It doesn’t seem to matter where you end up in Europe, or anywhere for that matter – you will inevitably find yourself confronted with the past. Unfortunately this isn’t limited to the positive and for every piece of magnificent art or architecture there is a corresponding evil lurking in the shadows. When you think about it, this might even say something about our wider nature.
Despite what they say about history being the story of the victors, across time there have always been losers and now, more than ever, we hear their side. History mightn’t be an objective discipline, but some horrors escape obliteration and rest in our collective memory as reminders of darker times. Or so we tell ourselves.
There is perhaps no place where this is more apparent than an hour’s drive from Karakow, in a quiet town on the edge of the Polish countryside. Once a small unremarkable village, Auschwitz is now scorched into the collective consciousness as the epitomy of human evil. The horrors perpetrated against Jewish victims in the gas chambers designed as the “final solution” are almost unspeakable, and even more so for the pre-determined and dissociated fashion in which they were done.
Our Thai New Year’s Eve itself is typically anti-climatic. Fortified on ephedrine we down enough Chang to make an elephant tipsy, and lurch around on the sand with the rest of the singleted, shifting to the pulsing music. It is hectic, and we are soon divided.
Brother Fox and I dig a hole just back off the beach and bury our jandels with a small bottle of rum before heading into the mêlée in search of our brethren. We tell some Australian girls that the fireworks above are just a warm-up, and that the countdown will be soon. Obviously we are wrong.
We continue on, the sharp smell of gunpowder signalling the arbitrary switchover that we have gathered to celebrate. Finally, we find Brother Tijo. He is unapologetically hammered, caught up on a nihilistic bender. His stamina betters that of Fox, and we return to our sand cairn to reclaim our treasure.