I was surrounded by Nazis.
Prague, 2007. A bartender friend invited my friend Denis and I to come see his band play. That sounded innocent enough. His English wasn’t great, so we didn’t have any other details.
We take a tram, then a second one. We’re in the outskirts of the city, an area I’m unfamiliar with. A few minutes later he meets us by the stop. We walk down a few back streets. Up some stairs, then more stairs up a hill.
Suddenly a door, right into the hill.
He knocks, the door squeaks opens, a metalhead in tattoos greets us. They speak in Czech for a moment and we’re allowed in. More stairs, this time down. A spiral staircase with no end. We must have descended 300 feet down. My friend and I realize that we are in an abandoned Soviet nuclear bunker. The kind built for a Cold War Apocalypse that never came. It’s like entering a Vault in Fallout.
At the bottom of the stairs, we quickly realize that we’re a little… out of place. Metalheads are cool, but there are a few too many shaved ones in here. We go down long, narrow hallways as we navigate the bunker. Past a makeshift bar, finally into a slightly larger room with instruments and speakers in the front.
We are surrounded by people who don’t like three things in life: Jews, Russians and Americans. Impressively, both of us managed to check all three boxes. We decide to keep quiet and to ourselves. I know it’s not very social of us, but tonight is an exception.
The band comes on. Big bald guy. Scary looking, kind of what you would expect. He steps on the makeshift stage to Nazi salutes and the Metal begins. It feels like machine gun fire in the tiny, overpacked room. It’s terrifying, but there’s something exhilarating about it. One wrong word, and it’s over for both of us.
But we made it. Even bought a T-shirt. I guess even National Socialists need a little Capital in their lives.*
I want to end this on a powerful story about positivity or life lesson. About how the threat we faced led to personal growth. None of that happened. Sometimes, life just does weird things.
You wake up, have your morning coffee and the last thing you expect is to end the day in a Nuclear bunker with Nazis. But that’s life I suppose.
*Not everyone there were Nazis. My bartender friend is certainly not, and he later apologized that they showed up in full force.