For what seems like forever now Krakow’s river front has been enlivened by the extraordinary sight of a giant white balloon that never goes anywhere. Suddenly appearing early last summer this vast blimp caused an awful lot of people to stop in their tracks and exclaim “Good heavens, there’s a giant white inflatable thing. I wonder what that’s all about?” or whatever the equivalent phrase in Polish might be. Answers were not forthcoming. For month after month it sat there behind blank hoardings like an inscrutably spherical white elephant. A faction of cracovians were convinced it was something to do with anti-missile defence radar or some such NATO voodoo, others thought it sure to be some tyrannical new Gazprom installation.
A giant white balloon appears on Krakow’s river front – Cracovians are mildly interested
The truth is, as ever, far stranger even than Polish fiction. The Krakow balloon is just that – a giant tethered balloon intended to carry fee-paying passengers 500 meters above the city and then return them safely to Earth. Exactly why anybody would want to place themselves 500 meters above the north bank of the Vistula in Krakow is a question I hope the balloon-people marketing lads have thrashed out to their satisfaction. The higher up you get, the further you can see. As far as I’m concerned the less off the outskirts of Krakow that are visible the better. There’s nothing out there but second-hand car lots and weird concrete churches, neither of which become charming from a great altitude.
The following winter: it’s still there
A while ago a had a chat with the security guard on the site. After a period of moaning and whingeing he eventually realized I didn’t understand a word he was saying and switched to carefully-rehearsed English instead. I learned the following things:
1. Nearby residents believed they were building a supermarket – betraying a surprising ignorance concerning the size and shape of supermarkets.
2. Two eighty-something-year-old ladies have expressed an interest in becoming the first passengers – I fear Babcie with the advantage of the high ground, who knows what damage they could do.
3. The principal reason they are still waiting to start flights is because Krakow airport’s air-traffic controllers think it might be dangerous to have dirigibles dangling baskets full of tourists floating around in their airspace – you can see their point.
It flies! It flies!
Maybe you can find people willing to suspend themselves under an inflated bladder for the chance to see Now Huta from 500 meters. What worries me is that the first thing I think of when I see the balloon is “where can I buy a bow and arrow?” The temptation to burst the thing with a pointed stick propelled at high speed from a longbow is just overwhelming. So far I’ve had no opportunity, but what happens when the the Tatars come back? Look at what they did with one arrow before. Hejnał…