Tales from Europe: Krakow

Krakow, Poland was one of the first trips I took after arriving on station in Italy. It was also just a weekend trip, but that one weekend held stark opposites in the two days that I was there. Drunken escapade one night, only to visit Auschwitz the next morning.

I suppose the trip started like any good trip should start: a long, uncomfortable road trip with the constant wondering of when you will arrive. It was my friend Nick, his wife, her friend and I. But we had booked this trip with a local woman called Nikki Travel that does group trips for military members in the area. We met up with all of the other people going on the trip at the local Spaghetti House restaurant (one of my favorites) and loaded up on a bus. I remember Schindler’s List was played on the bus TV, I guess to prepare us for what was to come.

But before the heavy stuff the next day, we partied.

I don’t know why I was surprised, but Krakow is a beautiful city. I guess it was so surprising because out of all the cities in Europe that get attention, Krakow isn’t one of them (or any city in Poland to be honest). The people are friendly, the women are beautiful and the memories that I made there, in the one night that I was there, makes it one of my favorite Tales from Europe that I had.

We broke off from the main Nikki Travel group pretty early. One of the earliest things we did was eat at Hard Rock Cafe (I know). I remember being struck by how beautiful the girl behind the gift shop counter was. I like to think that I would’ve gathered up the courage to talk to her under different circumstances, but who am I kidding. The night of drinking did start here, though.

We wondered around the city for a bit before heading back to the hotel to drop off any souvenirs in our room. After that we headed back out. Now, this was one of my earliest trips that I took in Europe, so my memory is a little fuzzy about that night (also…alcohol). I remember that Nick’s wife eventually went back to the hotel as the night went on, we lost her friend and me and Nick went to a club where drunken me loved to dance. I’m sure we stuck out like sore thumbs as Americans in this Polish club, but it was a lot of fun. Also, somehow I had acquired Nick’s wife’s friend’s hat. (That was a lot of apostrophes). *See drunken photo below:

I’m on the left, and no I don’t remember this picture being taken.

So as you can see, I was obviously feeling pretty good about myself. To my defense, I had gotten to dance with a Polish girl and being in a new country, my confidence was pretty high. I had a blast that night.

Now, I will skim past the rest of the night only because we did what most men do after a drunken night out on the town: we went to a strip club. But I will skip that. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel. I think it was 5am at this point. When we woke up, me still half-drunk, we found that the friend had made it back to the hotel in some miraculous fit of that phenomenon when drunken you has better direction than sober you.

We all loaded onto the bus to Auschwitz. And let me tell you, if we weren’t sober already, we soon would be. To stand on the grounds that, to most, is only something from the movies is a humbling experience. The things that happened there…well, they don’t need to be said by me.

The gates of Auschwitz which reads “Work Sets You Free”.

“Work Sets You Free”. In hindsight, that has a certain malicious undertone obviously. Because, indeed, they weren’t set free. It was the exact opposite.

We got to walk up and down the streets of Auschwitz, see their “living” quarters, and all of their belongings. There was a whole glass case of pots and pans because, apparently, they had been told that they would be able to cook for themselves. That was not the case.

I love this picture that I took, as weird as that sounds. To me, it just seems to capture a moment in time. This is what the people of Auschwitz saw everyday. A sign. A sign with a skull and crossbones telling them to halt. Huge concrete walls enclosing them in. I’m just trying to envision myself being there, which is a hard feat to do. What lies behind that door? Is it death? Is it freedom? If it is freedom, it is so close. Right on the other side.

Where new prisoners were brought in.

After the main complex of Auschwitz we went to anther part. The name is slipping my mind, but this is where the prisoners were brought in first. Calling them prisoners doesn’t even sound right. Like they had committed a crime. By this time in the trip, the wild and rowdy group from the night before had become silent. Only whispers and the snapping of photos could be heard. I remember it was cold and rainy that day. Just a taste of what the prisoners had to endure, and we had coats.

I decided to start this series of blog posts off with Krakow because this trip had such and interesting dynamic to it. One night we experienced the beauty of Krakow, drunkenly stumbling through the city, being a tourist. And the next, was spent remembering how much the country of Poland had been through. To be able to even visit this country and drunkenly stumble through the streets is a blessing, I think. So, I hope you enjoyed this first delve into my time as an American in Europe. There will be more to come in the coming days and weeks as I have a lot of fun times to tell. Thanks for reading!

Tales from Europe: Intro

Hey all, I thought it would be a cool idea and a good opportunity to reminisce on my travelling that I got to do while I lived in Europe, so I am going to do a multi-part blog. Each part will be focused on one country that I went to and the memories that I made there. Follow along and relive all of the good times right along with me!

The Man in the Arena

Somewhere in Northern Italy watching one of my buddies fight. – Photo taken by me.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I just finished up watching the Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz rematch, and it inspired me to write this blog post. The quote above is one of my favorite quotes of all time. To me, it represents two things:

The first I, unknowingly at the time, understood at a pretty young age. That is the great privilege of chasing your dreams. In high school, music was my passion. It is what held me together through the tough times of adolescence. After high school, I was working in a factory and quickly found out that I didn’t want to spend my precious time doing that job, so I gathered the nerve to admit to myself that I wanted to go to school for Audio Engineering. I think that is one of the hardest things to do, to admit to yourself that you are going to take a risk. It is one thing to dream about it, but once you make up your mind that you are actually going to do it, it seems like it could be a big mistake. So, I packed up my stuff and moved to Arizona with my then girlfriend. It is important to note that this dream didn’t work out, but that’s not the point. The quote says “there is no effort without error and shortcoming”. So, after a couple of years chasing that dream, I had to make another hard decision which was to mark down that battle in my history book as lost, but it wasn’t the last battle.

After moving back home, again I quickly realized that time was slipping by and I wasn’t spending it the way that I saw fit. I made yet another risky decision by joining the United States Air Force. Now, 6 years removed from that decision and I have seen the world and met great people from various nations, but even still deep within this journey in the military I am chasing my dreams. One of my all time dreams is to become a published author. Not only just a published author, but an author that is read by many people. I think most can agree that this isn’t the easiest thing to achieve, but one thing that I always think about is that we are only on this planet for a short amount of time and then it’s over. So, while I am here I am going to chase my dreams.

The second thing that the quote represents to me (I know the first one was long) is that life is crowded with obstacles. This is something that I learned later on in life, mostly after joining the military. Military life constantly throws challenges and obstacles at you. As soon as I think that I have time to relax and not worry about anything, the next obstacle is presented. This coming week is my next big obstacle: the fitness test. Yes, this may not seem like a huge obstacle, but in the military a failed fitness test could uproot your whole life. Now, I believe in my gut that I have what it takes to pass, but it is the unpredictability of the body and mind that keeps me guessing.

I guess I am writing this from a place of self-reassurance, that I can overcome the next obstacle in my life. Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz just reached their latest obstacle, The Clash in the Dunes. One succeeded and one failed, but “at least he fails while daring greatly.” And, if I fail to become a published author, at least I can say that I tried. That is what I did with audio engineering. I will never feel regret of never chasing that goal.

So, maybe you are reading this right now and have an obstacle coming up in your life, or maybe you have always had a goal or a dream but never had the courage to pursue it. I hope that maybe this blog post will give you that courage or give you that reassurance that it’s only another obstacle. You’ve faced many before and there will be many to come after. That’s what life is all about, facing obstacles and overcoming them. I’ve tried to mold my life around chasing dreams and overcoming obstacles so that when my life comes to an end, I can truly say that my “place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

The Cadence of Ghosts

I just started up a new collection of poems on my Wattpad account. It’s kind of a collection of super old poems that I wrote, but I figured instead of them sitting away in a book somewhere that I could at least make a collection out of them. It isn’t my best work, I consider that to be my other two collections: Jaded Premonitions and The Former Years. Those are also up on my Wattpad account.

Anyways, if you are a fan of poetry, give my stuff a read and let me know what you think!

Welcome!

If you are reading this, that means you found my blog! Things you can expect to find here are daily thoughts, travelling stories/pictures/videos, and updates about the stories that I am writing. My current WIP is called The Drip. I also have numerous poems on my Wattpad profile which you can find below. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you will enjoy what I have coming up in the future!

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