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Visit an Air-Balloon Festival in Russia
June 30, 2006 15:59

Have you ever floated in the sky in an air-balloon? If you have, you remember this for sure; if you have not, just imagine: the gas-jet of the aerostat spits out a blast of fire with a dragon-like sound, and the colourful cupola above your head is graciously lifting you up into the air, and the earth slowly goes away, releasing you from its worldly burdens. You feel the air caressing you, and the infinite sky and transient clouds welcoming you into their realm.

Fabulous scenery opens before you: bright green hills and sparkling curves of rivers, blossoming meadows and tops of pine trees, labyrinths of threads of roads and old churches with golden domes resembling inverted air-balloons.

And if its a festival of aerostats like the one currently held in Kungur town of the Ural Region you will see a number of other air-balloons in the sky. The sight is unforgettable. It also looks impressive from the ground, when the sky is as if strewn with enormous floating multi-coloured drops from time to time lit with fire inside them.

Such spectacles are often arranged in Austria, Czechia, and some other countries. Recently Russia has been catching up with it, and not without success. The tiny old town of Kungur in the Ural Mountains is one of the venues for air-balloon festivals in Russia.

The festival titled Air Fair of the Ural has been annually held in Kungur since 2001. Around thirty balloon crews from various corners of Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Poland, Czechia, and other countries have come together for one week (June 24 July 1) to celebrate the festivals jubilee. The sport director of the festival is Cornelis van Helden (Belgium). The first festivals held here gained praises of specialists and popularity with the public.

One peculiarity of the place makes this festival in Kungur unique: the sky above the town is always free from aircrafts, so the balloonists enjoy utter freedom of movement. They do what is hardly possible in any other area: usual contests in piloting are followed by the so-called Air Battles, an amicable war game. All the crews are divided into two opponent teams. Land armies of the local citizens also take part in the battles. The balloons fly above the town and capture various targets and defeat the enemies with the help of small sacks with sand and a ribbon which are used like markers. Every crew has its own landing party, jumping with parachutes, a sniper and a navigator. This team championship of the crews of hot-air-balloons is officially held for the first time in the world, which is confirmed by the Federation of Aerostatics of Russia. The organizer of the battles is Andrey Vertiprakhov (Russia).

The festival participants also plan to carry out an unprecedented hot-air-balloon flight over the border of Europe and Asia.

So if you are not devoid of romanticism take a chance once and come to an air-balloon festival! If you are lucky to get into the air in an aerostat you will most probably experience unforgettable sensations of freedom and unity with everything around.

In Kungur the pleasure of ballooning can be accompanied by exploring the old mountains of the Urals with sluggies and some rare plants, a natural monument of the Kungur Ice Cave and finding stylish art souvenirs of selenit that is mined here.

You can as well choose some other venue from the list below:

The town of Velikiy Luki in Pskov Region traditionally hosts International Meetings of Air-Balloonists. Beautiful flights starting from the fortress in the heart of the town and proceeding over lakes, forests and lilac meadows covered with lupines will leave unforgettable impressions. This year the Meeting was held in early June (3-11 June).

In the mid July (12 16 June, 2006) traditional air-balloon festival Golden Ring of Russia will be held in the old Russian town of Pereslavl-Zalessky (Yaroslavl Region). You can fly over the enormous Pleshcheyevo Lake and observe reflection of your balloon in its sparkling surface and enjoy the bird's eye view of the old monasteries and architectural monuments of this town, which is part of the Golden Ring of Russia.

In August (19-26) the balloonists will get together in Dmitrov town of Moscow Region to take part in the 12th Championship of Russia and the 6th international Cup of the Governor of Moscow Region. The sport director is again Cornelis van Helden from Belgium.

The Championship will be followed with a festival in Kazan under the title The 1001-Year Old Sky of Kazan from July 28 through September 3.

In early September (810) Sergiyev Posad (Moscow Region) will be hosting the Fifth Festival of Aerostats of Special Forms titled the Sky of Saint Sergiy. It is only here and only once a year that one can see so many air-balloons of quite diverse shapes. Tsar Bell and Submarine, Spasskaya Tower and Smirnoff Bottle will be flying in the sky.

A splendid festival in the resort city of Zheleznovodsk (Stavropol Kray) will be held from September 25 through October 2. Flights over mountains open amazing scenery of Elbrus.

For the first time the festival Christmas Meetings is planned to be held in December 22-24 in Istra town of Moscow Region.

Vera Ivanova, 30 June 2006




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