Over the Alps by balloon
The Alps… so beautiful and picturesque. We’re more used to admiring their beauty from below. But what about looking at them from above?
Well, not just look at them, but go on an unforgettable journey to a height of more than three thousand metres!
I invite you to join me on a fascinating journey above them by hot air balloon.
So, the place where it all begins – the small town of Filzmoos in Austrian Salzburgerland.
It’s also from here where the annual “Hot-air Balloon Weeks” has taken place for 37 years running. On one of the event’s days, I was unexpectedly given a free flight over the Alps,
although I was really sure what to think.
On the one hand I was jumping for joy, but on the other I had my doubts. Thousands of thoughts were flying through my head, such as what and how? I was especially worried by the fact the hot-air balloons can’t be steered, but that all that can be done is rely on the experience and skill of the pilot to follow the wind at the necessary height. It’s a good thing I’m not afraid of heights!
We got to the venue at 8:30 in the morning. The balloon I was planning on going on was being unrolled and filled with air. It was absolutely freezing, about -15 C, and even colder up there, but I’d come prepared for this little “surprise” and had wrapped up warm with extremely warm footwear.
This is our pilot, Stefan, who has got about fifteen years experience.
He gave us a crash course before the flight, on what we can and can’t do and explained that above 3000 metres there may be a feeling of mild intoxication. It was funny when he started breathing extra oxygen after three thousand metres. We all looked at each other. When he noticed, Stefan said with smile: “Better safe than sorry”. We all let out a sigh of relief, the passengers and the pilot as one.
In the basket, in addition to the passengers and the pilot, is a gas cylinder and, it goes without saying, a first-aid kit.
And on we go, or to be more precise, up!
Since the flight I’ve often been asked if I was afraid and how I got over it. The fact of the matter is that I was only really worried in the morning before the actual flight, but as soon as I was in the basket my worry turned into curiosity and joy at experiencing something new.
We rose very slowly and gently, which is how the rest of the journey continued. I now understand why they call it aeronautics, since the balloon floats like a boat across the sky.
Dawn mist hung over the valley below, whereas we were drifting higher, up towards the shining sun. There wasn’t any chance of us having bad weather with the balloon trip, since they only fly in good weather. What’s more, it’s only possible to cross over the Alps in the winter when the Alpenföhn is blowing, the local mountain wind.
Now I know personally what kind of angles these shots are made from!
More and more balloons kept rising up behind us. About fifty teams in total set off above the Alps on this particular day.
Our closest neighbour.
And another one – from the Czech Republic.
We climbed higher and higher. The higher we went, the dizzier the heights became. All around, every now and again the clicks of cameras could be heard. I hope I managed to catch even a tiny bit of the incredible views…
The Alps against the back light.
Our flight went southwest over the Dachstein mountain range, though Styria. The flight over the massif was probably the most breath-taking sight, with the harsh expanses of glaciers, the inaccessible ridges and, where, quite possibly, not even the most seasoned climbers have even trodden. And there we were, so fragile, so small travelling on the wind in a hot air balloon, and saw the power and the beauty of the Alps, not up from below, but from the height of heights…
The maximum height we reached was around 3700 metres. The temperature on board was minus 20. But it was absolutely worth it, I can assure you!
It was really difficult to choose less photos.
Them words aren’t even necessary…
We landed successfully, and gently, near the town of Sankt Peter am Kammersberg in Styria. The ground crew arrived to pick us up in two car exactly after minute after we landed. After quickly packing up the balloon, we were dropped off again at the start point.
Would I do it again? The answer is an overwhelming yes! If I’d never even dreamt of having a balloon trip before that moment then, even after having experiences all of those unbelievable feelings, I’d be prepared to go on a thrilling ballooning adventure again. Only this time, with my husband and son.
Photos from this post and others on balloons can be seen in the album. Open»
This activity was so full of different events that I don’t even know how to bring it all together under one heading. If you have any questions on “Hot-air Balloon Weeks” event, about Filzmoos or about the region in general (Salzburg, Dachstein, Pongau) then I’ll be happy to any of them in the comments section or by mail. Contact details can be found in the About» section.
Display route to Filzmoos» (opens a new window)
From Salzburg along the A10 it’s about 75 km by car and takes a little over an hour. Leave the autobahn at the exit to Eben and then follow signs to Filzmoos. You’ll get to the famous little town about fifteen minutes after turning off.