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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.