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Daring true story of East German escape comes to big screen

02/07/2019 philip Hot Air Balloon Stories

This week sees this UK premiere of director Michael Herbig’s German-language film ‘Balloon’. The epic true story tells of how two families attempt to escape the regime of East Germany by flying into West Germany in 1979.

Herbig’s film – which captures the bleak oppression of everyday life in the East with its washed-out colour palette – brings to life this daring escape story. Peter Strelzyk and his friend Günter Wetzel, who meet working in a plastics factory, decide to attempt to escape with their families by flying a hot air balloon over the Iron Curtain, having been inspired by stories of hot air ballooning.

The award-winning film tells of how they assembled the materials to make the balloon, including how they negotiated the politics of sneaking materials to make the canopy out from under noses of the Stasi, claiming they were part of a sailing club.

On the night of September 16, 1979, the two families climb into a basket measuring two square meters and, over the course of half an hour, soar for 18km over the border and into the relative sanctuary of West Germany.

This tail of derring-do captures some of the enchantment of ballooning. However, not all hot air balloon adventures need to be so risky. For a more serene hot air balloon experience, why not book your own private opportunity for aerial exploration? A little closer to home, we offer hot air balloon flights over Bath, Bristol and South Wales.

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