My job offered me the chance to go on a jolly to Berlin in mid-October to Embedded LinuxCon 2016. A nice technical conference, food, travel and accommodation all expensed. The nice thing is my employer is flexible on business trips being extended into holidays as long as it costs them nothing extra. BONA!
I’ve wanted to visit the bits of Europe that were behind the Iron Curtain since I was a child and had maps of Europe that were detailed about the West and lacking about elsewhere. Now I could visit and explore. Well that was the plan but some changes in how I used my vacation meant I didn’t have much time left to properly explore. I had enough vacation left to take a long weekend. Secondly, with the asylum inmates voting to leave the EU my pounds are worthless and I’d need to buy Euros and also Czech Crowns and Polish Zlotys. I ended up staying in Gorlitz which was one city but is now 2, Gorlitz in Germany and Zgorzelec in Poland, the other side of the river. Based here in Germany with my ability to speak a few German phrases reduced the effort needed, I really only needed to worry about Euros as driving to summits in OK or SP was only 1hr30 away and I could use a credit card if needed.
Being a professional cheapskate I booked a cheap Fiesta sized hire car to collect at Berlin Airport. You have to pay a little extra to insure it out of Germany. When I collected it I had a very nice, high spec Opel Insignia 2l diesel with GPS, blind spot detectors, heated seats, heated steering wheel, A/C high spec audio etc. etc. It was nice to drive, quick and also driving on cruise on normal roads meant I got 59mpg or 4.8l/100km. 4 days hire cost me £99.21 including extra charges for going to OK and SP. I was also able to pick the car up 3hrs before I should simply by asking nicely. (Enterprise Car Hire, cheap and unbelievably brilliant customer service.)
I’d surveyed loads of summits and the drive to and from Germany and where I was staying or may stay. Also I factored in WX issues. I was looking at some summits with cable cars to the top etc. But there was plenty of snow and winds the week before I went that ruled these out. I wasn’t after points, just summits to increase my mountain explorer score. The WX was low cloud with maybe light showers so I plumped for a few easy summits that actually feature a little exercise to get the tops. I did extensive checking on Google Earth and Streetview to check the summits were not completed wooded and that there was somewhere to park. It’s hard enough driving down small rural roads when everything is back to front but when you also have to park a car and you don’t know local driving rules and customs you really need to know there’s a car park at the start. The GPS was excellent in guiding me right to the spot. It did however, take me down a Czech motorway where you need a toll sticker to be legal. There was one on the car but it was a Swiss vignette when I checked later so I got the GPS to take me back on toll free roads!
#Day 1 Saturday 15-Oct-2016
After a hearty breakfast of rolls, meats and cheese in the hotel, I was off. I called in at a supermarket to buy SOTA rations (fruit, diet coke, biscuits, rolls and cheese) and followed the very strict headmistress voice coming out of the dashboard. (She did get annoyed when you ignored her directions!) SHe guided me straight to my parking place at the start of the trail. In the UK I use OS maps at 1:25000 and they are fabulously detailed and cost real money to buy. For everywhere else I use OSM data which with the cycling layers enabled, have excellent information regarding footpaths etc. These showed a parking place and a variety of tracks to the summit. As usual they were completely accurate. For offline use, I use Vectorial Map View on my Win10 tablet and Oruxmaps on my Android phone.
Boots on, bag contents checked (radio, cables, battery, pole, antenna) and I was off. It was mild and overcast. And quite steep luckily I had a lightweight walking pole with me to help. Er no, it was 90mis drive away back at the hotel! Damn! The route is trivial, obvious paths with signs and markers. I stopped to chat to a family who spoke excellent English. Their heads collectively imploded trying to understand why someone had come from Scotland to Berlin then to their local hill. I showed them the map of OK with all the SOTA summits overlayed and there was a further implosion. Why would someone come so far for such a nondescript hill walk. I left them trying to fix their heads.
What I wasn’t prepared for was how popular getting out in the countryside is in Czech Republic (or Poland). Soon there were lots of people going up and coming down. It was like Piccadilly Circus. I had to get off the true summit to get away from the people and to find suitable ground for some tent pegs. I ended up on a steep bank which had it not been hazy would have had a great view.
Looking North East from Klíc OK/LI-020
It was a pleasant walk up, just a little bit of exertion needed. I had my vertical antenna I’ve been using for some years now, both in the UK and over Europe and Africa. Radio conditions were not brilliant but I was able to work 11 stations on 20m and then another 7 on 30m. I worked a good number of stations in the UK on 20m which was nice. What was hard was sending OK/M0FMF/P all the time. I had forgotten to program my keyer with a suitable message. Worse it’s a pig to program and I wasn’t attempting that away from home. I was on the air for a total of 1hr40. I was planning another summit so as it started to spot with rain I decided to pack up. By the time I got back to the car it wasn’t spots of rain but very heavy rain which was not forecast. I had some rolls and cheese and programmed up the next summit.
Looking East, the country around here is full of these small hills, old volcanos?
This is not far from Klíc, probably 15mins to people familiar with the roads. It took me nearer 30mins. There is a huge carpark and mountain restaurant here. It was packed with people eating and drinking and the car park was busy too. The rain came down hard and I expected Noah to come along with his Ark. My mobile phone provider (Three) has recently extended the countries were I can use my UK calls and data as I was at home to now include Germany, Czech Repblic and Poland. So I spent 25mins on the phone talking to Brian G4ZRP filling him in on the summit plans. By the time we finished the rain had stopped. Again OSM data was blob on and I followed the path to the summit. This was through lovely forest for 1.5km then it climbed up an easy zig-zag path to emerge on the summit. The database calls the Luz but German / Czech borer straddles the summit. The German name Lausche. There were lots of people, many Germans walking here and I knew I’d have to keep out of the way with the antenna. I’d thought about sitting in Germany so I could sign DL/M0FMF/P whilst activating OK/LI-057 but I knew that would only lead to confusion. So I sat on a bench in the Czech side and lashed the pole to the bench.
Operating position on OK/LI-057. The WX improved after the heavy rain and it was quite sunny and warm. T-shirt weather in fact.
Operating was on 20m with 19 worked including N4DA, N1GB and N4EX and 7 on 30m. Conditions seemed not too bad. Of course, this was the second time on the air in OK so I didn’t know what to expect when it came to chasers. I know what I’m likely to work from GM on 20m as lot of the first skip zone is wet. Things seemed maybe quiet but I suppose there may not be the chaser density in the landed areas in my skip zone here. Hey 26 with a compromise antenna with an approaching solar minimum was fine. It was warm and sunny too!
It started to get cooler and after 1hr on the air I had worked everyone who could hear me. I packed up and returned the same way, programmed the GPS and the lady said I needed a toll sticker. Hmmmm, I changed the route to go via Löbau as I knew the road to there was toll free and set off. Road works in Löbau confused me and the GPS but after going round in circles for 20mins I was on the way to the hotel.
No RF problems at all from the many transmitters on the summit. Still hazy but quite sunny.
Looking at three countries at once. The immediate foreground is Czech Republic. The right hand distance is Poland (there’s a large power station just visible) and the left hand distance is Germany (Saxony)
There are plenty of summits around here, I picked these because of documented paths and the fact I wouldn’t be in the trees at the summit. Czech drink drive laws are strict so I was not able to stop and sample the exquisite beers they have here. However, the small glimpse I got of the Czech Republic makes me want to come back and explore much more. I also know how many tourists must feel on reaching Wales and wondering how the hell you pronounce the names. Well it was the same for me in Czech Republic!
This was association #14 on Mountain Explorer quest, 1 association away from gold level.