Sunday, January 31, 2021

Cha Cha Cha

It's time for another list of quirky things that I'v found while living in Poland. The first being, the title of this week's blog. In Polish, since a "ch" is pronounced just as an "h" I sometimes see people laughing in text as "cha cha cha" rather than "ha ha ha" (including my Polish instructor). Now if someone wanted to dance the Cha Cha I'm not sure how you would say that...maybe "cza cza"?

A few more language-related ones that I like:

  • "Writing a mail"- I know exactly what it means (write an email) but I always half expect to receive a handwritten letter with beautiful script on thick parchment paper. 
  • "For example" is far more common than "like." I think it's the crutch some people use when they are looking for the right words. My Polish version of that is "myślę że" (I think that...) and "tak tak tak" (yes yes yes).
  • If you ask someone in Polish if they speak English, many people will automatically say "nie" (no). And then somewhere (early on) in the conversation they will realize my Polish is far worse than their English and they will start speaking in very proficient English. 
  • Even though it's common for people in Krakow to speak English, not everyone does and I think the music in retail stores reflects that. I get quite a chuckle when I hear a song in the mall with lyrics that include the N word and talking about watching someone touch themselves. That's what makes me want to buy new pants, I guess.
NASA- I don't know what it is but there are NASA shirts and sweaters everywhere! I've never seen them for sale but it is virtually guaranteed that anytime you see a crowd there will be at least one person (typically a boy between ages 9-24) with the logo on some part of his outfit. I'm not sure if it's a way of showing off that you have visited the US or if there is a broader reason for liking NASA. I tried to look up "why does Poland love NASA" and found some tenuous connections but if anyone knows the real reason then please let me know!

Public restrooms around town typically cost 2 złoty to use. They aren't particularly clean or well maintained but I've definatley been thankful for them before. As you move further away from the city center than they're more likely to be free, but less likely to be found. Malls and roadside rest stops are typically (but not always) free. 

Because I love bathrooms so much, I spend a lot of time critiquing them. One thing I really like about Polish public restrooms is the separation between the toilets and the sinks. The toilets are almost always in a sub room that's accessible through the the sink room. Per Cameron, male restrooms have the urinals and stalls in the sub room so that the sink space still stays separate. I suppose it is more hygienic to have less toilet air in the space that people are using as a powder room. 

Gift cards do not operate the same way that I'm used to. It's not like a debit card that hold's it's balance if you don't spend the full amount. I didn't know then when I spent 30 PLN from a 100 PLN gift card to Allegro (essentially the local version of Amazon). The next time I went to make an Allegro purchase, I assumed 70 PLN of it was covered, and was instead greeted with the message that my gift card number had already been used. You can also only use one gift card at a time, so if I have three 300 PLN gift cards and I want to make a 300PLN purchase, I can only use one 100 PLN worth of gift cards. I'm learning to be a little more strategic with my spending. 

Given Polish history, it may be no surprise that there is some animosity with Germany. I never how it's going to go if I say I'd lived in Germany before this. Also, if the stray German word comes out when I attempt to speak Polish I sometimes get a funny look. But now it's starting to swing the other say. Sometimes if I try to think in German I end up filling out the sentence with a few Polish words. It feels good. 

One of many NASA spottings. 

One of the few bathrooms that are not two separate rooms, but even so there's a significant barrier between the stalls and sinks. 

Wawel Cathedral in the snow. 

Barbican (one of the fortified gates from the old city walls) in the snow. 

The black Madonna underneath Florian's gate with a celebratory winter bouquet. 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Concentration Camp

Most people who want to experience a concentration camp while visiting Krakow go to Auschwitz. And for good reason, too. Auschwitz is probably the most recognizable name of any concentration camp and it's only an hour west of Krakow. Although I haven't been yet, I know that visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau is an immersive experience and makes it onto the to-do list of any history-savvy Krakow visitor. But, even though most tourists won't hear about it, Krakow is home to its own Nazi concentration camp within the city limits: the Krakow-Płaszów concentration camp ("Płaszów"). 

Unlike Auschwitz, the former structures of Płaszów have not been kept up. The only buildings that still remain intact on the property are the Grey House, a former Jewish-owned building-turned to Nazi offices and jailhouse in 1942, and Amon Göth's villa, which is easy to miss as it is not marked by any signage and its renovations camouflage it with surrounding neighborhood homes. The rest of the grounds are now considered a memorial park and nature preserve with large open fields and lightly wooded hills. As you walk around the park (~80 hectares now, but at its largest the camp covered ~150 hectares), there are informational signs, a few memorials and monuments, some rubble, and typically a smattering of people taking their dogs and families for walks. You don't see much indicating that the land used to be surrounded by an electrical barbed-wired fence with guard towers nor that train tracks used to run through the property. 

It really is quite peaceful, which makes it difficult to reconcile the idea that 40,000 prisoners were there between the years of 1942-1945, with a max of 25,000 at one time (not including those who passed through as a transit camp). The site itself had previously been two Jewish cemeteries, and after a month of renovations (i.e. knocking over the gravestones and using slave labor to erect shanty living quarters) the Krakow Jewish ghetto was liquidated and those fit for work were transferred to Płaszów. Although the camp was initially intended to house Krakow Jews, it also imprisoned a large number of Hungarian Jews, Roma (Gypsies), and Polish prisoners (largely from the Warsaw Uprising). 

It was used as a labor camp, with a high concentration of women and children compared to other work camps. Although children were allowed there (at least in the beginning) they had to pull their weight, too. The hardest labor was working in the nearby quarries while children and the elderly tended to work as brush makers. Other labor included: sewing uniforms, electrical and automotive work, printing documents, and serving in armament factories, among other things. 

While some inmates stayed at the camp indefinitely (typically just a few months given the harsh labor conditions, starvation, typhus, and sadistic commander), for others it was merely a stop on the way to be killed at Auschwitz. That proved to be the case for many of the children. As one of the signposts indicates, in 1944, the Commandant Amon Göth declared that all of the children would be sent to "kindergarten," which truly meant that they were rounded up and sent to be gassed the next day. 

Göth was a brutal character. He started his first day at camp in February, 1943 by killing two of the camp's Jewish policemen, and then every day thereafter he shot at least one person before breakfast. In addition to regular shootings (it is thought that he singlehandedly murdered around 500 prisoners), hangings were common, and Göth also trained his two dogs (a Great Dane and a German Sheppard mix) to tear prisoners to death. He was also fond of collective punishment and mass murders. Göth stayed at the camp until September, 1944, when the Nazi Party charged him with theft of property (one of the roles at Płaszów was to sort through the gold and other valuables that were collected from the imprisoned and dead), violation of camp regulations & prisoner punishment, and failure to provide adequate food to the prisoners. After the war, he was tried by the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland and was hanged in Krakow in September, 1946. 

Though each of the 19 main informational signs have a quote from a Płaszów survivor and a small paragraph of information, they gloss over the true hardships of living in Płaszów (you know it was bad if the Nazi government decided the commander was being too brutal). Largely due to Göth's influence, Płaszów had one of the highest death rates of any labor camp. A typical week might consist of three or four truckloads of new laborers to replace those condemned to mass execution. As described by Halina Nelken, who was at Płaszów as a 20-year-old, the condemned were walked into a trench, ordered to strip naked, shot, and then covered with dirt as all other inmates watched. 

Clearly, fear was ever-present, as was hunger. One of the quotes posted in the park is from Aren Blumenkranz: "And, really they were getting maximum productivity out of us. We should have had a free Sunday once for three weeks, but just on that day a wagon of coal to be loaded was arriving or another job was found for us so time off was out of the question. Our food for a 12-hour working day was 1.4 kg of break weekly and 1 litter of thin soup daily." Those who worked as Jewish police at the camp were given double rations of thicker soup and more bread of higher quality, but they then were tasked with whipping fellow inmates (lashings were a common punishment). Once Göth was replaced, diets began to occasionally include eggs, sugar, and powdered milk.

Surprisingly to me, there was also some outside help. A few support groups and individuals were tolerated by the Germans and provided additional food and medicine to the camp. Some prisoners were employed outside of the camp (at Oskar Schindler's factory, for example), and could exchange their wages (which was by no means a required exchange for their labor) for additional food rations. While the extra nutrition was necessary, those found with smuggled items, even an extra piece of food, were subject to whippings or death. 

Those who are familiar with Schindler's List will recognize the concentration camp's name. If you look on a map, you'll see that Oskar Schindler's factory sits about 2km from the Płaszów SS Headquarters. A significant portion of the Jews that survived Płaszów were contracted out as staff at the enamel factory. For the movie, Steven Spielberg elected not to use the actual Płaszów site in order to leave it as is and honor the memory of its victims. The scenes that you see in the film are reconstructions built inside the Liban quarry (which actually was used for forced labor for many Płaszów inmates). 

The camp began to close down when threats from the Red Army became more prominent in summer of 1944. Most prisoners were deported to other concentration camps and the remaining few-hundred were tasked with breaking down the barracks and exhuming the bodies from 11 mass graves (in an attempt to hide the crimes). As documented by the Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team, it took 17 truckloads to rid the site of the human ashes. In the end, those remaining few were marched to Auschwitz to meet their ends. 

Now, there are a few monuments around the park, the most prominent of which is the 7 meter "Memorial to the Victims of Fascism in Krakow," carved by Ryszard Szczypiński and designed by architect Witold Cęckiewicz. The huge limestone block is a "homage to the martyrs murdered by Nazi genocide in 1943-1945," as is carved into the back of the stone. Another prominent one is a large cross topped with barbed wire, which marks one of the execution sites. It's strange that from the main part of the park you look over at a large hardware store and the cellar of Göth's house, which used to house his maids, is now being used as a wine cellar for the family that currently lives there. I have some mixed thoughts about the modernization of things, but I'm glad that in general Krakow makes space to acknowledge its history while making peace with the idea that time moves on and things change. 

There are a few of these signs on the perimeter of the park: "Dear Visitors! You are entering the site of the former Nazi German concentration camp "Płaszów". Please respect the grievous history of the site."

The barbed cross on the hill Hujowa Górka marks one of the mass execution sites. Apparently, the name is a bit of wordplay: a combination of Albert Hujar's name, who was the SS officer who ordered the first executions here, and the Polish words chujowa/chujowka/chuj, which is a vulgarity encompassing bitch/shit/prick/ get the idea. 

The most imposing monument is visible from the nearby main road, Kamieńskiego. Nearby the "Memorial to the Victims of Fascism in Krakow" (also sometimes known as the "Memorial of Torn-Out Hearts") are two smaller memorials to remember the Hungarian Jewish women and all Jewish women of the camp. 

One of the 19 primary informational signs, this one discussing the mass executions/burials. You can also see the monolithic memorial in the background. 

The biggest area of the park is made up of large flat fields. Pre-war, these were Jewish cemeteries that were plowed-down and converted to barracks and factory areas during the time the camp was in operation. It is not uncommon to see picnickers and dog walkers in these fields. 

The lower end of the main field, in the south eastern end section of the park are piles of large ruble, which once were the pre-burial hall of the new cemetery of the Krakow Jewish Community. During the camp's existence, it was repurposed as a utility building that housed stables, pig farms, rabbit hutches, etc. It was partially detonated for Göth's amusement one night, and the remaining stucture was blown up in 1944 as part of the camp's final destruction. 

The smaller of the two former Jewish cemeteries still has some grave markers. The Germans removed these from their original locations and flattened them to make a road in the camp. The Schindler's List replica of the gravestone road (shown in the black-and white screenshot from the movie) can be found at the bottom of the Liban Quarry.

Looking up at that cemetery, you can see that there are a fair amount of gravestone remains. These were mostly buried and became Roll Call Square, which was sandwiched between the men's and women's barracks. They were only uncovered in the 2000s as part of conservation efforts. 

The Grey House is the only intact building within the memorial park grounds. The upper floors were used for administrative purposes and the basement was a prison and torture chamber. The upper photo is the original and the lower black-and-white photo is the version built for Schindler's List's set

A view looking up from near the Grey House to the main fields. The monument you can see memorializes the 13 Jews who were murdered in the first WWII mass execution. That happened on the marked site on September 10, 1939, before it became the Krakow-Płaszów concentration camp. 
Nearby, though not pictured here, is another memorial marking a pre-camp event. A new tombstone has been built marking the burial place of Sara Schenirer, the founder of the first Jewish girls school in Krakow. 

I could be very wrong about this, but from the descriptions I've read I think that these remains, though technically no within the camp grounds, are the remains of the movie set-version of Amon Göth's villa and stables buildings. If I'm right, then the ring marked in the grass outlines the infamous balcony that Göth shot prisoners from in the movie. Likely that wasn't common practice in real life, given the orientation of Göth's actual house in relation to the prisoners' camp area. That being said, the black-and-white photo is of the true Amon Göth on the original home's balcony.

A map outlining the previous orientation of the camp (from Unfortunately, there is nothing this detailed within the park, making it hard to visualize the historical structures. 

I also like this map (from since it shows the location of the former Jewish cemeteries and Göth's Villa.

In some ways it is nice that the signage isn't emotionally overpowering. It allows visitors to find some peace and enjoy the landscape, if that's what they choose to do. 


Normally I don't cite many resources, but since I am relying on others for the historical accuracy of this post, I want to at least share the websites that I consulted. I also am relaying information I got from the signs posted throughout the park. The specific numbers of prisoners (total and murdered) is unknown since the prisoner index was destroyed. The estimations vary across sources so I used the numbers that are on display in the memorial park or that I was seeing most commonly:öth#Płaszówów-Płaszów_concentration_camp#cite_note-:6-21łaszów-Concentration-Camp#

Saturday, January 16, 2021

History of Snow

There has been continuous snowfall for the past three days. It's been a real treat, especially since I have the time to go outside to enjoy it, and especially since we had virtually no snow last year. 

Depending on where you look, Krakow is sometimes referred to as the gateway to Poland's winter region. It's the only big city that's near mountains, and when there's a Christmas market going on and it's blanketed in snow it truly looks like a winter wonderland. Many weather and tourism websites virtually guarantee snowfall and strongly advise tourists to pack heavy boots and thick parkas. I even read that there is some mythology that "Poland" got its name because the winter weather reflects the arctic atmosphere of the North and South 'Poles'. 

That's why last winter was so disappointing. Although many people said it was a one-off year, many others said that this was starting to become the new norm and there hadn't been a true white winter in Krakow for many years. Even Zakopane, the true winter capital of Poland, stayed pretty dry–there were no horse-drawn sleds and the ski slopes were heavily supplemented with man-made snow. I got the sense that many people were accepting that if they wanted to experience true winters they would have to go beyond the Polish borders from here on out. 

This week's snow in no way matches the multiple meters of snow Krakow used to get in decades passed, but I got the sense that it re-sparked the joy of winter in many people. It came after the traditional holiday season ended but still early enough that the kids were able to enjoy it before going back to school. I saw dozens of snowmen and bundles of kids being pulled along on toboggan sleds. I went out for extended walks each day to see my favorite parts of the city with a refreshed view: Krakus Mound, Rynek, Zakrzówek, Wawel...

It's a good thing, too, because even though the snow probably won't continue after today the temperatures are going to start plummeting down to -13, -19, and -17 degrees Celsius, respectively, for the next three days. Thanks to a Siberian weather system, Southern Poland might experience the coldest winter weather it's had in 20 years. Although I am excited for the snow, I am hesitant about the chilling weather. I'm already wearing my Icelandic wool sweater every day, even though it's only been hovering around freezing. I keep telling myself that it's good I'm experiencing it now so that way I know if I can handle proper winters if we end up choosing to move somewhere like Montana or Michigan. 

In Rynek: Adamska Statue and Cloth Hall

The Head statue on the other side of the main square. 

Beautiful St. Mary's Basilica and the city Christmas tree. 

Walking along the river across from Wawel castle. There's a chance we'll see the edges of the river freeze next week. 

Kids looking for a good sledding hill. 

Even in the snow, there were some people swimming in Zakrzówek. 

I love how accessible nature is in Krakow. 

The most beautiful church in Krakow.

Krakus Mound blending into the sky. 

Winter views from Krakus Mound. Although not well captured in this photo, I could see that Kościuszki Mound was also a white dome. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Van Plan

Ah, my first week of retirement. Some of the insecurities I previously had about squandering my time are creeping back in, but I've been exceptionally busy which helps keep those self-doubts at bay. For months I had been gathering a list of to-dos and now that I am finally allowing myself to do them I still don't have the time! A few of my small projects have been:

  • Cheesemaking- I made my first batches of ricotta and mozzarella this week. I also want to try a lemon spreadable cheese, queso blanco, and yogurt, but right now I'm struggling to find uses for the off-putting yellow whey that the production process releases. I'm not willing to drink it plain, as some websites recommend, but I have used it to cook pasta in and it also works as a water replacement in most baking recipes. Which leads me to:
  • Baking- This is not a new hobby for me, but having mid-week banana muffins and having a successful first go at homemade bagels is. Although I don't have any qualms about modifying recipes willie-nilly (typically with positive results) it will still be a while until I attempt to rival the Little Twins on their respective specialities (cinnamon roles and sourdough). 
  • Website- Since I now am a freelancer, I figured I aught to have my own website as an additional self-marketing tool. Cameron bought me the domain name and for the past week I have been learning very simple HTML commands (I'm not even sure if I've used the vocabulary in that sentence correctly). I've also signed up for an online "Introduction to Computer Science" course but I haven't quite talked myself into actually starting on the material. 
  • Stretching- One of my New Year's resolutions is to stretch at least three times a week and so far I'm keeping that up. I'm just using YouTube videos as my guide, but at least three instructors I've followed talk about how emotion is held in the hips. I'm happy to report that so far, stretching my hips has not led to an emotional breakdown.
  • Reading- Another New Year's resolution is to read 50 books in 2021. I finished my first book (Middlesex) last Thursday and I'm about halfway through book 2 (Dryer's English). I am a slow reader, though, and getting through 500+ pages in a week means that I'm dedicating at least half of my day to reading. Please let me know if you have any recommendations for short books that I can add to my reading list. 
That's a pretty hefty list of things to fill the day with, and that doesn't include all of my other standard routines (cooking dinner, grocery shopping, daily Polish practice, weekly Toastmasters meetings). It also does not include my big project that I have been champing at the bit to get started on–Van Life preparation. 

I suppose this is the time to formally share our plans to move back to the US. Everything is still loose, but working through the details is my new job for the next eight months.

The plan is to fly back in August, 2021. Most likely we will start in New Mexico to spend a few weeks with my parents, drive up to Colorado for my sister's wedding, and then continue to Mountain Green, Utah where we will hunker down for 3-6 months. During that time we will buy a van, build it out to be fully livable, and (of course) go skiing.

Once we've built our custom home-on-wheels, we're hitting the road! Since we don't have a particular affinity to any given city (yes, I love Bellingham but it's changing in ways that I'm not fully in agreement with) we want to take the time to check out our options before committing to a forever home. Ideally, we will spend 1-2 weeks at each candidate city so that we can really get a feel for the culture and make sure that we are fairly assessing how that town ranks across all of our assessment criteria.

What those criteria are, and which towns make the list, are the foundations of what I'm trying to figure out now. Whittling down every city in English-speaking North American to a reasonable amount that we could realistically visit in one year is surprisingly tough. I've been taking "what city should you live in" personality quizzes and combing through the last decade of "top places to live" articles that are put out by CNN and Forbes. Plus, we want to visit people along the way and explore the US and Canada National Parks. 

People think that Van Life is an easy-breezy not-a-care-in-the-world sort of lifestyle. Not for us! It will take me at least one month to come up with a decent "want to see" list, and then planning the route to connect all of those spots will be another week or so. But the planning doesn't end there. I also want to pre-plan potential van parking spots and research the ideal venues for us to work from (Cameron will be working remotely, and I also will probably try to work, at least part time). We'll also need a way to fairly compare one town against the others so I'm brainstorming various ranking techniques. 

We're planning on customizing our van, which means that preemptively thinking about the layout, accessories, and budget all get added to my Van Life prep, too. I have to approach this part of the process very carefully, because if I don't the thought of downsizing from a huge three-bedroom flat to a van that's smaller than our bathroom gives me agita (and will likely lead me to a meltdown during my next hip stretch). Speaking of bathrooms, we probably won't have one. Yes, I know that living without a toilet or shower for a year sounds crazy, but plenty of nomad living websites reassure me that it's a much easier sacrifice to make than you might think. 

Like most things in my life, the hesitations I have are outweighed by the bragging rights. I am chuffed that we're jumping straight from one adventure (Poland) to the next, and I'm especially smitten with the idea of sharing our adventure with a van bun. (That is, until I realize that I would get immensely jealous that the rabbit's litter box would be more of a toilet than Cameron and I would have for ourselves.) I keep telling myself that despite my materialistic tendencies, Van Life will at least be more comfortable than living out of a backpack in the Washington wilderness, which I've done plenty of times.

Despite my continued self-reassurance, it's quite likely that we will never actually make it on the road. I might come to my senses during the van build-out process and realize what an absolutely absurd idea this is. More likely, we'll start off on our grand adventure, realize one month in that it's miserable and that going another 11 months is unnecessarily daunting, and decide to turn around and call it quits. Even more likely, we'll go through with the whole crazy scheme only to realize that the best spot for us is someplace that's already well-known to us (*cough cough, Bellingham, cough cough*). We shall see. 

On another note, we woke up to a light layer of snow on Saturday morning. 

Unfortunately, even with a little snow it's been quite smoggy. There have been a few days where the city enacts free public transportation as a reaction to bad air quality. The smog does make for pretty sunsets, though. 

My first attempt at bagel making was a success. I made two plain, two with nutritional yeast, two salted, and two sesame seed bagels. 

Ricotta and mozzarella balls. The ricotta was really really easy; it only took about 30 minutes and didn't call for any weird ingredients. The mozzarella, on the other hand, was a little tricky and the rennet in it has a weird lingering smell. 

Even though I'm only now starting to get serious about Van Life planning, the idea has been there for a while now. This photo is from our trip to Prague in July and I had took a photo of these vans as potential styles we would consider purchasing. 

Monday, January 4, 2021

Contrasting New Years

I'm very thankful that last year we did the full holiday shebang. New Year's Eve, 2019 involved dressing up, going out to a club, dancing, and piling into the main square for the midnight countdown. Cameron likes to recount the wild atmosphere of being smooshed into the crowded city center as people let off their brought-from-home fireworks while drinking their brought-from-home booze. When he talks about it, there is both a sense of pride in his voice but also glimmer of head-shaking disbelief in his eyes.

As you might imagine, this year was quite different. The 7pm-6am lockdown that surrounded the transition from 2020 to 2021 was not legally enforceable, but I think most people already made plans to stay mostly inside for this New Year's Eve. I'd like to think that I would have been ok effectively ignoring this holiday. Wrapping up the year with a movie, some games, and a reasonable bed time sounded quite amicable to me, however I can never say no to the slightest hint of fun, so when introduced to the prospect of having a sleepover that evening I had to say "yes!"

Despite having two friends over, the evening was not too dissimilar from my initial expectations. We made pierogi, played the Czech rendition of Codenames (the picture version), and watched a few episodes of a new Netflix show while snacking on leftover Christmas candy. About five minutes before midnight, we decided to throw coats over our pajamas and head down to the river to ring in the new year. Thanks to a poorly timed joke on my part ("hopefully we don't get caught for breaking the curfew!") Cameron did not shuffle downstairs with us.

There were a few groups along the riverside. Most were like ours: fairly small (3-6 people), keeping distance from the other cliques, and bundled up. Some of the groups had their own fireworks that they were setting off, some had handheld sparklers, and others had bottles of champagne they were shaking up, but most were just gazing around at the sporadic splashes of light. It was a smoggy night with a low cloud layer, so we didn't see many fireworks other than those that were quite close to our standing point, and judging by the muffled sound, there weren't all that many that we weren't seeing either. In addition, the observation balloon across the river was lit up and flashing fun colors. Although he missed the main event (midnight was rightfully the most flashy), Cameron did talk himself to coming down to the river's edge for the ongoing encore. 

I think it was good to have a fairly modest New Year's celebration. Having a big hoopla like last year would have felt disingenuous (and unsafe) since I am approaching 2021 with much more caution, but it was still good to start the year off with a little bit of fun and optimism. 

New Year's Eve 2020

This was the most exciting it got all evening. It was still very beautiful, but much more subdued compared to the previous New Year's Eve. 

Looking over at one of the other groups next to us along the river. 

We made three pierogi fillings: mushroom and onion, ruskie (potatoes and cheese), and spinach, leek, and cheese. 

I like to eat mine with some unconventional toppings: dill, sour cream, sriracha, rice vinegar, and curry powder. 

New Year's Eve 2019

Looking back at the number of people in this photo bewilders me!

Being in Old Town was somewhat dangerous- you can kind of see that the firework smoke is directly over the crowd of people. 

Again, it's not a great photo, but you can sort of tell that fireworks were being released from the mob into the space right above peoples' heads.