January 18-21, 2002
[Paul:] Today was a very busy day! Early in the morning, Sian and Pauline boarded their flights to Zurich. The rest of us spent a quiet morning at the Baur au Lac Hotel. Well, "the rest of us" except for me. I decided to go out to the airport to meet Pauline's flight from Oslo and bring her into the city.
Transporting oneself to the Zurich airport is so very easy!1 The Zurich Hauptbahnhof is just up the street from the hotel, and from there it's an 11 minute train ride to the airport terminal. I arrived in plenty of time for Pauline's 9:20 landing. Waiting at the customs gate, I was surprised by how few people came through the exit. Apparently, most of the passengers arriving on the various Swissair flights this morning were just changing planes.
1 It is certainly easier for me than getting to the Seattle airport!
After a nice, late breakfast, Paul introduced me to our other travelling companions. And after a quick photo session in the hotel garden, overly excited about some chestnut trees, we left the royal-like Baur au Lac Hotel. Though I had gotten up at a quarter past four that morning, I felt those butterflies shakin’ loose, as we were getting closer. Finally arriving at the Ermitage, my expectations had really been building up.
We got a wonderful welcome by the manager, Fabio, and my room was incredible, with a perfect view of the balloon field!
Now, for those of you reading this who have had the pleasure of staying at the Ermitage: I needn’t tell you about the pleasures of its food. You’ve been there to taste that little piece of heaven that is provided with such elegance and style. Wow ... My first dinner on Friday was certainly a treat beyond anything.
[Pauline:] After waking up Saturday, I got up and out on my balcony, to discover that the festival had once again started in Chateau d’Oex. Balloons everywhere were starting to get inflated. The sky was a little cloudy, but the air was crystal clear and I just couldn’t wait to get up, up and away!!!! Minutes later I climbed into the basket, and five minutes later ... no way back! I was flying!
[Paul:] For the first flight of the festival, we were in Corkscrew Balloon II, piloted by Bill Baker. Our passenger list included Hermann, Cindy, Sian, Pauline and me. We had a great flight, and with our digital cameras, Pauline and I captured the scenery, the passengers, and the landing.
Meanwhile, over in Corkscrew Balloon III, Alf, Watcharee, Annie, and Mike also had some great views of the festival ... plus they were able to keep an eye on our balloon. Because their flight covered a different area from ours, they were also able to see many more of the 'special shape' balloons that flew in the afternoon.
The main sponsor of the festival this year is the Deutsche Post, and in the evening there was a 'glow' inflation of some of their balloons (including the 'bull' special shape balloon). The view from Pauline's window was ideal for watching this.
[Pauline:] First of all, I would like to shout a big HELLO to all those everywhere in Norway who have been checking up on me and probably have increased the number of hits a little. Trude: you should be here!!! Chateau d'Oex would appreciate your party-way. And just cause I go back to the office, don't trust it too much that I won't go disappearing on you again! Travelling is just too much fun!!! Whee!!!
Saturday night fever!!!
After another amazing dinner Saturday evening, Sian and I decided that it was way time we went to one of the local pubs just up the street for some indecent fun and laughs. We managed to talk Paul into joining us for a drink too.
What a great place! It was packed when we arrived at around ... well ... who knows. Late.
A few of the crew-guys were also there, and we were all having a really good time, when suddenly we all were stunned with surprise: An orchestra, with such loud music it blew the roof off, entered the pub. Dressed as Vikings, they came marching in with big drums and trumpets. Now, those locals really know how to party!
Pauline came in a little late tonight ...
Something had been bothering me ever since that very first day that I met all of my ballooning friends in Switzerland on Friday the 18th of January ... A sneaking feeling that something wasn't quite right. That maybe someone in the group was of a more deceiving appearance ... But I just couldn't put my finger on it. It was just a hunch, an annoying feeling in my stomach, and I might have just blown it off as gas, until I came across the FBI's web page on the ten most wanted people ....
REPUTED FERRARI OWNER AND DRIVER.
Remarks: Hermann is known to be extremely generous, and to buy outrageous amounts of heavy-duty champagne. He is right-handed and speaks with a German accent.
Caution: Hermann is wanted in connection with January 2001 and 2002 ballooning in Château d'Oex, Switzerland, purchasing and freely distributing heavy amounts of expensive champagne, and participating in a curling championship on 26 January 1999 in Gstaad. These actions threatened to amuse over 200 people. In addition, Hermann is a suspect in other similar actions throughout the world. He is considered charming and extremely generous, and we suspect that he must be up to something. If you have any information concerning this person, please contact your local FBI office or the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Reward available.
It was just after breakfast, and I was at Paul's computer just surfing along, when I found this, and in seconds I knew that this had turned out to be something very different from just a relaxing weekend in Château d'Oex.....This fugitive was either just hiding, or worse: he could be planning something really horrible right here in Château d'oex!!! I knew I had to tell the others! I had to warn them before it was too late! And so I grabbed my gear and rushed down to the lounge. To my big disappointment, he was sitting right there, talking to Cindy. Poor woman, she didn't know! I had to come up with a plan on how to tell them before we went up in the balloon again!
Then suddenly, the group got up and everything just happened so fast, that before I knew it, we were on our way to the balloon field again. Hermann was too close for me to get ahold of anyone, and I didn't want him to know I was on to him. I had to be subtle about it.
Blood Trails in the Snow
Our flight became a short one. We seemed to be drifting towards some hostile mountains, and Bill figured we had better land. I noticed that Hermann seemed a little upset about landing right there, and the others must have noticed too, for Bill started joking about Hermann wanting a helicopter rescue up in the mountains.
After some routine champagne, I sat down in the snow for a minute, trying to figure out a plan. Then I spotted something that sent ice cold shivers down my back! My God! There were blood trails in the snow!!! Right there, just a couple of feet away from the balloon, a good portion of what seemed to be pretty fresh blood.....
I had no idea how to act, and I just took a quick look at the others, and snapped a photo. I HAD to tell someone!
But then again ... what if I told the wrong one??? What if they were all in this together, and I was risking my life just having dinner with these people? I said to my self that later that night I would try to find out. While the others were sleeping, I would find out more about this fugitive and his potential accomplices....
[Paul:] Everything has been so busy! We're woefully behind on the words, although we hope to remedy that soon. Pauline also seems to be uncomfortable about something, but I haven't had a chance to get her alone to inquire. Perhaps she's just nervous because of the altitude here, which is much higher than Norway.
Anyway, we flew with Bill again today; this was Pauline's final flight. In the absence of any unforeseen disaster, she will leave today for Oslo. Her report is in the final stages of editing, although she seems to be somewhat secretive about it; I also have some materials to add. And then, of course, there are many, many more photos that will be appearing on your desktop soon. Thanks for your patience!
You can skip ahead to the subsequent days, but don't forget to come back here later.
IN OUR PAGES: 100 AND 75 YEARS AGO
[from the International Herald Tribune]
1902: Relief for Cuba
NEW YORK - [The Herald says in an Editorial:] The vital necessity for a reduction of the tariff on Cuban sugar and tobacco is urged by Tomas Estrada Palma. The island cannot be peaceful unless we open our ports to its products. General Palma very truly says that as yet we have done only half our duty by the Cubans.
1902: Relief for Cuba
ROME - The contribution of Fascism to the history of civilization, ardent co-operation of the Italian people in the Duce's great constructive work, drew an exhaustive tribute from Mr. Winston Churchill in an interview to representatives of the Italian and foreign Press this morning [Jan. 20]. "Anyone can see," he said, "that Signor Mussolini things of nothing but the lasting good, as he understands it, of the Italian people. ... I could not help being charmed with his gentle, simple bearing, his calm, his detached poise, despite so many dangers and burdens."
Next: Part II