Hot Air Ballooning over Lake Bled


Bled views from a hot air balloon

Blood pooled around my sweat-soaked fingers, staining the wicker as it splintered around my hands. I tightened my grip on the basket, desperately fighting the urge to scream as the ground began to swirl and rise up towards us.

We were descending rapidly now. Refusing to look down, I forced my eyes straight ahead watching in horror as the snow-capped peaks of the Julien Alps were replaced by the treetops of the forest lining the edge of Lake Bled.

We were just 10 metres from the ground when the wind took hold, forcing us directly into the trees.

This was it.

This was the end. 

I looked around. Why is everyone still so calm? Why aren’t they screaming? Don’t they know we’re about to crash; we’re about to die? This isn’t normal.

I briefly turned and made eye contact with our pilot, who seemed far too calm for a situation like this. If he saw the terror in my eyes, he didn’t acknowledge it and carried on gazing into the distance.

We were several metres away from the trees now. We were too low to clear them in time. We were going to crash.

At that moment, our pilot sighed loudly and leaned over the side of the basket. 

?!?!?!

Oh my god. He’s jumping out and leaving us all to die. Oh. My. God.

The basket began to shudder and shake violently as we began approaching the forest. We started to drift into the tops of the trees, the sound of snapping branches doing nothing to calm my nerves.

Our pilot was still hanging over the edge of the basket, now making loud groaning noises.

What is going on?!

We started to come to a standstill and I knew it wouldn’t be long until we were falling out of the basket and to our deaths.

“Aha!”

Just like that, our pilot bounced back upright again, beaming. In his hand were several branches and flowers he’d pulled from the trees. He winked as he handed them to me before casually firing up the gas and guiding the balloon back up out of the trees.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Hot air balloon in Lake Bled

It was at this point when I began to wonder why exactly I had thought it such a good idea to spend my birthday flying through the air in a hot air balloon – especially considering how terrified I am of planes, cable cars and, well, pretty much any activity that requires me to be more than 10cm off the ground. And yet, I still seem to end up doing them.

It’s become a recurring theme over the past year: I’ve somehow managed to trick my brain into thinking I’m now an adventurous traveller and that I would genuinely enjoy doing terrifying things. The second I book them, however? That’s when I suddenly realise what I’ve let myself in for and begin freaking out and faking illnesses. God help me when I get to New Zealand next year.

As predicted, much of the build up to my birthday was spent worrying about my hot air balloon adventure. I would frantically research safety statistics, how many people die each year, how to survive a hot air balloon disaster…

I was so scared.

IMG_9939

When the two days prior to Balloon Day were filled with torrential downpours, raging winds and thick thunderclouds, I thought I’d had a lucky escape. When our first two attempts were called off, I thought it inevitable that the third would also be cancelled.

Of course, I wasn’t so lucky.

I almost burst into tears when we awoke at 6am to beautiful clear skies. Slowly getting dressed and mumbling to Dave about how I had a migraine and that I probably shouldn’t go, I was forced out the door and we were up in the air by 6:30.

Fifteen minutes later our pilot was playing games and performing ballooning tricks, much to everyone’s excitement but mine.

Can’t he tell I’m faint hearted?

Hot air balloon views in Lake Bled, Slovenia

However, after TreeGate something really unexpected happened.

I stopped freaking out.

I started to realise that perhaps this guy actually knew how to fly a hot air balloon. And perhaps my near-death experience was all in my head. And once I realised that, I found that floating through the air in a basket felt like the most natural thing in the world.

I even started to have fun.

Even more bizarrely, I found myself feeling a thousand times safer than I do in planes.

Lake Bled from above

My newfound calmness stayed with me even when our pilot descended low enough that our basket skimmed across the surface of the lake, much to the delight of the two Chinese girls who happened to be walking past.

I knew that we were going to be fine. Our pilot was a badass.

Just a few seconds later we were back in the air again and gently drifting over Bled Castle.

Bled Castle from a hot air balloon ride

The next 30 minutes were spent exploring the Slovenian countryside – from snow-capped mountains to white water rapids, from dense forests to ancient castles.

Lake Bled from above
Bled views from a hot air balloon
Lake Bled views, Slovenia

And then, sadly, it was over.

Our landing was smooth and uneventful, skimming across the grass for a few seconds before coming to a standstill – and while I breathed a sigh of relief to be back on the ground again, there was a part of me that still wanted to keep going. There was a part of me that wanted to ride in a hot air balloon everyday for the rest of my life!

Despite my panic attack at the start, hot air ballooning was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I LOVED it! Once I got over my fears, I realised that it was a perfectly safe activity and it was a fun and unique way to experience Bled.

If you’ve never been hot air ballooning before – go! Do it! It’s amazing.

I received a discounted hot air balloon ride from 3Glav Adventures. All opinions expressed are my own.

44 Comments

  1. Theodora
    August 13, 2012
    Reply

    We just did this in Cappadocia. I was amazed how well my vertigo held up to the tree-grazing.

    • August 14, 2012
      Reply

      Wasn’t the tree-grazing the worst? Why do they do that?!

  2. George
    August 13, 2012
    Reply

    Wow lauren looks amazing, well done for getting over your fears (again) x

    • August 14, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks, George! One day I’ll be fearless, right?!

  3. August 13, 2012
    Reply

    You should have re-titled this post Bloody terrified over Bled. What a great read. I flew over Bled in a light aircraft. Far less adventurous but with same stunning views. Next on my list is the hot air balloon. You should try it over the Masai Mara before breakfast. That is really special

    • August 14, 2012
      Reply

      Hahaha! LOVE that title. I want to change mine now! I think I would have found a light aircraft even scarier, you know?!

      • August 14, 2012
        Reply

        See you used the title on your Twitter feed. It would be interesting to see whether it brings in anymore click throughs.

  4. Lindsey
    August 13, 2012
    Reply

    Gorgeous photos, Lauren. I feel for you, and yet I have this strange desire to travel with you and watch it all unfold. Never a dull moment!

    • August 14, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks so much Lindsey! I can promise it’s always, erm, entertaining to travel with me!

      • Lindsey
        August 15, 2012
        Reply

        Bahaha, I’m the person who’d be trying to think of things to say that would freak you out more. Could be interesting ;)

        • August 15, 2012
          Reply

          You are now BANNED from travelling with me! Hahahaha.

  5. Juliann
    August 14, 2012
    Reply

    Happy belated birthday! This is something I’ve considered doing for my birthday. I think I’ll wait til I hit a big one.

    • August 14, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Juliann! You’ll love it! :)

  6. August 14, 2012
    Reply

    Wow! This is fun! Love yours stories, Lauren :)
    Great pics!

  7. Sky
    August 14, 2012
    Reply

    You totally had me freaking out there for a minute! It sounds like a great experience but I’d probably be freaking out too. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to try so maybe eventually…Like you, I always try to pretend I’m a much more adventurous person than I actually am, decide to do something, then spend days freaking out over it.

    • August 14, 2012
      Reply

      Yay, there’s more of us! Hahahaha.

      Honestly though, you should definitely try it out! :)

  8. Jeremy Branham
    August 14, 2012
    Reply

    Well, glad you had a nice birthday. You know I love Slovenia. I was not loving all this drama though :)

    • August 14, 2012
      Reply

      It was pretty dramatic, but all ended up ok – and I got to see Slovenia from a whole different angle!

  9. DebbZ
    August 14, 2012
    Reply

    I’ve never tried riding the hot air balloon before. Because just like you, I’m terrified of flying. But looking at your beautiful pictures, I’m almost convinced that I should do this :D

    • August 14, 2012
      Reply

      Yes, you should!! It feels so much safer than flying!

  10. Waegook Tom
    August 14, 2012
    Reply

    Hahaha Lauren this made me laugh! You and your numerous near-death experiences, oh dear!

    The photos are gorgeous and glad you ended up enjoying yourself in the end! :)

    • August 14, 2012
      Reply

      I know! It’s getting ridiculous!

      And yep, it was amazing! :)

  11. August 14, 2012
    Reply

    This is wonderful, Lauren! I’m also afraid of heights, flying, etc. but sounds like you had an amazing experience. I’d definitely it!

    • August 14, 2012
      Reply

      Yes, I definitely recommend it! It felt really safe :)

  12. Katie
    August 14, 2012
    Reply

    I absolutely LOVE heights! I love looking down at the ground and just wondering what it would be like to fall without hitting the ground! You’re pictures are amazing Lauren, and it’s definitely something i want to do! do you feel like you fear of heights is gone now? or just for hot air balloon rides?

    • August 14, 2012
      Reply

      Katie – you are quite clearly insane ;)

      I’m still pretty terrified of heights. But my phobia of hot air balloons has completely gone now!

  13. I have been reading a lot of posts lately that feature hot air ballooning, but most of those have been in Turkey, so this seems like a new spin. My husband has a fear of heights, but I think I have him convinced to try it… I’ll make sure he reads this post and hopefully it will seal the deal!

    • August 14, 2012
      Reply

      Yes! I really recommend doing it over Lake Bled too. Seriously, I am scared of EVERYTHING, so if I can do it then he definitely can!

  14. April
    August 15, 2012
    Reply

    Oh you’re so funny as ever, Lauren! That’s why I love reading your posts! Where’s your pic with the hot air balloon though? :)

    • August 15, 2012
      Reply

      My hair is so terrible that I refuse to put the photo up!

  15. Kaleena's Kaleidoscope
    August 16, 2012
    Reply

    Wow, that looks like such a beautiful experience! And that castle looks like something out of a fairy tale. I’m glad you overcame your fear to do it, what a great way to see the countryside!

  16. Erik
    August 19, 2012
    Reply

    I’ve heard so much about Lake Bled, I can’t imagine a more perfect way to see it!

    Great Photos!

    • August 20, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks, Erik! It was a wonderful experience :)

  17. Kieu
    August 21, 2012
    Reply

    I can’t believe you actually got in that balloon! I so want to do this and Lake Bled looks amazing. Definitely adding that to the bucket list.

  18. Slovenian
    August 23, 2012
    Reply
  19. Slovenian
    August 23, 2012
    Reply

    Dont want to scare you, but…

    It’s in Slovene language, try Google translate..

    GL!

  20. Mimo
    September 12, 2012
    Reply

    My dear Lauren, those links above say that four people have died when two baloons crashed in Slovenia after sudden change of wind hit them. One baloon crashed and the other was forced to land. When I saw report on TV in Croatia I’ve been frozen to death when they said that one of the victims has been young British woman. Obviously, your fear was not without reason. So, sign of life, please.

  21. July 20, 2013
    Reply

    Sounds like an adventure for sure, and awesome to see that you came around to it!

    I went up in one when I was a little kid, but I can barely remember any of it. I want to go again now that I’m older and will remember it fully!

    You should think about going to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the world’s largest hot air balloon festival. I’ve been the past two years and hopefully again this year. I’ve only taking pictures and watched from the ground. One of these years I’ll hopefully be in one again!

  22. Natalie
    September 13, 2015
    Reply

    Lovely story! The pictures aren’t loading for me and I want to do this anyway!

    Also, I just finished your book and enjoyed it immensely.

    • November 13, 2015
      Reply

      Ah, sorry about that! I’ll update the post now. So happy to hear you enjoyed my book <3

  23. Maria
    October 15, 2016
    Reply

    OMG! What an exciting story! Hot air balloon is my old dream. From there you may make wonderful photos!

    • October 19, 2016
      Reply

      Thank you! Slovenia was the perfect place to have my first experience in a hot air balloon :-)

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