Hot air balloons are always a good photo motif. We had already intended to go to the Warsteiner International Montgolfiade in 2017, but the weather was too bad at that time and we had to cancel at short notice. This year it finally worked out 🙂
The Montgolfiade organized by the Warsteiner brewery in Warstein is one of the largest competitions for hot-air balloons in the world. Like every year the 29th Montgolfiade took place at the beginning of September. By now the event spans across a total of nine days between two weekends and attracts several hundred thousand visitors from all over the world. Apart from eventual costs for the parking spaces (day ticket five euros, multiple day ticket fifteen euros, control posts usually shut down in the early evening) the entrance is free.
There are rather few accommodations in the close proximity. Even if you book early, you may have to plan a longer journey. We booked an apartment with FeWo Wulmi in Wulmeringhausen, about half an hour away by car, for 49 Euros per night.
The two starting places are located on a separate area in the south of Warstein, not far from the brewery grounds. The supporting program included a small fun fair with a few rides, helicopter sightseeing flights, paragliding and hang-gliding flights, paraballooning, tours through the inside of a hot-air balloon envelope, balloon launches in the morning (6:30 a.m.) and evening (5:30 p.m.), and the traditional “Night Glow” (the balloons are lit up to music). On the weekends a daily closing firework was added.
Unfortunately the weather was still a big problem again this year. Of the four balloon starts we could have seen in two days, two were cancelled. The already cancelled morning start on Saturday took place at short notice, but due to the strong wind it was carried out from Oeventrop airport instead. Unfortunately, the public was not informed about this. So we only got to see one night start. One should always keep an eye on the news ticker on the website, especially if the weather is not optimal.
If a ballon start in the morning is cancelled, one should already have ideas for alternatives. I recommend a guided tour through the Ramsbeck visitor mine not far from Warstein, for example, or if you have more time you can also visit the Hansa coking plant or Zeche Zollern near Dortmund.
Before every mass start, everything has to be assembled and the balloons filled with hot air. The balloon envelope and basket fit on a small car trailer. The envelopes, some of which weigh several hundred kilos, were unloaded, unfolded on the ground and checked for holes. Then the baskets with the gas bottles were unloaded as well.
Hard to believe that the balloon envelope, four thin metal rods and a few threads can carry the heavy basket, the gas bottles and several balloonists 😯
The most important part of the whole construction is the burner. It has to heat the air inside the envelope to beyond one hundred degrees Celsius to create enough lift for the balloon to take off. Of course the pilots had to test their burners extensively, to the enthusiasm of the public 😉
First very slowly, then faster and faster the first envelopes filled up, …
…until the baskets were more and more difficult to keep on the ground and suddenly lifted off.
If you booked early enough, you could buy a ticket for a balloon ride for 199 Euros per person. Tickets for the hot air ships cost 149 Euros, helicopter sightseeing flights 45 Euros. In terms of flight time, the hot-air balloon was certainly still the cheapest offer.
Up to 126 balloons rose at the same time during the mass launches this year. You had to make a lot of effort to keep track of the many beautiful envelopes 😯
As always, there were many special forms, including a diver, a cat, an alien, a piggy bank, a sunflower, a matryoshka, the largest fire engine in the world and many more.
Particularly impressive were the Warsteiner locomotive and the “Cristo Redentor” model, a replica of the Christ Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro which was constructed in 2017. The Cristo redentor envelope is even 12 meters higher than the original 😯
A typo has crept in on the envelope of the locomotive: The Orient Express did not travel from Moscow to Beijing, but connected Paris with various other destinations.
Just in time for the traditional “Night Glow” at 10 PM the balloons were back in Warstein. The pilots lit their burners and the envelopes lit up to the music. Even though the choreography wasn’t really recognizable, the whole thing looked more than impressive. The audience was audibly enthusiastic 🙂
Even though we didn’t get to see a morning start, there was still a lot to see during this short trip. The next Warsteiner International Montgolfiade will take place from 30 August to 8 September 2019.