People’s most wished for superpower is flying (2nd to time travel). Indeed, humanity managed to achieve this superpower indirectly through several means, which developed over decades. Yet some of these means kept their charm and romance despite the time.
Have you ever tried hot air balloon? Have you flown with it over Switzerland? There is no dispute about how beautiful Switzerland is but you will definitely realise how diverse and how colourful its nature is only through the eyes of a bird or from the basket of a hot air balloon of our host Ballons du Leman.
The excitement about the experience started building up well ahead of the flight time, and continued after as you will see. We knew our takeoff point only on the day of the flight! Don’t worry, usually for the Arc Lémanique flight the take-off is between Lausanne, Rolle, Cossonay or sometimes Geneva depending on the wind’s direction. Ballon du Leman also flies over Fribourg and the Swiss Alps of Chateau-d’Oex region. At mid day, we received the waited call, indicating that our take-off point was Cossonay.
There are flights early in the morning and late in the afternoon, as usually these are the times when the air is the stillest and the winds are least. We chose the evening one to enjoy the sunset colours. But if you are an early bird (you are gonna apply that description literally both from time & flying angle 😊), you can go for the morning flight.
We arrived at the take-off field. The preparation is very interesting as you can see the balloon being spread on the field and filled with air. You realise how big these balloons are, not when you spot one in the far altitude, but really when it’s on the ground being inflated. We were invited to (literally) step inside the hot air balloon as it was being filled, and it is there where we realised that it’s really enormous!
…Few minutes and off the ground we go! It’s really an amazing feeling as you are starting to zoom out, seeing more area of the underneath and of the shrinking objects. Soon the beauty of nature presents itself under and around you. Batches of green, yellow & brown fields that intersect like a beautiful puzzle in-between the blue of Lake Léman and Lake Neuchâtel. Spots of intense dark green (forests & trees) and peaks of some alp ranges add depth and volume to the big picture. Few clouds here and there act as an indication of how high up you are. There are relatively two modes of the flight, low where you go faster and feel the flight more, and high where you have a majestic view but can barely notice that you are moving😊.
Standing in the hot air balloon, you have all the air, the full 360 degrees view, no windows, no limitations. Our eyes were rolling like surveillance cameras from one direction to another till the last second. Time literally flies here.
The flight captain keeps alternating smoothly between the two modes and at some point we reached the height of 1500 meters! Our host, “Ballon du Leman” has several flight options: “Discovery” where you enjoy the company of other people, a ”Premium“ if you prefer an exclusive or tête-à-tête flight, and even a “Fondue” flight if you want to enjoy cheese on the highest terrace!
Other than observing the beautiful surrounding nature, what’s as exciting is seeing other balloons flying at the same time, so you can benchmark their altitude vs. yours and take beautiful photos.
The landing is an experience on its own. Nothing to fear, but also here, you cannot tell ahead the exact landing spot. The colourful batches start to zoom into one colour palette and the buildings into their usual size. We were lucky as we were approaching a small farm on a hay field, so to welcome us, we had few friendly dogs and some cows, that seemed already used to similar intruders 😁
The flight itself is about 1.5 hours, but the whole process takes around 4 hours. In all phases you can help and are included in the process. Like upon landing we were also invited to participate in emptying and packing the balloon.
Our reward was a nice “Après landing” apéro & reliving our experience while enjoying the sunset on ground level. In a simple ceremony-like atmosphere we received our certificates confirming our flying capabilities 😁