The Die Welt newspaper's hot air balloon is an iconic part of the Berlin skyline. It floats up to a height of 150 metres from a site near Checkpoint Charlie in the centre of Berlin, while always staying moored to the ground, giving visitors a spectacular view of the city.
But on Tuesday 20 tourists got the fright of their lives when the balloon got caught in strong winds. Some of them had to lie on the floor for 20 minutes before they finally reached safety.
According to eyewitnesses, people on board screamed as the balloon swayed around in the gusts.
Peter W., one of the passengers, told Tagesspiegel that “it felt like when an airplane suddenly drops.”
He insisted though that he had remained calm, saying he “trusted the technology”.
Of the 20 people on board, 11 of them were school children from Norway, along with their teacher, as well as six Germans and a pilot, Bild reports.
A blast of wind damaged the balloon when it had reached a height of 110 metres, as bad weather moved in against the expectations of the company which runs the tourist attraction.
The pilot ordered the guests to lie down on the floor. Meanwhile the ground team tried to bring the balloon safely back down to earth.
But at first they they failed to get it under control, and it swayed towards buildings in the vicinity.
“I thought it was going to crash into the roof of a house,” Marcel Lau, a passerby who witnessed the scene, told Bild.
Eventually the balloon was brought back to earth and the passengers all escaped without physical injury.
But the crying school children collapsed on the pavement under the shock of the experience.
According to Air Service Berlin, the company that manages the balloon, the passengers were never in danger.
“The pilot needed to stabilize the balloon in order to bring it safely to ground,” a spokesperson told Bild.
Berlin police seem to have a different view of the matter and have banned the balloon from flying until further notice.