Battle of Berlin

Trip Start Jan 15, 2011
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Trip End Dec 24, 2011


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Flag of Germany  , Berlin,
Thursday, January 17, 2013

    The cars pass on the streets, the wind shakes the tree branches and the people walk on the sidewalks, talking to each other. The tram rings its bell and the fruit salesman announces his cheap products, fresh as can be. In the streets of Berlin one hears the usual sounds of a big city, the background music of daily life, nothing extraordinary. The citizens go about their lives without worries, there is no reason to suppose anything will change.
    Unfortunately, the enemy never sleeps. The city's peace is suddenly interrupted by the preparation for the attack. First, somewhat timidly, some single rockets are launched, leaving light traces in the sky and finalizing with small bangs. With the passing of time, the attack's intensity increases, not only in terms of frequency, but also in volume. All around the city one can now hear the distinctive sound of projectiles cutting through the air, the kind of sound that resembles a whistle, such is the speed of the flying object. The slower ones do not betray their position on the way up, doing so quietly, but suddenly illuminate the building fronts with a white light flash, quickly followed by an enormous blast sound, which echoes throughout the city as if announcing the violence increase. The smell of gunpowder and spent ammunitions hangs in the air, a constant reminder of the danger that anyone standing outside is subjected to - after all, there is no smoke without fire. Sometimes, a clatter resonates, perhaps indicating a fortified position where a bigger fire concentration in needed. The multi-coloured flares terrorize those who see them, they are certainly coded messages among different enemy fronts, adjusting their plans with each other. You could cut the tension with a knife, everyone is waiting for the final push...

    Finally, at exactly midnight, the dreaded assault begins. In the instant the new day begins, the whole city spasms and everywhere you look, thousands of objects go up in the sky, leaving a trace of light and smoke. The explosions that they cause, some 15 meters above the city's skyline, paint the sky with innumerous colours and shapes. Some are white and resemble a fire rain over the unprotected citizens, some others cause a chain of other explosions, a trick to snatch the unprepared ones, who thought that they would be safe after the first blast. The Berliners come out and look at the sky, showing disdain for their own safety with the ignorance of those who know no better. Will the city survive such a night?

    The scenario I paint could have been from April 1945 when the russian Red Army got to Berlin, bloodthirsty for revenge. It could describe the preparations for the attack to the capital of the Third Reich, the artillery barrage that precedes the arrival of the tanks and infantry, but that is indeed not the case. On the one hand, what I just describe happened in the last days of 2012, over sixty years after the end of World War II; on the other hand, I was not around for said battle, so I could not have told the tale this eloquently.
    This description is merely what happened in Berlin in the last days of the previous year, the german preparation for 2013. The hostilities were officially opened on December 28th with the start of the legal period for the sale of fireworks and firecrackers, which is not allowed in the rest of the year. Suddenly, in these 3 days, everywhere you'd look was selling explosives, with big signs outside announcing it, just in case the people would forget that to start the new year well, one should blow something up. The citizens, now almost a year out of practise, decided not to leave anything for chance and started the preparations as soon as possible. It is necessary to tune the aim, study the tactics for the different types of explosives and so on, there is a multitude of details that one needs to considers for a big celebration.
    This new year night's scenario was indeed like a battle: where earlier you would see russian troops igniting a bomb, now you see parents helping their children to cause little explosions. The anger-filled yell of someone throwing a grenade to an enemy was replaced by the excited squeaks that any young person emits when he or she has the chance to blow something up. The soviets wanted to subjugate the german capital, today's attackers are content with scaring people passing by. Rumours were heard of authentic battles in Neukölln, where the people had fun aiming their fireworks not at the sky but against each other. As in a Civil War, the buildings on opposite sides of the road attacked each other: after all, if “the grass is always greener on the other side”, you should burn it down until it is black. Later on, the rockets finally started flying upwards towards the sky, but only because the aim deterioted with the alcoholic consumption associated with this special night, which made hitting the 5th floor neighbour a harder task. All thoughout the night and into dawn, as long as the munition reserves lasted, the sound of fireworks was a constant, like the background music for a celebrating city.

    In the meantime, the capital is once again peaceful, in the apathy that follows all big parties. Sometimes you can still hear some lonesome explosions, probably what was left of the night before, or from someone who decided to celebrate in Howland Island's timezone, 12 hours behing Greenwhich (and the last place on Earth to experience a new year). As spoils of war, the streets are full of champagne bottles and firecracker boxes. As in other german holidays, every shop, mall and supermarket is closed, there are not even the kebaps shops to save the starved citizen. Luckily for me, I have family members with great Silvester dinner leftovers and a good movie to watch. Happy 2013 everyone!

    Ps: check out the amazing fireworks here
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