One summer ago, I travelled around Europe for the first time. I left home with a list of recommendations and too many expectations- an itinerary impossibly packed, and then maybe glanced at twice the entire trip. My two months there was the most exhilarating and exhausting thing I've ever done. It's a test of endurance in a way, and to come back home (disheveled but fulfilled, and still craving more), is a sure sign of individual strength. Somewhere in the middle, when everything started to blend together and look the same, checking off monuments became far less important. Two of us at 2am rain-drenched walk down a paris alley, the little cinema house we fell asleep at, the lady who designed daft punk's album cover and told me her favorite cafe and where Sofia Coppola stays, pressed flowers from a sad day in Stockholm. The incredible thing about travel, especially returning to the same cities a year later, or even your own city, is that in the places you visit, and people you meet, you can tell how much you've changed in between, and will change again, how much you let go, and how you become a little more open each time.
My friend Ian Tulud, who works at William Stout Bookstore in SF, just came back from his first Europe trip, a two-week exploration of Berlin, Stockholm, and Helsinki. He documents his life and travels on film, and when he shared the developed photos after his two weeks, I was blown away by the exuberance and personality, the eclectic style and just LIFE that he captured in his travel photos. He brings a sharp architectural eye to his photos, and through his lens, observes the contrasting parts of each city beautifully. I asked Ian a few questions about his travels, the young artists he met, and the details that caught his eye there:
Who is the girl in the killer floral-on-floral-on-floral combo?
Her name is Linnea. It was taken during Sideways Festival, inside what used to be a slaughterhouse at Teurastamo. Heavy rain came down throughout the two-day event, but it did not stop her colorful look during the unlucky weather we had.
You visited three incredibly vibrant European cities. Can you describe each city in a few words/ memories?
Helsinki—Jugend architecture and its door frames, buoyant air along the Ring Rail Line, Suomenlinna morning (sea fortress), birch tree in kulttuurisauna, Kelela at Sideways Festival, ruisleipä, Alvar Aalto's plants on his balcony, karaoke at Mann's street, Kallio church
Stockholm—Vasterbron bridge, Hornstull flea market, 3:33 AM sunrise, Stockholm Public Library, Fika that was given to me by a Ménage à Trois, Emmaus flower arrangement entrance, Yayoi Kusama at Moderna Museet, discovering Hilma af Klimt's abstract work, running into Lykke Li twice, view from Fotografiska café
Berlin—the sleepy black cat at Motto Books, biking over the bridges of Spree River, a glass of wine for 3€, Holocaust Memorial, JEK football club at Lenaustraße, Vaso at Sing Blackbird, Tempelhofer Feld
As you were wandering the streets of Helsinki, Stockholm, and Berlin did any interesting details stand out to you- moments you would never find back home?
How the cobblestones affect everyday life in all three cities. It makes you slow down, look around, be more present. Smartphones aren't ubiquitous like they are here. I was sitting outside a cafe on my first morning there, and a young woman takes a seat across from my table and starts reading a newspaper. I never see that in the Bay Area!
"Anna lent me her road bike during my stay in Helsinki, after only knowing me for a day. Fininish people are the nicest, I swear. I felt a sense of liberation after pedaling around the compact city.
One morning, I took it with me on a boat ride to Suomenlinna, a fortress built around six tiny islands. It was a peaceful time there. At one point, I had the whole beach and the Baltic Sea to myself. It was the first time I saw something different in between the three cities."
I’ve never been to Berlin, but films like Wings of Desire and Christiane F. and Bowie’s influence on youth culture have always fascinated me. I imagine a large city amplified by extraordinary history and change- young, sad, bleak, alive. How did being in Berlin in 2016 make you feel? Did your experience differ from what you expected?
I came to Berlin without any expectations. My accommodation wasn't booked until the day before flying there. There was a rainstorm and I had a stomach pain that would not go away. Despite that, I rented a three-speed bike that helped me see the sprawling city through a panoramic window. I caught a glimpse of the interplay between decay and growth. Tempelhof Airport is a good example of this; an iconic pre-World War II commercial airport, now turned public space. Berlin is a beautiful and scary place to get lost in. At one point, I stopped using Google Maps because some of the places I visited were either closed or under construction.
Wow. And do you feel like you changed from when you first started traveling to when you left?
Absolutely. Traveling opens up space in you. You take in the experience and share it back home. I got used to the slower and quiet pace there. The main difference here is the over-saturation, loudness, and the dangers of a cyclist. But you come to accept this country for what it is. I was lucky enough to travel to these places without expectations or major setbacks. Aside from breaking my phone the night before leaving for my trip ha.
All photos by Ian Tulud