Chapter 8: What's Krackin' Krakow?

What a terrible pun lol. Anyway here's what I was up to in southern Poland.

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Thursday, September 9th

You remember catching a stomach bug as a kid? You’re laid up in your room for days, splitting time between the bed and the bathroom. All you wanted to do was play video games or watch movies, but you feel so terrible it’s hard to do either. Now put yourself on a train from Vienna, Austria to Krakow, Poland. No Wifi. The bed sucks. You can’t even watch the Thursday night football game. Welcome to my Thursday night train ride. Thankfully, I did have a sleeping room to myself.

Again, in hindsight, going out 12/14 nights was a questionable move. Would I do it again? Obviously. Was it worth it? 100%. Did I feel like a literal garbage can at this point. Yep.

Friday, September 10th

So I arrive in Krakow at like 6 AM. I hit the McDonald’s in the train station, grab some coffee, and get my bearings. I’m about half a mile from my hostel, so I head that way.

The hostel has free breakfast, and it’s too early for me to check in. I snag some bagels and yogurt, and sit down with some fellow residents.

There’s a guy tattooed head to toe across from me. Nice dude, his name is Alex. Alex is a military guy who’s about to finish up his time, and he took a few months to travel around Europe. Alex rambled a lot (which meant all of our conversations were just me rambling, then him rambling, then me rambling, and so on). He was trying to get some sore throat medicine, and my lower intestine was still doing the cha cha slide, so I went with him to the pharmacy. The pharmacist gave me some Imodium (absolute life changer. Shout out modern medicine), and I was ready to roll. On the way back, Alex asked if I traded stocks. The conversation went something like this:

Jack: Yeah I did for a bit. I stopped when I came to Europe. What about you?

Alex: I’m all in AMC. It’s going to squeeze so damn hard. Just wait.

Me (thinking how it already ran up like 2000%): You know it’s a dead movie theater chain worth like $30B now right?

Alex: Yeah but there’s so many synthetic shorts now. The squeeze hasn’t even started yet. It’s not trading on fundamentals, the greedy institutions are screwed. I’m not selling below $100k per share.

Me: Dude, that’s a several trillion market cap. Like several times bigger than Apple. And AMC issued more new stock over the last year than what the entire company was worth in 2019. And you think the stock will hit… $100k?

Alex: That’s my conservative target.

Me: ….. Good luck man.

I have no idea how people buy in to stuff like this, but welcome to the market in 2021. Do with this what you want.

I got back to the hostel and napped on a couch for like four hours. When I woke up, I checked in and met four of my roommates: Saharsh, Abhay, and Pranav. These dudes were all recent Berkley grads, and they were hopping around Europe while working for startups in California LOL. Shoutout work from home.

I went to grab a late lunch with them, and we told a bunch of college stories. I asked them about west coast life, and they were interested in all of my fraternity shenanigans. SAE baby, Same Assholes Everywhere 🤧

Now my initial plan was to chill that night, bc you know, the stomach bug. But all three of these guys were going out. Then I got back to the room, and all of my other roommates (Dennis: USA, John: Ireland, Dan: Ireland, Jason: USA, Dara: Ireland) had signed up for a pub crawl.

I’m not soft, so I signed up too. The hostel provided dinner, and it was a freaking spread.

If you go to Krakow, stay at Greg & Tom’s. $13 a night for free breakfast, free dinner with unlimited beer, and a ton of activities like AK-47 target practice, pub crawls, and laser tag.

After dinner, we went to some way too sweaty dive bar for stop one on the pub crawl. The had free drinks there, but the beer tasted like camel piss (free =/= good, in my experience). The startup boys and I went to a karaoke bar downstairs until the group moved, and it was full of Polish people singing Polish love songs. Weird vibe.

Next we went to some psuedo-night club, and I hung out with three other guys in our group: Matt, Rory, and Memphis (Jacob). Matt and Rory were two British dudes with mustaches, and they were hysterical.

Memphis was an American actually named Jacob, but he used a pseudonym in case he got anyone pregnant. No anchor babies in the East Block I guess. There was a 6’4 girl (I’m talking NFL offensive tackle) who took a liking to me in the club. Unfortunately for her, I didn’t reciprocate. More unfortunately for me, it turns out she was in our hostel. Awkward. We headed to some other bar after.

Well Rory bumps into a Middle Eastern guy in the street, and the dude threatens to kill him. The rest of our group squares up behind Rory, and Memphis threatened to rearrange that dude’s face. Homeboy scampered off pretty quickly.

It’s always fun rolling deep with some English speakers. It’s even better when you have some red blooded Brits. Those dudes can party, and they love a good laugh.

In this next bar, I made some new Norwegian friends.

We had a really engaging conversation covering all sorts of wonderful topics, like how Frozen completely whiffed on Norwegian culture and how there are like 10 different accents across Norway. (I’m pretty sure they have reindeer in Norway. Forgot to ask about that). Turns out when I speak Norwegian, I use a northern dialect. I got back around 3ish and hit the sack. Everyone else got home around 5.

Saturday, September 11th

9/11 sucks. It’s always so sad reading the transcripts from Todd Beamer, seeing the stories of those who lost their lives that day, and watching nonstop footage of the incident on social media. I was supposed to visit Auschwitz this day, but I pushed it back to Sunday.

I woke up around 11 and grabbed lunch with the startup boys and Jason. Jason Chan is the freaking man. Dude is from Hong Kong, but he moved to Nebraska and got his pilot’s license there. He lives walking distance from Warren Buffet in Omaha. I don’t know why, but it’s really funny to me that a 6’4 Asian guy from Hong Kong, that I met in Poland, lives in Omaha, Nebraska.

After we ate, Jason and I walked all over town. He told me a lot about Hong Kong and their struggles with China, as well as life growing up over there. English is emphasized early, and all kids choose an “English” name for school at a young age. At home, he had his birth name. In school, He was Jason Chan. Pretty cool how they incorporate English at such an early age. Anyways, Jason and I walked through the old Jewish Quarter and rode a balloon up above the city. The ride was sketch, but the view was awesome.

We hung out near the river for a while, and I read Peter Thiel’s Zero to One (highly recommend) while he took a nap.

Jason headed back to the hostel after that, while I hiked to a hill called Krakus Mound a couple of miles behind town.

This was such as cool spot. Hundreds of people were gathered here for the sunset, some playing with dogs, others drinking beer and wine, and a few playing the guitar.

I talked to a local girl named Maria for a while, and she told me all about the history of the place. The area around the hill was a massive Jewish neighborhood in the 1920s, but most were killed in the Holocaust. She told me all about how the government had gotten incredibly nationalistic recently, and it was threatening to ruin the country. Poland is actually ultra-conservative, moreso than deep south in the US. Like they have anti-LGBTQ zones where it’s illegal to be gay. Pretty wild stuff. Anyway, a lot of the rural people had been conditioned to hate the EU there. That’s ironic, because almost all of their infrastructure was built by that very same EU.

A lot of the same political themes that are argued in the US are going on everywhere overseas too, and a ton of people are leaving Poland because they worry that the country is moving backwards. I’d never looked at Polish politics, so it was interesting to learn about all of that.

After the sun set, I went back to the hostel for another night out. We had a deep group, about 20 of us, who went to a bar in the Jewish quarter. After an hour or so, Jason, Abhay, Saharsh, Pranav and I went back to the main bars in town. I met Mark, a die hard NBA fan from Germany. We talked Trae Young for like 30 minutes. We ended up meeting up with the Saturday night pub crawl group, and the girl that I had politely curved the night before started coming after ya boy hard. Had to show her what the Heisman trophy looked like. Sorry sister.

The night was a bit of a blur after that, but we ended up in a dark club playing Polish rap at like 3 AM.

Polish rap is so trash.

I got back, slept four hours, and woke up for Auschwitz.

Sunday, September 12th

You can read about Auschwitz here, but it sucked. Just a somber, heavy experience. If you ever have the chance, I would go visit.

When I got back, I slept most of the day before sitting down to finish writing about my experience at the concentration camp. I threw on my Mike Vick jersey for the Falcons, but we got wrecked. It’s going to be a long year. That was about it for Sunday.

Monday, September 13th

I woke up around 9, grabbed breakfast, and checked out of the hotel. Jason was supposed to go to Spain with me today, but he ended up flying to Ukraine to see Chernobyl. Apparently it’s sick. I’ve talked to him since then. Added that one to my bucket list.

I did some laundry at a laundromat, ate at a food truck, and headed to the train station to shuttle to the airport. At 6:00 I caught my flight to Madrid.

Fun fact, pretty sure I’m finally getting over that fear of flying. I finished a book on the plane instead of sitting in a half-anxious state for three hours. Big improvement.

When my plane landed, I tried to metro to my hostel downtown. It ended up taking a good hour because I can’t read maps, apparently. I talked to my cousin Sam on the phone for most of the trek, and I finally arrived at my hostel at 11. I went to sleep as soon as I entered my room, as I was headed to Sevilla in the morning.

Tuesday, September 14th

I woke up, ate free breakfast at the hostel, and headed to the train station. There is a two hour bullet train from Madrid to Sevilla. Normally it’s $60, but I got it for $6 thanks to my Eurail pass. If you come to Europe, buy the Eurail. It’s the most useful thing I’ve done.

I freaking love Sevilla. Some of the best cities in Europe are the smaller, lesser known ones. Less tourism and glitz. More people living their regular lives. I studied in Sevilla for a couple of months in 2018, so I was feeling the nostalgia bombs. Walking to my hostel I recognized cafes, bars, and restaurants that I had frequented. Fewer people speak English here, so it’s a fun place to practice some Español.

I got to the hostel, checked in, and walked around the city for a bit. I ended up grabbing dinner with two girls from my room (one from Canada and one from England), and then we headed back for live music on the roof. When I got back, and I met Nathan (American from NYC), Nick and Shawn (two US guys from Chicago), and Damian (Serbia, baby). Damian showed me a picture he’d taken with Nikola Jokic, and we talked basketball for a while. Eastern Europeans go crazy for their basketball teams. I want to catch a game there.

I went to bed pretty early Tuesday (shocker) to hopefully be somewhat rested for the rest of the week.

A Few More Thoughts

I may have said this before, but traveling, like life, is full of choices. You can do anything, but you cannot do everything. My advice? Pick the things you want to do, and do them. Really immerse yourself in them. Savor them. Then do the next thing. Don’t do a thing and think about that other thing. Otherwise you end up not really doing anything, because your head and your body are never in the same place.

Smaller cities are sick. Krakow. Sevilla. Plenty of others. Obviously Barcelona, Paris, and London are incredible. But don’t sleep on the smaller places, they know how to have a good time.

Ear plugs are so clutch.

Using a British accent around British people is freaking hilarious. They love it (or maybe hate it but they’re acting nice. I’m not going to stop anytime soon).

Don’t get sick in Europe, but if you do, go find a pharmacy. Shout out cheap European healthcare.

It’s hard to balance seeing a ton of places, and really experiencing a great place for a long time. If you want to stay somewhere, stay. If you want to leave, leave. You don’t have to do anything, which is both a blessing and a curse.

If you work remote, you can 1000% just move to Europe for like 3 months. No one will know. I’ve met like 20 people doing this.

German people speak the best English. Irish people drink the most beer. French people smoke the most cigarettes.

The ultimate look of disgust comes from people riding public transportation to work while you’re headed home from the bar. Just smile and wave, boys.

The best way to get absolutely shredded is eat less, walk more, and catch a stomach bug in a foreign country. Throw in cigarettes for breakfast if you really wanna lean into the European culture (no Mom, I don’t smoke cigarettes for breakfast. I smoke ‘em at lunch like a grown man). My pants don’t fit anymore.

The Russian mob owns all of the strip clubs in Krakow, and they have promoters that will get in your face trying to get you to go. Ask if they have male strippers and they’ll buzz off pretty quickly.

That’s all for now. In Sevilla for a few days, then off to Lagos for a beach trip. Happy Hump Day friends 🤠


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