Some are open to the public, some are invitation only. But either way, the place to be in Germany this week is at one of the many election parties being held in cities around the country.
Germans used to watch US elections from their living room sofas
Once upon a time, watching the US presidential election coverage in Europe was a low-key affair. Maybe some international friends got together and hung out on someone's living room couch, cracked open a bag of chips and watched CNN. Or maybe they got a good night's sleep and picked up the returns from the local broadcasters in the morning.
But the days of casual returns watching are gone, along with any traces of indifference about who wins the White House on Nov. 2.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry
Rarely has a US election been so important to so many people, in Europe as well as in the United States. In turn, watching it has become a big event -- at least in Germany.
Partying through the night
Over the course of Tuesday night and into the early morning Wednesday (due to the time difference, key results are first expected to come in around 2 a.m. CET), major cities in Germany will host a number of election parties both private and public. And to help make it easier to wait through long hours of state-by-state polling results, most of the parties have been jazzed up with political-themed entertainment.
At what may turn out to be the biggest party, on Berlin's central Potsdamer Platz, monitors are being set up to broadcast election coverage starting at 11:30 p.m. local time. Several hundred night owls are expected to come and watch the returns while enjoying American snacks and live music.
US President George W. Bush
"We'll serve breakfast in the morning," a speaker for the CineStar movie theater told the AFP news agency. The theater, which shows films in their original language and estimates that up to a third of its customers are English speaking, will also show previews for the remake of "The Manchurian Candidate," due to open in Germany on Nov. 11. The subject of the film is a manipulated US election.
Neutral, and not-so-neutral
The Potsdamer Platz party was organized by the group "American Voters Abroad," which says it is politically neutral.
No such claims are being made by a group called Vote44, which, according to its Website, was created for the sole purpose of ousting George W. Bush. Along with large screen election-results viewing and live music, filmmaker Wim Wenders is expected to attend the Vote44 party in Berlin's Tränenpalast and show his latest movie, "Land of Plenty," which takes a critical look at post-Sept. 11 America.
Along with the usual coverage, the satiric 1997 political movie "Wag the Dog" -- about an administration that fabricates a war in order to cover up a presidential sex scandal -- is on the menu at the election bash being thrown by the Cologne Amerika Haus and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, between Cologne and Bonn. This party, too, is set to end with an election breakfast at 6 a.m.
In Hamburg, the Tivoli Theater on the famous Reeperbahn nightlife strip will offer American drinks and popcorn to accompany its vote rebroadcasts. Under the motto "Don't Spend This Night Alone," the Tivoli has come up with games to allow partygoers to bet on the outcome in certain states starting at 1 a.m.
In Munich's Amerika Haus, 800 guests are expected to attend the election night party, including the publisher of the influential Die Zeit weekly newspaper and other notable locals. A huge number of people are scrambling for tickets, organizers of the fete say, since "without a ticket, no one gets in," spokespeople said.
No fun for soldiers?
While their numbers are diminishing, Germany is still home to many US military compounds -- full of people who are likely to be most immediately impacted by the election results. But the bases are probably among the last bastions of chips-on-the-sofa style returns-watching.
Spokespeople for the compounds in Hanau, Ramstein and Schweinfurt explained that in an effort to maintain neturality, the military won't throw any parties to celebrate their country's vote.