During this balloon flight, you will glide as if in slow motion over the forests, meadows and villages of the Swabian Alb biosphere region. And become as calm as author Christiane Würtenberger.
Yay, we're floating! You can really almost miss the moment, because no jerking, no engine howling, no acceleration announces the balloon ride. The basket takes off just like that. This unspectacular takeoff comes as a surprise to me, because I was fighting with my fear until just now. I don't like getting into airplanes - and now I'm supposed to cruise through the sky above the Swabian Alb with four other passengers and a balloon pilot in a small basket? With nothing but a lot of hot air for propulsion? And a captain who is very experienced and who knows the winds and the thermals perfectly - but who basically can't steer his vehicle?
Rudi Fuchs fires instead. And the gas burner hisses at short intervals, spitting fire so that the air in the 180-kilogram balloon gets hotter and we gain altitude. Because right after takeoff, we're heading a bit in a different direction than previously thought - and the treetops on the slope seem precariously at eye level for a moment. "We'll have to make a quick job of it there," the 61-year-old says with a laugh, but doesn't seem worried. It reassures me that I have the deeply relaxed balloon expert in front of me and can chat with him. That's much more pleasant than in an airplane - you're in contact with the pilot and the world around you.
The effect: Even before we are over the mountain, the fear falls off me like a heavy stone and I am happy: about the morning sun. The incomprehensible silence. The peace up here. How quietly one can fly - pardon - drive. And how beautiful the Alb is on such a morning early at seven o'clock - with fog, damp meadows, dark forests, small villages. "Ballooning can't really be compared to flying in an airplane," says Rudi Fuchs as we gently share the atmosphere with our balloon. "I feel very free up here, almost weightless. Ballooning is so slow and deliberate. Still, it's a real art to figure out where you're going to fly and where you can land well in the end. But I also really only launch when the weather is absolutely right." Which in turn means that more than half of the trips have to be postponed. But Rudi Fuchs and his wife also do not have to live from the balloon business. It's more of a passion that started by accident, by the way. A friend bought a balloon cheaply in the early 90s and persuaded Rudi to take his hot air balloon license.
The great thing about ballooning, besides the silence, is that you usually fly 500 to 1,000 meters above the ground and can still see a lot below: the herd of cows galloping excitedly because of the strange dark red giant bubble in the air. The deer in the field taking a dip in the morning sun. The racing cyclist whizzing downhill on the road below us. We're on our way above the Swabian Alb biosphere area around Münsingen, an impressive piece of nature in the southwest and a great vacation region - but it's still a bit early on this Sunday for cars, hikers and recreational cyclists. The world below is largely still. Although Rudi Fuchs measures a wind of about 15 kilometers per hour up here, there doesn't seem to be a breeze. "It feels that way because we use the airstream as propulsion," he explains to us. It's a bit as if we're on slow motion and someone has also turned the sound mute - apart from the occasional fire-breathing gas burner. It has to heat up the 4500 cubic meters of air in the screen at regular intervals. And that's why we're also warm in the basket.
Where is the journey heading? We just do not know. The plan is for us to be in the air for about 1.5 hours. "We'll probably end up somewhere near Trochtelfingen," says Rudi, who has already made over 2,000 trips as a balloon pilot, so he's a very experienced pilot. All five of us passengers are on board for the first time: Carmen has given her friend Angelika the ride as a present so that she can overcome her fear of heights - and Angelika is indeed looking into the distance in a very relaxed way and taking photos with her cell phone. Siggi and Erwin have wanted to do something like this for a long time. The couple gazes devoutly down at the landscape, hardly speaks and obviously enjoys every minute. And me? All my worries are blown away. I would not have thought it possible. I stand in the basket and marvel at the beauty of the world without a rush of adrenaline. Envy the birds. Observe the geometric patterns of the treetops and harvested fields. Discover the Hohenzollern Castle in the distance in the haze. Time flies, yes, a pun - but we're not flying: we're flying because the hot air in the balloon is lighter than the air around it, Rudi explains.
The last small wood near Trochtelfingen is overcome, as if in slow motion we sink, the ground seems to come gently towards us. With an imperceptible hop, the basket touches down on a colorful summer meadow. So climb out, pack up and and then have breakfast together. I pat Angelica on the shoulder with a smile. We two timid ones have made it, too. No, much more than just made it, I can see that in the shining eyes of the person sitting next to me. We really enjoyed it. For the first time, I had the feeling that I was in good hands in the air. Yes, even more: I came down wonderfully during the ascent.
Sound off, eyes open: Balloon flight over the Swabian Alb biosphere region © Dietmar Denger
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