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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Krakow Slack Session

Once back in Wroclaw, I went with Janek, Damian and Kornie to get their visas to go to the US. I just went because I had never seen Krakow and heard it was a beautiful city.

We went early on Polish train, and arrived so early we had much time to kill before the guys appointments. It is beautiful as they say, with old buildings kept in great shape, all colorful and built in polish style. The main square is huge, big enough for a longline (unfortunately there are too many tourists) and it has a large beautiful old church called St. Mary's in the center. There is even a man playing trumpet in this tower of the Church, the Cracovian Hymn four times each hour. The city used to be the capitol until they switched it to Warsaw. There was one street I tried to pronounce, and I cannot remember the correct spelling but it sounded like "shityourpanska." This was a good laugh for Kornie and I.

Since we had time to kill we found a coffee shop and camped out until the guys headed out for their Visa meetings. I stayed behind, thinking it would not take too long. Coffee disappeared, hours passed, people came and went, I heard many English speakers there, and eventually the guys returned. Since they were done with their visa stuff they wanted to return to Wroclaw. I had paid for a ticket and came to see Krakow, so Janek and I stayed behind to find something to do.

We first went searching for a slackline location. The only spot within walking distance from the main square and the station was a small beautiful park covered in dog shit. We set up a sort of long line, something around 45 meters. It was a bit cold and wet, so taking off our shoes was not a pleasant thing. I had unfortunately worn tights, and therefore could not be entirely barefoot. It was a slippery experience! Janek did various tricks, surfed and such. I primarily worked on laps with no hands. But doing laps on this line felt great, and passers bye would stop and watch curiously. One woman with two young children came and spoke English very well, and asked all sorts of questions. She was very kind, and never once asked something silly about circus' or back flips. I wrote some info for her before she left to google, as her young son was interested in slacklining.

After we were cold and had worked up a massive hunger, we rigged down the white magic line and packed the pulleys and went to find some food. One huge pizza later we were on the train back to Wroclaw. I was somewhat satisfied with what I had seen in Krakow, and besides I figure I can always return.

London Calling

After returning to Wroclaw and finalizing the trip to the US, I realized I was going to have to return to London to visit a few important friends, take care of some police business (will explain later) and gather some things I left there in the possession of my dear friend Sue.

A big part of me wanted to stay in Wroclaw and continue the lovely routine of staying up late, sleeping in, eating polish food, going to the opera, walking around the historic center of town in the cold nights, and breaking chains trying to walk on them with Janek, but I needed to go. I booked my flight to London and headed out. The way to the airport was one of those times you think the cosmos is working against you. First, I missed my bus to the airport by 5 minutes, and they only came every half hour. The next obstacle was a ticket controller, halfway to the airport. I had to get off the bus at some stop I could not pronounce. I called Janek and got a taxi number. I called the taxi and tried to pronounce the name of the stop, they understood. Finally, I arrived at the airport half an hour before my plane would depart. I waited in line, got to security, then they informed me that I needed to go back to the front of the airport and receive some stamp. So, after this I waited in line, went through security (they pulled me aside to search my pockets.) Then, right before I made it to my gate I came to Customs. Since I had spent the last few months hitchhiking I had no stamps in my passport except from Bremen, dated June 10th. I was leaving Poland in October, and according to them I was only allowed on mainland Europe for a total of three months at any given time. They informed me that it was a serious offence and I could be denied access to Europe in the future. I was in the shitter, and did not know how to get out of it. Eventually, after discussion among the officers, they decided to let me out of Poland and just told me to get stamps even when hitchhiking. Lucky again. The best was that my plane was late, and therefore I made it onto the flight. I arrived at the gate half an hour after it was supposed to close.

Ok, so made it to London, Irish Sue gathered me from Victoria Station and took me to her home in Brixton. This area is famous for being dangerous, however it is quite a cool and cultural place. There is a huge Reggae and Carribbean influence there, as well as some hippies and indie folk. Sue and I started our rampage of London, usually staying out all night and arriving back at her home in the early morning as the sun came up. We also managed to get a 1 pound sandwich from either Tesco's or Sainsburys to fix that hungover hunger. I hung out with some friends I had not seen since I took off dirtbagging, went to a couple lame houseparties, and unfortunately only slacklined one time.

The parkour guys I had met in Berlin at the YOU fair happened to be in London at this time, and one of them had a slackline. We met at Waterloo Station to find a spot to slack, it was nighttime but the city is quite lit up. We first set up on the sidewalk lining the Thames, between two trees with a simple system. As soon as it was rigged, security came by and informed us that we could not put our line up there as it was private property. I asked the classic question of "Are you sure? Have they told you to prevent slackliners from slacklining here?" But sometimes you can see that resistance is futile. The parkour team wanted to argue on, however eventually it was clear that arguing was just using precious time to slack. We went over the bridge and began searching for a spot, however it was slim pickings. Finally we ended up hopping a fence into a closed park, and setting up a line over the walkway between two trees. It was not the best feeling line, just because of the rigging, I only walked a few times. The Parkour guys practiced swinging from the tree onto the line, then from tree to line then onto the lamp post which they would spiral around. This appeared to be the beginnings of a new sport: Slackline meets Parkour. Slackour! The new sport!

The last night I was in London Kieron (Parkour dude) and I hung out on Halloween and went on a balance rampage around southeast London, balancing on poles, rails and walls. It was fun, but not quite slackline.

So, after my trip to London I vowed to stay in touch with these guys and set some shit up when I make it back to Europe.

Then I returned to Wroclaw with no problem from customs to prepare for the US.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Berlin: YOU fair, Working for Freewalker, Windy Longline

While still in Wroclaw with the Polish guys, staying at Janek's house, I received and email from Slackline Freewalker stating that they urgently needed someone to work for them in the next couple weeks in Berlin, at something called the YOU Fair. I did not know many of the details, however I was strapped for cash and it sounded like a good deal. After some discussion with Janek, we decided we would take trains to Berlin and stay at Iana's house, the women who co-owns the Skatehalle in the RAW Galänder. We set out, and I seperated from Janek to travel all the way across Berlin for this Fair. I arrived at the appropriate Train Station, however my phone was out of minutes and I was unable to contact the manager of Freewalker to let him know I was there! After much waiting and exploring I walked about 2 kilometers to finally reach the fair. I will add that this center was massive, and it took another hour to find the entrance and get in, as my ticket was inside at the booth where I was to work. So, after a clusterfuck of a day I finally made it to the Freewalker area. I was sorry to be late, however the day just had not gone as planned.

Naturally I was tired as balls from the overnight journey from Poland, and yet I proceeded to slackline on the freewalker setup for the next 6 hours. It was a short set up since there was not much room in the building for a slackline. Freewalkers set up involves the line, a ratchet, and two A-frames. The webbing is wider than the usual, being about 2 inches. It took some getting used to, however after a couple hours I was practising my lemur jumps and jumps and some static tricks. The fair was oriented for youths, primarily highschoolers. I was assuming I would be surrounded by Children. Boy, was I wrong. Highschoolers in Berlin are much harder to handle then a bunch of tots. There were so many arrogant guys who had no respect for the set up, would jump over it and on it when others were trying to walk, asked me for kisses etc. I was so ready to send these kids to boot camp at the end of the day.

There were a few who knew what slackline was, some who owned their own, but generally it was a new thing to most kids there. What made the scenario worth my while was when a kid was genuinely interested. I was basically there to give an example of what one can do on the Freewalker slackline after some practice. Who knew slacklining on a small line can wear you out!? By the end of the day my feet were throbbing and my legs were sore as heck. I was so happy to return to Iana's, hang out with her and Tomek 'Soya,' and the dogs and of course getting some nice warm sleep next to Janek. The nights were filled with Beer and movies and rest. Early the next morning I had to head back to the YOU fair. The best part about this fair was getting some interesting people on the slackline. Girls in highheels, sexy nurses and the Parkour guys!

After three days of the YOU fair, I was exhausted.
It was a great job, to slackline, however being surrounded by thousands and thousands of teenagers and slacklining virtually non-stop for 7 hours a day is tough stuff! What worked out great was that after the job I was able to negotiate with Freewalker and they ended up agreeing to sponsor my plane ticket for the US tour.

Janek and I met up with Jordan Tybon, who was still living in Berlin, and we had the amazing opportunity to get on an olympic trampoline in one of the climbing gyms. Two very nice guys helped us out, Andreas and Mattias. We arrived at the gym quite late, and there was one other guy who was extremely good on the trampoline who did the spotting for our backflips. So, after a few hours I successfully did a few backflips with a spotter. He suggested I wait to try a backflip on the slackline until I had a bit more practice (with no spotter) on the trampoline. I have to say the trampoline is quite addictive. Once on it, you don't want to come off!

The following day we went to a Volkspark Friedrichshain and set up a 140 meter longline. We used CT pulleys for the system. The location was unique, because the anchors were trees, however they were seperated by a huge ditch. This was a Long-mid-line. The first two meters were just about a meter and a half high, then it just sloped down and dropped off. Even though I had walked just a meter shy of this line previously in Wroclaw, I was unable to even come halfway on this line. The wind was so strong that day (did I mention it was cold as well?) that the line was flopping a meter on its own! When sitting on the line to get into a chongo, your body was constantly bouncing up and down with the line, despite being so close to the anchor. Janek walked three quarters of the way, and he had the best try. Mattias came and had a few good tries, and Jordan and I fought a bit but did not make it so far. Seeing Janek fall from the center was a bit nerve racking since he was so high off the ground, but the pit had sand in it which broke his fall somewhat. I was relieved to unrig and get back to a warm place.

This pretty much wraps up my trip to Berlin, so Janek and I headed back on the lovely train system. We were stuck at the edge of Germany overnight, where our Train stopped a couple kilometers away from the Train Station over the border. A very nice Polish woman gave me a ride in her car to the other station, and Janek rode my bike there in the cold icy weather. She was a very nice woman, and we conversed in german the whole way there. Janek and I ate some healthy McDonalds meals as we spent the night in the un-heated station, listening to some Polish business man snore away in his little red wind jacket atop his briefcase. We slept a bit on two benches pushed together, and early in the morning headed the rest of the way to Wroclaw.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Windy Gap and Little Wind highlines, Hejszowina, PL

The night before we headed to Hejszowina for highlining I barely slept. I was actually working on the blog almost the entire night. I also skyped my mother and sister back home briefly, was great to hear from them. This night was also the first time I took off my cast from my broken wrist. At 5 am I met Damian and Janek at the train station in Wrocław, made it there all by myself! I am usually lost everywhere I go alone, so this is a big accomplishment for me. They both slept on the way, however I could not get a wink of shut eye for some reason. It could possibly be due to the caffiene in my system at the time. After the train we took a bus the rest of the way. It was raining and cold in Hejszowina when we arrived. The place is basically a tiny town at the base of a big rock peak. I was feeling like shit and slightly sick from lack of sleep, but you cannot let this interfere with the opportunity to highline. Us three hiked up the infinite amount of stairs to get to the top of the rock, stopping just before the summit to get off the stairs and leave our belongings under an overhanging rock. This rock would be our "Hotel Bel Canto" for the next night.

After eating a small snack we headed up the rest of the way to rig some highlines. Damian and Janek started rigging, and while usually I would be over their shoulders trying to learn the details of rigging highlines, this day I felt pretty awful and cold. I suppose I was feeling pretty sorry or myself, with my wrist still a bit in pain, no sleep and the wet and cold of my surroundings. Despite all my woes, I could recognize how beautiful the location was we were in. The hills in the distance were almost invisible due to the low hanging clouds, gray and misty. It almost felt as if we were floating on a rock in the clouds themselves.

The anchors for the highline Windy Gap were each attached to the viewpoints atop the peak. On both sides we used the rails around the viewpoints to hold the anchors, although one side was also attached to a big boulder. We put some carpeting underneith the gear so that it did not rub against the stone too much. On Little Wind the rails were used as well, though one side was attached only to a boulder.

We first rigged only Windy Gap, which was 33 meters(108 feet)and Damian and Janek both onsighted it.

When it was my turn I began to feel my usual nervousness, dread and excitement. The first attempt I took one step and fell off. Ok, not so nice a feeling. Climbing back onto the line was difficult as any pressure on my wrist was still quite painful, but eventually I settled into a chongo again. I asked Janek and Damian to sing to me, hoping their singing would make the situation less stressful for me, maybe even funny. It sure was half-assed singing, which eventually trailed off and I was left once again with only the sound of my heavy breathing, thumping heart and the murmurs of some tourists on the viewpoints. I walked it. Second try, I walked my longest highline yet. I talked myself across the line, made it, then sat for a minute to calm down, and walked back. It felt nice on the way back, I was more confident, however just at the end, 1 step before I was to sit down and finish my send, I fell! What the heck?!?! I was so pissed off at myself, however I walked it 1.5 man. I guess I sent it one way for sure, but I cannot count that as a full man.

That day after walking I did some exploring atop the rock we were on. It is a lovely peak, full of toppled boulders coated in green moss, with passageways here and there that have been there since before WWII. There are even engravings of men's initials from the early 1800's.

That night we returned to Hotel Bel Canto, ate sandwiches and drank vodka shots out of the bottom of a waterbottle, cut in half. I was naturally wasted by the time we all went to sleep. We slept in a row, me in between Janek and Damian. Unfortunately we all slept on a slant, so every hour I would wake up because I had slid down my sleeping mat onto the wet ground. Then I would have to inch up the mat in my sleeping bag like some giant fat worm. Good times. On top of this predicament, I was completely congested so in the middle of the night would wake up and use a fern or dead leaf to blow my nose. Yes, I am sexy.

The next morning we headed up to walk some highlines. We rigged Little Wind, which is the 13 meter brother of Windy Gap. It appeared much shorter then the 33 meter, especially after my fight with it. I felt no pressure walking Little Wind, and in that zone I Full manned it On sight. It would have been a perfect first highline; short, exposed, and only about 30 meters (100 feet) high. Its big brother is quite a bit longer and another 10 meters higher. That day the weather treated us not as kindly as we would have liked, and it drizzled for hours on end and was cold. I had to stash the bags and extra gear under an overhanging rock, and I lay layered in the guys jackets while they walked. I got back on the Windy Gap again this day, though I was feeling reluctant because of the cold. On top of this, with some lines, one send is enough. I cant really explain this feeling, yet there have been at least three highlines in my list that I fought on and sent and was happy to leave in good spirits about. When I got back on the Windy Gap, it was true to its name and the line tattered along to its own rhythm. I fell about 6 times before finally walking across for my second send. Frustrated, I sat near the second anchor and took a breather then started to walk back across. I sent it going back with more ease, and after that decided to leave it for that trip. Damian took some beautiful photos of me on the Little Wind and Janek on the Windy Gap at the same time. The energy of having multiple people walking lines at the same time exudes the surroundings, it is a fantastic experience. In this case neither of us fell, however in some cases hearing another highliner fall on the line can be distracting. This of course can be tuned out when you are in the zone.

We stayed one more night in Hotel Bel Canto, then the next day we rigged down the lines and headed back on the lovely bus ride back to civilization. It was a long journey back, and the warmth of Janeks home and his mothers fresh polish cakes was a welcomed environment. I was happy to leave with two more sends and at that point my longest Highline so far.

I would like to thank Damian Czermak for the photos from this trip.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Longlining- Wroclaw, Sept 22nd 2009

So, I unfortunately do not have much to say about this day right now. I seem to only remember the best part-- I WALKED 139 METER LONGLINE!!!!!New personal best :)

I walked it on my fourth try. We will have to set it up again sometime because I only walked it one way, still need to walk both ways. I remember also tensioning the line, and all the rotten apples on the ground which were very unpleasant feeling when you squished them between your toes. Then your feet smelled like rotten apples, really nice. Damian and Janek walked the 139 No problem, first try, full man. Not surprising, but they set a new polish record. Korny took some tries on the line as well, and walked quite a bit of it. So, it was a successful day. Apparently I set a new women's longline record but as we all know slackline records are usually word of mouth, so if a girl somewhere out there has walked longer, I apologize! We also set up a 105 meter longline, which I full manned OS. The photos here are from that line, which was rigged with white magic, white color. The 139 was rigged with red colored white magic. I will publish photos of that line and me on it in the near future.

The next day Kornie and I set up a very very loose 50 meter line in a park right next to Kornie's cousins' apartment. We were basically just craving some slacking so decided we may as well go for a short session. It was a good day, as I found 5 zlotys in the dirt under the tree our anchor was on, and some change as well. Kornie sent it onsight full man, I full titted it (fell on the first try, LAME!) Some women talked to Kornie about slacklining with blind children, which I thought sounded like a really great idea. It would be very beneficial for their balance and spacial awareness. Slackline Therapy! The next big thing! That night Kornie cooked some crazy concoction for me that tasted kind of like a kebab, and it involved lettuce, tomato, pickles, chicken and about two kilos of mayonnaise and ketchup. It was good, though I had a strange thought that I was in the making of a clogged artery later in life :)

Things I learned in Poland

1. Do not say zejebisde to grandmothers.
2. Hitchhiking is really easy in Poland, it is an old tradition there.
3. Polish trains often have no heating (or too much in some cases) and the only difference between first class and second is the color of the car, and the curtains are a little nicer.
4. Polish train bathrooms are slightly worse then a prison bathroom.

5. Poland is cheap.
6. Pronouncing polish words correctly for an American is practically impossible. Must drink vodka first.
7. The Polish really do drink vodka like it is water. Do not think you can drink the same amount and be OK.
8. Not very many people there speak English.
9. You can ride public transportation for free, however be prepared to run from ticket controllers.
10. Polish food is delicious, especially home cooked, be prepared to double your weight though.
11. Graffiti everywhere, most illegible.
12. A shop is called a sklep.
13. There are dogs and cats running free everywhere, and somehow the dogs never get hit by cars.
14. The parks have quite a bit of dog shit in the grass, not nice when you are barefoot and fall off the slackline.
15. Polish sausage is called Kielbasa. Everyone in Poland eats it.
16. Lots of words that I do not know how to spell.
17. Fruit trees grow in abundance, free fruit!
18. Polish drivers are crazy. If there is a pedestrian in the street they speed up.
19. There is a stereotype about the Polish stealing everything...haven't experienced it, so maybe it is not true...
20. There is a taxi service called FART TAXI. Fart apparently means 'luck' in polish, needless to say, taking a Fart Taxi is hilarious.
21. During warm months the freaking Soviet Mosquito's come out, and can bite through two layers of clothing. Repellent does nothing.
22. There are many beautiful polish women.
23. Many polish guys sport the lovely Euro-mullet or faux-hawk.
24. Polish bitches love their shiny clothing and accessories.
25. Polish grandmothers will feed you until you are about to pop, then insist you have cake.
26. Southern poland is beautiful!
27. You will get a ticket for putting your feet on the seats in a train.

More to come! As my polish adventures continue...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lądek Zdrój - Przegląd Filmów Górskich

Janek and I hitchhiked from Wrocław to Lądek Zdrój on September 20th, to do a slackline presentation for the Mountain and climbing film festival. Damian took a train, and since Kornie lost the coin toss he hitchhiked alone. Hitchhiking is so common in Poland, we sometimes would be dropped off and have to wait behind another hitchhiker until he was gone. We made it to the town very quickly, and waited around until Borys Bednarek (the guy who arranged our participation in the event) arrived. Our first thoughts were of course, where to set up a slackline. There was a stage, with a large metal frame around it for the purpose of attaching a tent or cover of some kind. So, we recieved permission to set up a line across the stage from a tree to this metal frame. We used White Magic, and the line was about 25 meters long. On one side the stage ended, and it dropped off quite a ways down, so walking the line over this side was almost the feeling of a midline, since if you fell you could hit some stone steps or the benches and possible injure your ankle or legs.
Anyhow, we played around on this line for a while, then Szymon arrived and we rigged down and went to the guesthouse we were staying in. It was a large room with four couches, one on each wall, a table in the middle and a small bathroom with a defunct shower curtain that allowed water to get everywhere. After pizza for dinner, we just had to get a bottle of vodka (and another half bottle) chased by grapefruit juice. Damn Polish guys! It is not so easy to keep up with them and their vodka drinking abilities. We watched a great film called "The Boat That Rocked." By the time we all passed out on our designated couches (and Szymon on the floor) it was fairly late and we were all fairly drunk.

The next day the guys set up a tree highline in a lovely park area next to the Festival.

It was between two great old trees, quite high. There was no backup. I still had my cast on and was too nervous about using my wrist so I decided against trying the line. Janek and Damian both walked it, Kornie walked most of it and I sat on the grass below feeling a bit kaputt.

After this we went to do our presentation. We should have practiced at least once to see that everything went smoothly, however being the slackers we are we just assumed it would go easy peasy, however it turned out that the computer hooked up to the projector was a Mac, and I was the only one with experience in Macs, however the computer was all in Polish and so my knowledge was useless. After much changing of cables and eventually entire laptop we were able to begin. Janek and Damian started, talking about the history of slacklining etcetera. Between the four of us we took turns taking the front and presenting our information. They were speaking in Polish, so when I talked about my own personal slackline experiences Damian translated. We showed pictures for each topic, such as the basics of slacklining, the different types of the sport (trickline, longline, highline, waterline, and so.) gear, rigging, and a few other things. We had two hours, which was a long time to keep a group engaged, but overall I think our presentation went great.

Afterwards we set up a long rodeo line, underneath the tree highline. It was nighttime so the only light available was the orange-yellow glow from the park lamps. This made the line even more difficult. I was starting from chongo, since to create a rodeo line so long we had to set the rope high up. At one point I fell off and landed quite hard on my ass, which hurt the next few days. Rodeos are good conditioning! The are on one hand similar to longlines, in that you use much of the same muscles trying to steady the line, however they feel much different and to me more difficult than a longline.

That night there was a concert on the stage our slackline had been on, by a Czech band called Minus 123 Minutes. They were great! I am pretty certain the entire town of Lądek Zdrój was in the arena. We sat in front drinking beer and watching the end of the concert, and after every "last song" the audience would scream "Encore!!" (in polish of course) and the band would return and sing another. Unfortunately the very excited youth of the audience all ran down and lined up to dance in front of the stage, which happened to be right in front of myself, Kornie, Janek, Damian and Szymon. Annoying, but funny to watch. These people were dancing very strangely, like drunk hippies at a reggae concert, yet there was no reggae and they did not look like hippies.

There was a very serious looking group of security guys next to the stage, whose faces showed that they wanted the damn concert to end. This lovely group of dancers then ran onto the stage for the last song, and the serious looking policja followed to escort them down. The singer of the band said "its ok its ok" and so the strange dancing drunk kids stayed. At least then our view was clear.

Afterwards there was more vodka and ŻUBR and grapefruit juice in our room, with four people who I did not know. At some point I was feeling pretty wasted, and we put on the movie Monsters vs. Aliens and I passed out in the beginning. Kornie, who is such a great friend, woke me up with a wet willy in my ear. I remember the first one, however apparently there were several more during the duration of the movie but I dont remember.

The next day we woke up and left the room, kindly leaving a massive pile of beer and vodka bottles, all the boys took shits in the bathroom then voluntarily told me all about it ("Too Far!") Then we went to the tree highline and set up a couple more lines, the rodeo again, and a quite high up slackline (to keep the children off we had to set it up so high.)There were way too many people there, but other then that the weather was lovely. We took some nice raunchy pictures of all our gear laid out and ready.

It was like our own little slack-park. I met Damian's mother, and of course added her to the list of peoples parents I have accidentally cursed at. They said, "Faith! Say what you know in Polish!" so I said, "Słonko Swieci, ja pierdolę!" Which apparently means "the sun is shining, Fuck yes!" So, now as a rule the only thing I will say to anyone in polish is hello.

So, the trip went well, while we ate too much pizza and drank too much vodka and spent all the money we earned as we earned it, really it was a great time. It was also really great to have the entire Everyday Average Normal Crew together, all at the same time, slacklining and acting like retards. And doing a presentation bringing together everyones knowledge and oppinions was lovely.
So, on to the next adventure!
Pictures in this blog were taken by myself, the beautiful ones by Damian Czermac and some by Michał Korniewicz.