December 31, 2014 – Berlin
Some time in the evening.
The air smells slightly of sulfur and gunpowder. A few explosions pop here and there. My friend explains to me that fireworks are mostly illegal or controlled in Germany – exception made in most cities for New Year celebrations, or “Sylvester” as they put it in Deutschland.
A year ago to the day, It felt like I was slowly walking the streets with my friend, enjoying my beer, while the rest of the world, not so far from me, was waging war. A very colorful but still loud war.
I had spent New Year in Käshofen, Germany. A very small village located near Zweibrücken and Homburg. Technically located in Rhineland-Palatine, most people in Käshofen feel like it’s more Saarland than Rhineland.
Anyhow. Where was I. . .
Right, I spent my holidays around there.
During that time, we also took the opportunity after Christmas celebrations to visit Luxembourg. Spending a day almost knee deep in the slush and cold wind, our faces swept by the snow. “Snow” that melted before hitting the ground, thus feeling more like icy rain.
Slowly making our way through gorgeous Luxembourg city. Shy of 108,000 souls, the capital the 179th biggest country in the world…… Needless to say, we went around it quickly.
Letting all the history seep in.
All of it.
During this time, before I made my way to Berlin, we also visited Trier.
Trier, with roughly the same population as the capital of Luxembourg, is one of the smaller German cities. It is also a pre-germanic city.
The oldest city in Germany in fact, dating back 4th Century BC, colonized by the Celts. It was presumably conquered by the Romans during the 1st Century BC, explaining it’s vast remnants of the Roman empire, walls, aqueducts and Roman monuments.
But, Why Trier ?
I already knew a Trevian. My friend Mana met through couchsurfing with her friend Susi lived there, and was nice enough to host me and my two friends. Susi even met us in Trier for the occasion, and some months later I hosted Mana’s sister in Montreal.
It was good fun
Afterwards, we would go to Strasbourg, Alsace, France. One of the prettiest “Christmas” cities I had te opportunity to see. And after Munich, Nuremberg etc, it is quite the statement.
After spending most of the day wandering the gorgeous 7th most populous city of France, and what would become one of my favorites for its architecture, German feeling, and overall great vibe, we gave the Christmas market a last visit and my friends were on their way to the train that would bring them back to Saarland. I had to meet up with my last minute couchsurfing host, shout out to Maïté !; a nice French girl studying medicine and being overall super busy and back from a trip herself, for helping a Canadian traveler out to some beer and a couch for the night.
The next day I was on my way to Berlin…
Where was I again ? Oh right, the gunpowder smell and the noise.
The new year’s eve in Berlin is…special. Not loosing a few toes because you walked on a un-detonated illegal polish feuerwerk in the next morning is always a relief.
It’s hard to describe the fact that aside from the 3.5 million Berliners partying there is also a bunch of foreigners (like me) and Germans from the country who come specifically for the occasion that is the one night at the end of the year where it is not completely illegal to shoot explosives at your neighbor’s windows or between buildings in what becomes a giant fire hazard.
But a very entertaining one.
That evening my friend Marianne invited me to spend a few days in Berlin, celebrate the passing to 2015 and, my birthday, coincidentally the first day of every year.
And a Benjamin Blümchen geburtstagskuchen (Benjamin The Flower Birthday Cake) – A tradition people have of offering a cake from the Benjamin Cartoon.
[2018 Edit] I was not close to imagining that 3 years later, I’d get a year older in Berlin, again. This time, living there.