[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ince 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 80 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 37th edition of the International Balloon Festival of Château-d’Oex, from the 24th of January to the 1st of February 2015, closed on a beautiful sunny day. The two first days attracted over 5’000 visitors despite less than ideal weather conditions.
Saturday morning, the opening day, 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. I was nevertheless lucky to get one of the rare balloon rides in the morning. At first, I was a bit disappointed with the lack of sunshine in such a picturesque landscape, but despite modest weather conditions, I was rewarded by a truly magical balloon ride over the village of Château-d’Oex. The lack of sunshine turned the usual winter fairytale landscape into almost mystical scenery with snow covered forests and mountain tops disappearing into the clouds. The roads and the river served as the only contrasts in a snow covered landscape. The balloon ride ended with an impressive flight just above the tree tops along the river at the bottom of the valley and a perfectly smooth landing.
By midday, the sun started to come through the clouds and a slight breeze marked the true start of the balloon festival. Almost 90 balloon rides were taken. The highlight of the day was undoubtedly a new special shaped balloon named Dimitri which was flying for the very first time. This balloon will most certainly become a favorite for many children in all the balloon festivals in which it will appear.
Despite postcard weather on Sunday in pristine snow from the previous night, all flights had to be cancelled because of strong winds on ground level rendering the balloon preparation impossible to perform.
The festival continues until February 1st.
These and more photos of the 37th edition are under www.bydoms.com