Photo: Alexander Stemp

Budapest by balloon

From the canvas to the clouds

Hungarian artist Pál Szinyei Merse’s defining painting “Balloon” from 1878 can be seen in the National Gallery and now has literally floated into the city proper after 144 years with much celebratory fanfare, as it beautifully matches the occasion of a new venture in Városliget, the City Park.

The famous work of art, titled “Léghajó” (Balloon) in Hungarian, was painted after Szinyei Merse’s imagination was captured by a balloon trip taken by his brother-in-law. The red-and-white striped image has now come to life in a same-coloured balloon available from May 1 for “flights” in the recently restored park.

The delightful addition to this immediate area continues to rise with plenty of interest from tourists and local people alike. It’s easy to find, as this cheerful, glossy craft is clearly seen from Heroes Square when in full flow, though its eventual base among the trees is nearer to the Széchenyi Baths.

Operating hours are daily from noon to sunset providing the weather allows. There are no particular booking times and the craft will take off when the basket, which can take up to 30 persons over the age of 6 at a time, is sufficiently full.

Photo: Alexander Stemp

After the captain has briefed everyone on the safety rules, the magnificent structure ascends to a maximum 150 metres. This procedure takes about five minutes to achieve. Everyone stays suspended up there for roughly this same amount of time before its eventual return to Earth.

This family-friendly event is secure and environmentally suitable. The balloon is filled with helium and is secured at all times to a flexible metallic cord that allows it both to sail upwards and then pulls it back down. Thus while there is a splendid bird’s-eye view in all directions, the balloon simply will not drift anywhere else and in a sense is similar to a conventional lift.

Photo: Alexander Stemp

Behind the scenes, a wind speedometer, a direction-finder, an ambient air thermometer, a dome pressure indicator and a gas temperature meter evaluate the atmospheric conditions to make sure they are calm, and there are no sudden rushes of air or other uncalled-for conditions.

This memorable outing comes highly recommended, and the iconic inflatable now awaits everyone.

Photo: Alexander Stemp


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