Monday, August 15, 2011

1st Balloon Ride

The time came to take the birthday hot air balloon ride. Sounds like a great idea for someone who's scared of heights, right? It was awesome!! By far, the best birthday present EVER!!

A couple of things did not work out as planned but, in the end, everything came together. Originally we were supposed to go on Saturday afternoon but the weather did not hold out so we were moved to Sunday morning. We were told that we would take off from Radešín and land in Brno, near Kraví hora. Radešín is about an hour away from Brno and not so easy to get there at 6 AM on Sunday. So Sabine ordered a taxi for 5 people. I guess the taxi company included the driver as one of the five people. Logczech. Half of us took the first car and a second taxi came about 20 minutes later.

We get there and everything is fine. Sort of. We then find out that we will land in Mirošov; not Brno. That's about an hour away and we had no clue about how to get from there back to Brno. But that's not anything that the five of us couldn't figure out.

The big surprise came when we saw the balloon. We thought we were going up in a small balloon with just us and the pilot. Instead, there were 30 of us going. It turns out that Kubíček, based in Brno, is the 3rd largest producer of hot air balloons in the world. They were giving a test flight to a potential buyer so we got to join in with them go for a ride in one of the largest balloons in the world. It was awesome!!

So at 7 AM we were high over the Czech country side. Claudia had brought some champagne for us. Then people started handing us beers and passing around a bottle of slivovice. Nothing says "Sunday morning" like 7 AM shots of booze. Another last touch was that one of the guys from Kubíček brought along his violin so we were serenaded during our flight. He even played "Happy Birthday" for me. The ride was incredible!! I even did OK with the whole fear of heights thing.

After we landed in Mirošov, they had to pack up the balloon and then drove us back to our starting point in Radešín where we had breakfast. After about an hour or so they wanted all of the first-timers to gather around. I thought it was for a group photo but then someone came up to each of us and blew into our hair and then put some dirt on our heads, followed by a quick flick of a lighter and some water...for the four elements. This was quickly followed by the pouring of champagne as part of our hot air balloon baptism. Apparently, I am now known as Christopher z Mirošova since that's where we landed.

After another hour, the company drove us back to Brno. So everything worked out perfectly. My only concern is that now I'm spoiled because the next time I go for a balloon ride I'll expect something huge with musical accompaniment. Between the five of us we managed almost 1,000 photos and videos of our outing and I've posted them all on Flickr. Big thanks to Vilém, Markéta, Adriana, Dalibor, Pavel, Tomáš F., Tomáš K., and Annie for pitching in on my birthday ride. And extra HUGE thanks to Claudia, Norbert, Sabine and Natalie for going on this adventure with me. Again, the best birthday present EVER!

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