BERLIN -- Roars of jubilation shook the arches of the Brandenburg Gate Wednesday as hundreds of thousands of Germans celebrated the rebirth of a nation in a sea of black, red and gold flags.
A blaze of fireworks lit up the smoky Berlin sky, and clanging church bells and screeching rockets added to the din marking the historic reuniting of East and West Germany after four decades of bitter division.
At the Square of the Republic, tens of thousands sang the national anthem as the German colors were raised on a mast in front of the Reichstag, or parliament, at the stroke of midnight.
The entire city took on a carnival-like atmosphere, with masses of singing, dancing, cheering Berliners thronging the famed Unter den Linden boulevard, once blocked off at its Western end by the hated Berlin Wall.
On both sides of the old boundary vendors sold sausages and beer, souvenirs and balloons to the revelers, many of whom sported black, red and gold hats. Thousands waved the tricolor flag of West Germany, now the symbol of the reunited German state, and hoisted bottles of champagne in revelry that continued well into the morning hours.
A few miles east of the Brandenburg Gate, bands playing jazz, rock and folk music entertained Berliners and visitors at Alexander Platz, where thousands of demonstrators had gathered last October during the wave of protests that led to the ouster of the communists who ruled East Germany for more than 40 years.
'Unification is the greatest event for this generation. Nobody thought it would happen, but we hoped so,' said Ute Bromme, a Berliner in her late 50s, after the national anthemwas sung. 'I feel great, great.'
One elderly German had tears rolling down his cheeks as he watched the flag being hoisted in front of the Reichstag. 'It's a wonderful feeling,' he said, his voice choked with emotion.
But not everyone was jubilant: 'I think there's going to be a lot of trouble, because I don't think the Germans learned very much,' said Elke Schuette, 25.
'I'm not here because of unification; I'm here because of the fireworks,' she said.
Tens of thousands of police were deployed throughout the city to ward off trouble by radicals who opposed unification. Police fought running battles with hundreds of rock-throwing youths in West Berlin's troubled Kreuzberg district less than an hour after unification. Some of the youths pelted armored police vans with cobblestones and bricks and some were chased by police and beaten with clubs.
Hundreds of spectators watching the struggle began chanting at police, 'Nazis, Nazis, get out.'
Earlier, mobs of youths threw stones, Molotov cocktails and iron bars at police in armored trucks who were dispatched to clear street barricades.
A police spokesman said the trouble was confined to the Kreuzberg area and involved mostly ethnic Turkish immigrants, who number over 100, 000 in West Berlin.
'It is the same group of about 300 rioters who always give us trouble in this area,' the spokesman said.
Tens of thousands of revelers had massed around the Brandenburg Gate throughout the day Tuesday, waving flags and bottles of champagne in preparation for Germany's biggest party in half a century.
'This is the biggest moment in my life,' said 23-year-old Maik Peter, who staked out a spot on the Square of the Republic to watch the reunification ceremonies.
Peter, a West German who has relatives in East Germany, proudly held aloft his own black, red and gold German flag and sported a T-shirt bearing the words, 'Germany, united fatherland.'
'I'm going to do some serious patriotic flag-waving and then get down to some serious drinking,' an East German said in English.
Many in Europe have feared the unification of Germany, remembering the aggressor nation that fought two world wars this century. Many in Germany, even if they embrace unification, express the same sort of fear.
Members of the left-leaning Greens party handed out cards from the back of a horse-drawn cart. Inside each card was a condom and a warning that unification is 'a unique experiment with high risks.'
'I feel particularly good. ... But I hope that Germany will not become a mighty nation again,' said West Berlin artist Eberhard Franke, 59.
Several visitors sported East German or Soviet military caps, sold by curbside vendors whose displays also include the East German flag, which was lowered for the last time Tuesday.
Vendors also reported a booming trade in what were claimed to be fragments of the wall, some of which appeared to be freshly painted.
A crane held aloft a Trabant, a small two-stroke East German car that for many has come to symbolize the state that will now disappear.