A balloon, according to the all-knowing almanach Wikipedia is a “a flexible bag filled with a gas, such as helium, hydrogen, nitrous oxide or air”. As correct or valid this definition might be, can it capture the wonder of seeing one rise up in the air? Does it express our fascination with being unbound by gravity? Is it a definition that explains our craving for sailing silently through the air?
Well, I guess not. And thus the rather plain definition fails to express the joy that I had watching the balloons rise into the cold thin air in February when I was in Chateau d’Oex at the Festival de Ballons. The day was nice and sunny, albeit a bit chilly, and the trip there took us through narrow tunnels and steep canyons. There wasn’t much snow, it has been a very mild winter, but still enough to give you an impression of the grandeur the valley must have when it is completely snowed in!
Chateau d’Oex is a balloon haven. It has housed the festival since 1978, bringing in more than 10000 guests in the last years. It was from here that the Breitling Orbiter 3 started his flight around the earth, to be the first hot air balloon to complete the tour non-stop. Besides the festival and competitions, there are temporary and permanent exhibitions around ballooning, and of course passenger flights.
No, I did not fly in one of those things. They look pretty and beautiful from below, however, I really have no ambitions in goinjg up with one. Besides, the prizes, depneding on length of the flight, can be easily a few hundered Swiss! So, I rather stayed on the ground and took pictures