19. avg. 2009

Travelling Eastern Europe

HUNGARY

After crossing Slovenia and Hungary border we have started to observe the nature and terrain surrounding us. We have few taken GPS coordinates but remain skeptical about real flying in Hungary. We've passed Lake Balaton, checked few low altitude hills but being late so that is why we continue our way towards Budapest, the capital of Hungary. As discussing to go on a sightseeing tour around the city we have decided anyway to check for the GPS position of the take off just not to bother us later that even we could try. It was somehow we came around the corner and could not believe what we have seen… many colorful spots above the hill almost just above the capital. Pilots were climbing and we've hurried to join them as quickly as can… first Budapest from the air and then a walk around…

Many pilots on the take off already waiting to launch in front of quite a small launching place where two maybe three wings are possible to spread. Terrain follows NW to SE and on the day NE wind helped weak afternoon thermal to lift us up to the sky above the Budapest. It is possible to soar only up to 300m above the ground because of the nearby international airport. Cloud base developed higher and the ones knowing ‘domestic air rules’ climbed up to the base and tried to fly with the wind towards the Balaton which equals… km distance. We were desperately waiting to launch as soon as possible.

After a while we’d noticed the conditions for take off are perfect, still some thermal along with the ridge but no one wants to go up. It will be my first flight with new glider, the one given by you, UP company. I was not even nervous despite the lunch is short and ending in the bushes. Though the thermal weakened already I’ve caught some lift just above the ground together with other two pilots. I was amazed by Kantega 2 and its smooth turn when climbing, it is versatile and you can feel its stability gives you important confidence.

There are two possible landings. Both landings are placed nearby big shopping center – one is placed on the upper terrace and the other on the lower side a little bit more exposed to the turbulence that day. Even that I did not soar for a long time or make longer distance I was exciting about the wing and the first impression made me happy and I was looking forward for the next flying days. Budapest from the air and Buda sightseeing walk around and making plans for the coming days.

We decided rather to drive to the NE part of Hungary, towards a small historic city named Eger. Basilica, old town full of expensive restaurants, fountain in the middle of the city with drinkable water. It is worth to visit radon thermals which warms up your body. This time we haven’t seen anyone soaring above low hills helping us to find the flying site with coordinate position 47 55’ 45”N, 20 24’ 41”E. Following GPS navigator we arrived to the SE side of a small mountain planted with vineyard fields cca. 3 km faraway from the small airport where locals use to meet. Two gliders, pilots were waiting to take off but the wind was blowing from the back and they were waiting for the proper condition to launch. A small cloud base started to develop above the slope. The rest of the pilots are packing their gear at the landing watching at the remaining two pilots on the slope and discussing about a chance still to catch some thermal.

While we we're talking both pilots launched… we did not pay so much attention on these two cause it is already getting late, the terrain is low altitude, cloud base high above, blown away by the N wind and it's a flatland surrounding us… at that time no idea where the lift is going to the ‘upper floor’… Locals said it is possible to fly to the Serbian border on the SE , 180 km away but you have to understand the over flatland flying which differs a lot referring to our mountain country and a new way of enjoying the air is still we need to discover. Eger is one of the best paragliding sites for flying in Hungary and we came one week before their national paragliding competition. They used to organize competitions in Slovenia too. But this season they will host the competition in their country.

Meanwhile one of the pilots flying Trango started to maintain his altitude just cca 50 m above the landing… you could see he’s slowly getting some height… few moments later he almost taught the cloud base. It was so nicely seen how the thermal is getting from the flat ground towards darkening cloud base. The pilot got higher, almost reached the base and continue his flight to the SW. He managed to fly 25 km with return on that day. Is possible to fly towards all directions and you do not need to worry about safe landings as plenty of plain fields are covering Hungarian flatland.

Tadej wanted to try Eger’s air and was offered by a local to be driven to the other take off facing more to the N. I did not join him as I was a bit tired and took a rest on the landing place and try to feel the air this way. Late hour did not offer thermal anymore but nevertheless it is always worth to try.

The weather forecast in the next morning looked nice but we've decided to visit thermals as one of the sights of the city… we made few meters by the road towards the city when one of the locals came by and like he would have some kind of a magnet to his car we started to follow him to the meeting point. We were exciting the locals are going to fly during the week in a late morning as it is nice you have someone beside who knows the place. They’ve explained us we have to hurry a bit as some storms can appear in the afternoon. They brought our backpacks to the take off and we walked for cca. 30 min through the forest to the launch.

It was 11 o’clock; quite many clouds already on the blue sky and few pilots already catching thermals high about two take offs – one is heading more to the S and the other we went is facing to SW. The air is full of energy already and the clouds grow widely and rapidly. The wind was quite strong too and we’re observing the landscape and which direction would be the best to fly. The Cu on the SW becomes darker and darker every minute… we need to hurry… our gear is ready… the wind still OK to take off… clouds above us are looking nice… but the other darker cloud across the city Eger we found a bit ‘suspicious’ and the wall of rain already joined the cloud and the ground… a hero pilot from the previous day has joined us on the take off trying to make another nice flight. We were assuming air conditions together and he as a local recommend better to wait a little bit. The sky was getting covered and the cloud on the other side of the city became Cb. It has no sense to wait at the take off any longer. We packed our stuff and drove a car of one of the local to the landing. We heard on the radio even others needed to land because of overdeveloped clouds and possible thunderstorm just nearby. A bit relived we packed our stuff into our Renault 5 and start driving towards Slovakia, hoping on better and more reliable weather conditions.


CZECH

Without flying for almost two weeks. Driving the way through Slovakia and further to Czech’s Zakopane. This place could be the most interesting place to fly, snow is still covering high mountains, Visoke Tatry and flatland in front could make flying conditions quite rough. There aren't any clear information if there any paragliding club exists. It is a national park and lots of agencies offer different kind of sport activities to the tourists including paragliding.


Most of other sites in Slovakia and southern part of Czech which coordinates we took on the web are more like training slopes, useful for taking paragliding courses only. It is quite sad in a way when you drive many kilometers to see the place and looking forward you will be able to fly and once you achieve it you see is a very small or no chance for flying.

Javorovy (49º45'44'' N, 18º37'37'' E – 915m take off, 49º38'27'' N, 18º38'22'' E – 452m landing) nearby Polish border has encouraged us with its altitude 915m. As we got closer to the ski resort in the winter, mountaineering and downhill cycling in the summer we saw many pilots soaring not high but it was nice to see them after quite a long time. Chairlift takes you to the top which launch is facing to the N. Sun was just above the launching place and there was still some thermal waiting for us. Two weeks without flying… Tadej is already the highest when I took off. Many pilots were looking for the strongest thermal which would make their flight higher and longer sometimes almost touching ones each others wing. It was a nice flying day and our thoughts came true as we were dreaming that at least we would fly for a half an hour. Catching the thermal till the landing place but you need to be careful of a huge power lines. Our goal was achieved, we were happy and want immediately check the weather forecast for the next day. It is going to be a strong wind coming from the N and Javorovy won’t be flyable at all. The only place where we can fly the next day is Zilina, Slovakia… 80 km back from where we came… but OK, it’s the only place where it will be possible to fly so… let’s go back to Zilina!

White spot on the hill showed we got to the right place. It is 11 am and the wind is already quite strong. We had a breakfast at the landing place waiting for the taxi to drive us to the take off. We were charged for this transfer – 3 and 3 for launch. It is possible to take off to S, SE, SW and NW but it is not allowed to fly much towards W because of the nearby airport, again... Notes displayed clearly inform you about some special details which you need to be consider of. Few pilots have spread their wings, cloud bases above us were developing quite fast and the wind was changing its direction every second.


Some pilots spread their gliders to the southern side of the take off, cloud bases above us are developing quite fast, wind is turning its direction from one to another side every second. Pilots were forced to replace their gliders to northern side of the take off. Clouds have covered the sun and few pilots decided anyway to take off but they made a short jump only towards to the nearby landing. Tadej decided to launch too but the wind got strong again and troubled his wing and pull him on the side. The forecast checked the previous day referring the strong wind was true. Strong wind and thermal forced us to wait for another hour. Meanwhile waiting we spoke to two polish pilots. We asked them if they can recommend us some nice paragliding spots in their county. They haven't been flying in Poland yet and they do not even know some special places where we could go as they usually fly in Slovakia. Not really an optimistic news for us...

Tadej succeeded to launch and he slowly slowly flew away from the ridge. Conditions seemed calmer and the rest are preparing their gear for the launch. Tadej was pushing his speed bar above the take off, one of Polish pilot was forced to land just below the starting place quite faraway from the official landing. The rest are waiting the wind calms down a bit. We are looking towards the N and saw a huge black Cb and already some lightening coming out of it... we must hurry... the wind didn't calm down... it is getting even stronger and Cb is coming closer to our take off place. One of the local pilots advised us to pack our equipment as quickly as possible. They explained when the weather conditions are ok it is possible to fly towards Krakow which is cca. 150 km away towards the N. They have been flying in Slovenia in Tolmin - Soca valley and Tadej's valley - just two weeks ago on the day when it was possible to fly late in the afternoon. Maybe we have meet each other already somewhere above Kobala, Mrzli vrh, Kobarid, Stol, ... it is so interesting to meet people in the other country faraway of our homes finding out that we maybe already meet each other in the same place and flying maybe even climbing the same lift. I thanked them for a drive and we exchanged the contacts. They are interested in flying in China where we are heading to. Wishing nice and flyable days to each other and say goodbye. We have to continue towards Poland... even more flatland country... We hope that...


Poland, Litva, Latvia and Estonia didn't offer us any chance to fly. In these flatland countries it is possible to launch with the 'winch' only and the pilots usually fly there at the weekends. When spending few days in Riga waiting for some package from Slovenia we came to an idea to cross Russia by car via Transiberian road. Already waiting at the boarder, discussing and taking a final decision whether it is worth to make this idea true... we would need to drive at least 500 km per day if the weather is nice (in case of rain the roads can be flooded) all the time and if the car would serve us, almost no stops in some cities would be possible, taking risk the police can stop us many times and requesting us paying some 'globes', some distance you can make 30 km per hour or less other parts can be driven up to 100 km per hour... after six hours of waiting at the border with lots of other cars and trucks we have decided better to drop the Transiberian crossing by our car and keep on going with our primary plan.

We left our car in Tallinn, Estonia, beautiful small Baltic city and our friends from Slovenia will come somewhere in the mid of summer and drive our dearly car back to Slovenia.

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