Last year I learned about this lantern launch after the fact. Thanks to my Euro volunteer training, I knew that the lantern night was coming. There were many events making the day, a wreath in the river, folk dancing, concerts, and then contact with air traffic control at the airport and the launch of thousands of balloon-like lanterns into the night sky.
Traveling in a jam-packed tram, we arrived on the bank of the Warta River about 10:30 PM. A few lanterns were already in the air. The crowd continued to grow and so did the twinkling lanterns in the sky. Thousands of people, mainly young adults, but a few families with children and folks our age, purchased lanterns for 5 zl each.
The balloon part of the lantern is a silk-like paper, with a metal ring in the bottom. The ring has a crossbar that holds a small pad embedded with fuel. Just light the pad, and let the balloon fill with hot air and release. It sounds easy, but there seems to be an art to it. We saw more than one with a burn mark on the balloon itself. A few burning lanterns got caught in trees; with all the rain we’ve had this month, it was not a concern. What a contrast to the precautions that will be taken in sun-baked Tucson for fireworks on the 4th of July.
We stayed about 30 minutes – leaving just in time to catch the last tram back to our stop. A tram that needed a police escort for much of the trip to safely make it’s way through the crowd. It was kind of eerie to watch the spent balloons, black without their light, fall silently back to earth.
The area near our apartment (about a mile away) was covered with reminders of last night’s light show.