Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Air Raid Over Munich...

...or just New Year's fireworks?

You decide.

At the last possible minute (11:46 p.m., in fact), we decided to put Miles in the stroller and run (not walk) over the Marienplatz to ring in the New Year. I'm not sure what we expected -- maybe an iconic event like the descending ball like in Times Square, or a few official fireworks.

What we didn't imagine was that the arrival of the New Year would turn our mild-mannered German neighbors into drooling pyromaniacs. As the clock approached midnight the skies (and streets) exploded in every direction with an ear-pounding barrage of explosions and fireworks, none of them officially sanctioned. Every street and square in Central Munich was filled with amateur artillery squadrons, spent ammunition and billowing clouds of smoke.

We worried that all the unexpected noise might kick a dent in Miles' fragile young mind. He simply stared off into space impassively, neither supporting nor refuting the hypothesis. But a few people took a moment away from their revelry to send disapproving looks our way, as if to say, "What were you thinking, taking a baby into a war zone?" We wouldn't have been able to offer much of an answer, except to say that we hadn't imagined the Germans had this much revelry in them.

As the bombardment showed no signs of letting up, we decided to turn back toward the safety of the Maximillian. But getting home was not so easy: a phalanx of bottle rockets blocked access to Platzl; the Hofbrauhaus was under siege. There were hints of 1945 in the air as we pushed the kinderwagen from street to smoke-filled street, until we finally found a safe passage to our beds.

We were relieved to wake the next morning to find that Miles showed no signs of post-traumatic stress syndrome. Munich's streets needed a good scrub, but had not, fortunately, been reduced to rubble.

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