Friday, 31 August 2007


Here I am back again from holidays, at the eastern portion of the French Pyrenees, about 50 km from the Mediterranean. We had really awful weather at home, July and August were partly similar to March and October.

No global warming for us, I had the impression to approach the starting blocks of a new ice age.
The only part of France featuring a real summer seemed to be the Mediterranean coast line.

This area is famous for its "castles of vertigo", all in ruins for centuries but still breathtaking. As far as I know there was fierce slaughtering over there during the Albigois crusade. The people there adhered to a Christian sect called Cathars, their aim was to lead a perfect life.

Thus a crusade was organized, the Cathars were killed wholesale and there possessions were the object of a huge real estate transfer. Mission accomplished as someone said these days.

The castle is still there and the cherry on the cake is that right below is a paragliding launching pad. And in the late afternoon, on warm sunny days, you get the phenomenon the locals call "restitution", a kind of valley wind. Warm air from the forest and the fields below is going up the castle slopes and allows for really peaceful flying.

The violent thermals around noon are gone and are being replaced by this restitution. You fly in an air like honey plus the special fragrance of the Mediterranean country side, rosemary, wild thyme, savory, olive trees, occasionally lavender. Splendidly smelly.

This gentle wind carries my along the slopes of the castle and then, hurray, I have made it! I am looking right into it from above. The visitors of Peyrepertuse look at me and I am looking at them. "Comment ça va" I yell joyfully to a group not far away from me and they make a photo.

Splendor of flying nearly like a bird. It could have been invented 2000 years ago, you just need some lightweight cloth. That was always available. But during all that time the inventors came to a dead end by trying to imitate a bird, spreading and moving wings up and down. And for that we just are not strong enough!

The photo shows the Peyrepertuse castle, built around 800 years ago. Nowadays, they start to rebuilt it by using exclusively the technical procedures of the Middle Ages. We will probably all be dead before it is finished.


  1. As I read your post I could imagine being over there...thanks, I did not know about this place..

    BTW, "No global warming for us"...same here in Los Angeles, we have one of the mildest summer weather here..If this is the global warming, then it's enjoyable...LOLO

  2. What a fascinating site. Amazing how, at least here in the US, they continue to tear down buildings that have been here forever, rather than maintain them, instead building new ones that fall apart. What a world, eh? ! ; (

  3. I love this part especially: "The inventors came to a dead end by trying to imitate a bird (...) And for that we just are not strong enough!"

    I can imagine how humble they must have felt.

  4. Truly beautiful picture. I've never done hang-gliding because I've been told it's quite dangerous. However, I've always wanted to try it! How long have you been doing it?

  5. Bonjour Monica,

    At least someone seems to be interested in my flying stories. Monica, thanks for commenting.

    As to your question, I went to a paragliding school in Oct. 1992, got the certification in July 1993 and am flying ever since.

    Paragliding (or hanggliding)is not more dangerous than many other human activities, like driving or mountain-biking.

    To learn it, paragliding is slightly easier than hangliding.
    You can learn both in a specialized school in about nine months.

    And in case you are living in a suitable region (not totally flat) you have always the possibility to book a tandem flight just to find out what it means to you.

    Last but not least, flying like this gives you a feeling and sensations that compare to absolutely nothing. This changed somehow my life. It does not make you proud - you are feeling all the time your little importance in midst of nature - but it gives you a more firmness of character.

    In May this year I wrote another text about paragliding, I was attacked by buzzards (Under Attack). Have a look.


  6. Wow ! Georg - you just told me where to go in france. I went to a flying school to enquire and learnt that they do not teach anymore. Did you write your book in french?
    I agree when you write nature humbles you. I feel the same when I am in the river and not being a swimmer I just leave it to the moment.

  7. CORRECTION: 4th line . 5th word write should be replaced by "fly"

  8. Bonjour Anrosh,

    There is a misunderstanding. I don't write any book, I am just a paraglider pilot.

    Here in France there are dozens of schools. Have a look at the website of our Federation "" and then click on "écoles".

    Or do you mean you were looking for a paraglider/hanglider school in the United States? There should be hundreds.

    If you want to know something more, just ask.

    Cheers to you

  9. That's one thing we generally lack here in the States . . . an architectural history that goes beyond 300 or 400 years (on the East Coast, anyway) . . .

    There are those cliff dwellings out in the Southwest . . . and the ruins in Central America . . .

    But, otherwise, we just keep tearing shit down, or letting it rot, and building more 7-11's . . .

    The horror, the horror . . .

    So cool, those old ruins . . . think of the spirits that surround . . .

  10. Lovely photos of a beautiful place. What a joy it must be to take photographs from that perspective.

  11. Hello georg
    si tu veux plus de renseignements sur les cathares et les châteaux cathares je t'invite a visiter le site d'une amie qui en parle. Elle est une spécialiste et habite cette région. Tu peux lui dire que tu viens de ma part.