Berlin, Humour, Life in Berlin

Happy New Year

Berlin New Year 2011Well, frankly I’m glad it’s over; Christmas, New Year, the whole lot…

Yesterday, we decided to have a quiet night in. Fat chance. Fireworks were going off all over the place before it even got dark. (The Germans have a mad love of fireworks, as Deutsche Welle’s Dan Bishton recently commented.)

This is my first New Year’s in Berlin; last year we were in India, which was an altogether more civilised affair that at least respected basic health and safety precautions. After a short walk down Schönhauser Allee at about 6 pm, which was teeming with drunkards setting explosives shooting off down the road and banging in the bins, we decided not to venture out again. It’s no wonder that last night, between 19.00 and 06.00, Berlin’s fire brigade responded to no less than 1568 calls.

The Bavarian and I divided the evening between watching TV and standing at the window, fire-extinguisher at hand (don’t ask why we have a fire extinguisher; the Bavarian ordered it off Amazon just after Christmas), commenting on the idiocy of those setting fireworks off on the pavement below just a few metres away from themselves and their children, and the woman who decided to take her dog for a walk at midnight.

The worst, however, were the people on the ‘show-off balcony’, which is what we call the balcony opposite ours. They have been annoying us all year – in the summer they decorated their balcony with an almost indecent array of flowers and LED lights that changed from pink to blue to green, in the autumn they put a covering over it so they could still use it despite the falling leaves, rain and wind, and in winter, streams of fairy lights like celestial snowflakes fell gracefully down the sides of their balcony – and yesterday was no exception. They waved sparklers about with their friends at midnight and thoughtlessly threw lighted rockets off the balcony and onto the parked cars below.

“Next New Year’s, we should fire some rockets straight across at that balcony,” I say, seeing the opportunism that such chaotic New Year‘s celebrations can offer. In between keeping an eye on the trouble-makers outside, we fought over the remote control, switching between the obituaries on BBC World (my choice), Naked Gun (his choice), Mr Bean (my choice), Dinner for One (his choice) and the coverage of the New Year‘s celebrations at the Brandenburg Gate (both our choices).

More than a million people welcomed in 2011 at Brandenburg Gate last night, making it the biggest open air New Year‘s Party in the world. We didn’t go because a) everyone knows that it’s for tourists, b) it’s too damn cold and c) judging by the line-up I’d have to agree with my father-in-law, who says that instead of throwing a party, Berlin should spend the money on a proper method of clearing the snow off the streets (as they do in Bavaria).

They’re not kidding when they say that Berlin has no money, because most of the acts (Paul Potts, the English pop opera tenor who won the first series of “Britain’s Got Talent”, girl group Big Soul, who came second in Germany’s X-Factor, and Leslie Mandoki and The Soulmates, who…well, I don’t know who they are), would have appeared in exchange for just travel and accommodation expenses. David Hasselhoff, as always the highlight of the night, would have been happy with just a bottle of vodka.

Here he is, singing his little heart out:

Anyway, my new year’s resolution is to post more often, so watch this space and A Very Happy New Year and Best Wishes to everyone who reads this blog!

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Life in Berlin, music

MTV Awards in Berlin

Finally, we are being treated the way we ought to be in Berlin; we were invited to watch U2 play live at The Brandenburg Gate from the chic top floor balcony of the Allianz building which is next to the French Embassy and overlooks the Tor.

I have no idea how we achieved VIP status, but assume that either it was some sort of mistake, or else that The Bavarian is indeed a Very Important Person (I suppose I could ask him, but after all these years of not quite knowing what exactly he does, I think it would be rude – a bit like asking someone what their name is after having already talked to them on several occasions).

In any case, being plebs at heart, we behaved in an un-VIP like way – gulping down as much red wine and food as possible and laughing gleefully at the more than 10,000 people gathered below us.

But everything has its price and, in a thoroughly anti-Rock’n’Roll manner, we were subjected to a speech by the lovely people at Allianz (the second biggest insurance company in the world) full of corporate gaga before the gig.

U2 were fantastic, and played 5 songs, starting with One Love during which communist / east-west reunification iconography was projected onto the Brandenburg Gate – you can see it below.

There was much speculation about the mystery guest that would be appearing during the U2 set – the Germans were hoping that it would be David Hasselhoff, which I thought was a joke until The Bavarian told me that I should stop laughing so hard because they were dead serious. Luckily, the special guest turned out to be Jay Z instead, who performed during Sunday Bloody Sunday.

Fortunately for the Germans, David Hasselhoff did make a special appearance at the MTV awards at the O2 Centre later on that evening. Once again I found myself in a conundrum over whether to laugh or not…either he is a comic genius or he’s a drunkard who takes himself much too seriously. You decide.

If you want more, there’s an interesting article in The Spiegal on Germany’s love affair with The Hoff.