Fire on the Vltava: New Years in Prague – Part II

After a short repose…

Our evening of protracted fermented indulgence began with myself and a friend, suitably enough, having a couple of drinks. Just a quiet time, to sit and reflect on the day’s happenings, our future plans, and mere cooperative contemplation. In a bar packed with people. People already well on the way to spending their New Years somewhere in the neighborhood of “unconscious.” It was quiet in the sense that there was so much noise that there was effectively no noise at all. Good beer though, and luckily it was not our final destination. That was, and is, a castle dear to me; an old neighbor, really: Vyšehrad.

There were many fellow creatures of the night who had the same idea. Couples, singles, groups, hoardes, all meandering in their own way to the parapets of the 10th century castle. While fireworks were officially slated for the standard New Years’ time of 00:00, there were people seemingly so excited, or perhaps so precautious as to the quality of their fireworks, that they saw it fit to light them at the feet of others. Well, I assure you their potential fears were entirely misgiven. I assure you they worked just fine.

Upon the walls themselves is one of my unerringly favourite sights: the soft valley of red roofs so intregal to the city’s appearance hazily gleaming with the sepia tone glow of steet lights, but as it was so close to Christmas, also adorned by the pinpoints of countless Christmas lights. In the distance, Prague Castle sat in its own radiance, like a sedate centenarian awash in the glow of a hundred birthday candles. Little pin-point pops of lights signaled that there yet more cautious Czechs testing out their fireworks, to evidently great satisfaction of the lighters, who lit more in celebration of the previous success. When the clocks struck twelve (and in a city with so many cathedrals, it really is a glorious occassion), the sky seemed to explode upon itself. The official fireworks in the city are impressive enough, but adding hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals setting off fireworks just one grade lower than the howitzer-like shells of a high-grade firework, the brain scarcely knows how to take it all in. It was not just quantity, it was also a defined, three-dimensional immersion to it all. High-class fireworks and bottle rockets alike were being set off no more than a few meters behind the crowds. Dozens of corks popping, fireworks exploding, people screaming, lights from the rockets and flash photography, the smell of gunpowder, champagne, and the sharp winter air- a total sensory overload. The sheer amount of spare explosives people seemed to have stocked up on also astounded me. Fireworks went off intermittantly before midnight, but they just kept going and going and going after the city’s last  “official” hurrah.

Even in the midst of this madness, chaos stood ready to unleash its own joy. Slightly after the actual moments of midnight, somewhere in the secondary and tertiary salvoes of fireworks, there was a gentleman setting off rather large rockets behind me and my friend. They had dug into a grassy slope leading down from the parapets, and shooting off in an acceptably safe manner. Seeing as there really wasn’t anywhere to go that didn’t have explosions going off, “acceptably safe” had to do. However, chaos send forth an emmisary. An emmisary in the form of a middle-age woman, weilding a wine bottle. She reared back and hurled this impromptu glass rocket towards the still-firing tube of middle-grade fireworks. Fireworks I may delicately illustrate, capable of blasting several unstoppable, explosive payloads around 75-100m into the sky. This flashes through my mind as the bottle arcs towards the tube, and thuds off the dirt a short distance away. Showing no sign of dismay at having missed, she gigglingly melted back into her gaggle of fellow middle-aged revellers, who seemed far less amused at her fellowship with chaos, and seemingly too embarassed to say anything to her about it. Good, clean fun.

My friend and I slunk off with the rest of the crowds as the fireworks (mostly) ceased, then went on to rondezvous with our merry crowd of mountaineers from earlier in the day. The rest of the night-into-early-morning devolved into a typical “20-somethings drinking too much after a party” kind of deal, and consequently serves no futher as a source of interest for anyone involved.

Oh, and I do apologize for the lack of pictures. It really would have served the story so much better, but in the midst of everything, it just didn’t occur. I did, however, manage to capture one solitary image of one particularly nice explosion.


Happy New Year!

In March.


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