Hot Air Ballooning Over Bavaria

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?


17 thoughts on “Hot Air Ballooning Over Bavaria

  1. Robert

    The battlefield was the scene of the battel of Eggmühl ( ) – less wounded Napoleon, more soldiers involved and shot. 😉
    5 years ago there was the 200th anniversary and a couple thousand reenactors came to show how fighting and living a soldier life was back then.
    As to the village – I have a hard time finding it although I know the route and the villages we passed… 😦


  2. I’m certain it was a lovely trip. That area of the country is so beautiful.
    I’ve done only one hot air balloon trip, over the desert near Phoenix, Arizona. Trust me I was a little freaked to come to the site and see the unfilled balloon spread out all over the ground with occasional cactus bumps from underneath… ?WHA? ?Won’t the cactus tear the balloon?


  3. Amelie

    The areal pictures look dreamy and very beautiful. The folded up balloon looks like some sort of colorful giant squid. 😛


  4. Great photos, Steven, and I love all the details you share. I hot air ballooned in Cappadocia, Turkey, which was just incredible because of all the extraordinary rock formations, which looked just as incredible from above as on the ground. However, it was pretty busy up there in the sky, as plenty of other people had got up early to do exactly the same thing. I think your trip looks fantastic, very relaxed and I am particularly taken by the slightly unplanned nature of it, setting up wherever works and having to search for somewhere to land again.


  5. Wow! I can’t believe I found your wonderful post here & incredible photos! My husband wants to do this but floating around in the air? Im not too sure yet! We do see these balloons around us quite a bit & they are beautiful in the sky. (We live in one of those smaller towns you mentioned.) Your photos almost have me convinced, though 😉 Thanks!


    1. Thanks for stopping by! I never felt like the basket was rickety or unsafe the entire time we were up there, and it didn’t really sway at all once we were aloft. The only tricky part was the landing, and it worked out just fine.


  6. Great post — I’m quite envious.

    They kept in contact via nearly functional radios.

    Whoa, was that disconcerting?

    What was the cellular connectivity like up there?


    1. It was fine; I posted a picture to Facebook from our peak altitude. The comment about “nearly functional radios” was that the one in the balloon was a 3500 Euro radio which worked perfectly, but the one in use in the car was a hundred euro clunker that didn’t have a working migrophone- the person on the ground could hear us but couldn’t reply. Ultimately, it didn’t affect anything.


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