On the Thursday before New Year’s, I went to my first German gig; the mighty post-metal collective, The Ocean, were playing in Nuremberg at Club Stereo promoting their latest album, the first part of a double concept album set based on the Phanerozoic Eon. It was a sold-out concert in a tightly cramped cellar yet was full of good vibes; the bar was quite good with an impressive range of beers (for such a dingy location) but the acoustics were, not surprisingly, shocking.
New Year’s Eve in Germany is called Silvester which is named, for some positively boring religious reason, after Pope Sylvester I and, unfortunately, not after the lisping cat from the Looney Tunes. We had a Sause, a crude colloquial nominalisation denoting a “booze-up”, a word which I had learnt some years prior from a few German undesirables in Lithuania of all places.
Anyhow, the Sause began with Fleischfondue which is like regular fondue but instead of bread and highly alcoholic melted cheese there are pieces of raw meat and simmering broth. I found the process of cooking the meat in pots of simmering broth much more satisfying than actually eating it.
Shortly after dins, we had a Heimatbierprobe meaning everyone at the party brought along a beer from their home country, state, region, municipality, city, town, village or hamlet for us to taste and grade.
Unfortunately, in my case I could only bring Bundaberg Ginger Beer (in Germany, it’s called “Ginger Brew” due to strict laws about what can be called beer) which is, for some reason, quite widely available in supermarkets in my region. A 375ml bottle of Bundaberg costs about €1.50 (AU$2.40) which is actually quite a reasonable price in Australia but quite expensive for a soft drink in Germany.
However, I did in fact spot bottles of my actual Heimatbier, Coopers Pale Ale, at a craft beer store some time ago being sold at €4.40 (AU$7.05) each, which is five to eight times more expensive than the average German beer!. Unfortunately, by the time I went back they were all sold out. I’m not sure how impressed a room of Germans would be by heavily yeasted Australian pale ale but it would’ve been nice to have let them experience a South Aussie classic.
As a completely insufferable beer geek, I found the beer tasting highly fascinating and enjoyable but I was probably already too drunk at that time to be able to properly grade the beer. Fortunately, I wasn’t alone in bringing a non-beer beverage from home, there were a couple of Hessians who arrived later on and brought Apfelwein (“apple-wine”) the bevvy of choice in that particular part of Germany and, to be brutally honest, who can even name a (good) Hessian beer (I really shouldn’t pick on Hesse because, save for a couple of rival cities in North-Rhine Westphalia, no well-informed person goes to North Germany for the beer).
Sometime later, we all crowded into my room to partake in a very bizarre nevertheless very German New Year’s Eve ritual. Dinner for One is a black and white British comedy sketch from 1963 which became associated with NYE in 1972 and since then has become hugely popular in German-speaking countries as well as in Scandinavia. Interestingly enough, It is the most frequently repeated television programme of all time. The sketch remains practically unknown in the UK, but has aired every year since 1989 in Australia on SBS (but who the hell watches SBS, or even TV, on NYE?). Anyhow, I was in a room chock-full of Germans who found it absolutely hilarious, while I was more amused by the fact that they found it hilarious.
Before the clock struck 12, we gathered on the balcony to watch the fireworks. Here you can walk into a supermarket and buy fireworks for NYE, so naturally there were people setting off fireworks everywhere. People were lighting fireworks on the lawn next to our building; others were lighting them from their balconies. We can’t have things like this in Australia because someone would end up burning half the country down. It was definitely an interesting new experience. After that, some of us decided to play drinking games; this was obviously a bad idea and my memory of what happened after that is foggy but I could remember that the party ended at around 5am.
For the rest of the Xmas break I hung around Erlangen and did a wee bit of socialising, including catching up with Josie a couple of times and going drinking with one of my colleagues. Apart from that, I have a weekend trip to Berlin planned in two weeks and will hopefully see a bit of Brandenburg and Sachsen-Anhalt while I’m there. Hopefully in the meantime it might actually snow a bit here. In any case, till then.