Communism, War, and CrossFit - Part 2
Part 2: Czech Republic
We started our trip in Munich, rented a car, and we were immediately baptized by fire on the autobahn. We visited the Dachau concentration camp (which is deserving of it’s own blog post). We learned about the atrocities committed by the Nazis against essentially every ethnic and religious minority. We drank beer (a lot), ate schnitzel and bratwurst, and navigated the city through the subway system. Munich was short but fun!
The first international driving experience was from Munich to Prague. Crossing from Germany to Czech is just like driving from Idaho to Oregon. There are noticeable differences, but no border crossing (both countries are part of the European Union). Prague was much bigger than I expected. The old square was covered with tourists, so we tried to avoid it as much as we could. We ate a famous Prague dish, pork knuckle, and explored the outskirts of Prague. We visited the old Jewish cemetery, went to the old Prague Castle, and got lost on the public transit system. Half of the fun was learning to navigate the subway and bus systems. One of the highlights of Czech was visiting the Pilsner Urquell brewery in Pilsen. This was where pilsner beer was invented!
In Prague we attended CrossFit Committed. I have to start this off by saying that the people and gym were incredible. The warm-up here began with a run, we then did banded lateral steps, and moved through some barbell prep to warm up. The strength portion was deadlift, and we worked up to a heavy set of 3. The metcon was 30 snatches, 30 overhead squats, and 30 thrusters at 50/35kg. This workout burned! Our coach was Zuzana, the class was taught in english, and we met amazing people after this class. We met a few Bosnians and Serbians, and surprisingly a few Americans. These CrossFitters were getting their workout in before heading off to work. Our main contact was an expat from Arizona named Ryan. Ryan is a software engineer who has lived in Prague for 10 years. He recommended some of the best food joints that we had on the whole trip: QQ Asian Fusion, and Mr. Hotdog (yes, that was the actual name). If you are ever in Prague, I cannot recommend Mr. Hotdog enough. Food aside, the most important thing that Ryan recommended to us was the Communist Museum.
The Communist Museum opened our eyes to how miserable life was in Eastern Europe after World War 2. To give you the very short version: after the allies defeated Germany, the Soviet Union (part of the allied powers) and communism were viewed very favorably by some Eastern European countries. The Czech Republic became communist in 1948, and remained so until the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Through an objective view, communism helped the Czechoslovakian economy for the first few years, but then a rapid decline happened. Private companies were nationalized, prices for goods were set by the government, and private property was confiscated.
While standing in the Communist Museum, Debbie and I could not believe some of the firsthand accounts we were reading. With the new government in place, the state removed money from private bank accounts. One story in particular stuck with us: a man felt like his life was wasted because all of his money was removed from his bank account. He had been saving since his teenage years with the hope of an early retirement, and money to give his children. Families were also blacklisted for having different political and religious ideologies, and the children of these families were denied privileges that other children were given. People who normally worked desk jobs or managerial positions were drafted into the coal industry or metal manufacturing. There was also a large invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 by 5 other countries, prompted by Czechoslovakia’s decision to grant more rights and freedoms to their citizens. This was quickly shut down by other Eastern Bloc Countries. Eventually the Czech Republic earned their freedom through what was called the “Velvet Revolution” in 1989.
This experience in the museum gave us a look at what communism was like in a Soviet influenced country, post World War 2. The next day we drove to Brno, Czech Republic. This is where my great grandmother was born. The significance of seeing her hometown was increased tenfold knowing that she came to America to flee communism. I am very thankful that I live in a free market economy and a country where I can choose my job. I am glad that I was able to start a private company and make decisions for that company without government involvement. I am also very thankful that I can make my own money, provide for my own family, and invest in my own retirement without worry of those funds being taken away by someone.
Communism may have had positive intent, but did not work as planned when implemented in the Eastern Bloc. There is also a strong argument that Communism will never work when implemented. Whatever that case may be, I know that I have it better now than Eastern Europeans did post World War 2, including my great grandmother. However bad you think you have it, just remember that some people have lived through much worse. America may not be perfect, but it is close.