Monthly Archives: September 2014

Ballooning over the city of Minsk


3 ballooning (16)Balloons flew over Minsk, the capital of Ballooning over the city of MinskBelarus, where the First Hot Air Balloon Championship of Belarus took place. Hot air ballooning is one of the most romantic and entertaining sport one can enjoy. I have written before about aeronautics when I was in Crimea, which I involved with for many years. This time 20 hot air balloons flew over the beautiful city of Minsk and created an outstanding event. My friends and I took part in this competition with our wonderful pilot Andrey.

Ballooning over the city of MinskFlights take place in the early morning and in the evening just before sunset. Preflight briefings are mandatory before each Ballooning over the city of Minskcompetition, when every pilot receives information about the weather and information about the flight. Every pilot get tasks and markers. Markers are a coloured ribbon made of a special heavy duty nylon with a small bag of sand attached at the end, these are used for better gravity discharge. The Pilot has to drop markers from the basket as close to the goal as possible.


Ballooning over the city of MinskUsually, the goal or target is a white cross on the ground which is clearly visible fromBallooning over the city of Minsk space above and placed in a spot according to predetermined coordinates. In another task competitors attempt to reach a mark or a valid track point, this task is named “Hasitation waltz”. In the “Hare and Hounds” task, pilots have to follow the hare balloon and attempt to place a mark or land in the area of the hare balloon.

The results of the tasks are determined by the skills of the pilots. Sometimes good luck helps the pilots in the form of a tailwind blowing in the right direction or a successful upward or downward flow of air at the right time.


To prepare the balloons before the flight, every team expands the shell of the Aerostat on the ground, connect and secure the shell to the basket, then expand the balloon with cold air using a fan and finally, by using a gas burner, fill the balloon with hot air. When the aerostat is raised vertically it is ready for take off.

Ballooning over the city of MinskNone of the flights are repeated, so the funBallooning over the city of Minsk of flying not only at a height close to the clouds but also with the most fantastic panoramic views ever, fills one’s soul with great joy. Depending on the wind direction and speed, the flight duration could be up to 2 hours, the gas stored in four gas cylinders installed at each corner of the basket are generally sufficient to last at least two hours or more.


Not so many cities allow you the freedom to fly a balloon along the streets, waving at the residents and wishing them good morning. This turned out to be a very special flight. Imagine the situation if you are awaken in the early morning by a strange noise outside your fourth floor window and popping out on to the balcony you come face to face with a gigantic balloon, what a shock and disbelief that a flying aircraft is taking place at the height of your fourth floor apartment and ask yourself “is it a dream or a miracle “?

Pilots have to choose a landing place according to weather conditions and topography of the land. The support team follows the balloon route by car and after landing, help pack the shell, load the equipment in the trailer and bring the team back to the competition center.

Ballooning over the city of MinskAt the end of the competition, an Ballooning over the city of Minskincredible light show spectacle took place by the river bank, when all the balloons light up the night sky one last time. We will be back in Minsk again next year! This event was truly memmorable and an unforgettable experience.

In general Belarusians are a very good-natured and hospitable people. They make Ballooning over the city of Minskeveryone feel like Ballooning over the city of Minskwelcomed guests, especially balloonists and their passengers. In one small village one of the locals invited us to help ourselves to his apples in his orchard. Guess who went home with bags full of apples?

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My car travels to Europe (day 10). Cote d’Azur, Villefranche and Monte Carlo


Cote d'Azur, Villefranche Names of towns are usually associated with legends, history and the geography of the area. The history of Villefranche-sur-Mer has been known since 1295, when the Count of Provence, Charles of Anjou, established the town as a “free port” with tax privileges. Beaulieu-sur-Mer in French means “beautiful place by the sea.” Not forgetting that most towns along the French Riviera are beautiful in their own way, it’s difficult to say which one is the most beautiful. There are places along the coast on the way to Monte Carlo, which are especially revered by the rich.

Cote d'Azur, Villefranche Between the two towns, Villefranche and Beaulieu there is the Cote d'Azur, Villefranche resort of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, nicknamed as one of the pearls on the French Riviera, which is located on a peninsula that extends out into Cape Ferrat. It is a favorite holiday destination among Royalty, the European aristocracy and millionaires. King Leopold II of Belgium in 1902 built several houses on Cap Ferrat, as it was his estate at that time. Nowadays Cap Ferrat is a place littered with the most expensive properties in the world. A number of magnificent villas on Cap Ferrat are owned by the wealthy, like Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber among many others.

Cote d'Azur, Cap FerratOne luxury villa is the “Villa La Leopolda”, designed in 1929 by an Cote d'Azur, Villefranche American architect for King Leopold and his mistress Caroline Lacroix, whom he married 5 days before his death. Very rich celebrities, an architect, a financier, an industrialist and a banker have owned this villa in the past. In 2008 a Russian billionaire offered to purchase this home for half a billion euros, paid millions as a deposit and was charged more millions when he failed to complete the deal. This villa is now the most expensive private property in the world. It was protected by the French state as a historical and cultural monument, as it was built during the Belle Époque, which spanned from the late 19th century until 1914, during the heyday of technological progress in Europe.

10 Beaulieu-sur-Mer (2)This day was devoted entirely, to the visit of these most famous palaces such as the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild was built at the 10 Beaulieu-sur-Mer (1)same time on Cap Ferrat and is now a Museum open to the public. The Rothschild dynasty has lots of luxurious palaces in different countries of the world, I wrote about these in my article about the Rothschild palace built in the style of a French chateau in Waddesdon, when we visited the estate a couple of years ago. The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on Cap Ferrat is in an Italian style built in 1912, contains an art collection of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance also antiques from Marie Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour, as well as very fine furnishings. The palaces are worth visiting not just to admire the rich heritage of modern civilization but also to experience and see the actual artifacts at first hands.

Admiring these luxurious villas with the background of the azure sea, I realized that even if one worked very hard for 50 years, they will never amass anything near enough to afford any of these mansions. Only some lucky people and in most cases, with Aristocrats, the wealth is inherited from previous generation. Materialism aside, the true value of life for each person will always be different.

Cote d'Azur, MonakoAt last we reached the Principality of Monaco, the final destination Cote d'Azur, Monako,Nonte Carloof our voyage along the Côte d’Azur. This small territory has been controlled by the Grimaldi dynasty since the 13th century of whom Prince Albert II is now the head of the state. Phoenicians first settled on this land in the 10th century, followed by the Greeks. Monaco’s name comes from the Greek “single house” (monos) but could also be from the only temple in the area “Monoikos” attributed to Hercules. Monegasque is widely spoken here but French is the official linguage as the principality is associated with France.

This archaic principality has maintained it’s traditions for over 700 years and some pagan festivals are still celebrated to this day. The prosperity of Monaco is fuelled with preferential tax policies and the investment activities of some international businesses. In this small country, which you can cross by foot in a few hours, 800 international companies and 50 banks operate.

The most beautiful buildings are The Prince’s palace, the Oceanographic museum, managed for some time by the legendary Jacques-Yves Cousteau and the Cathedral of St. Nicholas. The Monaco Grand Prix, the Monte Carlo Rally and the Tour de France are some of the famous events broadcast by the media all over the world. On the waterfront of Monte Carlo there is a Mall with football star footprints imprinted on the concrete called “Golden Foot”, similar to the Walk of Stars with their hands in the Hollywood payment. Near the waterfront there is also a very nice Japanese garden, beautifully decorated with a waterfall.

Perhaps the most “iconic” symbol of Monte Carlo is the Casino, built in 1878 by Charles Garnier, the architect of the Opera House in Paris. In the casino you can not use a photo camera, as the architecture of a glamorous era, presented in this historic building is decorated with beautiful frescoes, paintings, a marble floor, Ionic columns made of Onyx and other artistic items, some of which can be seen in the films, based on stories by the English novelist Ian Fleming about an agent named James Bond.

The atmosphere and visitors are very different from those represented in the moves. We visited the casino after being asked to pay an entrance fee of 10 euros, saw hundreds of slot Cote d'Azur, Monako,Monte Carlomachines, watched the players and talked to the manager. Dress code in the casino no longer exists; you will not see ladies in elegant dresses and gentlemen in dinner jackets. At the same time, we were told that the casino is no longer an elite club as not many respectable people attended anymore except to the restaurant but rather a lot Cote d'Azur, Monako,Monte Carloof “strange” visitors with dubious sources of income tend to frequent the place. We were very disappointed with our visit but that was not important as we enjoyed viewing the architecture of the building and the amazing paintings and decorations of the rooms.

Cote d'Azur, Monako,Monte CarloI also found time to swim on the beach in the rays of the setting sun, ending our nice summer day on a high note. We left the principality through a mountain tunnel and were being overtaken many times by Bentleys, Ferraris and other expensive cars, angrily hooting at our humble “Ford” preventing them from exceeding the speed limit. Unlike us, people driving fast expensive cars, can afford to flout traffic rules. Monte Carlo is littered with very expensive car showrooms and high class hotels.

Next we headed towards the city of Frejus along the D6007 a long and winding road through mountains and forest. It was Friday the 13th with a full moon, which we found very romantic; needless to say the day was very enjoyable despite all the bad signs!

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