Floating Fairy Flies Again!

Twenty kilometres as the crow flies in just over one hour, and maximum altitude 1300 m above sea level. Air temperature around 25°C. That’s for those who need figures first.

No statistics can convey the deep peace and joy that comes with a ride in a hot-air balloon. Yes, there are those loud roaring bursts of flame now and then, but tranquillity is the watchword, as you dreamily drift over the landscape in your own little bubble.

IMG_1381This was among my birthday presents last year, as my family decided I may not be capable of struggling into the basket when I get to 80, so my round birthday gift came (symbolically) 5 years early. There was too much toing and froing last year for me to be able to arrange my trip, which has to be at pretty short notice since it all depends on weather conditions being as close as possible to ideal.

The call came last Tuesday: “Can you be at Lommis airfield for 5 am on Saturday?” Of course I can. Then, after I put the phone down, common sense kicked in. Lommis is about 120 km from where I live. I no longer have a car, and trains don’t run at that time of day. Darling Daughter and Son-in-Law live close enough to Lommis, but … they were in Lucerne.

Number One Granddaughter flew to the rescue: “You can stay overnight with us.” The Balloon Pilot offered to pick me up from Granddaughter’s home, but the great-grandchildren decided they would like to come and see Granny float off into the blue so Granddaughter kindly offered to drive me the ten-minute distance to the airfield. In the event, the great-grandkids were securely in the Land of Nod at 4.30 am on Saturday, so it was only my Granddaughter and I who left just before sunrise.

19748410_10154581431286811_6821676555048024159_nHow quickly and efficiently the set-up and take-off all went. Excellent teamwork by the pilot and her assistant, aided by four passengers: 3 senior citizens and a delightful young man who must have wondered if he’d accidentally strayed into a Pensioners’ Outing. It turned out he was indispensable, being tall, able-bodied and strong enough when physical strength was required. He also took some great photos, being armed with a professional camera and the eye to go with it. Thank you, Andreas, for sharing so many of your shots with the rest of us.

And so, as the sun rose above the horizon, so did we.

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Photos by Granddaughter No 1

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Copyright http://www.artaro.ch Thank you, Andreas, for this lovely photo.

Thurgau is a relatively unknown but nevertheless very attractive canton; arable farming country with colourful rolling fields, orchards, vineyards, woodlands, smooth-flowing rivers winding through rich pastures, and traditional half-timbered houses and barns dotted here and there among the boring quadrangular modern builds. Tourists in search of spectacular scenery don’t come here: no raging waterfalls or towering cliffs, just gentle rises and falls. From a bird’s eye perspective, it almost looks flat.

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Typical Thurgau scenery somewhere near Weinfelden

My last balloon trip, six years ago, took us from Kriessern across the Rhine and the southern end of Lake Constance into Austrian airspace, then over Lindau in Germany, to a remote field outside a Bavarian hamlet.

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View towards the Alpstein on the horizon. The heart.shaped pool is the Märwiler Weiher.

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This was now quite different scenery. In the distance, we could see the sun gleaming on the surface of Lake Constance, and gilding the river Thur below us. Cattle, sheep and goats grazed. Deer ran through the woods and across fields, kite and buzzard swooped beneath us. Perfect ballooning conditions.

After almost an hour we began our descent, alarmingly close (I thought) to the treetops and wheat fields, and scaring a company of horses peacefully grazing in their paddocks as we came roaring over their heads.

A field of sunflowers craning their necks to the east like soldiers on parade appeared to be where our pilot was aiming for, but no, we sailed over them and side-stepped an apple tree that loomed in our path.

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Copyright http://www.artaro.ch Thanks again to Andreas.

We touched down, bounced slightly once, then rested on what seemed to be a specially constructed landing strip next to the road. Long grass on either side of us in this pasture, but a lengthy stretch several metres wide had been mown just where we landed, to the exact dimensions needed when our balloon sank gracefully to the ground. A man using a scythe under the apple trees on the opposite side of the road continued his work, as though balloons landing in front of him was an everyday occurrence. Perhaps it is, and that really is a landing strip. Our pilot’s assistant was waiting for us with her car and balloon trailer, having tracked our journey from take-off.

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Teamwork again, as we squashed out the air and folded the balloon, rolled it up, packed it into its bag and dragged it to the trailer. Thank goodness for Andreas’ youthful strength! The burner and its mount were quickly dismantled, packed neatly into the basket and all stowed away very quickly.

Then came the solemn ceremony of the baptism of balloon passengers. This involves reciting the balloonist’s prayer, receiving a special nobility title plus certificate, and having a lock of hair singed as a token of the adventure. I had already been through this procedure twice, so was exempt this time. (I am Duchess Catherine Above the Clouds, and Gräfin Catherine Schwebefee über Fussach, which means approximately Countess Catherine, Floating Fairy over Fussach. Some fairy!)

The other elderly lady was wearing hairspray, so singeing her hair might have been dangerous, and the elderly gentleman had a large bald patch, so nothing to singe. These two were just doused with mineral water. Only Andreas had a suitably full head of hair so he alone underwent the singeing ceremony, and then we shared a bottle of champagne and munched on croissants. It was, after all, only just after 7 am so definitely breakfast time!

Then back to our starting point, where Granddaughter and three great-grandchildren were patiently waiting. (No, they hadn’t been there all the time. Mobile phones are a useful invention!) And home again, for my third breakfast of the day, this time at a more conventional hour.

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Getting good at squeezing into confined spaces!

Thank you so much, to everybody who made this possible, not least those who paid for it! It was a wonderful belated birthday present, and the opportunity to spend a little time with my younger generations was a great bonus. These are memories I shall treasure.

 

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17 thoughts on “Floating Fairy Flies Again!

  1. It’s your appreciation that gets you these rides, you know!! Thankyou for the report – what gorgeous photos. I never knew the Märwiler Weiher was heart-shaped, despite having passed it many times… Yes, the Thurgau is a beautiful place, we were just raving about the half-timbered house construction yesterday and how perfectly the buildings sit in the landscape. It’s beautiful all the year round (like most of Switzerland, I suppose!) but the fact that we don’t really get tourists is one of the extra attractions lol! You’ll have to go in spring next time, over all the flowering fruit trees… 😉

    And a great picture of you with Mael and his “Hüsli”; he’s very attached to it! Such a little sunshine. Not surprised the other two didn’t wake up, either, they sleep like logs ;). Looks like you enjoyed yourself tremendously!

    • It was really a lovely couple of days. Mael had me press the doorbell of his house and then wanted me to go in – I don’t fit through the door so had to go in through the open side of the house! He was thrilled when he got to my house to find I also have a doorbell! by my front door!

  2. “Floating Fairy”… that is SUCH a perfect name for you! Great present, great report, great pics (and loving the new hair too!) xx

  3. I’ve always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon and never have, but this post brought the sense of it magically to my imagination. I have sailed in beautiful silence across the Mediterranean which is similar pleasure, perhaps, but this clearly has a unique quality about it. I’m so pleased you go the chance to enjoy it again.

    • Yes, I was very pleased that I didn’t have to wait till my next round birthday, as I fear I won’t’t be able to scramble into the basket. If you get the chance, definitely seize it and enjoy the ride.

  4. What a lovely post and amazing experience, Catherine. I’ve always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon. Maybe if we had a heart-shaped pool to gaze at, I would’ve done it by now 😉👍

  5. Thanks for your visit to 1sojournal. I’ve never been on a balloon ride, but many years ago, a hot-air balloon set down in the field across from where we lived. My children were beside themselves with curiosity and excitement. This is a wonderful post, with great photos, and you have created enough details that your reader feels a bit like they have actually been there with you. Thanks for sharing it,

    Elizabeth

    • On my very first balloon ride we were greeted on landing by a host of very excited little ones, who made themselves very useful during the deflating and packing up phase. I’m glad you enjoyed this – I love your creativity.

  6. Dear Fairy Catherine, what a wonderful experience!

    I must confess, I’ve never fancied it, but who knows? I hate flying but I once went in a helicopter and loved every second. Maybe it’s being shut up in a tube that’s the problem.

    Thanks for sharing your day with us.

    • It’s a totally different feeing from flying because you are in the airstream, floating along in the wind, so there’s no sense of movement except when you look down and see the earth sliding past. Also, I have no head for heights but you don’t get that awful sensation that your legs are turning to jelly. it’s just a lovely peaceful feeling.

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