Greet 2009 your way
Despite all the wishes you have no doubt given and received for a joyous upcoming year, sometimes deciding how to get the year started can be a challenge.
After getting through the rest of the holidays, it’s often difficult to muster the energy to make one more night special. So why set your sights so high for the turning of the midnight hour on Dec. 31 that anything short of spectacular is disappointing?
This year, try something unique: strive for middle-of-the-road. Here are some whimsical ideas for striking a balance between ho-hum and hurrah as you plan your European New Year.
• Meet me in the middle: To do that, we need to find the middle of Europe. Its location depends on how you define Europe proper. Do you count the dinky little islands or just the main land masses?
A dubious question deserves a dubious answer, so let’s turn to Wikipedia, the popular-if-not-always-authoritative Web site that addresses just this sort of question.
Several candidates claim to be Europe’s midpoint. The Austrian town of Frauenkirchen, near the Hungarian border, is one contender. Ever-bold Lithuania has gone so far as to erect a monument at what it considers Europe’s midpoint — about 12 miles north of its capital of Vilnius, near the village of Purnuškes. Should you go, you could visit Europos Parkas, the Open-Air Museum of the Centre of Europe. The site, which calls itself a museum set in nature, includes the world’s largest sculpture constructed of TV sets, complete with a toppled Lenin statue in the middle.
• The company to keep: Twenty-seven countries are now members of the European Union. In keeping with our middle-of-the-road theme, choose as your companion a citizen of the country whose total population ranks dead in the middle — 13th or 14th. According to Eurostat, a European Commission Web site, that would be Hungary or Sweden, respectively. And while you’re at it, make sure he or she is 40.4 years old, which Eurostat says is the average age of the average European citizen.
• Cheers!: An average New Year’s Eve demands an average drink. If you’re in Germany, you might find the easiest beverage to find would be a bottle of Sekt. But no need to go overboard: According to decade-old information available on Germany’s Oeko-Test Web site, or a more recent taste test conducted by Wein-Plus.com, an average-rated bubbly such as the Feist Riesling Extra Dry would do just as well. Or go for Rotkäppchen Deutscher Sekt, which will set you back not much more than 4 euros, and is available at your local discount supermarket.
• Bars and restaurants vs. the couch: If you were to attend a New Year’s party at a London club such as Bondai, Hard Rock, Prohibition or the Rex Club, you could expect to spend anywhere from 20 to 35 (about $30 to $52) pounds for entry and a glass of champagne. And you wouldn’t want to stop there. You’d most likely order snacks and numerous beverages, and don’t forget that taxi home, sending the cost of your evening out soaring like a lit bottle rocket.
So why not do what your average EU citizen is probably up to: cozying up at home or with friends, watching the celebrations in London, Berlin or Madrid on television with a good supply of food and drink at hand?
And remember, no matter what you do the next day will be Jan. 1, just as it was the year before.
Out and about
For those who prefer to join the crowd on New Year’s Eve, here are a few suggestions on where to go:
• UK: In London, the place to be spied is by the London Eye, where the midnight fireworks are launched. Anywhere along the banks of the Thames will be hopping, as will Trafalgar and Parliament squares.
According to the Web site of the mayor of London, the fireworks viewing areas have a limited capacity of 180,000 people and many private venues will require advance booking, so it is recommended that you make plans early. If you’re meeting the New Year from the comfort of your sofa, the fireworks will be broadcast live on BBC One.
If you want to try something a little different, London also has a cabaret show on Leicester Square, a fireworks cruise along the Thames, dinner and theater packages, or a medieval banquet on offer. Check out the possibilities here.
If you are up and about at a reasonable time the next day, you can catch the city’s New Year’s Day parade starting at noon. Thousands of performers from throughout the world make the spectacle a memorable one. Parade viewing is free, although you will need to book tickets if you’d like to attend one of the 10 special holiday concerts. Find out more at www.londonparade.co.uk/spectators.
Another option is to head up to Edinburgh, where Hogmanay is one of the most celebrated occasions of the year. Events commence on Dec. 29, and include a street party and live music, a laser and light show, fireworks, ceilidh acts, and — what Scottish celebration would be complete without it? — the singing of "Auld Lang Syne." For more, see www.edinburghshogmanay.org/.
• Germany: If you’ve been based in Germany for a while, you’ve no doubt heard about the New Year’s party that takes place in Berlin. Every year, more than a million party people gather near the Brandenburg Gate and the Siegessäule for concerts, DJs, dancing, and food and drink sold from stands along the 1½-mile route. If you’re thinking this is the year you’ll be part of it all, you’ll find on stage Michael Mind, beFour, Marquess, Hot Banditoz, Monrose, Die Firma, Lexington Bridge, Groove Coverage, Lemon Ice, Lutricia McNeal, Room 2012, Rapsoul and Empty Trash. If you’re sticking close to home, tune in to the German TV channel RTL II to see what’s happening in the capital. For more, go to www.silvester-berlin.de.
Elsewhere in Germany, in big cities and tiny villages, crowds pour into the streets as the midnight hour nears and put on their own show. The fireworks purchased the days before go up in a burst of color and sound.
A word to the uninitiated — accidents can and do happen. Have your wits about you at all times, and be prepared to duck for cover if stray rockets come your way.
This story includes information from previous Stars and Stripes articles. E-mail Karen Bradbury at: email@example.com.