Postcard from... Berlin
Anyone who has been on the streets of Berlin on New Year's Eve will know that the experience is exciting, if not easy. For most of the year Germany enforces strict controls on the sale and use of fireworks. But these are waived for New Year celebrations and every corner shop suddenly has a host of firecrackers, rockets and other pyrotechnics on sale to the general public.
The fireworks start going off from 28 December. But at midnight on the 31st, the streets of Berlin seem like Beirut at the height of the city's internecine feuding. The air is thick with acrid smoke. Every family, it seems, has turned its balcony into a rocket-firing battery while on the pavements below gangs of often very drunk youths fight pitched battles with bangers and squibs. In the narrow streets, their echoes sound like mortar fire.
Its mostly harmless fun, but this year a shadow has been cast on the festivities by the appearance of so-called "Polenböller", or illegal Polish-made bangers. These are flooding the market despite the efforts of police and customs. A 51-year-old man bled to death after suffering severe burns while setting off one of the illegal firecrackers in a remote part of east Germany last week. He tried to stop the bleeding himself. Investigators said he would have survived if he had been given proper medical care.
Contraband fireworks are big business. Customs authorities say they seized more than 51,000 illegal and potentially life-threatening fireworks at the Polish-German border last year. They found 10,000 of the devices in a single car.
- 1 Fifty Shades of Grey trailer released: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
- 2 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 3 50 books for students to read this summer: From Ernest Hemingway to Gillian Flynn
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 Rebecca Hall on her film career so far: ‘I’ve played too many repressed neurotics’
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israeli targeting policy under scrutiny after shellfire hits a mother and child, a school full of refugees and a doctor’s home
Peaches Geldof: Her final day – and her fatal decision
Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Iraq crisis: Isis orders Mosul shop keepers to cover mannequins
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israel may have committed war crimes, says UN human rights chief
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: IT Auditor , Information Governance, NHS...
£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Delivery Manager - (Derivatives, Support...
£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: WPF Analyst Programmer NET, WPF, C#, M...