Words + Video by Brett Nichols
Állatkert documents my travels in Central and Eastern Europe, which occurred only because the skateboarding world is such a small one. I went with the intention of being a tourist, but knew my cameras and skateboard needed to come, even if the plan was not definite.
In Minsk, Belarus, I was able to hook up with the Black Blocks Familia by pure chance - a friend knew a friend who told me I could meet skaters in a specific plaza. Knowing no one, I was quickly welcomed into a motivated crew of street skaters, just because I walked into a plaza with a skateboard. This pure hospitality lit the spark and I needed to document as much as I could.
I knew I would be skating in Budapest, Hungary when planning the trip as I had received a warm invite from Bálint Bence, the man behind the Rios Crew. I had never met him. I don’t remember who contacted who first, but we enjoyed each other’s videos, and that was enough. We didn’t actually make any plan to skate every day, but each day the guys wanted to keep going, and it was everything I could have hoped for.
By this point, I was fairly certain I was going to take some down time from documenting while in Vienna, Austria. I met my friend Johnny Voskuyl there who kept telling me I needed to street skate with the Turtle Productions guys - a group of skaters with the same spot hunting appreciation I have. Johnny didn’t really have a direct connection so it was something I hadn’t considered possible. One morning I’m getting coffee and strike up a conversation with a barista who turned out to be Nigel Javus from the Turtle Productions crew! I met up with him and Turtle founder Lucas Jankoschek later that day and the stars aligned again.
Late into planning my trip, Sergej Vutuc reached out about meeting in Prague, Czech Republic to skate with Latvian Fricis Štrauss. Another connection that was made on previous adventures, introducing me to a new international friend that documented more tricks in 2 days than I have ever seen in 20 years of holding a camera.
I’ve always gone on skate trips, year after year, and for some reason I thought on my next trip I should tip the scales toward being a tourist. Once again, I learned that experiencing a new culture and a new city is done best through skateboarding. While this is an oft cited mantra, I forgot how small our world can be. Without much effort, skaters just find each other.