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Berlin revels in history and the hip

Chris Burns

By Chris Burns
CNN Berlin Bureau Chief

December 28, 1999
Web posted at: 9:53 a.m. EST (1453 GMT)

This news analysis was written for CNN Interactive.

musings at the millennium

BERLIN (CNN) -- Berlin celebrates the new year as capital of a unified Germany for the first time since World War II. It's just in time for a big one: the worldwide celebration of the new millennium.

In this renewed and vibrant capital, youthful energy will take over the streets as it has every New Year's Eve, or "Silvesterabend," since the fall of the Berlin Wall. More than 1 million people are expected for concerts and huge light-and-fireworks shows.

New Year's Eve 1989 came just days after the complete opening of Brandenburg Gate for the first time since World War II. The party there has since become a tradition.

This New Year's Eve, at the nearby Victory Column, the light show created by visual artist Gert Hof -- with 250 spotlights -- stirred up concerns of other history. Some leftist politicians protested that the lighting was like that of Nazi rallies; some German Jewish officials argued Hof's light show was nothing like Hitler's. Organizers insisted the show would go on, though they did modify it with colored lights and a less centralized arrangement to avoid looking like a Nazi throwback.

There are plenty of other oh-so-Berlin ways to revel.

The trendy eastern Berlin eatery Taubenschlag offers a buffet meal and tattoo for $50. Another hip eastern Berlin spot, the Oxymoron, offers "Millennium 2000 -- Temple of Time," a culinary and musical journey through the past 1,000 years; tickets run up to $200.

At Hangar 11 of Tempelhof Airport, site of the Berlin Airlift, will be a gay and lesbian disco party titled "Cocker 2000."

And Berlin will be elegant. Soirees are planned at major hotels. There's a $1,000-a-plate UNICEF benefit at the renovated Reichstag, where the German parliament began regular sessions this fall for the first time since the building burned in 1933.

more musings

But organizers to a number of fancy events had trouble selling tickets; some events have been scrapped or scaled back. Some organizers say it's tough to compete with the free outdoor events.

Berlin's millennium night is in itself a cross-section of the city's evolving identity -- a magnet for the high, low and off-the-radar-screen culture, and a renewed center of political power, with historical reminders at every turn.



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