Still working on a daily basis and in the middle of an economics study program two friends who grew up skating together in a semi big German town decided to break the monotony. From that point on we had a bit more than a year to finish studies and apprenticeship plus another six months to save our travel budget that we had previously figured out. Luckily we were able to save even a bit more than planned. Within that period we could plan out as much as possible and as less as necessary. That means our planning of the trip was more or less essential to not be prepared for situations that might not ever occur. That narrow planning horizon confined organizing a proper van (which we got really lucky with, a T4 van, already perfectly build out – with a setup including a kitchen in the back and a foldable bed in the cabin, lots of room for storage as well as one camping window, 160,000km on the odometer). We figured out how to deal with an extra health insurance for the European Union which we did not claim at the end because we are covered with our European insurance health card in all public institutions like city hospitals, fixed some parts of the car, adjusted some things to the pre build out setup of the van and of course filled the van with kitchen utensils, tools, sleeping bags, fishing rods, decks, boom box and portable record player including some records and of course some other personal belongings that could not be missed.
Our living in a van experience before the trip was exactly zero, nevertheless we did some camping before and had knowledge about making good campfires and illegal fishing.
Consequently we had some major concerns surviving a long time living in a car. Those were washing stinky skate clothes, daily toilet business, taking showers and still being friends after living in such a small room for so long. Washing was not a problem at all but annoying since it took hours in either laundry places or better hand wash and dry the stuff in the sun. Public toilets could be found everywhere in Europe. You don’t really focus on them in the everyday life but once you need them you start to see them everywhere. No problem at all. Out somewhere in the middle of nowhere bushes and a shovel helped out. We mostly stuck to waters and meeting local skateboarders got us clean after sessions. If we are still friends and still skate together, you can find out at the end of the article.
Our first stop and one of the only planned ones was 2er DIY in Hannover. Since this huge skateboarding wonderland is only a one and a half hour drive away from our hometown we know the park quite well although the locals change a lot around the park every year. Of course our first session was extremely motivated whereupon a shower or bath was necessary. One of the locals recommended a good spot for swimming and sleeping outside the city next to an abandoned rubber and tire factory. The spot was basically perfect but you have to consider that it was the 28th of April in Germany. That means the rivers were still cold from winter roughly estimated at about 12 degrees Celsius which was pretty tough if you’re not used to that. But camp fire and some booze helped out a lot that evening.
We’re not sure exactly what happened that day, if we just acted all naturally or just had too much fun to change our behavior but throughout the whole tour the days didn’t differ too much from that day in Hannover. This was our everyday life. Woke up pretty early to cherish all the sunlight we had, skated with more motivation than ever, and learned more than a trick per week. We met skateboarders from all over europe, made friends, lived in a camp and never actual camp sites or crappy overpriced hostels and talked and thought about skateboarding for almost a year.
There is skateboarding in each and every country we visited on the trip even though we haven’t heard about a scene in, for example, Hungary. Obviously picturing every single day is impossible, therefore we want to talk about the most remarkable places we skated along our route through Europe.
After being in Hannover we went through the north of Germany to the ferry departure to Denmark where we went straight to Copenhagen and skated there for a week. The whole place felt just insanely good for skateboarding. Street and DIY spots literally everywhere. Skateboarding seemed highly accepted by the Danes which what made it definitely worth the visit. Over the bridge to Malmö where we skated a bit all the way up to Norway where we could not stay too long because the price level was out range. We liked Torshov miniramp in Oslo most simply because of the screaming sessions we had there. The vibe was exceptional in the evenings. After we ran out of food in Norway we had to go back to semi expensive Sweden and refill our stock. We went all the way up around the gulf that separates Sweden from Finland. Almost all the way up there next to a town called Ümeå we found one of the most fun spots on the whole trip. A 300 to 400m long metal snakerun-halfpipe with no flat in a forest.
We could not believe our eyes neither the amount of fun that thing provided while carving down. In Finland we went down to Tampere which was our favorite place to skate in Scandinavia if not even all over Europe. Locals and now friends were and still are sick. Street spots, parks, DIY and a skateboarding organization. These guys rent an old factory where they started with an oldschool backyard vert and now finish Kenneli indoor and outdoor DIY which looks like heaven on earth. We can’t wait to go back. After a short stay in Helsinki where we slept right next to Suvilahti we crossed the Baltic sea to Estonia. The landscapes of the Baltic states were amazing, as well as the capital cities’ architecture for skating, especially Riga and Vilnius that had the most amazing spots with flawless sidewalks. Consequently, locals mostly skated street in the Baltics – a high level of skateboarding and very helpful people.
From there we had easy access to Warsaw where we had a few days of rain which was no struggle at all because Powiśle DIY is a rain spot right at Vistula river. Poland as well as Czech Republic were worth a visit alone for the hospitable people and locals who showed us around for the good times. In Prague is the legendary Stalin Plaza. We met up with friends from Germany to go on a street mission. The locals at Stalin Plaza knew all the spots. Afterwards we went to Budapest and skated Sashalmi Pool where we had to snake the kick bikes in order to get a ride in this nice pool and also super smooth Nagyicce DIY outside the city, but somehow there was a huge session with the global Enjoi team going on. We loved the awesome food in that part of Europe but the climate in summer was almost too hot to skate in midday sun. Next destination was the north of Croatia particularly the Istra peninsula which is famous for its breath-taking coastline. Lots of Germans visit that place for holidays to enjoy the sun but we never actually heard about skateboarding around that area. But luckily we went because it got us some really helpful connections to the border of southeastern Europe. There skateboarding was exactly how we like it and always wanted it to be in Germany. Still raw, no glitter. Just skateboarding because of the fun in skateboarding itself and being around with your friends. Istras capital city Pula has a pretty new flow park with no kick bikes. Locals were friendly and told us about Vladimir Film Festival the only independent skateboard film festival in the world which took place the upcoming weekend of our stay.
So we went a few kilometres further to Fažana where the festival took place. Good atmosphere, skateboard films, free food, cheap beer and party. We hope we can make it there next time. We also met Robert Kos who told us to go to Postojna and Ljubljana in Slovenia – their underground scene is too sick. Afterwards we went to the radest place in Italy, Trieste right next to Slovenia, had a small but great skateboarding scene. One of the locals took us on a night session. We could easily cruise the streets all night long and we saw about six or seven different spots that were skateable as well, everything due to the city lights at night. Trieste also had the best downhill we ever took in our lives that only works at night because the traffic was too dangerous in the day time. The bus took us up the city hill for about four or five kilometers. Local Francesco told us to watch the street because that’s also the road we were about to bomb. A bit scared on top of the hill and all fears gone when you take the hill back into town in 10 to 15 minutes. Of course we went for a second run.
Next we went towards the Austrian Alps from Wörgl to Innsbruck. The scene was open and welcoming – ramps and lots of girls who skated – how it’s supposed to be. Along the French Côte d’Azure we headed to Spain for the colder months of the year. We stayed in Barcelona for more than a month to skate street a bit more but didn’t really enjoy the overexposed scene where some skaters didn’t even lift their hand for a quick greeting while crossing you with a board. Nevertheless we became friends with a British family that lived in a car next to us in the parking lot. Son, daughter and mother who are now involved in La Casita DIY project in Fuengirola next to Malaga – of course all three of them.
In Valencia we randomly met Nikolas from September Wheels who helped us find spots all over Spain and invited us to Zürich. The north of Spain was exceptional for transition skating but one has read a lot about it in Confusion as to not repeat shit now.
The raddest things about Spain were the randomly found ditches next to small streets and national roads. Surprise sessions like that were the best fore sure. Toledo an hour south from Madrid has a halfpipe channel ditch with some scary heights. El canal no perdona.
Portugal was more a surf paradise than good for skateboarding but we found many spots that were actually unrideable because there were little white cobblestone everywhere. The secret pearl of Portugal was a small place called Ponte de Lima in the North. CORE skateshop, DIY Pumptrack, DIY pool and new place called Outside DIY which was just insane. A perfect and legal spot under a highway bridge with easy camping and a clear river for a shower. One of our favorite places in Europe.
Then on our way home we stopped in Lyon, and Châtillon right next to it. The small transition scene took us under their wings and made it feel bad to leave the place again because we liked it so much. More or less the final stops outside Germany were Portland, Basel and the Beast in Zürich, crazy sessions with the most hospitable locals in Zürich. Heading back to our hometown we made some stops in the south of Germany and found some spots in the smallest towns and met some friends as well. Last stop Mister Wilson DIY in Kassel which is also only one and a half hours by car from our place. A few days later finally back home after seeing some common faces again one of the gnarliest sessions went off at our local ramp. Everyone was just hyped skating together again and showing the progress made the past year. Positive energy.
After almost one year in a van, 26,000 km, about 2000€ spent on fuel, 20 different countries visited, almost 40 DIY spots skated, destroyed more than 20 decks in total, two 4 week lasting injuries, two languages refreshed, one oil change made, four car lamps replaced (not having any other troubles with the van), 2000 video clips collected for our film, as well as being in love with skateboarding every single day we are still friends. Even more than one can tell. For us that was the ultimate skateboarding experience that will never be forgotten. Thanks to everyone who was involved to make this happen. Thank you skateboarding for showing us how to live life right in order to be happy people.
Words by Konni Newld