Free falling from Berlin’s highest building

If facing aggressive traffic on a bike (with no helmet, of course) and shouting vagrants don’t pump enough urban adrenaline into the veins of angsty Berliners, now they can jump off the city’s tallest building. The Local’s Kristen Allen survived the 100-metre plunge.

Free falling from Berlin's highest building
Photo: DPA

Just over two weeks ago, Munich-based adventure company Jochen Schweizer opened their Base Flying experience from the top of Berlin’s tallest building, the 39-floor Park Inn at the central Alexanderplatz. The company, which offers an array of other activities – such as a €35,000 mini-submarine dive at the Titanic wreck – has billed Base Flying as providing the thrill of base jumping, with the safety of bungee jumping.

“It’s singular – the only machine in Europe that can simulate a free fall,” Base Flying manager John Davis told me as I peered into the sleek and intricate €400,000-gear salad. “It’s a fun-machine,” he smiled.

Moments before, I’d signed a release form indicating that I was not drunk, suffering from a mental disorder or uncomfortable with the fact that “injuries of a grievous nature cannot be ruled out.”

In what is hopefully the closest I will ever come to being a Dead Man Walking, I rode the elevator 37 floors where I was greeted by a casino worker who said, “Have a nice flight.” Climbing two more flights of stairs, Jochen Schweizer signs mocked my anxiety with phrases like, “What are you thinking?” and, “Take a deep breath.”

After stepping out onto the blustery platform to behold the glistening TV tower from a stunning new perspective, I donned a white jump suit, stepped on a scale, and was fitted into a harness by adrenaline junky types who had clearly earned their bronzed muscles the old-fashioned way.

It was not this, but the ant-like crowd below that caused me to lose the power of speech as I stepped onto the edge of the jump platform, was told to look down, and felt my body lowered until I was suspended face down above the ground.

Like most good things in life, it was over in less than 10 seconds, and still worth the trouble. The first few seconds were pure terror that melted into a few more seconds of smooth euphoria, followed by the rush of self-reflection that accompanies a brush with death.

“You spend five to six seconds in a free fall, and four to five seconds braking, so it’s between nine and 11 seconds total,” technician Thomas Müller, who has done the jump some 25 times, told me as I recovered (and wondered how it was possible for my knees to sweat).

Unlike bungee jumping, there is no jerking motion as your body nears the ground, he said. The Base Flying machinery has two separate digital braking systems tuned to seamlessly ease the jumper to the ground.

The machine has two speeds, 40 to 50 kilometres per hour for “those with a lot of fear,” and up to 90 kilometres per hour for daredevils like me.

As for safety, the Base Flying machine has been tested more than 500 times, and serviced more than 500 paying customers without a hitch since mid May, according to John Davis.

“Some people have come to get over their fear of heights, and only four people have turned back,” he said. “Otherwise everyone has been overwhelmingly thrilled.”

Where: Park Inn, Alexanderplatz

Price: €99

Weight: 50 to 110 kilogrammes

Open daily from May 15-June 30. Weekend appointments from July 1.

All jumps are weather permitting.

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.