Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Travel Log #6 Happy New Year! (with addendum)

During this trip, we've learned all about German New Year's Eve traditions. The first lesson came from being woken up at 3am by loud explosions several days in a row leading up to New Year's Eve. Apparently, New Year's Eve in Germany is even bigger than the 4th of July in the U.S. And, like the U.S., there are several nights of "practice fireworks" leading up to the big night.

When New Year's Eve finally came, the snaps and pops started first thing in the morning and intensified throughout the day. Despite the fact that I didn't enjoy being woken up by unexpected blasts in the middle of the night, I have to admit this tradition makes New Year's Eve seem that much more festive.

We had another lazy morning, and then met up with our friends for a walk around the Grand Garden of Dresden. I haven't been bothered much by the things we've missed out on by traveling in the winter, but this was one exception. During the summer there is a small train for children that runs around the entire garden and kids actually drive the train. Luckily the kids didn't know they were missing out on anything, but I couldn't help but think of how excited they would have been to see that. Guess it's a good reason to come back...

The centerpiece of the garden is a stately palace.

The kids get out their energy with some good ol' tree climbing.
Afterward, the kids *attempted* to have nap time and then we regrouped for a scrumptious dinner of raclette (sort of like the Swiss version of fondue). When we were properly full of melted cheese and beer, our friends gave us some more lessons in German traditions. They showed us these paper streamers that work by pinching a ring of coiled paper and blowing on it. The kids, of course, had a blast trying this out and playing in the aftermath.

Raclette time!

Fionn starts off the dance party.
Emerson makes his own party hat.
Titus, Feodor and Sabina rock out.

We also predicated our fortunes for the New Year using a little kit they sell at the stores. Each person picks a metal charm and takes turns melting it in a spoon over a candle. When the metal turns liquid, you throw it into a glass of cold water so it solidifies into a new form. The group decides what this new form mostly closely resembles based on a list of possibilities included in the kit, and then you read aloud the corresponding meaning. Unfortunately, almost everyone's charm ended up breaking into a bunch of little metal balls in the water. We decided they must be eggs, which apparently means something along the lines of "don't put your eggs in another person's basket." I'm not entirely sure what that means, but it's probably sound advice.

When midnight finally rolled around, Titus poured a glass of champagne for the adults and sprite for the kids (minus Emerson, who passed out just in time to miss the festivities), and we toasted and kissed and hugged the new year in. The city, meanwhile, exploded into a spectacular show of light and noise. We watched the fireworks from our friends' balcony for a while, then climbed up to the top of their apartment building for a view of the city. It was incredible. I am generally a hater of New Year's Eve because there's so much pressure to have fun and yet it rarely works out that way. But this year we really hit the jackpot.

The kids watching fireworks.
If only we had room to pack the tripod for our camera...

Now fully awake despite the time, we bundled up the kids and headed out into the street to do some of our own fireworks.

As if it wasn't already a great party, our friends ended the celebration with bowls of homemade creme brulee. Miniature blow torches, sugar, fireworks and staying up late - what more could a kid want?

We were leaving later that morning for Copenhagen, so we said our very sad goodbyes. I never thought I'd find myself in Dresden, but I'm so glad I did. It definitely pays to travel where you know (and love) the locals.


I cannot believe I left out the most important German New Year's Eve tradition of all! For some unknown reason, airing an old British comedy sketch called "Dinner for One" on New Year's Eve became a time-honored tradition in Germany and a few other countries in Europe. It's beloved by Germans of all ages despite the fact that many British people have never even heard of it. So we got to watch (and laugh) along with all the rest of Germany this time. As a result, when a Swedish ticket agent that was helping us make reservations two weeks later made the crack, "Same procedure as last year," I was in on the joke.

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