The Liberty Gazette
May 29, 2018
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: Last September’s Hurricane Harvey interfered with our anniversary vacation plans and “Vacation Croatia” turned into “Vacation Rodeway Inn, Humble, Texas.” Fortunately, all involved refunded our paid expenses and we put off the trip to former Yugoslavian states along the Adriatic Sea for another time.
That time finally came for the long flight aboard a United Airlines 767 from Houston to Munich, then Croatia Airlines into their capital, Zagreb. We’d start there—and it’s a lovely city with fascinating, complex history—but I think we both were most looking forward to the chance to log recreational flights in a foreign country. Not just any: we’d fly over the southern tip of the Alps, over Slovenia.
From the capital, Ljubljana, we drove northwest about an hour to Bled, where I’d rent a Cessna 172 and take Mike for a photo flight. Before that, however, he hopped in a glider and went soaring for over an hour above some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
Mike: Hunting the air’s thermal activity that will lift this glider higher, we’ve found a pocket of cooperation. We’re now live entertainment for the family outside on their deck as we drift by. I’m wondering how they built that a house on such a steep mountainside. Moments earlier, our pass was much lower and I was looking up at them. Now, we are at eyeball level and close. We reach the edge of the mountain ridge where turbulence and downward sink suggest we turn our glider around and pass by the chalet again.
Clouds billow above and around us masking the higher peaks in pillows from multiple shades of grey to blazing white, reflecting the sun’s rays. Jagged streaks of crystalline snow appear from the cloak to cover the upper elevation. We were not supposed to be able to do any soaring today; the forecast for Bled, Slovenia was rain. Still, Linda and I had ventured to this picturesque little town with a church on an island, in the middle of a lake, and a castle standing guard from the top of a hill overlooking it all. The weather broke just enough so that now, I am able to go soaring in the Julian Alps.
German glider pilots hang out here at the Lesce Aerodrome at Lake Bled because the soaring season starts earlier in Slovenia than in their country or nearby Austria or Switzerland. They didn’t think there was much hope of staying aloft today. But Milan, the local pilot I am flying with, has been soaring here forty-two years and knows all the best places to find updrafts.
Effortlessly, we sweep past the A-frame again. This time the people on the deck are below us. This moment, silently soaring above snow-capped Alps, I am on top of the world. The chalet couple snuggles close and eagerly waves to us, their entertainers in a quiet, graceful sky dancer who smile from the romance in the air.