Communism, War, and CrossFit - Part 1

Part 1: Eastern Europe


Recently I visited Eastern Europe with my fiancé. The goal of this trip was to immerse ourselves in the culture of the cities we visited. We wanted to find the “Boises” of Europe and avoid the “New Yorks.” In other words, we did not want to fall into the tourist traps. We didn’t want to see Paris or London. We wanted to meet real people, have real experiences, and see what day to day life is like as someone on the opposite side of the world. Being CrossFitters, Debbie and I have a small advantage over other tourists. The CrossFit classes we attended were also attended by locals who were just trying to get their workout in before they headed off to work. This was an excellent way to meet people, get recommendations, and get a feel for how people live.

It is incredible when you realize that life is crazier and better than your expectations. Debbie and I did not know what to expect. You can read about things online and visit Trip Advisor, but those types of things do not prepare you for reality. We have all heard the term “communist,” but it did not mean much to me until I was reading firsthand accounts of Eastern Europe post World War 2. We have all heard the term “Nazi,” but it did not mean much until we were standing in a concentration camp. Most of us may have heard the term “Bosnian War,” or knew a Bosnian in one of our classes who immigrated to the US in the early 90’s, but you have no idea what those people went through until you’re standing in front of buildings riddled with bullet holes and shrapnel.

Luckily our emotional museum tours and history lessons were split up with other fun activities. We visited beer gardens in Munich, ate schnitzel and bratwurst. We had a gourmet dinner at an Asian fusion restaurant in Prague, and went on brewery tour in Pilsen. We explored the old town of Belgrade, drank plum alcohol and toured the old castle. We drove through the mountains of Bosnia and bought 6 bottles of wine from an old orthodox monastery in Trebinje. And finally we spent time on the Island of Korcula in Croatia hiking the mountains and relaxing on the gorgeous beaches.

Our trip was a whirlwind of insane activity. In 18 days we drove over 2,200 miles, walked over 150 miles, stayed in 11 Airbnbs, and visited 7 countries. We went to Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. We did CrossFit in 3 of these countries: The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It just so happened that these were also the most impactful places that we went to. In the Czech Republic we learned about the communist takeover of Eastern Europe after World War 2. We learned about Hungary’s history as a national socialist party, and their brutal treatment of people during World War 2. And in Bosnia and Herzegovina we learned about the breakup of Yugoslavia, and the subsequent genocides that occurred. CrossFit was a means for us to break through the cultural barriers, integrate ourselves into these communities, and learn about events that have shaped our world today. No matter where you go in the world, CrossFit is CrossFit and people are still people.

Part 2- Czech Republic

By Spencer Gerke

By Spencer Gerke