History is a vast early warning system.
The Mongol Rally is not just an opportunity for adventure and serendipity. The nature of this 10,000-mile journey from Britain to Mongolia means ralliers can immerse themselves in diverse cultures and histories.
This leads to the possibility of taking in sites of immense historical importance. Places that can force you to stop in your tracks and think deeply. On Wednesday, Day 5, my experience was about coming face to face with unspeakable pain, suffering and pure evil.
I stayed the night in Krakow, Poland, a magnificent city. The main square in old town is vibrant and full of life. The residents are friendly and welcoming. That puts Krakow on the "must" list for me.
But about 30 miles from Krakow is Auschwitz, the concentration camp run by the German Nazis in World War II. This is where I came face to face with pure evil. Walking around the camp was a powerful and moving experience. Passing under the infamous gate at the entrance to Auschwitz, which roughly says "Work makes you free," sent shivers down my spine.
Documentaries, books, movies -- none of them measures up to seeing this in person. They become horrifyingly real. What happened inside the barbed wires of this camp is a human catastrophe of almost unimaginable and certainly unforgettable proportions.