The ground beneath became distant until it disappeared as we quickly and quietly ascended in the hot air balloon into the clouds. I remember getting into the basket with Jaka, two German tourists, and the hot air balloon operator, but how it happened felt like magic. I have dreamt of that moment my entire life.
Like many others this year, my birthday fell during the lockdown so celebrations were limited. That didn’t hold Jaka back from giving me the gift of a lifetime; a ride on a hot air balloon. Unfortunately, we had to wait to take the ride. I waited this long so what is a bit longer!
Five months later we found ourselves in Bled at the earliest I have been awake in a very long time. We met the pilot and team running the balloon and the two other passengers.
As we waiting in the parking lot we noticed one of the guys kept watching the sky. Confused about what he could see and we couldn’t, we asked and he explained that he let a balloon go and he was watching to see how the wind was flowing.
Due to the weather, we could not take off very close to Lake Bled so we drove to a field not far from there. All of us passengers watched and took videos while they prepared the basket and balloon for our ride.
After they filled the huge balloon with hot air it was ready for us to get into the basket. It was a snug fit but adequate enough to twist around and get different angles. It was too early and I was too excited to even be this close to a hot air balloon that I wasn’t even thinking about my fear of flying.
Before I could even reconsider what I was doing inside this tiny basket with four other people we lifted from the ground. I didn’t feel a thing, we were just…floating. I still wonder if that is what it feels like to fly – it was incredible.
We rose up above the cars, the trees, and soon the houses and everything in sight. The early morning sun was peeking in and out of the clouds and horizon as we could see it all; Bled, Lake Bled, and the Alps. As I focused on the ground it became difficult to see until everything disappeared.
We have entered the clouds.
Everywhere was completely white and the only thing in sight was the shadow of the hot air balloon on the clouds. The silence and stillness while floating 4000 feet above the ground was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced.
I felt no anxiety, no worries, just floating with the clouds.
After some time we descended below the clouds so that we could fly to Lake Bled. We got some incredible views, but nature was not allowing us to get very close.
Then we slowly floated around until we descended completely. Before you get into the hot air balloon they teach you how to land. You are meant to squat a bit and brace yourself. I was slightly anxious about the landing because I thought we were too fast. The basket touched the ground and we barely moved, but then it bounced and that jerked us a bit. We landed at the Lesce Airport where the other staff were waiting to help us and to pack up the balloon.
Afterward, there was a Balloon Ceremony with sparkling wine. This ceremony was to give all of us passengers the title of Honorable Baroness or Baron of Bled. They had us kneel on rugs as they threw dirt, sprayed wine, and burned something while reciting some words.
This is a tradition in Slovenia and some surrounding areas from many years ago when riding a hot air balloon was not necessarily the safest way to travel. To celebrate your safe return you are given an honorable title that continues still today.
Book your hot air balloon ride over Lake Bled
If you have been inspired and would like to take a hot air balloon ride for yourself I can highly recommend Balonarski Center Barje. They were incredibly professional and friendly, and most importantly I felt safe the entire time. They explained everything and any questions I had were answered.
The whole process takes a few hours between travel to the take off location, setting up the balloon, the ride, and they pack up everything before the ceremony. The ceremony itself is quick but there can be socializing as everyone has their wine. Then they return you to the pick up location.
The hot air balloon ride itself was about one hour long and traveled 6.4 kilometers.
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