on the last day of the 33rd Balloons Week, to be exact….which was last Sunday. All because it was that time of the month…which would have made it uncomfortable to be out in the mountain the whole day doing raquette, with nary a toilet on sight! So I told the hubby could we go and see the International Balloons Festival at Château-d’Oex, instead? Fortunately, he agreed 🙂
Also, my wrist is still hurting so I didn’t think it was advisable to push my luck and go for another trip of raquette. It is also the reason I waited so long…before finally decided to write about the visit to the Balloon Fest. Haizzz….when will this wrist ever heal???
It was actually quite misty and cloudy in Lausanne, last Sunday. So, we weren’t sure whether it would be a good idea to go and see the balloons…BUT…it was the last day of the Fest. So… if we were to give it a miss, it would mean having to wait a full year before we could see it. Therefore, we decided to go after all…hoping that the weather up on the mountains would be better than down in the valley. And true enough…..it got sunnier as we left Montreux and travelled higher and higher up the mountains. And so, we spent a pleasant and sunny Sunday afternoon at Château-d’Oex. But of course…. not without some hiccups on our way to Château-d’Oex (hmmm…what else is new when we are travelling, huh? :-))
Firstly, we couldn’t buy a ticket for me…as there was some problem with the ticket dispensing machine which somehow rejected the money that the hubby had slotted in (what a choosy machine!!) …and unfortunately, we didn’t have time to try other machines since we didn’t want to miss taking the 10.20am train which would have also meant missing the connecting train in Montreux…(hisshhh…sometimes you wonder why machines loved giving trouble whenever you are in a hurry?!) So, the hubby decided to buy the ticket on board even though we might have had to pay a penalty (unless the train conductor is kind enough to let us off). Luckily for us… as we were at the very last carriage, the conductor was still checking the carriage next to us by the time we arrived in Montreux. So, we bought my ticket in Montreux instead….pheww!!
And then… since it was the last day of the Balloons Fest, the Golden Pass train at Montreux was therefore full… with many passengers travelling to Château-d’Oex. As a result, many passengers would have had to stand if they had still wanted to take that scheduled train. Thankfully, they added a supplementary train which left several minutes later and we managed to find 2 seats in this one before it became full again.
However, we did not anticipate how slow this train would be. We were supposed to be there before 12.00pm so as to catch one of the main event at 11.45am where all the balloons would lift off at the same time. But this supplementary train was not only slow…it even stopped for an indeterminate period at one of the stations. So…. in the end we finally arrived at Château-d’Oex nearer to 1.00pm! Wah lau….it was the longest journey that I ever had just to go to Château-d’Oex!
And then, as there were so many people….trying to find a restaurant or café to have our lunch at Château-d’Oex was another BIG problem! Even though we decided to have our lunch late hoping that the restaurants and café would be free of the lunch time crowds…we still had to walk from one end of the village right to the other end…before finally finding one with available seats for 2 (well…actually. we had to share a table with another couple)! It was the first time that I really walked through the whole stretch of this village …even though I had been here several times with the hubby. If not for the hunger pang….I definitely would have enjoyed the walk more!!
Okay, here are the photos of that day’s excursion…
The unscheduled looong stop at one of the smaller stations. A few people decided to go out and enjoy the fresh air..including myself.. as I was feeling a little sleepy and kept dozing off…waiting for the train to reach Château-d’Oex! These are the older carriages of the Golden Pass train service … with narrower seats and door. So you can imagined the cramp situation inside when the train is full…with people and their winter stuff!!!
It took another half an hour from here, before we finally reached Château-d’Oex.
As we were reaching Château-d’Oex, we could see all the big balloons already up in the air….which of course meant that we had missed the simultaneous lift-off! Argghhh..!!! And… since the train was full and we were seated by the aisle, it was also difficult to take any good shot while seated….especially when it was so sunny with reflection on the glass window!
I was soooo glad when we finally reached Château-d’Oex… and could get off the crowded train!
The Château-d’Oex train station (the side facing the village).
Making our way towards the Balloons Fest activity area….further down the village..
The many balloons that we saw as we were walking towards the Balloon Fest area….which we found out was not free. We had to pay CHF9 each to roam freely in the area near and where the event was held…which is more than a third (if not half) of the whole village area!
One of the makeshift cashier stations where one can buy the tickets. If u missed this one…they have someone stationed further down to check for people without tickets and from whom you can get the tickets, too.
And how do they know you already bought the tickets? Because…you are supposed to wear them (as demonstrated by the hubby, above :-))
If you think to try and enter by the other side of the village instead of through this main street..which is called, by the way…
“Balloons Street”…what an ingenious name, huh? :-)….
there was another cashier station on the other side of the village nearer to the main activity area. Thankfully for parents….it was free for children.
While some preferred to watch all the activities from the church ground, further up the hill (where we went last year just to catch the last bit of the Fest before it was closed)…
the rest of the crowds prefer to be near the square where most of the action was.
When we arrived near the main activity area, I was so happy to catch these two balloons still on the ground…waiting to lift off while the “pilot” of the clown-shaped balloon was being interviewed.
Especially when I saw these 2 mens starting to pull at the string that hold the Obélix-shaped balloon…thinking that they were getting ready for the balloon to lift off!
Only to realize after sometime….
that the opposite was happening, instead!! Aikkk…..so disappointing….
The view of the main activity area…as seen from the opposite side.
And here are some of the balloons that were flying not too far away–
of different designs..
and from different countries.
flying against beautiful mountain landscapes.
This one is from the commune of Château-d’Oex, itself… just love the colours of the balloon.
And not forgetting the hang gliders, too…
which are part of the day’s attraction… beside some aerial stunts.
Oh well….although we missed seeing the lift-off…we did manage to catch some of the landings.
The Swiss Post balloon making a smooth landing…..
But not this one, though. It’s the colourful balloon from the commune of Château-d’Oex.
Errr……less you think there’s no one inside this balloon…other than the pilot…
there were actually several people on board! All were hiding inside when the balloon took a bit of a tumble while trying to land!
But all up and smiling now… and could even wave a bit…since the balloon is safely on the ground.:-)
The balloon being deflated… and then properly folded… to be stored..
in something like this.
In fact, during the Balloons’ Week, you not only see the balloons up in the air and on the ground…..you also see them on display in most of the shops all over the village!!
Regardless of the type of shops…
Each has its own unique way of promoting the event…
And all…very interesting!
Another thing that made this little mountain village famous…besides its annual International Balloons Week Festival…is the fact that two balloonists or aeronauts, Bertrand Piccard (a Suisse from Lausanne) and Brian Jones (an Englishman from Bristol) took off from this mountain village in a Breitling Orbiter 3 to set the record for flying around the world non-stop in a balloon! That was in March 1999. And unlike the Jules Verne story “Around the world in 80 days“, their travel took them only 19 days, 21 hours, and 47 minutes….to be exact! (source: Semaine de Ballons – http://www.ballonchateaudoex.ch).
Above is the single man capsule where the pilots took turn to rest and sleep while the other did the navigating and flying of the balloon.
And this (above left) was how the balloon had looked like…..and… a replica of it (on the right) during the Balloon Fest. If you were to find out more about Bertrand Piccard, you will find out from whom he got his love for balloon adventure! I was tickled to find out how his grandfather Auguste Piccard became a source of inspiration for the character Professor Cuthbert Calculus in the popular comic The Adventure of Tintin! 🙂
You know, the only thing that would have made the Balloons Festival even nicer, I think…was if there had been more snow! There were plenty of snow when we came last year (you can see here how the place had looked like on the last day, last year). Sadly, there was not as much snow this year, despite starting snowing earlier than last year. Otherwise… the balloons would have looked really awesome flying against a backdrop of snow-covered mountains landscape!
As for pictures of the village of Château-d’Oex that I took during my walk through the village….I’ll share those in the next post lah, huh?