We interrupt this barrage of travel posts to bring you a post about something that I did a little closer to town. Thanks to my partner-in-crime Jenny and her fiancé Robert, I had the opportunity to go hot air ballooning. They wanted to try this, and if enough people joined in, the balloon company would come to us instead of us going to them. Arrangements were made, weather was checked, and on the very last Saturday in May, the balloon company traveled to us in the afternoon.
The first order of business was setting up. We were all enlisted to help set up the balloon and basket. The actual balloon was packed into a giant canvas bag. Most of the material is a very lightweight nylon, but the material closest to the hot air burners is a slightly more flame retardant canvas blend.
First the balloon has to be inflated. It’s connected to the basket, and pulled out over a large field.
I large gasoline powered fan is used to begin the inflation of the balloon chamber. Two of us had to hold the mouth of the balloon open at first.
After enough inflation is done with the fan, the flame jets can be used to heat the air inside to give it lift.
The burners actually have very fine control- they can do hotter blue flame or cooler (but more visible and thus cooler looking) yellow flame.
Lift off was quite subtle- there’s no acceleration like an airplane. One minute you’re on the ground, and the next you simply aren’t on the ground any more. Once we were aloft, the navigation was simply based on which way the wind was blowing. The blue vehicle with the white trailer is the balloonist’s partner following along from the ground. They kept in contact via nearly functional radios.
Once we were fully aloft, the view was pretty spectacular. There was, surprisingly, no wind noise at all because we were moving at the speed of the wind. It was very quiet, except for the occasional use of the burner to adjust our altitude. It also wasn’t cold, to my surprise, because of the burners. Incidentally, the plume of steam coming up from the ground in the far distance is a nuclear power plant.
In this part of Germany, there are really only a few larger cities. Most of Bavaria is really just villages of various sizes surrounded by fields of crops. This was only fifteen or twenty kilometers outside of the center of Regensburg. I’m not actually sure what village we’re looking at in this photograph. From above, they all kind of look alike.
This field, I am told, is where the Battle of Regensburg took place in 1809. This is where Napoleon was shot in the ankle, apparently.
Fields of solar panels are a common sight in Germany. I didn’t realize until we were directly above one that sheep sometimes graze in between the panels. Much easier than using a lawnmower around the solar panels, I imagine.
Just after we passed the field of solar panels and sheep, two trains passed, one in each direction. The first one was a longer Munich to Prague commuter line, and the next was a shorter commuter train which probably only went from Landshut to Munich. The furthest wagon to the left is the engine, and the second from last is a two level wagon with upper deck seats. The other three wagons all contain compartments of six seats each, which is much less fun than the double-decker wagon, but is much much quieter.
After a while in the air, we had to look for a place to land. This is the tricky part- you have no steering other than the wind, and you want to avoid crops and powerlines. Ideally, you need another field of just-grass. While we were looking for a place to land, we passed fairly low over this village. Lots of people came out to wave at us and shout things. Most people are kind of fascinated to see a hot air balloon, particularly one this close.
As we approached an ideal landing spot, the sun was low on the horizon and we got some pretty neat perspectives.
After landing successfully at the edge of a crop field, we were joined by some neighborhood children who wanted to watch us break down and pack the balloon.
Once the enclosure was completely deflated, the balloonist scrunched it together to prepare it to go back into the canvas bag.
Last, but certainly not least, our wicker steed was ready to be disassembled and put back into the trailer. This is the point at which a carload of random dudes wearing Lederhosen pulled up and helped us muscle the thing back into the trailer. Bavaria is a ridiculous and hilariously fun place at times.
Have you ever been up in a hot air balloon?