Saturday, September 29, 2007

Wannsee in Flammen

Every year around this time a local lake named the Wannsee on the west side of Berlin celebrates the fall by having a special flotilla of tourist and private boats culminating in an awe-inspiring display of fireworks. It is named Wannsee in Flammen and means Wannsee (the name of the lake) in flames.

This year a few people from the company for which I work were invited to be guests of Berlin's largest tourist and charter boat companies, Stern und Kreisschiffahrt. They were unable to go, so Beatrix and I took their place.

The nicest ship in their fleet is the Ms. La Paloma, and tonight we were on it! The celebration is a two night thing, and Saturday night is usually the BIG night, so this company invites a group of clients (somewhere around 700 people for this ship) and uses the opportunity to push themselves a little on the first night.

N. doesn't really like fireworks, so I invited my Mother-in-Law. She's a really cool lady that I enjoy spending time with, so it was just a natural! Beatrix brought a friend of hers, and the four of us shared a table. Personally I enjoyed the evening although I was left in the dust for understanding about 50% of the conversation. It is really hard for me to understand German when the people are speaking quickly, music is playing, and there is more ambient noise. But they seemed to get along very well, and the evening was for me delightful.

The buffet was quite nice, the wine lovely, and even the cappuccino was agreeable although I usually find German cappuccino unpalatable... not sweet enough for this American... it always needs two spoons of sugar. The wait staff was quick, efficient, and friendly. The company representatives on the ship were cordial and welcoming.

There were about 25 fully lit vessels traveling in a circle around the Wannsee. All night long we were trailed by Moby Dick which oddly enough resembled a whale, while we trailed the Havel Queen, a throwback to the Mississippi riverboat. As we floated along we were treated to running alongside brightly-lit party ships, some of them were even neon-colored. There were lots of smaller ships and sailboats moored along the side of the lake, many of them with people on deck or visible below deck... like I said, it is a pretty big event and lots of people braved the crappy weather to come out and enjoy it.

Our weather eventually turned out to be pretty decent. Not even one and a half hours before cast off we had a HUGE downpour which didn't bode well for the evening. But as we were enjoying dinner in the comfort of the cabin Beatrix and I looked out at the water and saw the reflection of the moon! The clouds were parting and things were looking better!

About 10.00, as we were exploring the top deck of the ship, the fireworks started... talk about good timing!! The La Paloma had just completed her turn at the far end of the lake and was headed directly back toward the little island which was set up in the middle for the shooting of the fireworks. During the entire display we were moving either to port or to starboard to afford everyone the best view.

Eventually we came up right alongside where the fireworks were being shot off... this was the most spectacular view, unfortunately they were partially obscured by lingering smoke, but they were directly above us.

I guess that about 60% of what I enjoy most about fireworks is the big, deep booms... and there were plenty of them. Eardrum rattling, feel it in your chest kind of booms simply excite me, and I was not let down with this display at all. As we moved ever closer the noise seemed to surge across the water with an ever deepening sound... ah... what a great night!

Ms. La Paloma

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