Dating all the way back to September, I had had grandiose plans of a Chandigarh trainee reunion/new years party in Germany. There were a fair number of people that fit the necessary criteria in and around where I was going, so having people meet didn't seem like much of a stretch. Oh, how I was wrong....
One email went out to said people. Very few replied. So much for a large get-together...
Then there was the idea of going to Poland. It made sense, mainly because I thought I was going to be much farther east in Germany. As it turned out, I was closer to Prague than Warsaw, so we nixed that plan rather quickly.
Ok, so New Years was to be in Germany. No problem. I contacted the daughter of the Mongolian host family I stayed with, as she was in Germany and I really wanted to meet up with her. It was tentatively planned that Johanna, Benjamin, and I would celebrate with the Mongolian contingent in Leipzig.
Fast-forward to December 26th. Due to an unfortunate breakdown in communication, I found out only that day that the Mongolian girl was in fact off to Paris for New Years and, even more surprisingly, didn't even live in Leipzig to begin with. So much for those plans.
Then Christiane emailed and said she wanted to meet up with us. She called later that evening and we worked out a bit of a plan. But on the 30th, it was determined that the trip for her to Leipzig would be like 9 hours. I guess that's what you get for living at the very northern tip of Germany. So, the kibosh was put on those plans rather quickly.
Our last option was to head to the city, Jena, where Johanna's sister's boyfriend (Andy) lives...about an hour and half away. It's a smallish university town famous for being the hometown of the German poet Schiller (I think). His good buddy, Goethe, was from 20 minutes down the road in Weimar. Oh, Weimar, so historically significant and yet so presently insignificant. Anyways, Jena is situated in the former East Germany and, as such, has noticeable "scars," in the form of communist apartment blocks dominating the suburban landscape. Downtown, comparatively, is beautiful...except for this big tower rising up out of nowhere. There are little squares, churches, and statues everywhere. And there is even a street featuring some 15 pubs...aptly dubbed "pub street." How convenient that it's right across from the university.
Celebrations started with beer at Andy's apartment. We could hear the perpetual din of fireworks outside, while we drank Czech Pilsner and listening to German grunting music (death metal?). It was then decided that downtown would be our best bet, so we took our act to pub street. The fireworks could still be heard, but at an intermittent rate.
How fitting that our first pub was Irish in theme. I swear, Irish pubs are like Chinatowns and Mcdonalds outlets. If you look hard enough (or smell, in the case of Mickey Ds), you're bound to find one. We enjoyed a pint at the establishment and then headed down the street to "Cheers - The American Sports Bar." Notice a trend? Yet another pint was consumed and it was still only 11 pm.
The last themed bar left in town, apparently, was a French pub. Ok, now if Irish pubs are like Chinatowns, French pubs are like Indian steakhouses. I didn't think the French were known for their beer. In fact, I'm hard pressed to name a French beer...even with Google. That didn't stop me from getting a pint of Bavarian white, though.
Finally the midnight hour approached. We went out in a rush to the main square only to see a cacaphony of fireworks. I had never seen anything like it. Every quarter of a second, you'd hear a *pop* or *bang*. One was so loud and powerful that it made the earth shake. Everywhere you looked, people were carrying fireworks or lighting them or throwing them at people. Naturally, the most prevelant group of participants were teenagers. I had to wonder where the money came from....
If you can believe it, the display lasted for some 10 hours. Needless to say, this was a rather interesting New Years that compares closely to last year. Instead of tens of thousands of people, though, there were tens of thousands of fireworks.