heading away from the river, and found a tiny bar into which we squeezed for a couple of quick drinks. Everyone inside was in great spirits, and we soon had people shoving streamers in our hands to drape over our friends.

Before we knew it, a countdown had begun, and it was 2006. That was when the rockets started appearing. Men started walking from the back of the little bar towards the door, carrying big bags with wooden sticks protruding out the end. Everyone headed outside, even though it was raining steadily, but lightly. From nowhere, plastic bottles appeared in the middle of the street, and people began running out from the cover of the footpaths, as though soldiers running between trenches, to plonk their wooden sticks with rockets attached in the bottles, light the 5 second fuse, and then run back to the footpath to see it explode into the sky. For 15 minutes this went on, rockets firing constantly, painting the sky in coloured streaks. As Bec and I cheered each rocket, we began to chatting to a woman next to us, perhaps in her mid thirties.

“Oh, you are from Australia?!” she exclaimed, “Oh, you must light a rocket.”

She handed me rocket. And a cigar. “It is German tradition, you must use cigar to light the rocket. This helps to ward off the spirits.” She told us it was a German tradition, that each person set off their own fireworks to bring them good luck in the coming year, or ward off the evil spirits, as she put it.

After setting the cigar to the fuse of my rocket (and avoiding having my neighbour´s shoot up my arse) I ran back to the footpath to watch it race into the sky. We all cheered. “Yeeaeahhh. Vunderbar,” I cried. She stopped laughing, and looked at me with shock. “No, you are not Australian,” she said, “you are English.” It was an accusation.

“No, no, I´m Australian,” I protested. “Look,” I grabbed my wallet and fished out my drivers licence. She took it and studied it closely. “See,” Bec pointed out, “Victoria, Australia.”

“Ahhh. Ok. Ok.” she replied, a big smile returning to her face. “That means, your turn,” she said, handing Bec a rocket, and the cigar. Bec waited for a free bottle to appear; people were lining up to use them, and then ran out into the rain to ignite her good luck charm. After it took off and exploded in the sky we all cheered and gave each other hugs, before the lady wished us a happy new year and walked off into the smoky night.

With wet hair, and huge smiles on our faces, we walked to the floating discotecque, where we danced away into the wee hours.

Happy New Year folks.

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One Response to “Lubeck: And a super New Year”

  1. sean Says:

    “… when it comes to celebrating the New Year, the Germans don´t fuck around.”

    Early entry as Best statement of the New Year.

  2. Posted from United States United States
  3. admin Says:

    Hey Sean,

    Mate, I’ve also learnt that the Thais don’t muck around with spices. For example, if I owned a restaurant, and that restaurant served arguably the hottest, spiciest, breathing-fire-out-your-nose dish, I’d probably give it a little more fanfare on the menu than simply “No. 225, Grilled pork salad with hot lime and kale”. But at a small restaurant just off Kho San road in Bangkok, that was what I ordered. The dish looked delicious; sumptuous pieces of pork covered with chopped chillies, set on crispy salad, and drizzled with lime juice. The first mouthful was great, the second set sparks jumping from my tongue. I dared not breath out through my mouth, lest I set alight Bec sitting opposite me and send her running from the place with hair ablaze.

    Knowing she likes spicier food than I, we swapped dishes, but it was even too much for Bec. But somehow she ate it all. She took a bullet for me that day, and I shant forget it.

  4. Posted from Lao People's Democratic Republic Lao People's Democratic Republic

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