BW Story - CRM
The Swabian Alb from Above
On a balloon ride over the Swabian Alb, you float silently above forests, meadows and villages. It is all so quiet and the world seems to be in slow motion.
We've already taken off! The wicker basket lifts off so silently from the meadow in the Lautertal valley that you only notice that you are in the air because of the change in perspective. This quiet take-off surprised me, as I had been secretly fighting my fear of flying. I don't like getting on planes - and now I'm supposed to be cruising through the sky over the Swabian Alb in a little wicker basket? With nothing but hot air holding me up? And a pilot who, although very experienced, is basically unable to control his vehicle?
Pilot Rudi Fuchs ignites the burners. The gas hisses in bursts, breathing flames that heat the air inside the 180-kg / 400-lb balloon. The hotter the air, the higher we can fly. And right after take-off, things take an unexpected turn: for a moment, the treetops on the hillside look very close. 'We have to act quickly now,' says 61-year-old Rudi with a laugh, but he doesn't seem concerned. It is reassuring to have this totally relaxed balloon expert in charge; I can talk to him about what is going on. It's so much nicer than being on a plane: here I'm in direct contact with the pilot and the world around me.
The effect is dramatic. Even before we are up and over the mountain, my fear of flying is gone. Everything up here makes me happy. The morning sun. The incredible silence. The peace. It's amazing how quietly we're flying - sorry - drifting. And how beautiful the Swabian Alb is on a morning like this. At seven o'clock, the fog still hangs over the meadows, the dark forests and the small villages.
"What I like about ballooning is that it is so slow and deliberate," says Rudi Fuchs. "It is a real art to work out where you want to go and where you can land safely when you get there. But I only fly when the weather is absolutely perfect. Apart from the silence, the great thing about ballooning is that you are usually between 500 and 1,000 metres / 1,600 and 3,350 ft above the ground, so you can see a lot of things going on below. A herd of cows galloping. Deer in a field. A cyclist racing downhill on the road below us. We are flying over the Swabian Alb Biosphere Reserve around Münsingen, south-east of Stuttgart; its unspoilt landscape makes it a great holiday destination. But the world below is still asleep and silent.
Although Rudi reckons the wind is blowing at about 15 km / 10 miles per hour up here, we don't really feel a breeze. "It feels like that because we are using the wind to carry us along," he explains. It's a bit like we're in slow motion and someone has turned off the sound. "Today, we'll probably land in Trochtelfingen in about 90 minutes," says Rudi, who has made more than 2,000 balloon flights. But all five of us passengers are first-timers. Carmen gave the ride to her friend Angelika to help her overcome her fear of heights. Siggi and Erwin have wanted to do this for a long time. And me? I just stand in the basket and envy the birds. In the distance we see Hohenzollern Castle. We hop over a small wood near Trochtelfingen and then sink back to earth as if everything were happening in slow motion. With an imperceptible bounce, the basket lands on a meadow. Time to climb out, pack up and have breakfast. I pat Angelika on the shoulder. We two cowards have made it. No, we did more than just make it. I can tell by the look on her face. We both really enjoyed it!