Hundreds of thousands of techno music fans -- many in fancy dress, others wearing very little at all -- jammed into central Berlin on Saturday for the German capital's annual Love Parade.
Crowds of youthful partygoers from across Germany and beyond danced on and alongside some 30 trucks pounding out club tracks as they converged slowly in Berlin's Tiergarten Park. Police estimated the crowd at about half-a-million -- the organizers at 750,000.
Held this year under the motto "Love Rules," the parade culminated at the city's landmark Victory Column, close to the Brandenburg Gate, with performances set to run late into the night from top DJs such as Felix Da Housecat, Pete Tong and Love Parade founder Dr Motte.
Begun in 1989 as a small procession of 150 ravers protesting for the right to party in a city still divided by the Berlin Wall, the parade mushroomed after German reunification the next year into a Berlin institution and a massive draw for partygoers as well as curious tourists.
To the dismay of the city's hoteliers, attendance has slipped from the peak of 1.5 million in 1999. But the event continues to defy annual predictions of its demise, and still draws international DJs to club events around the city that usually keep dedicated clubbers dancing until Tuesday.
Organizers said in March they were struggling to raise the US$1.7 million needed to help pay policing and cleanup bills to keep the tradition going. And while enough sponsors eventually stepped in, the streets appeared less packed on Saturday than in the past.
That was despite the efforts of some 1,600 police officers and 400 stewards to keep partygoers out of areas of the park fenced off to prevent littering. Some 600 portable toilets also were installed to head off criticism from residents and environmental groups.
The fencing was also meant to keep out the usual hordes of impromptu food and drink sellers so that official vendors -- and the organizers -- get more of the take.