Article and Photos: Dominique Schreckling – IMPress Magazine
Since 1979 the small village of Château-d’Oex in the beautiful Swiss alpine valley of the Pays-d’Enhaut has been holding the International Balloon Festival. Lasting nine consecutive days, it is amongst the longest balloon festivals in the world. Each year, over 70 balloons are participating in the event and in the different competitions that challenge the expert balloon pilots’ skills. For the public there are the opportunities to take balloon rides as well as view and photograph some of the most spectacular scenery in the Swiss countryside.
The opening weekend of the 38th edition of the International Balloon Festival of Château-d’Oex, which is being held from the 23rd to the 31st of January 2016, closed on a beautiful sunny day. The two first days attracted over 12’000 visitors.
Saturday morning, the opening day on the 23rd of January, started with rather grey weather. The lack of wind combined with the low cloud cover made balloon rides almost impossible as they have little chance to travel away from the takeoff zone once in the air. By midday however, the cloudy sky thankfully opened up to reveal dramatic blue and gave us a superb winter day. I was lucky to get a balloon ride during the afternoon. There was still only a little wind and we remained over the beautifully snow-covered village of Château-d’Oex. The lack of wind had however an advantage for me as a photographer as most of the 70 balloons participating in the festival remained within visible distance: a glorious sight.
Sunday also started cloudy but the sky quickly opened up for postcard blue sky white snow winter weather allowing a full day of ballooning. The festival also offered numerous demonstrations such as an aerobatic show and some hang-glider demonstrations. The tradition of the first Sunday of the festival is to have a flight with a balloon from each of the twinned towns of Bristol (UK), Sint-Niklaas (Belgium), Romorantin (France) and Château-d’Oex. Four twinned balloons linked by a symbolic ribbon with the four national flags trying to fly together as long as possible. But the buzzing anecdote of the day was, without any doubt, the accepted wedding proposal on a balloon ride.
The festival continues until Sunday, January 31st, 2016.
For more information on this year’s events and travel see: http://www.chateau-doex.ch/en/ballons_icon.
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