One of our favorite extreme activities is bungee and rope swings. It is also a relatively new activity, the first modern bungee jump occurring on April 1st, 1979, in England. Those first guys that did it were arrested, but got famous, and millions of people have successfully jumped since then. People try new and interesting ways to jump all the time, but it is regulated in many countries.
While avid jumpers tend to find ways to do what they want anyhow (i.e. illegally), we can’t condone that. What we CAN tell you, though, is that in Eastern Europe and Russia, there is a new sport taking hold, which is locally called (in Bulgaria, the place it caught hold) “Zgradagee,” which translates to building bungee.
Single Point Hold
One of the most dangerous ways to bungee off buildings is the single point hold. There is only one cord, and it is tied off to a single point. When jumping off, people have to go at the right angle, or risk hitting the side of a building. One interesting point, though, is that the Eastern European/Russian old communistic architectural style is perfect for this type of jump. One of the hallmarks of communist-style apartments and office buildings is massive structure, usually between 12 and 15 stories tall, and built fairly close together.
On apartment buildings, it is quite common to see the top few floors extending out past the other floors, creating a larger set of penthouse suites. This is exactly what makes the jump possible, as that extra 10 or 12-foot overhang helps keep people from hitting the building. With this sort of jump, you can’t go straight out, you have to take a short run (or slide, if in winter!) off the roof to give you an angle to swing. Some of the swing’s arcs go for literally hundreds of feet from one side to the other.
The most popular style, the two-building swing, takes a bit of preparation, but is much safer and is pretty awesome. As the average fall will be over 100 feet before the swing takes you, you can expect to reach a velocity of over 50 to 70 miles per hour on your downward arc. The feeling is something akin to skydiving, except you are going that speed at what seems to be right off the ground, and the rush is incredible. The whole experience tends to last for over a minute, as the swinging back and forth is a great part of the experience as well. Three to four teams are needed, as there must be people on both buildings (which should be far enough apart to accommodate the swing) and the third team is necessary if there is a third launching building. The fourth team is on the ground to help the jumper down. Basically, about 10 people are needed, and everyone can have a go! Check out these abandoned block jumpers from Studio Rubik!
Places to Go
The specific places you can go to do this sort of thing are, in actuality, kind of limited. You need a place that has the old communist-style buildings and a lack of official presence to kill your day! Sofia, Bulgaria is one of the meccas of building bungee and rope swinging, and there are several places you can turn to. The aforementioned Studio Rubik can point you in the right direction, and there is an extreme sporting adventure tours site called Extreme Bulgaria, where you do all this and much more. They literally do not have a limit, and just about every extreme sport and activity you can think of is on their site. They have sampler weeks with a dozen mini adventures available too. The owner, Atanas (call him Nasko!) is also a professional stuntman for the movies.
In Russia, Moscow is a great place to go, and Moscow 360, offers a heck of a lot of extreme sports as well. You can jump off bridges and buildings, and even go in an abandoned factory to get your swing/bungee on. The factory is totally worth it, and the adrenaline factor is out of this world!
Let’s also not forget Serbia. Belgrade has a good history of bungee jumping, with a 160-foot-high crane platform that you can begin with and move on from there.
Get More Out of Your Trip
Far beyond the bungee and rope swings, the culture in the areas we have talked about is similar on the surface, but different underneath. Remember, you can bargain in these places, so see what you can get out of your experience. Try to go for number of jumps instead of time (i.e. 5 jumps instead of 3 hours) as the pace of life in these countries tends to be somewhat slower than normal. The trip itself will be cheap, though. Check out this article about Belgrade.
The other places, Sofia, Skopje and Zagreb are similar in price, but Moscow is way more expensive. For the price of the plane ticket, a decent hotel, food, and the sports, it will probably be less than spending just two days driving someplace in the U.S. Also, the nightlife in Sofia and Moscow is amazing, so you might want to plan your jumps on a day when you aren’t going out in the evening. The clubs close at around 6 or 7 a.m., so being tired before you go isn’t the best option!
Is Bungee on your bucket list? Or have you done it? Tell us in the comments below, we love your stories!