Photos: Deville Nunes
Words: Steven Reeves
“Every trip has it’s ups and downs. Whether it be not finding places to stay, long drives, weather, etc… After Sweden and Denmark we were sure that we were on an “up”. We got picked up in Malmö after having to get a hold of Brad through his girlfriend’s instagram. The drive was easy with a spacious van and we even ended up taking a ferry somewhere in there as well. My goal was to only speak German for as long we were in Germany. So I was less than talkative for the first four or so hours driving. I ended up breaking language when we ran into some of our friends from the States at a completely random rest stop off the German highway. A few English words with the homies and we’re off to Munster to skate for a couple of days.
Münster had a place aptly named, Skater’s Palace. This place had a full street course that doubled as a concert hall, a complete dining hall, and a mini-ramp suspended above the street course – not to mention the DIY bowl that was soon to be constructed. After filming for a bit and a couple of demos, one of which was at a skatepark on top of a skateshop, we continued our journey to the city of Köln.
We check into our hotel in Köln and decide to walk around the city a bit. Around one of the corners we turn to see a huge cathedral. I mean a couple of city blocks huge. After picking our jaws up off the floor everyone proceeded to share such a sight with the social media of the world. It was in this city we actually had a day with nothing going on. I would hate to call it a day off, but a lot of times on skate trips you really don’t get a chance to be a tourist. So this day we did just that, armed with cameras we decided to go to the top of this cathedral. Unbeknownst to us, we had a 553 step spiral staircase to climb up. This staircase was so small we pretty much had to walk in single file. About 500 or so steps up, my mild fear of heights kicked in a bit. Yet, we made it to the top and the view was well worth the travel. Photos were taken and breath was caught before we descended down from what seemed to be an unreal adventure. That same day a couple souvenir shop runs went down, one of which ended up in us getting kicked out for no apparent reason. I guess a bunch of American skateboarders aren’t the best looking bunch of guys to have in a shop full of expensive and very fragile merchandise. Nonetheless, everyone ended up finding something and we ended the day drinking huge beer steins you would fully expect from a German bar, while watching a robotic two “man” band by the name of Tünnes and Schäl.
On the way to Berlin from Köln we pretty much just jammed Black Sabbath and talked about how psyched we were that we could stand up in the van because it was so tall. Our conversations came to an abrupt end as we pulled into the city itself. Spots were everywhere, and we made sure that each and every one was fully verbalized. We hadn’t even got out of the van and we were bummed on only having a day there. As we hurry to check into the hotel we realize how sketchy the elevator is, and some guys take the stairs while others roll the dice so to speak and brave the elevator. The first spot we hit was a place called SkateHalle, which is a huge indoor skatepark that (again) had pretty much everything you could want in it: a vert ramp, street course, bowl, concrete DIY, and another indoor concrete park. Again with the frustration of time constraints in our heads we skated as much of it as we could before we had to go. We ended the day with an awesome plate of nachos and spent the rest of the night searching for spots for the next day.
Narrowing spots down to four or five from the dozens we had to choose from wasn’t an easy task, but we somehow pulled it off. Us being on foot for the day definitely played a huge part on the spot choosing though. The first spot was a huge metal skatepark that came complete with a tall metal snake run into a brutal wall at the end. We skated it as long as we could until the rain got to us eventually. Realizing how hard it would be to stay on foot with all the camera gear, we met up with someone with a car. However, there wasn’t enough room for everyone so Josh and I had to take trains to meet up with everyone. So with my limited German and Josh’s keen ability to read maps we Amazing Race’d it around town all day. We skated a couple more amazing spots, one of which had quite an abundance of parkour and couples making out in fields. Later that night we ended up walking around finding a place to eat and we walked by a bar playing Amon Amarth and I had to persuade the team to go in for at least a game of pool. Brad owned us all in foosball and we closed the night out there.
The next day we come downstairs to meet the driver who is going to take us to Poland for the Baltic Games (which is pretty much Poland’s X-games). We had no idea what to expect as we came down dragging all of our luggage. We see a short, angry looking man who simply turns to us and says, “Baltic Games?”. We nod and load everything we own into what seems to be a strangers van. As he pulls out of the parking lot to let us in I’m sure all of us had the sinking feeling of, “if he just pulls away, we’re fucked.” Luckily for us, he didn’t. He did inform us (in very broken English) that the drive was seven hours. Little did we know that is was seven hours at 100 mph on a one lane road, while passing cars around corners. I’m usually one to pass out in long van rides, this one was a bit different though… No one slept, and we spent about seven hours trying to decipher our drivers explanation of “forest hookers”, which are pretty much prostitutes who just hang out in the most random forest spots looking for work. After an excruciating ride we pull up to what seems to be an apartment building and our driver hurries us out and leaves. Not knowing where we were, we get lucky enough that the manager of the building comes out and realizes we were there for the Baltic Games and shows us to our rooms. The contest itself went really well. Some highlights include the “mandatory” riders meeting which consisted of a Go-Kart championship (that Josh won), Brad giving the classic “suck it” motion to an unsuspecting camera (that just so happened to be the live webcast), and the after party serving full bottles at the bar.
After the contest we were all psyched to get out of the indoor arena and see what spots the city of Gdańsk had to offer. One of first spots we encountered was a DIY bowl in an old abandoned building. The building was one of many that had been used in the war, most of them particularly used to make German U-boats. Due to the fact that said buildings were in the process of being demolished we actually had to drive through a checkpoint and tell the guard we were there to skate. The bowl itself was really fun and the locals were more than welcoming. BBQ and beers went down into the night. The bowl was so good that we came back the next morning to skate it again.
As we leave the bowl we decide to drive around a bit, in hopes of finding a spot. We take one corner and the van goes into an uproar as we find what seems to be a mirage of a spot. After wiping my eyes a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming I realize we’re sitting in front of what looks like an upside down boat with a perfect five foot quarter pipe on the top. We all scramble to grab boards, cameras, tripods, and other miscellaneous gear and race to the top. Mid session we hear a mess of Polish from the ground below. All I could make out of what seemed like angry jargon was, “Hey! — one million Zloty!” Zloty is the polish currency and without even thinking about exchange rates, we all went into a panic. Our tour guide was still in the van which was just out of earshot from us. We explain that we’re all getting down and leaving, but the yelling from the carload of angry Polish men doesn’t seem to get any better. As we’re packing up gear, one of the guys grabs Terry, our filmer as they’re all yelling, “Police are coming!”. Terry freezes and we all go into fight or flight mode. Just as things are going from bad to worse our tour guide, Piotr runs up and about two minutes of very angry Polish goes down as we all creep back toward the van. Within (what seemed like safety of) the van we realized that during the scuffle Terry had formatted the card of footage in hopes of minimizing evidence incase of a worst case scenario. After a while Piotr comes back to the van and we were all a bit relieved. On the contrary, he explains that the cops are coming and because of the guard at the checkpoint we went through earlier we were pretty much sitting ducks. It was at this point that we all started hiding evidence of us skating the spot. Cell phones went in between seat cushions and other SD cards with photos went into sticker packs. After a long while of Piotr talking to the cops and us sitting nervously in the van, we ended up having two options: Either clean the entire structure and hope it was good enough, or pay 1,000 Zloty (about 330 US) and just get on the road. So we all pitch in and pay it. A pretty expensive session to say the least, and the fact that we had no footage wasn’t really a plus either. Ironically, later on in the trip Piotr actually knew a guy who was able to recover said footage for a price. Adding to the tab on the most expensive session I’ve ever had.
With a somber tone, we prepare for the five hour drive we have ahead of us. Poland isn’t very big on freeways, so it takes a while to get anywhere. The drive goes by smoothly, passing cities such as Niewiesz, which roughly translates to, “you don’t know” in English. We finally pull off in a small town and are faced with a decision, old school spa or new school sauna. Not knowing very much about our soon to be fate, we all agree on the old school idea. As we sign up we are warned on how we shouldn’t really drive or anything after said spa session. Lucky for us, none of us were, so we proceeded to try some of the weird drinks they had there. “Bread Acid” was a top pick along with a honey liquor that tasted like candy. We get into the spa which was a wooden tank filled with all natural mineral water. “Can it get any better?” was a popular phrase at that point. Then, out of nowhere a waitress comes out with a jug of a very dark beer. As we cheer a bit and reach for it, she proceeds to casually pour it into the water! A beer bath was what we were in for. One more jug of porter into the water and everyone starting feeling a bit more than just relaxed. As the time winded down and the honey liquor and beer acid flowed, we realized why the warnings were given at the beginning. The hourglass that showed how much time we had left came to an end and so did our time in what seemed like a dream. A saucy ride into the next city was fully in order at this point.
There are so many stories from this trip it’s hard to narrow them down without writing a short novel. We had our ups and downs, going from bathing in beer to sitting in the van hiding our phones. I think it’s safe to say the trip had way more ups than downs. A great time was had by all, we met amazing people, and got to skate some of the best spots I’ve ever seen. Thanks to everyone who showed us around, let us crash on floors, taught us new words, showed us spots, helped us get out there, and made it such a great time.” – Steven Reeves