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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Epic Slackline Trip

So, the thing I have been looking forward to posting about the most is this: An epic trip centered around slacklining in various European cities. It started out as an idea between Kornie and I, however it ended up taking various twists and turns and ended up being another trip altogether.

We originally decided to hitchhike from Wroclaw to Berlin, Germany, then to Czech Republic for a slackline festival, then to Paris, France, and lastly to Barcelona, Spain before heading back to Poland. We planned to slackline in the streets for money in order to fund our trip. Janek decided to come along, so we embarked upon our epic adventure in the end of August.

Our first destination, Berlin, was fan-fucking-tastic. I love Berlin, it is a great city. Janek and Kornie had a friend there, Tomek (Soya) who worked at the Kegel climbing gym in the RAW gelander. Through him we also met Iana, who runs the Skatehalle there. We ended up staying at her place for the week we were there. It was great at first, spending all day hanging out in this awesome area of Berlin, slacklining or whatever we liked really. The first night we went to an awesome Burger restaurant (in what used to be a public toilet, now renovated) and set up a night slackline between the legs of the metal bridge while we waited for our foot. That was when I did my first double drop knee!

After a day we decided to start "work," and took a train to the Hackescher Markt stop, got off and walked around the Marks-Engels building until we found a suitable spot for a line. We made a Slacktrip sign on a piece of cardboard and propped it up on a tree with a jar underneath. At first not many people stopped by, but slowly they came, and took pictures, and some put change in out jar. It was working! We set up a white magic line about 20 meters long, and a shorter trick line with my tubular webbing. Later Janek and Kornie decided it would be better to move out show towards the street, so we moved. The unfortunate thing about this location was that it was right over concrete and uneven stone steps. Oh well! That never stops slackliners! After about 3 hours of doing all we could do, I was surfing on the white magic when I took a fall. It was a stupid fall, because I was surfing right over the uneven steps. My head was on a direct route for the stones, so I instinctively put my arm under me to catch my fall. This was an even worse idea, because I fell bad on my wrist. I went to the bench and sat down holding my injury and wincing at the pain, and within five minutes it had a huge swollen lump on the wrist. Bad news bears. Kornie suggested I go dunk my wrist in the fountain because the cold water would be good for it, so I went and submerged it for a bit. Pain was still a-coming! I went back over to the guys and actually slacklined a bit more, but found that it was an unpleasant feeling. After a bit we headed back to the Kegel, taking in 25 euros in earnings! Not too bad, at least I thought. It was enough to be able to eat. Tomek is very into medical stuff, and took a look at my wrist and decided it was a good idea to see a doctor the next day.

The previous day Iana had fallen in the bouldering gym in a bad way and jacked up her elbow very badly, so she was injured as well, and had to go to the hospital. It seemed to be a week of injuries. That same day two inexperienced climbers had quite an accident; the girl belaying the guy let him off the end of the rope when he fell, and he landed on the wooden roof over some bouldering, leaving a large human size hole in it. Smart. Anyhow, Iana and I were able to be injured buddies and the next day headed to a doctor together. I was shit outta luck because I had no insurance, so she was going to ask if it was at all possible for me to just use hers, however the doctor said No. We scheduled a visit the next day, so two days after the accident I finally met with a doctor. He grabbed my wrist and pressed in various spots, asking "does it hurt?" and I replied " of...YES YES OUCH OUCH OUCH!" so he said I needed an X-ray. So, downstairs we went, I had an X-ray, and when they were printed the very sensitive technician responded "oh ja, es ist Kaputt." Lovely Germans. And yes, I needed some form of cast. So, I was placed in a half-cast, hard on the bottom and wrapped with a bright red bandage. It would have to stay on for 4 weeks, basically the duration of my epic slacktrip. No highlining for Faith! Nooooooo!

Anyhow, while I was gallivanting around the doctors, Jordan Tybon had since joined the Epic trip, and the boys were out working to make some dough. They did quite well in some other locations, however when I returned to the Kegel they informed me of some great news: My slackline had broken. My lovely, tubular threaded webbing that had been so good to me for the half a year I owned it was ripped. It was still usable, but now the pieces were much shorter. Broken wrist and broken slackline. I think skulling a bottle of whiskey would have been understandable in my situation. Anyhow, the guys agreed they would all pitch in and use some of the earnings to buy me a new line eventually, so my broken heart was slightly mended.

After Berlin we were supposed to go to Czech Republic, and Kornie left a couple days early to stop in Wroclaw and see his girlfriend (oh, how romantic!)so Janek and I took off in that direction. Little did I know we would end up in Wroclaw as well. Due to personal reasons Janek decided not to come on the rest of the trip. I was not able to communicate with Kornie and he continued on to the festival, but it was too late for me to make it there, so I slept one night in Wroclaw and went straight back to Berlin the next day. It was my first hitchhiking alone, and I was a bit nervous since I had a kaputt wrist and was a lone female, however it was awesome! I made it from Wroclaw to Berlin in 4 hours! I hardly waited more than 10 minutes anywhere! Anyways, I went to Jordans to stay, and began my attempts at convincing him to come on the epic trip to Paris. Finally after some convincing he agreed to go, and we set out for France. Kornie and his roommate Szimon would meet us there. We made it to Paris fairly quickly, in two days, and stayed with a girl Jordan had couchsurfed with before.

In Paris things are quite expensive, so we started out work immediately. Kornie and Szimon stayed in another place with a girl they had met in Berlin, so in the day we would meet up with them wherever they were with the gear for setting up lines. We first tried a location near a giant fountain, where many people were passing by. I forgot to bring tree protection, so we used a lovely Nike shoe box. Professionals! It was going alright, though not many people were throwing us money. There was also a strange creepy man who was lurking around, and enjoyed sitting near the slackline with a shorts that had a hole in them so that one ball could hang out free. So gross! Three groups of French police came by, and yet all of them passed on after talking to us briefly. We had been there for at least two hours when the fateful group of Police came who destroyed our work environment. They said it was illegal, and that the slackline was a danger to all those people. If there was an emergency on the other side they would not be able to run through! These police were not the most friendly. They threatened Jordan to take him to the station just for yelling to the spectators that the "police were here to help you!" We still earned about 25 Euros in our time, enough to eat that night :)

Our next location was in front of the Arch of Triumph. It was an absolutely beautiful location. No police bothered us, though we only earned about 20 euros. Most people passing were taking more pictures of the Arch than watching us. It was not the best location because of the roundabout which was packed with traffic and the sound of automobiles was deafening. Either way, we were able to eat and drink cheap french wine, so all ended well.

The last location we slacked in was the best. It was near the Louve, on a stretch of sidewalk that had tourists passing constantly. We set up two lines, and encouraged passersby to stop and try. It was a great spot, many people tried, and many people stopped and read out signs and listened to our story. Jordan had to stand in as Janek as the resident jumper, and was getting quite tired. I was slacking as much as possible with my broken wrist, and hoping it did not scare people away from trying. We made 96 Euros in a couple hours there! Then it all went to shit as undercover police came and said it was "forbidden" to slackline or perform any type of art on that stretch of street. They were not nice either, these police. So, sadly and feeling a bit defeated we took our equipment down and headed to find some alcohol. Our earnings that day made up for the police being dickheads, though we wish we had been there longer.

The photographer Loc Boyle who lived at the flat Kornie and Szimon were staying at decided to take some nice shots of us, so we went to a park and all wore the same outfit: Leather gentleman's shoes, a blazer, jeans and a black shirt. I felt especially silly in this outfit, but agreed to wear it for the photographer's vision. It was difficult to walk in shoes that are way too large for your feet, plus I was attempting to try and hold my broken wrist behind my back and out of view. Anyway, the pictures turned out lovely. A super manly French policeman came on his little petit electric scooter and informed us it was impossible and forbidden to do what we were doing in the park, so we took our line down and moved on. Jordan by this time had decided to bail on the trip as well, and he headed back to Berlin.

The next destination was Barcelona, and Kornie and I split off to hitchhike leaving Szimon on his own. We had a difficult time getting through France, and it took the longest to get to Spain on the whole trip. Eventually Kornie and I were picked up by a great Spanish trucker who spoke no English but talked to us the whole time and bought us beers when we made it to Spain. That night a couple friends from Germany (students travelling) picked us up on their way to Barcelona, driving a 25 year old Passat Wagon named "Fritz." We stopped for the night on some beach outside Barcelona, drank wine, talked and eventually passed out in the sand. It was lovely, and the two Germans were pretty cool. In the morning we saw how beautiful out surroundings were! We played on the beach until about noon then headed to Barcelona. Szimon meanwhile had been having a terrible time since his nice camera was stolen that morning from under his feet. When we arrived in Barcelona we parked Fritz in a garage and split off from the Germans to find Szimon. That day we mostly just explored Barcelona, then later I was lost for 3 hours and finally found everyone again slacklining near La Rambla. As soon as I got on the line and began to do some static tricks the Spanish police pulled up and informed us it was "prohibido." Dammit! Not again!

We went to Guell Park, the one designed by Gaudi, and set up a slackline between two Palm tree's there. It turned out to be a great location. No police came, and it was just a fun environment. We made something like 24 euros in an hour, and we all wished we had come to that spot earlier. Slacklining with the view of Barcelona in the background is pretty dern nice. People were so friendly too, some tried the line, many were applauding, and in the end it was just a great experience despite the money. Two little girls even asked for my autograph! so sweet.

We moved to a place a bit farther away, under some palm trees over marble. We were all feeling a bit lazy I think and sort of gave up on attempting to make any money, and just settled for having a good time. That night we slept on the beach and dealt with crazy crackpots coming around asking for cigarettes. The next day the Germans took off, and Szimon, Kornie and I had to sleep on the beach with all out bags. Out remedy for thieves was to have Kornie sleep on top of all the bags, with everything tied together. If anyone wanted those backpacks they were taking Kornie too. It was a noisy and restless night, and the next day we were lazy bums and spent all day on the beach. We thankfully found a place to couchsurf the last night, so we did not have to guard our belongings. The last day we got a ride out of Barcelona with two girls and began our long trek back to Poland. Kornie and I had the most epic hitchhiking of our lives, making it from Barcelona to Wroclaw in under 30 hours! We were even picked up by an empty tour bus on its way through Germany! Epic!

So the trip was scattered, disorganized and slightly chaotic, but definitely a success. I almost went insane travelling with just Kornie and Szimon, since them two enjoy farting and burping as much as anything, but overall I had an amazing time. We saw Berlin, Paris and Barcelona for under 60 Euros each I think! This is phenomenal. And we Slacked our way across Europe. Plus, many people saw slacklining and had no clue what we were doing! So we even had the opportunity to educate people about it.

I think next time it will be a North American Slacktrip ;)

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