And the sky became a sea of light – Silvester in the Hauptstadt

FireworksWe were lucky this year that the Berlin snow waited long enough for Silvester’s detritus to be  cleared away from the streets. In  2009/10 – the winter of the big freeze, when the pavements stayed covered in thick layers of ice and snow for months – the wooden sticks of rockets and the burnt out tubes of firecrackers surfaced in late March as the crocuses began to bloom.

The sub-header to an article in the Berliner Morgenpost from 31st December will give you a clue: “An Silvester verwandelt sich der Berliner Nachthimmel in ein Lichtermeer. Ueberall in der Grossstadt werden Feuerwerke gezuendet … ” (“On New Year’s Eve  the night sky over Berlin is transformed into a sea of light. Everywhere in the capital fireworks will be set off … “). Ah, fireworks across the city – it sounds rather magical, doesn’t it? And it is, in a way. But it’s also very alarming, especially if you’re not a German native and you grew up with slightly different firework safety standards. Continue reading

Gun Laws in Germany

I’ve shed a tear nearly every morning since the massacre took place at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut on the 14th of December. Any time I look at a newspaper or scroll through my Facebook feed or hear a clip on German or English language radio, there has been some mention of the incident. It’s the tributes to the victims that really start the waterworks – lively, shining smiling photos of young school children reminding me of my own six-year old and the unimaginable pain their deaths have brought their families.

There are other reasons why this particular shooting seems to have struck a nerve. Continue reading