Prompt Post: Echternach Balloon Festival

Hot air balloons are a familiar sight in Luxembourg. As Will showed you yesterday, four balloons were “inflated” for the Gala, although none of the four lifted off the tarmac. But after seeing the balloons Thursday night, my excitement for the Echternach balloon festival was renewed. I went to bed Friday night with big plans: I would go to the 7:00 a.m. Saturday launch!

I shopped the idea around to Will and a few friends, but no one was interested in my plan: “Let’s get up and be on the road by 6:15 to see hot air balloons!” I will admit that when my alarm went off at 5:45, even I began to question whether this was a good idea. I checked the weather – overcast, but no rain. I had no excuse to crawl back into bed. To the balloon festival for me!

Technically, this event is called the World Balloon Trophy, an event that began in 1995. The festival started on Wednesday, but the crappy weather has cancelled at least two planned flights. From my previous balloon festival experience, I knew that the air was still in the morning and around dusk, and that makes for excellent flights.

I took off to Echternach on the back roads, since traffic is meant to be a killer, what with the Germans heading off on holiday in one direction, and Belgian and Dutch the other. Last year, we paid to park in the lot close-by, but I hoped that the crowds would be light so early. “Light” doesn’t begin to describe what I found.

The festival’s park was deserted. As I walked towards the viewing areas, I began to grow concerned that the morning flight was cancelled. Not long after that, I saw some activity on the “island” in the lake.

Normally, spectators would be kept off the island during the preparation and the launch. Since there were maybe 10 of us, security was light. I started off on the island bridge, because I didn’t want to be disruptive. It didn’t take me long to get my nerve and walk around and through the various balloon teams.

This experience was… AWESOME! I was right up and around the balloons. It is surprisingly loud during the prep. The balloons are initially inflated using cold air from a generator-powered fan.

Eventually, they switched over to the flame and heated air.

But once all the balloons had their shapes, the only sound was the occasional use of the burners to keep them inflated.

One by one, the balloons were released and each floated up into the sky.

But these are professionals, vying for the World Balloon Trophy. They were excellent pilots. They went up, then dropped back down.

Some went close to the water while others dipped in the trees.

They floated left, then back right.

They hovered over the launch site, while we gaped up at them.

Everyone enjoyed the amazing view of the graceful craft against a beautiful backdrop. It is not often you see 11 hot air balloons take off at once, in a small space. I was giddy with excitement. Below is a panoramic shot, so it’s really almost 360 degrees of balloons surrounding me.

Check out the video — you can hear the burners that I mentioned above.

Eventually, they started to spread out and float off into the distance. The chase cars packed up and rolled out…. my balloon viewing was done for the day. I made the long trek back to the car. In my concern about crowds, I parked about 500 meters farther away than I needed to. Heck, I think I could have driven directly up to the launch island before anyone would have said “Boo.”

Seeing the launch confirmed my desire to take a hot air balloon ride. I believe they are relatively common to do here in Lux. So I’ll be adding that chore to Will’s agenda.

If you’d like to see more, you can wait to see our full photo set, or you can look at the official photos from Saturday morning.

Bugle Public Engagement Officer’s note: If you’d like to take a balloon ride in Luxembourg, be sure to mention it when you book with the BBB&B!

6 Comments to “Prompt Post: Echternach Balloon Festival”

  1. Mom said...
    30 July 2011

    What great fun! And tremendous pictures!

  2. Jaime said...
    30 July 2011

    Wow, wow, wow. Kudos on powering through the early morning alarm and getting out to the launch site. What beautiful photos! I had the great fortune of being on a balloon when I was 19 and I can assure you it is not to be missed!

  3. Amanda said...
    31 July 2011

    Cool. I would have gone with you had I been there.

  4. Laurie said...
    1 August 2011

    My favorite is the eyeball one. Was Ben Stein the guest driver?! :)

  5. Doug said...
    27 September 2011

    Very cool and great pictures. I would have gotten up for this to see so many balloons in one place!

  6. inflatable advertisi said...
    20 December 2011

    Good Work, keep it up.
    Special Thanks for sharing it with others