I found myself looking at the horizon from mid-air. Fields seemed to cover the earth until the horizon to infinity, which looked like a perfect patchwork blanket. The sun shined directly in front of me. The blasting rays of sunset were reflecting on Lake Balaton. Houses and cars seemed so tiny, they looked like still Lego villages. Silence filled the chilly air as we glided through the tranquil clouds. The sound of silence was only broken when specialized equipment blasted fire to create the hot air that was needed to keep us afloat.
I was on a hot air Balloon, something that I have been longing to do since I was a little girl and finally I have checked it off my bucket list. I was flying, over Heviz, in Hungary. We were flying, yet it didn’t feel as such. The balloon glided so effortlessly, it felt surreal. As I clutched the roped handles I realised how far up in the sky we were. Nothing to make me feel secure. I was relying only on a large colourful fabric filled with hot air as we stood in a woven basket like an Easter egg bunny.
From high up in the sky I saw the breath taking views of the forest that surrounded villages close to Lake Balaton. The largest thermal lake in the world, Heviz Lake, in which I was enjoying a nice thermal swim just a day before and was impossible to swim across, now looked so tiny. Yet when we glided lower, I could see more of nature’s detail. At one point, I spotted something running through the corn fields, like something was playing hide and seek. Until the corn fields stood still and deer’s galloped out in open fields.
Looking at it from the street gives such a different perspective of this experience. It used to give me a feeling of “Wow! That looks pretty”. But being 5000 feet in the air, gave me a sense of excitement and adrenaline that I wasn’t expecting.
When we arrived at the departure point I saw nothing but a large, flat piece of fabric laying on the fields. Then large fans were switched on and they started working their magic as the co-pilots held up its aperture to inflate air into this piece of fabric into something impressively massive. The pilot then walked into the balloon as if he walked into an enormous concert arena. Once fully inflated, in only 10 minutes or so, the fire was blasted loudly and heavily until the hot air rose. From what seemed just like a piece of colourful fabric, in a few minutes it transformed into a humongous 35 meter upright balloon, ready to take off. This is when the hot air balloon started to get furious. It was like an angry dog on a leash wanting to get loose. This was the most exciting part, the boarding. There wasn’t much time for boarding since the balloon was now ready to fly. So you have to make a run for it and climb into the woven basket unless you want to be left behind. Once all the passengers were in, the pilot released the ropes and the balloon rose to the sky. Freedom. Steadily and gently, yet so far away from the ground to up so high in the air in a few minutes.
Landing is an adrenaline rush in itself. The balloon follows the direction of the wind, and the pilot has not much control over where it goes. However, at some point, the pilot found a clear field where a safe landing was possible. He asked us to assume the landing position, clutching the rope handles, and squatting while the basket was bouncing off the field, giving us the impression that it was not under control. But the pilot knew what he was doing, and stopped the enormous balloon as if it was just a tiny football.
This was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever done and I believe it should be on everyone’s bucket list.
This Hot air Balloon ride can be done in so many countries around the world, but it’s definitely one of the top things to do while in Heviz, Hungary. Balaton Ballooning have given me such an unforgettable experience. The staff made the experience fun and seamless, and the pilot’s confidence and skill made us all feel secure. To top it off, after the landing we were served with a glass of triumphant champagne that blended perfectly with the balloon-flight certificate presentation.