HCPP is that time of the year when at least 500 people get to experience and participate in a second realm community for three days straight. That black painted building sticks out to everyone who passes by and doesn’t know what’s going on inside – you can see the confusion on their faces. And when you push through those heavy glass doors it feels like you left the rest of the world behind. You’re free – to just be, among friends and like minded people. It’s no wonder many people suffer from, what I like to call, “Post HCPP Depression”.

Anyone who visited HCPP at least once knows the effort and quality that goes into it, and they know how great it is to be a part of it. The talks are often thought provoking, sometimes even radical. Speakers come from various walks of life, from renowned university professors, over darknet folks and investigative journalists to people who have crazy ideas, like “let’s bet on people’s lives on the darknet”. Walking through those dimly lit hallways, with just a little bit of indirect neon light you’ll see cryptoanarchist art or parallel garden installations, you’ll run into people that never take off their masks or you’ll see people quietly chatting in dark corners. You can only wonder what they are up to.

Paying with cryptocurrencies alone, even if just for coffee, beer or food, and not having to reveal your identity in any way gives you a strong sense of privacy – something that most people can’t imagine. You can be completely anonymous - and if you want to hide your face, you can. No one will look at you the wrong way – heck, you can even get a mask from a mask vending machine. It’s places like that where you can truly express yourself, and meet the side of people they don’t show often, in their day-to-day lives. It’s a place where a strong community is built on privacy, anonymity and freedom, where everyone is free to join, or to leave.

What I mostly find interesting is what happens between the talks. HCPP is a place where many friendships, ideas and business deals are made. The red painted tunnel that leads from Bitcoin Cafe to La Fabrika is often filled with loud chatter and laughter (some even say Samurai people live there – I mean, have you seen them anywhere else during the congress?). You might see a couple of friendly anarchist and darknet people in the inner courtyard – talking for awhile and only then realizing they have known each other for years from some niche darknet service. In the VIP lounge you might meet an offshore investor, and maybe realize that people like that have the same world views and dreams like you. It’s a guarantee that at a congress like this you’ll run into a few spies and undercover operatives, desperately trying to fit in and succeeding in it – or just looking for friends in their loneliness.

HCPP is almost like a physical darknet discussion board. People are free to talk about things like: how to tackle surveillance, how to game the law, how to implement alternative justice systems or even how to launder money – and most important they are free to act on it. They’re free to express their thoughts on important questions that touch on the society as a whole, without getting concerned looks or without being shut down. It’s one of the places where free speech truly lives. You have to ask yourself “How is this gathering not illegal?”. Many things are happening there which importance we’ll be aware of only in years to come. Leaving HCPP you’re left with that lingering feeling of satisfaction, happiness and pride, while silently wishing every day was like that.