Americans in Germany are buzzing about where best to watch the election-night returns. Public parties have been organized across the country, but latecomers beware: many venues sold out long ago.
The voting's done -- let's go get a drink!
A light is finally shining at the end of a seemingly endless US election tunnel. People are ready to stop worrying and celebrate -- regardless of who winds up getting the ultimate nod from US voters.
In Germany, election parties are not likely to get really exciting until long after midnight, with the earliest official results due in around 1 a.m. Wednesday local time. It will be 5 a.m. when the polls finally close on the US West coast.
But the time difference hasn't taken any edge off the excitement over the historic choice between Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, and John McCain, the Republican contender.
New Hampshire voters are first to officially hit the polls
The US Embassy in Berlin estimates that 100,000 US nationals living in Germany qualify to vote. Many of them sent in absentee ballots to their home states weeks ago. For them, the focus has now moved from the question "who should get my vote" to one that may even be harder to answer: "Where should I celebrate?"
"Party hopping" expected
The fact that many people have to get up and go to work early the following morning is just a minor detail to be dealt with, organizers say.
"I expect there will be a lot of party hopping," said Matthias Bolhoefer, spokesman for private German television station RTL.
RTL has joined with German news channel N-TV, CNN, the American Academy in Berlin, and the American Embassy to throw a star-studded party with live broadcasts -- including feeds beamed in from Times Square in New York -- from the headquarters of the Bertelsmann Foundation in Berlin.
The colors of the US flag will be projected on the building and mock voting papers will be handed out to guests. Round-table talks will take place throughout the night, punctuated by jazz music and fuelled by American snacks.
Early birds get to celebrate
There is a caveat, however: To get in, you must be one of the 700 invited prominent guests.
People looking for an open party in Berlin had a host of other choices -- at least they did if they signed up early. Policy wonks could enjoy a collaborative bash thrown by the Amerikahaus together with the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy and the Federal Agency for Civic Education, which mixes a program of round table discussions with jazz and cocktails; the program was nearly sold out early on Nov. 4.
The Berlin chapter of Democrats Abroad probably thought they were covering their bases by renting a theatre in the center of the city. However, all 800 tickets to the event -- which promises live bands, food, a surprise movie, and beamed-in results -- are sold out.
Munich bash sold out
In Ohio, voters took their swing-state role seriously
Other metropolises had the same problem. An election-night party organized by Democrats Abroad in Munich's Busching Garten restaurant -- a venue frequented by Americans even in non-election years -- was sold out in less than 14 days.
"People keep calling and calling for tickets and I just have to tell them there aren't any," said Manfred Comploy, who owns the restaurant.
Comploy said he is glad the organizers asked him to host the party, but not just because he stands to sell a lot of beer.
"I believe in this change," he said. "We're doing a lot to make it special. I think everyone is very anxious to see the outcome of this election, and I'm glad to be part of it."
Bigger crowd than expected
Comploy said he expects most people will go home sometime around 1:30 a.m., when some of the eastern states' results are in.
The party hosted by the Democrats Abroad in North Rhine-Westphalia isn't sold out because it is free and open to the public.
But now they are concerned that the venue they picked expecting a moderate turnout might wind up being too small. Organizer Bill Purcell said around 15 or 20 people might show up for a typical Democrats Abroad meeting.
"I thought, 'I'll just quadruple that for the party,'" explained Purcell, who optimistically booked the medium-sized Cafe Central in downtown Cologne.
That was before his organization became a sudden darling of the local press in the final days of the election.
Democrats Abroad: media darlings
The lines for early voting were long
"Now there are more press coming to the party" than usually come to a meeting, he explained. He has currently heard from "at least" 100 people from all over the region who plan to attend.
"It's the first time I've done everything like this, and it took me by surprise," he said, adding that he hopes the weather stays clear so that the crowds can spill out onto the cafes terrace if needed.
Even with Obama apparently taking a clear lead going into the election , its not only Democrats who are planning election events.
Republicans set to celebrate
The German chapters of Republicans Abroad are organizing their own events, including a "November Surprise" election party in Berlin, where viewers can "watch McCain/Palin come from behind and leave the liberal elite media puzzled."
They are also promoting an Election Night Party in Hamburg hosted at the Bucerius Law School, and an America Votes -- Let's Party event sponsored by the Atlantic Academy in Kaiserslautern.
These events aren't only attracting Americans, but some Germans as well. Democrats Abroad's Purcell said he is expecting a number of interested Germans to attend, some out of curiosity and some because they are partnered with an American.
His own German friends have shown a surprising level of support.
"I can't tell you how many German friends have emailed me today and wished me luck," he said. "I can't imagine that I would have done that for them during the German elections."
For more information on election parties, click on the information links, below.