On the wall of hope
Just a few weeks ago Fabian Ludwig walked through his boulder gym with mixed feelings. Bright Site in southwest Berlin was empty, just as it had been almost every day since November 2020 when the last guests left before the Corona restrictions tightened. For months, Fabian waited eagerly for the climbing enthusiasts to return and he was able to finally open his doors again in early June. Now life is returning to Bright Site. “I’ve remained optimistic all this time,” he says. “But in all honesty, I was a little nervous before the reopening. It felt like a new business again. But everything went well and everyone was happy.”
The lockdown challenge
Fabian is founder of Bright Site and a passionate climber himself. With Bright Site he created a place for adventure, movement and joy. Pre-Corona, up to 500 customers a day cavorted in the 1250 sqm hall. Thrills, freedom and muscle building drew people to Bright Site; it was the ultimate urbanization of adventure climbing.
But when recreational and sports activities closed at the end of 2020, Fabian and his climbing community lost their outlet. “Many people contacted me during the Corona period and said they missed Bright Site, the balance, the sports,” says Fabian. “It was a huge challenge for us. We didn’t do anything wrong, but there was this decision we had to accept. It was a roller coaster of emotions. Climbing is my life and when we had to close, an important part of my life broke away.”
Fabian started climbing at 16 in an outdoor club at his school to prepare for a climbing trip, but suddenly found himself at the gym three or four times a week. Then he and a friend converted his parents shed into a workshop for hand holds. Fabian may have discovered climbing late, but he loved it intensely.
“In the beginning, I was fascinated by the confrontation and respect that comes with climbing. There’s a wall of up to 30 meters and a rope that holds your life. The thrill is special,” Fabian says. “But what’s especially great about climbing is the cohesion. You become part of the community very quickly. There are lovely people of all ages and I felt comfortable with them right from the start.”
After traveling abroad and entering the world of professional climbing, Fabian never forgot his dream of starting his own gym and in 2014 he and a partner launched Bright Site. It was a success story right from the start, and led to the opening of a second location in Berlin in 2019 called Basement Boulder Studio.
The aftermath of the pandemic
Even during the pandemic, Fabian’s operations didn’t stop completely. Route builders and trainers perfected their skills and Fabian himself was always at the boulder wall trying out new holds and difficulty levels. “It sounds like a small thing, but it takes a lot of work to improve our offer,” he says. “Being able to climb the wall myself was great. That’s why I didn’t miss the sport so much, but I did miss the other stuff, especially interacting with other people.”
Fabian hopes that will change again post-Corona. “It’s going to be an exciting time for society,” he says. “Over a year of social distancing will leave it’s mark. Personally, I’m still a little scared and I think we’ll need some time before we can socialize as normal again. I noticed it myself in the supermarket: when people get too close, I feel uncomfortable.”
A new role for sports
Fabian understands that sometimes crises can bring new opportunities. “Perhaps this challenging time will help us all live more consciously. My hope is that the crisis will make us appreciate what we had before Corona.”
Sports can act as a catalyst in this process and as a vehicle to accelerate our return to normal. “A lot of things were taken away for a long time because of corona – things that were an integral part of our lives. I’m convinced that people will see sports and leisure activities as a privilege and enjoy them even more,” says Fabian. “I’m happy to see people on the wall again now. Corona has made the past year and a half extremely difficult – but we got through it.”