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Hot air balloon flights

Man has always wanted to fly, and stating that it can be accomplished quite easily in Latvia would not be an overstatement. Get into a hot air balloon and see our beautiful, green country from a bird's eye view!

Those who have tried flying in a hot air balloon all have the same feedback – that has been one of the most unforgettable journeys in their lives. The slow, calm movement over fields and forests, rivers and lakes, hills and valleys – no other vehicle can promise the experience provided by this majestic and quiet airship.

First data about hot air balloon enthusiasts in Latvia dates back to the last quarter of the 17th century when Ernests Johans Binemanis, Jelgava Peter's Academy mechanic, the son of Blankenfeld manor former serfs' Ermanis and Lize, began to be taken up with flying.

Kristaps Zīle, born in Kurzeme, is to be considered as the first professional hot air balloon pilot of Latvian origin, who took off over 16 thousand meters high in a hot air balloon near Moscow in 1935 (complete information about the ballooning history in Latvia, current activities, training, etc., see at http://www.balticballoon.lv/).

The rage for flying in hot air balloons has been common for more then a decade in contemporary Latvia. Over the time, a great airship fleet has formed which is managed by experienced specialists certified by the World Air Sports Federation (FAI). Hot air balloon teams, most of which are members of the Latvian Hot Air Ballooning Association (www.ballooning.lv), are successfully participating not only in local but also foreign competitions.

If you too want to feel the romance experienced when going for a ride in a hot air balloon, you are welcome – a range of clubs provides the service. Besides, there are different rides available. If you are organising an anniversary celebration or a corporate event, you do not even have to ... fly, just get off at the height of a seven-storey building, getting on a hot air balloon strapped to the ground with strong ropes.

If you want a real flight, first of all, you have to decide on the direction you want head to. There are lots of beautiful locations in Latvia, and you will see scenic views not only in such tourist favourite sites as Sigulda or Kuldiga, but also in Jelgava, Talsi, Liepaja, Valmiera, Koknese, and everywhere else.

Rides are organised both in winter and summer, spring and autumn. A ride in a hot air balloon, however, mostly depends on the hour of the day and can only be made in the absence of precipitations and the wind speed not exceeding 4-5 meters per second. The decision on the course or cancellation of a ride, upon assessing all flight safety aspects and the current meteorological situation, is made unilaterally by the airship pilot, and the decision cannot be influenced in any way (the weather forecast for aeronauts can be fount at: http://balticballooning.lv/). The most appropriate season for flying in Latvia is summer when the rides are organised in the mornings, two to three hours after sunrise, and in the evenings – two to three hours before sunset.

The flight direction is determined by the wind – a hot air balloon only flies in the wind direction. The ride and distance depend on the wind speed: usually, a ride lasts for about an hour, and a hot air balloon flies for a distance of 10 - 20 km, on the average.

You can go for a ride yourselves; yet, a ride can also be a wonderful present, one can also propose and …even get married during a ride! You can shoot great pictures and film from a hot air balloon. A hot air balloon ride will also be a perfect fit for team-building events and can make a surprise for a graduation or anniversary. By joining a team you can also participate in hot air balloon competitions.

Currently, the biggest club in Latvia is 99 gaisa baloni (http://www.balloon.lv) founded in 2002, involving active participation of seven licensed hot air balloon pilots and four international category ballooning judges. The club organises Latvian championships in ballooning.

Training for hot air balloon flights and introductory rides are also offered by the Club Airkargo (www.airkargo.lv), Jelgava Pilots Union (http://www.balticballoon.lv/), Hot Air Balloon Association (www.gaisabaloni.lv), Latvian Hot Air Ballooning Association (http://www.ballooning.lv/), etc.

A hot air balloon ride is not a cheap pleasure, nevertheless it is worth trying!

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