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Jan 1, 07 05:31 PM

München (Munich)/Bayern (Bavarians)/Silvester (New Year's Eve).

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The wildest New Year's I have ever been witness to.

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Munich was a letdown for me. Berlin amazed me; I've been emailing my friends telling them that the bohemian neighborhoods there look like they got hit by an art bomb. A great energy, and I can't wait to go back. Munich, on the other hand, is a moneyed, comfortable town, quite awesome in its own right, but certainly not with Berlin's excitement.

What it does have is Old Stuff. Observe:

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Tremendous, right? I loved seeing it. Not the best for me, though, because I don't really photograph that kind of thing particularly well; one would do better to buy a coffeetable book. I'm more attuned to this:

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But it was fun walking around the Altstadt, where all the churches were, and the Marienplatz, and the Frauenplatz, and all the fantastic edifices. It was, of course, lousy with other tourists. Strangely, they were 90% Italian. I mean, the streets were packed with beerdrinking Italians. The beer, of course, is the other thing Bavaria is famous for. It seemed that all of Northern Italy took the train up to drink some.

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I shocked the hell out of myself by constantly getting annoyed at the Italians for speaking English. Like, how dare this boorish Italian guy assume the guy selling him his wurst speaks English! Why can't these people learn a few German words, just to be polite?

(My own German, PS, is coming along, although I wish my vocabulary was bigger. But most of my conversations over here have been entirely auf Deutsch! Whenever I depart from one, I feel a tingly feeling, almost like I'm getting slightly teary. Seriously. I am way into this German speaking thing.)

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I wasn't doing the beer, myself, but was eating the bejesus out of everything I could get my hands on. The Bavarians know something about meat. There's an area near the Marienplatz called the Viktualienmarkt, little stands, each with a specialty, and I had one of everything.

What was it all made of? Don't know. Don't want to know. Clearly parts of pigs and cows. It was all delicious.

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Silvester--that's what the Germans call New Year's Eve--arrives. I'm wandering around the Altstadt, and I happen upon the Hofbrauhaus. The Hofbrauhaus, is like, you know, the Germany you've seen in movies: Oktoberfest, huge beer steins, people in lederhosen and waitresses in dirndls bearing eight beer steins at once, oompah brass bands. I decide to go in and maybe grab a prezel.

You've seen The Sound of Music. Lederhosen, those kind of hats and coats and dresses and stuff? That's called Tracht. It's Bavarian traditional clothing. They are still rocking that shit. In fact, one can go and buy superexpensive designer versions of it, like I saw in this store window:

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It's about 7 pm. I wander in (despite the 18th century style of the place, there are Tracht wearing bouncers out front, with earpieces, worthy of some faceless L.A. club). There are long wooden tables filled with Germans kitted out for Silvester in their Tracht. But not so many of them. Mostly, it's Italians. It's kind of scary. One table starts singing an Italian song, it's an anthem of some sort, a soccer song maybe? The whole joint erupts into a roaring singalong.

I grab a Käsebrez'n and hotfoot it out of there.

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It occurs to me that maybe I should chillax at the hotel for a few hours, then go out to the Marienplatz, where there's likely to be a bunch of people, catch the switchover to 2007, then go to sleep and wake up and wander the streets until I catch the old Zug to Vienna.

I emerge at 10:30 and find that they're setting off fireworks in the Marienplatz, right in front of the beautiful old town hall. Just a bunch of kids, setting them off, pell mell. Everybody else in the square is giving them a wide berth, they have this huge circle in which they're just creating fiery chaos. So close to the beautiful old building, I figure, the cops must show up soon.

I get out of there and wander around some more. I find more of the same, in smaller doses. People are setting off fireworks--like, real fireworks, not wimpy ones, right between the old buildings of the Altstadt. Just regular half-drunk folks.

I walk up towards Schwabing, the neighborhood where the university is--the old hippie neighborhood (sadly it isn't anymore). I notice that I am moving against a tide of people, many of whom have backpacks spilling over with fireworks

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Oh my God. What's this gonna look like at midnight?

I come back from Schwabing and it's sheer mayhem. Every little square is full of people getting drunk and exploding things. There will be a big circle around people blowing stuff up, and then suddenly I'll realize that people are also blowing stuff up behind me. Oh great. I'll go looking for another square. Dodging fireworks overhead the whole time.

I'm getting a little uneasy. You square, I think, this must just be the deal. Calm down.

It gets crazier and crazier. I get back to Marienplatz and it's just astonishing how many fireworks are going off. It's close to midnight. The crowd is mixed--lots of Italians of course, who are so into this it's unnerving--but lots of older, well dressed folk--expensive Tracht--young couples with kids--younger people. Everybody. And we're all dodging fireworks. Walking along, suddenly sparks fly overhead, a roman candle shoots comets a yard from your foot, you're showered in ash.

There was this one particular firework which I thought was very beautiful and clever, a green screaming whirligig. I came to fear it. I saw it go twirling up in the sky, then nosedive and smack into a guy's head. Nothing happened, but the guy was pretty worried about his hair.

And what of the buildings? These old, amazing churches? The faces of the saints, are they going to have gunpowder marks in the morning? I keep seeing missiles shoot over the roofs. Who knows where they land?

I realize that I'm not the only one who's freaked out. Everybody is freaked out, or drunk.


Posted by Mike at January 1, 2007 05:31 PM
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