Looking for something new and different to do in Germany? This week's tips serve up New Year's Eve in Berlin and Munich, and what may possibly be the world's most unusual skating rink.
Happy New Year: Fireworks over Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate
Ring in 2005 at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, where an open-air New Year's Eve party will take over four miles of boulevard that have been closed to traffic. Live bands will play on several stages, a huge Ferris wheel will help churn the Rottkäppchen sparkling wine you've been drinking, and, as per German tradition, the fireworks go off at midnight. Then, the open-end disco begins. There's no fee for entry, but be prepared for crowds.
Münchner Philharmoniker in the Gasteig, Munich
Take a higher road for New Year's Eve at Munich's Gasteig culture center, and attend the New Year's Gala (Silvestergala) of the Münchner Philharmoniker Orchestra. A no-risk program includes Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and appearances by star vocalists and the Munich Philharmonic Choir. Rather go to bed early? Their popular "Last Night of the Year" program starts at 3 p.m.
Theater and artistic group 7 Fingers
Leave the laws of gravity behind -- and don't mind the refrigerator, trapeze or bathtub while you're at it. The LOFT is the name of the latest show put together by the acrobatic group "7 Fingers," touring in Hamburg through January 2. The acrobats and performers of the LOFT, who previously toured with Cirque de Soleil, have created a world where a live DJ spins, prize-winning jugglers show their stuff, and cutlery, chairs, tables, mirrors and Barbie dolls defy gravity.
Catch the last exhibit in the series of tenth-year anniversary shows by the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. "Minimal Concepts" is the last of three and, as the name implies, the museum's collection of minimal and conceptual art are at the heart of the exhibit. With works by Carl Andre, Damien Hirst, Gary Hill, Bruce Naumann, and others.
Ice track in Essen is popular among young and old
Take a running start and let 'er fly when you skate on Europe's longest stretch of ice, in the western German town of Essen. Unlike typical rinks, the Eisbahn Zollverein (Zollverein Ice Track) is not oval in shape, but is more like a road -- 150 meters (165 yards) long and 12 meters wide. Once a vital part of the Ruhr Valley's thriving coal industry, the Zollverein fell into disuse until it was revamped as a leisure area and monument to industrial history. Now, skaters chill out at the Unesco World Heritage site, where 1000 degree-centigrade heat once turned coal into coke. Open through January.