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His hands have been resting on the city map for several minutes, as if he’s forgotten them there. Now he tugs on the string of the teabag, lifts the peppermint mixture out of the hot water into the cool air and lets it sink again. He serenely watches the rising steam. We wonder why his hands look so well groomed. Jason just got back from exploring the village of Manarola. Pulling himself up walls, hand over hand along railings, backwards handsprings on roof terraces. You might expect that such feats of strength would require the paws of a bricklayer. Yet Jason Paul’s fingers look as fine and delicate as those of a cellist. Well, almost. Twelve years ago, Jason was just 14 when he saw a documentary about parkour. Hip young guys exploring Paris, hopping from roof to roof. Somersaults and backwards handsprings. “They drew a kind of racing line through the city,” explains Jason. He began imitating what he had seen — with some difficulty at the start. As one of the best free- runners in the world today, he can laugh about it now. “For the first one or two years it looked completely stupid. But at some point it began to be cool: You’d jump up on the ping-pong tables, try your first somersault. You’d fall over. You’d get up. You’d carry on. See your city with different eyes.” His city? Frankfurt, Germany. At the time, Jason’s parents were working at Germany’s largest airport. He grew up in the city’s Goldstein district along with his two brothers. A tight-knit family. His parents were there, too, when the then 19-year-old took third place at the official World Freerun Championship in 2009 on London’s Trafalgar Square. It was the international breakthrough for the teenager from Germany. Jason explains all this on the drive from Milan airport to the Ligurian Coast. How- ever, before we tackle the trip southward in our Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 4MATIC Coupé, per Jason’s special request, we have to pull into and out of the parking space umpteen times. “Wait a minute — that’s brilliant!” he cries and fumbles through his backpack for his camera. He has already seen half the world, but he’s never seen the 360-degree view on a car’s display panel: “This is like Grand Theft Auto,” he says, referring to the massively popular computer game. “Crazy!” Shortly before the colorfully idyllic village of Manarola, we are abruptly stopped by a policeman who stands in the way of our Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 4MATIC Coupé. Using his hands and feet, the Carabiniere makes it clear to us that this is the end of our all-wheel-drive journey. We are more than welcome to explore the five picturesque villages of the Cinque Terre region on foot; only the 5,000 inhabitants are allowed motorized passage. So we let the 3.0-liter V6 biturbo engine exhale after the Corso Italia serpentine and find our own way through the parkour course, as Jason designates Manarola from that point on. From the lush vineyard hills above he scans the architecture of the village, defines his racing line over bus stops, railings, traffic bollards, walls and stairs. “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than ask for permission beforehand,” says the 26-yearold, before leaping off a small awning as a point of departure through the winding alleyways of Manarola towards the harbor. Jason increases his pace, runs up walls and lands again on both feet after each of his backflips. Most of the time his racing line turns out to be the shortest path from A to B. Obstacles that stand in his The world is his playground. Obstacles? Not for him. Mental barriers? He doesn’t know what they are. We’re talking about Jason Paul, perhaps the best freerunner of our time. Today he’s sightseeing in Italy’s Cinque Terre region. Headlong. H90


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