Sunday, September 8, 2013

Antonov 2, paraglide and balloon fun: just a cool day in Estonia!

Last week contrasted the very first days here in Tallinn. Right after I left Copenhagen I felt a bit lost, not really knowing how to spend my days and with whom. Surprisingly I ended up having an extremely fun, busy and sociable first Uni week. The courses I took so far are inspiring and all professors seem very friendly and open. The atmosphere reminds me of the one in Kaunas, which is good. Wednesday I joined Kalev for a balloon flight. He's Estonia's only commercial balloon pilot. He showed me some paper work dating back from 2009, when Estonia's first commercial balloon company became a fact. Only then! The flight was lovely. From above we saw Tallinn and even a small piece of the coast of Finland, which is just a two hour boat ride away. After having lived in every single Baltic country I can now also state I flew in a balloon above them all! I furthermore have to note that I absolutely loved all the Estonians I met during this flight. In the little red guideline book for international students I read that Estonians are quiet and do not ask many questions. It was furthermore written they avoid handshakes and hugs in a private sphere and that if you put four Estonians together you'll end up seeing five different parties. Well, the people I met were so not like that. We shared so many laughs. 

When I thought I fulfilled my portion of ballooning for this week I received a text message. It was Saturday morning. "Nienke, wake up and join. We're going to do some paragliding and ballooning". Ok! Within half an hour I showered, ate a pack of cookies and packed my beloved rucksack for yet another adventure. And oh yeah, what a great day it was! Interesting, how people with the same hobby can make you feel so much at home. I still cannot believe I made three flights that day. It started off with a very special one in a rusty old Russian Antonov 2. I joined some parachutists but I myself stayed inside the plane, nicely settled in the co-pilot's chair. I was so surprised how such a short way this beast needs to get up in the air. When all the passengers safely jumped out the pilot was obviously interested in landing as soon as possible. The crazy nose dive we made tickled my stomach. Wow!!! Too awesome for words. So, that was number one.

The next flight I joined Jaano in his duo glider. With a winch we were carried up. I guess that was the most scary part, this running before lifting off. When being up in the air I noticed how incredibly wobbly it is to hang under a paraglide. I honestly didn't expect that. Secretly I felt a little bit fly sick, even though I never experienced that feeling before (not even during the flight with the Antonov!). After around 20 minutes we came back to mother earth safely. Nice. Another success. 

I took a short nap in the sun and then continued with the third flying activity of that day. A balloon flight! We took off with eight people in total and dropped three on the way. They were wearing a parachute of course. Since we flew somewhere in the middle of Estonia with a clear sky we could even spot the huge Peipus lake which borders Russia. There were hardly any possibilities to land, that much forest over there. Kalev flew very low over a beautiful swamp. We made a little break there and I was offered some sour berries which grew there. We almost didn't spot any wildlife, but still, the nature was breathtaking as well as the upcoming sunset. Everything smelled so fresh. It quickly cooled down. A wool cardigan and outdoor jacket could just keep me warm. Luckily before we took off the sauna at Jaano's place was already prepared for some cold and tired balloonists. What a perfect way to end this adventurous day: beer and sauna. Wonderful. Oh, and then I didn't even mention yet that I spotted a moose crossing the road that day. The cherry on the cake!  

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