Kings of Paragliding

Not that many days ago my family and I were at the foot of Neuschwanstein Castle in the heart of Bavaria. Neuschwanstein is that iconic fairytale castle that basically epitomizes castles and Germany. And even though Ludwig II, the last Bavarian King, nearly bankrupted his country with its commission and was deposed in part because of it (and other lavish building projects), the castle is an impressive spectacle to witness.

Especially when brightly colored paragliders suddenly appear and hover over the castle’s precarious mountain perch like a fluttering mass of Amazonian butterflies.

My seven-year-old saw those gliders and he had a new life purpose: to fly over that castle. Who’s kidding who – I did too.

But first we had our tour of the castle.

A few paragliders were still floating in the sky when we finished. We tracked them from our rental car, heads out the windows like eager puppies, to a plush green field at the base of a cable car about 10 kilometers away. We arrived just in time to learn we were too late for any flights that day.

Undeterred, we returned the next day. This time on bicycles.

As we eagerly pedaled towards the plush green field for the second time, we noticed with some trepidation that the rainbow-colored wind sock was at high attention. My husband soon confirmed our fears at the cable car ticket office: it wasn’t safe to fly. At least not the for hire tandem gliders.

My boy and I had to verify for ourselves at the top of the cable car that it was as windy as they said it was. And then to assuage our disappointment, we ate two pieces of warm apple strudel drizzled with vanilla sauce at a mountainside restaurant.

For the next eleven days, everywhere we went in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, we looked for new paragliding opportunities. But nothing quite seemed right. Nothing seemed epic like gliding over Neuschwanstein. And I was only willing to do epic. (Because I am my father’s daughter and the risk only seemed worth it in certain scenarios.)

The day before we left Switzerland – and our adventure – we rode the famous Stechelberg Cable Way up to the 9, 744’ summit of Schilthorn. From the summit, and from the observation deck of the Piz Gloria revolving restaurant (which famously was the set of the James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”), you have a 360-degree view of the Bernese Alps, including the three biggest peaks: Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger.

Before we rode up the cable cars, we noticed a poster advertising paragliding. My husband inquired at the ticket office and was told they’re almost always booked out weeks in advance. But the ticket man said we could always look for someone carrying an oversized backpack on the tram and ask them.

We looked. There wasn’t anyone.

Back at the summit and on the observation deck of Piz Gloria, my boys were marveling at the three grand peaks in front of them. I was marveling at three boy silhouettes in front of me. My three boys. In front of those three peaks. Three peaks called the three kings.

We didn’t officially find out the gender of our last baby until he was born. But I had the most vivid dream at seven months pregnant and I knew I’d be having another boy.

I dreamt I was standing high in the mountains looking out over three grand, snow-covered peaks. Each peak was a king. And each king represented one of my sons.

That image flooded into the present and I knew this moment was the definition of epic.

I pulled out my phone and looked through my photos to find image of the paragliding poster I’d surreptitiously snapped at the bottom of the cable car hours ago. I emailed the address advertised. Within twenty minutes I’d heard back that they had three slots available for the last flight of the day. I booked it.

Two hours later, strapped tandem to professionals under brightly colored paragliders, my three kings were flying in the shadow of the three kings of the Bernese Alps.

I rushed via a series of cable cars to the bottom. Then waited.

I could hear their squeals of delight before I could make out their faces. When they finally grounded in the lush, green landing field, they were radiating.

Maybe it was the adrenaline. Or maybe it was the realization of some sort of destiny.

But whatever it was, epic doesn’t even begin to cover it.

A version of this story originally appeared in the St. George News.  

Leave a Reply