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Germany

Berlin Readying for New Year's Bash

Hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world are descending on Berlin for Germany's biggest New Year celebrations.

Fireworks at the Brandenburg Gate

Don't underestimate Berlin's ability to party

Some 1 million people are expected to attend the all-night street party around the landmark Brandenburg Gate. The triumphal arch, erected by the kings of Prussia, faces broad lawns and avenues that are the scene every year of gigantic New Year's Eve festivities.

This year's party begins at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 31, with live music from German and Dutch pop groups performing on stages along a 2-kilometer improvised dance floor stretching to the victory column, where US President-elect Barack Obama spoke to about 200,000 people during his visit to Europe in the summer.

Cold, but rain-free

A firework being shot off

Fireworks add a little danger to the partying

The highlight is a 10-minute firework display from the stroke of midnight. Afterwards revelers can let in the New Year at an open air disco until the early hours of 2009.

Meteorologists predict a dry but frosty night for the 20th time the once-divided city has celebrated together since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Some 700 policemen will be on duty to ensure things don't get out of hand. The Berlin fire department has 1,500 firefighters on alert to deal with injuries and blazes caused by careless use of fireworks.

Getting the party cracking

Two people kiss in front of the Brandenburg Gate

Revelers will once again fill Berlin's streets

Each New Year Germans let off 100-million-euros ($140 million) worth of fireworks. In Berlin alone, around 500 people end up in hospital casualty departments as a result of accidents with fireworks.

Fireworks have been on sale at shops and supermarkets since Monday. This year a popular attraction is multi-shot battery fireworks with names such as "Flight of the Titans," "High Speed Bombs" or "Sound Attack."

Luxury cars torched

A man dances in front of a burning car

Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood's not the safest place for luxury cars

Seven luxury cars meanwhile were set on fire in a rash of attacks early Wednesday in Berlin in what seemed to be a resumption of far-left attacks.

Police have been powerless to stop the intermittent car-burnings, which have occurred for several years now at intervals of a few months in the German capital.

In the first half of last year alone, about 60 expensive cars were burned in a leftist-dominated central district, Kreuzberg. Wednesday's attacks occurred in various areas around Berlin including Kreuzberg, police said.

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