Tag Archives: fireworks

I Can See Fireworks from my Bedroom Window

Though all of you in the States have several hours left to go…happy new year!  I have officially been living in 2010 for almost an hour now.  After thawing out from the afternoon walk, we went to dinner at an interesting neighborhood restaurant, which served authentic Italian fare, owned, served, and prepared by a Chinese family.  But we knew it would be a good choice as soon as we saw the crowds of locals around us, many enjoying a traditional good luck multiple-course New Year’s Eve dinner of “seven seafoods.”  We stuck with massive hearty pizzas and limoncello to warm us up instead.

light show!

twinkling lights on the Castello Sforzesco

After dinner, we took the metro to the Piazza Duomo to check out the festivities downtown, and as soon as we emerged from the underground it looked and sounded (and sometimes felt!) like we had suddenly come upon a war zone. Firecrackers were whizzing through the air, and popping up suddenly underfoot, or exploding so closely nearby that our ears were ringing. The whole area was absolutely mad, but the locals seemed used to it, walking their dogs and children around despite near misses with mild explosives. We braved the scene for awhile and admired the musically coordinated lights display on the face of Castello Sforzesco.

sidewalk fireworks

Don't try this at home, kids.

We headed back to the hotel just before midnight…the perfect time to catch a viewing of the excellent neighborhood fireworks display.  Opening the hotel windows we could turn one way and watch the restauranteurs from earlier in the night setting off fireworks and in the other direction was another huge set…the kind that I definitely think would be illegal for private use in the States: set up on the sidewalk and shooting way up into the air to explode right above the apartments across the street.  Cheers!
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Filed under Italy, Milan

Deutschland

On Saturday, I joined Clara’s family in a very unusual activity: Roman warboat rowing.  There is a site not far from here in Bad Iburg where an ancient battle mask was discovered.  After some archeological exploration, experts have decided that it is likely the site of a battle between the Romans and the Germanic peoples, where the Romans were beaten for one of the first times.  Today, there is a museum on the spot, and since this year marks the 2000th anniversary of the battle, the site is hosting special exhibitions and events.

Roman rowboat

Roman rowboat

One of these events is the rowing.  A costumed leader directs vistors on one hour tours in a recreated Roman rowboat.  We trekked down to the river to join in, and I tried to follow along as best as possible, despite all of the directions being in German.  But the hardest part turned out to be just handling the paddle, which was wooden and surprisingly heavy.  Steamboats passing us on the river stopped to stare at the strange sight.  After the workout, we took a quick tour of the museum, which has a gallery of painted masks, which are now symbols of peace, from all of the countries in the European Union. 

peace masks

peace masks

Yesterday, we took a bike ride through the surrounding countryside, which was quite fun, despite my lack of biking skills, because we were mostly passing through flat, untrafficked farmland.  At night, there were fireworks going on in town, which we watched from the roof, to celebrate a local festival going on right now, called Schutzenfest, which I still have only a dim understanding of.  From what Clara and her family tell me, it’s become an unexplainable local tradition, mainly a time for the old men to drink beer and wear green.  In a few hours, I’ll be leaving Germany for Brussels, Belgium by bus (an eight hour ride!), as the final leg of my journey begins.  Today marks 7 weeks that I’ve been away, with one more to go before I return to the United States.

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Vive la France!

My most recent lesson on life à la française: Parisians really know how to party.  The Bastille Day celebrations began here on Monday night, with the bals des pompiers (firefighters’ balls).  In just about every neighborhood, a firestation was open starting at 9pm, with a band, a bar, and dancing.  Entrance was free, but donations accepted, and money from the drinks went to charity.  What a much more effective fundraiser than phone calls… 

Happy Bastille Day!

Happy Bastille Day!

Clara and I met up with Joe, a friend from high school, and his girlfriend, who have been studying here for a year.  The first place we went was packed, and lines wrapped around the block just to get in.  For a Parisian firefighter, it seems, this is a moment of glory.  Their finest moments are not battling the fires of Paris, but getting to be the hosts of the city’s best parties.  After spending an hour packed into the small courtyard, where lights were strung overhead, and the crowd swayed to a band covering American 80’s songs, we decided to find somewhere with a little more breathing room.  The second firefighter’s party we found was held in the Arène de Lutèce, an old Roman gladiatorial arena in the middle of the city’s Latin Quarter.  The scene was much the same, but instead we were dancing to bad 80’s rock in an ancient ruin.  Only here…

After our night with the pompiers, Clara and I decided to skip the military parade in the morning on Bastille Day, but went to Invalides (the gold-domed military hospital) to see the exposition during the day.  All sorts of jeeps, helicopters, and tanks were around, and uniformed servicemen explained how they worked and posed for photos with kids to inspire the next generation.  There was a short gymnastic show, and a parachuting demonstration.  The last parachuter to land had jumped with his German Shepherd strapped in with him.  Seriously well-trained dog.

visual overload!

visual overload!

At night, the Champs de Mars, the park leading up to the Eiffel Tower, was packed  for some pre-fireworks concerts.  The music was mediocre, but we came early to claim a sitting spot on the grass to picnic and wait for nightfall (it never gets dark until after 10 here).  When the show finally started, it was, in short, incredible.  The Eiffel Tower herself was being honored for her 120th birthday, and so the fireworks framed the tower, which was lit up with different colors.  With millions of other spectators gathered around, and a perfect view, it was an unforgettable “right place, right time” moment.  Paris, je taime!

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In Praise of Old Nassau: Reunions ’09

crowds swarm at the P-Rade

crowds swarm at the P-Rade

This year was my first year to make it to the legendary Princeton Reunions, and they completely lived up to the hype.  The festivities kicked off Thursday night, with parties and bands under all the tents.  We were staying in Pyne, which shares its courtyard with the 5th reunion, always the rowdiest and latest-partying tent, where the music and revelry sounds late into the night…and into the next morning.

Malcolm, class of 1925 reigns over the P-Rade

Malcolm, class of 1925 reigns over the P-Rade

Saturday I attended the annual alumni rugby match, because Josh was playing for the current team, which each year challenges the returning alums for a friendly game.  For the first time in a few years the current team fell to the alums (mostly because the champion 2004 team was back for the 5th reunion).  During the day was the highly-anticipated P-Rade, which lasted from 2-5 (which can give you an idea of how many alums there were on campus).  The P-Rade was led by the 25th, but afterward alums (and their families) marched in descending age, beginning with the oldest alumnus, Malcolm, class of 1925, who had the honor of carrying the silver cane and riding in a golf cart.  Most of the oldest guys ride alongside a current student in a cart, but a surprising number of guys from the 1930’s classes proudly walked the whole way, joining in the Princeton Locomotive cheer and stopping only to clink beer cans in a toast with students on the sidelines.  The P-Rade was a whirlwind of Princeton spirit and ridiculousness, from the class of ‘59’s “Tipsy Tiger Trolley”  and ‘69’s “Magical Mystery Mobile” (blaring “Yellow Submarine” of course) to various decked-out vehicles, costumes, signs, banners, and music.  A particularly touching section was the class of ’44, who back for their 65th, honored the 89% of their class who served in WWII with army jeeps, signs, a military band, uniforms, and large faceboards of classmates who died in battle.  Lastly, the class of 2009 stormed onto Poe Field for the grand finale.

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Filed under New Jersey, Princeton