Sooner or Later, Stories Need to be Told - from Cyprus to Bulgaria to Greece
Article by Christos Yiannaki
Photography by Tony Josephides
Additional photography by Christos Yiannaki
Fakie Pop Shoveit photo by Christos 'Mantilas'
Temperatures are reaching sky level. Naturally, we are all getting ready to face another phenomenal summer in Cyprus, and this report is not to advise the weak and the vulnerable. We have seen a lot of that lately in the weirdest way. So, staying home will be more fashionable this year (until further notice at least). The following words are especially for those who don't see too much time at home as a choice. We gathered up something special to boost you up for the summer. To those who are burning anyway by the fire within, Stay_K is backing you up with extra flammable oil. Don't forget to support the spirit as well as the body.
We may or may not be able to easily travel in some cooler countries this year. Even though, gear up. Skate spots are endless, if you look for them well enough, aren't they? When they are surrounded by sea, even more convenient. Make those #islandlife posts worth a while. The lockdown has dropped. Even cloths have dropped due to heat. If it's not midday with 40°C plus, from which you would be roughly excused, you should already be out there celebrating this time of the season and skateboarding.
Last year in August, Christos 'Mantilas', Tasos Panayi, Tony and me were fortunately organised enough for a tour from Larnaca to Sofia in Bulgaria to Athens and Andros island in Greece. A trip that lasted nine days. Roso joined us later to retain balance between laziness and energy within the group. He managed so well that, in fact, he got drunk at Larnaca Airport and suddenly woke up at Syntagma Square in order to sleep again, while Tasos was nailing the most epic Ollie the rest of us had ever witnessed. This event is just a small example of how wild it was. From a 5 hrs hiking at the tallest mountain in Bulgaria's capital to boat trips in the Aegean Sea to a wasp sting in a forest after midnight, this skate tour had it all. But, let's take things from the beginning.
At the first destination - Sofia, Bulgaria - there was one particular unforgettable experience, other than the skate sessions. One day we decided to take the lift for Vitosha mountain and, having the classic last-moment Cypriot mind set, we arrived at the lift 15:30. At the station we found out that the lift was closing at 17:00, which meant that we'd have an hour max to chill on top and explore. Few moments later, we were like "Fuck it! We are going up and we'll see what happens." Upon arrival, we checked the map on our phones. "It's only a 5 hrs walk. We got it for sure." It sounded cool, previously thinking it would be close to 7 hrs, because we viewed the city getting smaller and smaller from the lift before. As eventually turned out, due to our last-minute along with the fuck-it mind set and determination, those 5 hrs spent in the nature of Vitosha - with its challenging downhills and beautiful scenery - were awesome despite draining a lot of our energy. And we were serious about the whole thing. We wouldn't let the night find us in the middle of an unknown forest. So, when we had to hurry, we kept on walking; when our calculations seemed to allow for a few minutes rest, we rested. Also, personally, I would like to point out that I was wearing the Vans canvas Slip-on during this whole journey. Just as soon as we'd reached flat ground and civilization again, it was awesome that we found a nice restaurant. Not only it was luxurious for our standards and had a nice front porch where our table was, there were also €3 offers for 1,5 ltr pints. In fact, during our stay in Sofia, we were having 5-star meals for less than €10 on the usual.
Skateboarding-wise, we went to a lot of spots: the legendary NDK square (shout out to @all.day.ndk), the Knyazheska Garden with its diy and glorious metal vert ramp, rough street spots and other sweet buttery-ground plazas. On the other hand, there are spots where we'd love to go and the clock didn't allow. One good example is Five High, an indoor skatepark on the fifth floor of an abandoned warehouse. Skateparks have tough luck, for the spirit of street skateboarding is always among our crew, since parks are a totally new thing in our homeland. Another good example is the Grindhouse Skateclub, featuring a live music venue with a bar and indoor mini ramp. This one must had been definitely on our list. Well, what can I say? There is always tomorrow, even if it never comes. I don't want to sound pessimistic but, being a skateboarder for fifteen years, I've come to learn that out of all the "next time" I've said, only 10% are working out. Sometimes it's the nerve to revisit a trick that kicked your ass or the spot doesn't exist anymore or it's in another country, like in this case.
During our stay in Sofia, being on a mission mode, we completely skipped partying. However, on the last day at midnight, me and Tony - since Mantilas and Tasos are not friends with alcohol - decided to check the nightlife district. Instead of raving, we ended up making friends with a hobo who wanted to drink our beers and, later, spending one hour at an outdoor vintage shop. This shop was located in the middle of a dark park and the owner was nowhere to be found, which struck us by surprise. In addition to this mysterious atmosphere, there was an old radio that, between glitches, was playing favorite classic rock tunes. We collected a drawing, a couple of early 20th century letters because of their stylish hand writing, and a notebook. We dropped a few leva in a box that said to pay as much as we wanted and we were on our way back to the apartment to pack for tomorrow's flight.
The legendary NDK square.
Funny fact: when spelling, in Greek it sounds like 'eleven'. Έντεκα.
This is the first spot we'd hit shortly after our arrival in Sofia. Actually, it was opposite our apartment in a nice park. There was a tavern next to the spot too, so this trick was performed with a full belly which raises difficulty.
Tasos Panayi - 'heavy' waist high BS Crooked
Tony Josephides - FS Boardslide warm up
"Five hours walk sounds good."
Pathway to adventure.
Vitosha Mountain, Sofia
We followed the rails of the older lift to find our way down.
Gnarly spot for hiking for sure.
Tasos - 5050 attempt at a metro station
We got kicked out really quickly by the bald guy you see in the photo. He called the cops.
The outdoor vintage shop.
Roso managed so well that he got drunk at Larnaca Airport and suddenly woke up at Syntagma Square in order to sleep again.
Notice the big boy sleeping on the bench in the background?
That's Roso Pwnd and we've got a lot of love for him!
Syntagma Square, Athens
About the second destination of the tour - Athens, Greece - I will start with the negative and then go on with the positive. I can fairly say that being there in the middle of August and particularly spending 15th of August there was the worst idea. All the local skaters were having the time of their lives in some Greek paradise island, while we were stuck in the capital melting from the heat, limping from the excessive mountain walks and skateboarding of the past days, and watching the junkies shoot them selves in the infamous Omonoia* where our hotel was at (thankfully their breakfast was much nicer than the view). We managed to stumble upon few friends and the main subject of our conversations was their plans for the next days far from the city, of course.
We paid our short visit to the Enigma Bowl in Andros island, as I'm telling in later paragraphs. Now, you are wondering what's negative about that, but please let me continue to the peak of this story. There, on the last night, Roso and me and Tony decided to go exploring, again, at midnight. We prepared the necessary: cameras, beers and Roso's speaker. So, everything was looking good. At first, we took a nature's trail that is located near BluEnigma and is a well known tourist attraction. After about a 20 mins walk using the phone's flashlight, the trail led us to a small opening with a small waterfall and lake, home to big frogs and many insects flying around. We chilled there - shot some photographs and did our own kind of meditation - and then decided to follow a different trail, not as frequent and known. This one leads further into the dark woods and ends where a bigger waterfall and lake lies, about which a local had told us. Soon, we realized the new trail was not at all like the one behind it. It had taken us deeper and deeper into wildlife environments. Huge frogs, bigger and more insects, difficult routes, and some adrenaline. Eventually, none of us reached the big waterfall and lake. In a split of a second, for a pissed off wasp who attacked, I had turned into a victim of the forest - running for dear life, I dragged the others with me. In a split of a second, from a mysterious and interesting place that sparked our imagination and curiosity, in my eyes the forest had become as hostile as a skatepark full of scooter kids. My chest quickly started burning and doubling in size by the poisonous sting.
Shooked by much pain and surprise, the only thing I longed for was the comfort of the hotel, painkillers, and google to ask if I was gonna die or not. As it turned out, if you aren't allergic to bee stings (and I am served well by bees in my lifetime) then you aren't allergic to wasp stings. I was relieved. Mantilas gave me some antiseptic balm and I was off to sleep. In the end, it was just another new experience. No hard feelings. After all, we are the ones who invaded their home and disturbed their sleep.
* Bonus film recommendation: "ΤΣΊΟΥ" is a cult classic to somehow get you into the mood we were at. The theme is August 15 in Athens and the life of a sick junky. The characteristic difference, of course, instead of being real junkies, we are a bit of adrenaline junkies.
Crossing new places means you don't always know exactly the way to reach your destination. Thankfully, working your way through, there are interesting things to stumble upon. Make it worthy.
Christos Yiannaki - Fakie Pop Shoveit over the rail and into the bank
It had taken us deeper and deeper into wildlife environments. Huge frogs, bigger and more insects, difficult routes, and some adrenaline.
Star trails as seen from the small waterfall and lake.
Andros island, Greece
"Next go I'm hitting the coping".
The only negative about BluEnigma is that we stayed for a very short time.
Always ready to shoot some.
Now, regarding the positive, as I mentioned, we had booked a ferry for Andros island and its famous BluEnigma Hotel, which features a mint skate/bmx bowl and snake run (big shout out to Nikos, the owner, who designed and built it). If you are not familiar with the place, check the film ''In Search of the Blu Enigma". Upon our arrival - three hours before midnight - and after talking with Nikos, we understood that we couldn't skate the bowl so late. We decided to explore the village, see the architecture and meet its people, then finish off our day by sleeping under the stars wherever the road would lead us. At a supermarket opposite the main square of the village, we bought water, bread, cans of food, fruits and beer. Finally, our bed of choice was a yard of a tiny church next to the sea, from where we could gaze at the lighthouse and the houses on rear hills. With the usual - a speaker, late night talks and laughs, and lil' sleep - we had yet passed another night of an epic tour, this time in gypsy life mode.
On the first couple of days in Athens, though, there was a lot of skateboarding involved and we successfully stacked clips for the upcoming Stay_K full length video, for which we all work hard. Those first sessions in Greece, eventually, drained out the rest of our energy, but of course there are no regrets. It was inevitable, for it's been always internationally acclaimed that the city is a mecca for street skateboarding. Nevertheless, that is one reason which didn't allow us to get serious tricks at the Enigma Bowl. If you plan to visit, it's good to know that you'll need some time to get used to the curves, mostly because the spot was originally built for bmxers, as the owner is one of them. And until we'd achieved getting used to it, we'd already had difficulties picking ourselves up from the hot concrete. For example, me and Tasos were about to accept the challenge to hit the oververt coping, but then it was beyond us.
Again, that same ''next time'' fits. Maybe it's a good idea to already start planning for next time... this time. I keep hearing a guy named Niparistas, who happens to be an incredible skateboarder and all around ripper, is already in without knowing when and how. The way he puts it is on point: "Watching you guys skating that bowl was like watching someone banging my girlfriend in front of me".
Stairway to our vintage style apartment.
Christos 'Mantilas' - BS Boardslide
Tasos Panayi - BS disaster
Tony Josephides - Tre Flip to Fakie
Early morning in paradise..
I'm wondering, do we have this kind of cinema in Cyprus?
This drawing traveled from Sofia to Athens to Andros then back to Athens then Larnaca and Nicosia, on plane cabins and car seats and a very windy and wet ferry deck. It was carried in a piece of plastic bag and survived extreme conditions to be framed and hanged on my wall. From an unknown artist to a strange vintage shop to a very proud owner, with love.
A lurker at Galatsi diy skatepark.
The tour video, filmed and edited by Tony, that was released shortly after the tour.
Thanks for reading.
#Skaterowned Core to the Bone.