New Year's in the Old Town

January 6th, 2007

Ah, New Year's Eve. Awesome if you've never seen fireworks. Otherwise, as established in 2005, New Year's generally sucks. Though this year there was a new twist to it all. The venue - the venerable Old Town in the capital. It's quite a voyage to get there, even if you happen to live by the one line of subway that Warsaw has so far (which really undermines the whole point of having a subway, by the way). Get off at City Hall and you're near, the Old Town is but a short walk away.

Although this was indeed New Year's Eve, in a city of indeed 1.7 million people (Wikipedia), the Old Town wasn't exactly busy. Nor was it even lit up. Indeed, a big Christmas tree with a "Merry Christmas" neon sign, in small face "by Company X" outside the Royal Castle. But no other special lighting or anything fancy like that, the Market Place was completely dead as well. About half the people out were tourists, mostly Japanese with cameras (who knew), but a lazy Sunday afternoon might draw more people to this place than, well, New Year's Eve, apparently. The cops were out in force, every 50m there two of them, in black uniforms ornamented with yellow fluorescent vests.

For New Year's, the atmosphere was extremely timid. Very few fireworks in the sky, both here and elsewhere in the city that you could see. Finally, around midnight, the festivities started in the square outside the castle. The Polish have long and strong traditions of firework abuse, and the first notable rocket hit the castle wall, bounced off, and exploded near a couple of cops. Most people were standing at the highest point in the square, around a statue, on the sidewalk around the square. One of the fireworks misfired and exploded literally 10m away from the people closest to the square, scaring the hell out of some and causing them to step back. Hilarious.

As it was about ten to midnight, the explosions were now closer together. One of the rockets apparently exploded right near the neon sign by the Christmas tree, the sign went ablaze. The cops were looking ominous, but they exhibited a generous dosage of Scandinavian cool. Some got on the radio, but none of them actually did anything to tame the fire. It's just a shame that the damn tree wouldn't burn, it would have been fun to see it fall to the ground. Christmas is over, by the way.

There were several different languages around me, but I practically had Swedish right in my ear, giving a running commentary of the action. I didn't mind though, the girl was cute. At midnight, there was a culmination of explosions, and a whole lot of noise from far and near for those who don't especially value their hearing. Several more fireworks went practically along the ground in the square, from one side to the other, as bottles were knocked over when the rockets ignited. I don't think anyone got hurt, but the January 1st news always report the number (in thousands, customarily) of people severely injured by fireworks the night before. Apparently, the cops were on scene to make sure everything was civilized, but frankly they were entirely redundant since they clearly didn't plan to restrict what people did with their fireworks.

Then, around ten past, we hurried to catch the last subway home. Indeed, a night to look forward to the whole year. Here's a hot tip. If you're torn between an invitation to a private party and going to the Old Town for New Year's, go with the former.

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1 Responses to "New Year's in the Old Town"

  1. erik says:

    Yikes, sounds a lil'... scary