Like I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve spent 13 out of the last 15 New Year’s Eves in foreign countries. So you would think I would have some wild stories to tell. Sadly you would be wrong. But nevertheless, there were a few very fun evenings over the years.
The first of those was NYE 2000 and I was in Frankfurt, Germany. I had just moved to Germany about 10 days prior. I was armed with a tour book and a better than working knowledge of German (I studied it in college, because I knew that I wanted to live in Germany one day). I knew one person at that point, and she was away skiing for the weekend. This was supposed to be the big New Years Eve. I mean we were heading into the year 2000 and the Y2K bug was supposed to crash everything at midnight. The doomsday pessimists predicted the end of the world as we knew it, so I felt compelled to go out and do SOMETHING to commemorate it and experience it for myself. Lucky for me, I was reading our local paper and saw all the different New Years celebrations that were taking place across Europe. Frankfurt was only a 20 minute train ride from the city I lived in (Darmstadt), and it was a simple matter of taking the streetcar to the train station and getting on a train to Frankfurt. Simple matter yes, but this was my first outing in Germany, so of course I was a bit nervous. I mean I was only 23 at this point, and while I had lived for a year in Korea, I hadn’t gotten out THAT much (in comparison to what I do now), and I hadn’t gained my full travel confidence yet. But with no issues whatsoever, I got myself on a train to Frankfurt for my first adventure. I spent the entire day just doing a walking tour of Frankfurt and taking it all in. The city was decked out for all the NYE festivities later that evening. They had carnival rides, different music and dancing booths, food vendors, booze vendors. As the night got later and the later, the crowd got bigger and drunker. At this point I wanted to make my way across the Main River to see the fireworks. The polizei tried to contain the crowd, but couldn’t hold back the sheer force of all that drunken happiness. I will confess to feeling crushed for a brief moment and thought that there was no way I could die in a crowd on NYE 2000. When midnight actually struck, the sky lit for several minutes with the intense amount of fireworks. It was pretty overwhelming, but in a good way. I didn’t actually get back to my quarters until around 5 am and couldn’t help but notice that the trains were still running and the world hadn’t stopped. Whew! That one evening not only gave me something fun to do for a big NYE, but also gave me the confidence to continue exploring Europe.
My next fun New Years Eve wasn’t until NYE 2007, and I was back again in Germany. I had moved back to Germany in June 2006. I also had recently become obsessed with a band, Scissor Sisters, because their second album had been released a few months prior. It was one of those deals where I just fell hardcore in love with something. It’s happened before, and it’s happened since with some pop culture things. As luck would have it, Scissor Sisters’ popularity was expanding out of the UK where they first started, and was spreading across Europe. I hadn’t seen them in concert yet, but kept hearing what an amazing live show they put on. So imagine my delight when I saw that they were headlining the New Years Eve festival in Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate. I had been to Berlin before when I was living in Germany a few years prior, but this was a bit different. As you can imagine, the NYE celebration in Berlin is HUGE filled with so many people and so much booze. The crowd at Brandenburg Gate was enormous, but through some calculated and careful maneuvering, I made it to the barrier gate by the time Scissor Sisters was due to perform. It was cold as all get out that night, but I was giddy with anticipation. They performed as well as I had hoped, but I have to say the audience themselves just wasn’t giving them the sort of love they had hoped and were used to experiencing with smaller crowds. They tried admirably, but by that point…*shrugs*. Anyway, I had a great time and it was amazing to see them perform (though for the most part I prefer seeing them in smaller venues). Walking back to my hostel was like negotiating an obstacle course of drunk people falling down, trash, and an amazing amounts of broken glass. What was even more amazing, is that a few hours later in daylight, the mountain of trash had been cleared from the street like it was never there. You have to admire the German efficiency.
The next years NYE was not memorable for the actual party around midnight, because by that point I was dead asleep. It was what came before it that was so great. That year, 2007, I decided to take a group trip to Egypt over the holidays. I always wanted to see the pyramids and the other historical sites of Egypt, and figured the temperatures would be much cooler than the beastly heat in the dead of summer (and they were). By New Years Eve, my group was on the Sinai Peninsula and we were headed toward St. Katherine’s Monastery. We had a choice of walking up Mt. Sinai for the sunset that evening, or getting up at 2 am for the walk up for sunrise 1 January. We elected to go for the sunset. Walking up Mt. Sinai isn’t difficult in the sense that it requires any sort of mountain climbing ability. It just get steep at parts, particularly the final stairs to the peak. But it was worth it to stand up there and take the full view of the Sinai desert around me and watch as the last sunset of 2007 slipped below the horizon.
After that though, we still had to get DOWN the mountain, and it was pitch dark at this point. We agreed to take the Steps of Penitence down, because it was quicker, though substantially steeper, and all we were armed with was our own personal flashlights. I had seen these steps enough in daylight to know that it was probably best that I could only see right in front of me, so I just had to take the necessary steps and put one foot in front of the other. I am very clumsy, lack sure-footedness, and tend to trip and fall very easily, and if I could have fully seen how uneven these steps were, I probably would have fallen many times. By the time we descended the mountain, it was around 7pm and we headed out to a very scrumptious buffet at our hotel. It was a nice, relaxing evening, but I was so tired from all the walking, I was probably asleep by 10 pm and didn’t wake up until New Years Day. That was some of the deepest sleep I ever had on vacation.
The final NYE that was anything memorable was NYE 2010. That year I elected to take a holiday trip to Peru, and made sure I was in Cuzco for NYE, because I had heard many good things about it for the NYE celebration in town. It wasn’t any one thing that was fun, but it was a large group of people completely drunk, singing and dancing in the streets and just having a good time. As midnight approached and passed, the crowds in the main square swelled until it was full of people. I extricated myself from it so I could watch it from above and take it all in. I liken the whole experience to a rave in a combat zone. There was loud music, wild dancing, groups of friends carousing, and there were so many pyrotechnics the air started to get thick with smoke. I had to get up the next morning fairly early to catch my flight back to Lima to return home, and by that point, the streets were almost eerily silent and empty. It was a good end to a really great vacation.
I guess the themes for most of those fun NYE, is not so much that I personally was doing something amazing and cool, but I was a part of something amazing and cool going on around me. Since I was alone for all of these events (I may have been part of a tour group in Egypt, but I wasn’t friends with anyone there), I enjoyed these experiences, but at a sort of remove, like I was simultaneously enjoying everything, but also observing everything. While I can’t ever say I have ever had a completely wild, off the chain, NYE, I am always on the lookout for something fun and unique to do to celebrate the new year.