After a comfortable overnight flight from Munich to Beijing (I personally like long-haul night flights because they give you a chance to rest properly as opposed to shorter ones), we arrived to nice but extremely windy weather. I guess the flying Chinese flags we are used to seeing in the media are really being blown taut by strong gusts! Not very promising for a flight with ourairship.
We were welcomed by extremely friendly custom officers. The officer who looked at my passport was the first one in my life to ask me if I was an artist. I was so surprised by that question that I hesitated (maybe being an artist means being an anarchist? And maybe I would not be let in if I am an anarchist artist?), but when I saw his friendly smile, I said that I was a filmmaker and he acknowledged with a grin that showed he was proud to have detected someone a bit different then your average businessman.
We were taken by our driver directly to the Commune at the Great Wall Kempinski hotel. And what a place that is! A showcase of contemporary Asian architecture that I must strongly recommend to visit for everyone in the world interested in modern architecture and lifestyle! This is also a unique opportunity to experience the past, since the hotel has access to its own “private” piece of the Great Wall, and the best of present times! An eclectic place as seldom found in the world.
The hotel is made up of many dozens of uniquely designed villas spread across several valleys. Working and staying in those houses, designed by various Asian architects from numerous countries, was a unique experience and pleasure. Their creative play with light and space was totally inspiring. A fantastic place for reclusive brainstorming, meetings and conventions or simply to write down one own’s thoughts, to name just a few of the things that could be ideally done in these amazing surroundings.
The next couple of days were spent using all of our combined energy trying to get our airship out of Chinese customs and to make sure that we also had the permit to fly it! Not an easy task, because, again, with all the best efforts and intentions of the Swiss Embassy and the local authorities, this went into an administrative tailspin. A big chicken-and-egg Catch-22 – with neither the chicken nor the egg ever coming first … It turned out that we actually would not have had to worry so much about the permit, because our partners at the Badaling Special Administrative Zone (what a mouthful of a name, but they were extremely nice!) had put together a big event at the Great Wall and the airship flight was a part of that event, so it would have been covered with their permit. Our flight was going to be a local one and not over 1,000 feet above ground, so not really a concern for military or commercial operations. It was our transport company that had not done their homework or their paperwork and, unfortunately, the airship could not be released in time. Incredibly frustrating.