Friedrichshafen Trip 2014

by MD0MDI
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The entrance to all things nice.

My photo diary of our Friedrichshafen Trip in 2014

Well the day has finally arrived, money has been saved from the sale of equipment, and bags have been packed and repacked, and with all the Cameras, iPhones and and laptops all charged up ready for the days ahead, the plan was to meet up at John’s (GD0NFN) and for us to meet up with Mike (MD0VMD) at the sea terminal at around 18:30 for the 19:30 crossing to Heysham, I have been packed and ready for well over a week now, not really looking forward to it, hi hi…

John Butler (GD0NFN) waiting at the sea terminal in Douglas, Isle of Man for our Taxi to Germany.
John Butler (GD0NFN) waiting at the sea terminal in Douglas, Isle of Man for our Taxi to Germany.

I managed to arrive at John’s about an hour early, so we settled for a chat and a coffee and to double check that everything that was needed was packed, thankfully no last minute worries.

All that was left was to make a quick call into Tesco for some important provisions, some beer and a sandwich and then we all headed for the sea terminal for the start of our trip to Friedrichshafen.

Mike arrived soon after and we all piled into the car after some cleaver packing of the boot and before we knew it we were on the boat, sat down, for a very quiet trip to the UK. The boat was really quiet, only 11 cars were loaded onto the boat and there was not that many more people either, very quiet for the Steam Packet, at least the weather was nice, no fear of anyone being sick on this crossing…

The Steam Packet boat Ben-my-Chee and our way off the Isle of Man.
Mike Birchall (MD0VMD) with John Butler (GD0NFN) at the start of a very long trip to Germany and Fun!
Our last look over Douglas Bay for a while.
Mike (MD0VMD) and John (GD0NFN) relaxing on the Ben at the start of our Journey.
Mike (MD0VMD) and John (GD0NFN) relaxing on the Ben at the start of our Journey.

The crossing was very uneventful, with the high light to the entire crossing being passing the huge wind farm that has been erected in the middle of the Irish sea. Last time I came on the ferry there was maybe just around 20 large wind turbines erected, now there seems to be hundreds.

View from the Steam Packet boat of the Wind Farm off the coast of the Isle of Man.
View from the Steam Packet boat of the Wind Farm off the coast of the Isle of Man.

We arrived in Heysham at 22:45 and managed to disembark from the Ben My Chee and managed to be off really quickly due to the lack of cars, with a quick stop for fuel at ASDA to carry us down to Dover, the trip was now officially started.

Thankfully travelling at this time of night meant that the roads are fairly empty and the nights drive ahead should be fast and uneventful.

We stopped for a quick caffeine fill up at roughly the halfway point of the journey to Dover at the Cowley Services on the M6 not far from the M1 junction, so with a quick toilet break, and a few essentials purchased, we were back on the road heading south towards London and the M25.

We arrived at Dover at 03:45 with the morning breaking through the clouds, not that you can see much with each side of the motorway going into Dover being step banks of mud or concrete, but with us all feeling a little tired now, we were happy to have arrived, just the short trip to the boat as we look down over the bay and the lights at the docks.

We arrived in Dover in plenty of time to catch the boat to France.
We arrived in Dover in plenty of time to catch the boat to France.

We parked up and strolled off to the watering hole with a bottle of beer and aching legs after the long journey down. Mike certainly did a good job getting us here in this short a time. Back in the car for a quick nap till the ferry boards at 07:00, before the even longer drive down to Germany.

Another morning nearer our destination, the sun is out, and we all could do with a few hours more kip but aching limbs means that we all need to stretch our legs a little.

Outside the car it’s just a tad too chilly for T-Shirts, and too warm for a coat, only a few minutes to wait till we are able to board, now wide awake and looking around the port, there is not a great deal to look at, we have a small amount of the ‘White Cliffs’ of Dover visible behind us with what looks to be old gun emplacements on top of them behind us, that would have once housed the guns that would have protected the harbor, now just silent shells of buildings most probably covered in graffiti? The rest of the port looks to be sparse and very industrial, built for the obvious task of moving loads of vehicles through its many roadways, make our little Sea Terminal on the island look very small and insignificant really.

Boat in and now just waiting to get on board.
Boat in and now just waiting to get on board.
At 06:30 and our boat pulled in, a somewhat larger version of the Ben My Chee, cannot wait to board her, we all are not just looking forward to the next leg of the journey, but also a breakfast to give us the energy for the long trip to Germany.
Goodbye UK, and we are now on our way.
Goodbye UK, and we are now on our way.

Fed and watered, though not too impressed with the breakfast, certainly had better, but it was much required, as for the boat itself, it is defiantly big, I think you could fit our little craft in the car bay. Mike slipped away to find a quiet area to crash out for the short journey to France, so me and John did a little exploring before also finding a quiet area to just sit and chill before we have the long drive to Germany.

John Butler (GD0NFN) enjoying the last view of the UK.
John Butler (GD0NFN) enjoying the last view of the UK.

We got off the ferry in Calais at 08:34 in glorious sunshine, and for those sad people out there, the French port is so much nicer than the UK side. Under the expert knowledge on Mike we were soon ahead of the rest of the pack leaving the port and straight to a filling station for some much cheaper fuel, just enough to get us to the really cheap fuel over a border or two.

That done the trip starts for good, only about 600 miles to go now, poor old Mike seems happy to do this in one go with a stop in Luxembourg for the cheap fuel, we certainly picked a lovely day for it, weather is just perfect, and sitting in a really nice car on ever so comfier leather seats, with the air conditioning set to freezing, is about as good as it gets, hopefully we will start to see some nice scenery on the way.

We passed into Belgium 09:28 with just a small road sign stating the fact, the land here being as flat as the Netherlands with vast fields of corn, broken up occasionally by a small town.

You have to love these two lane motorways over here, no congestion, no one slowing you down, everyone just pulls out, overtakes, and then pulls back in, if this was back home it would need to have 10 lanes of traffic to be this good, and even then you get would the ignorant arseholes that love to ruin it for others.

We were making good headway and got to the outskirts of Brussels by 10:30, both myself and John had drifted off at this point, and the nearer got the Brussels the slower we got till we got to the M25 road blocks as we neared the ring road around Brussels itself, thankfully and unlike the M25, we managed to get through the traffic and on our way to Liege / Liek, two different spellings for the same town, one bing German and the other French depending on where in the road you are, it did seem a little confusing travelling down the road looking for one version of the spelling then 20 miles further the other spelling is used, and then another 20 miles and it reverts back to the original spelling, they are funny these Europeans!

We stopped for a small amount of fuel as we were getting low (which we found that you had to pay for first, before the pump will let you have any, took a little working out, oops!), and the delights of shopping for food whilst not knowing the lingo, and paid toilets which are fun when the smallest note you have in your pocket is €100 (about £85), thankfully the nice woman behind the counter seemed to understand, either that or she was just glad to get rid of us, so a packet of cheese Doritos and a snickers bar later, we are relaxing by the car, stretching our legs before setting off for Luxembourg, which was on, then off, and now back on as Mike managed to locate the road he was looking for. So back on the road, dead on midday and heading towards another new country.

At dead on 13:00 we crossed the boarder into Luxembourg and past through what used to be the old passport boarder control, and the first stop is the nearest petrol station to fill the car to the brim on cheap fuel, worked out to be about 97p per litre in Luxembourg, well work the trip, especially as we are not really going out of our way either, now with a heavy car we can head south and then west into Germany, this seemed to push us right into road works, but thanks to missing the junction and some quick thinking and exited on the wrong junction carried us down the road a little further and then we came back up the other side of the motorway and straight off to where we were meant to be heading, this quick decision and slight detour actually saved us a good 10-20 minutes of waiting in the traffic jam and we bypassed most of the road works as well!

So we are now heading towards Saarbrucken and beyond to the lower end of Germany, then end is nigh…

40 minutes later we went through a rather large tunnel on the wrong side of the road (due to road works, not our driver) and arrived out the other side of a rather large hill and into Germany! yippee! We now just have to travel south past Strasbourg and then dive across a little and down to our final destination… Are we there yet?

Finally onto some proper autobahns and Mike was able to put his foot down and quickly add a few more miles on the journey. John had drifted off again and we were all feeling quite tired having only rested during fuel stops and only for a few minutes at a time, but the plan was set in stone now, try to get to Friedrichshafen at around 5pm local time, purchase beer and wine, and get totally sloshed, and then sleep for tomorrows day of fun…

That said we didn’t account for Germany playing tonight in the football world cup, so the roads are getting busier the nearer we get to Stuttgart, so 5pm may jut turn into 6 or 7pm…

Presently 15:43, and we have abruptly gone down from an average speed around 120mph to about 10mph, Mikes idea was that everyone will be trying to get home for the football seems to be coming true, especially as most people seem to leave work around 15:00 as they start at 07:00, we have just heard that a commentator on the radio stating that Germany kickoff around 19:00 and he said the roads will be empty from 18:00, we are kind of counting on that, it may not help us out too much heading towards a major city such as Stuttgart, but hopefully once through that one, the driving should improve, we are hoping so, it’s been a long hard day for us all, but especially for Mike who has done a cracking job getting us down to the show this year, something that I don’t think any of us would have been able to do on our own, especially after some of the turnings that Mikes done has saved us loads of time, and the road signs are not too easy to follow, and only prior knowledge of the roads has helped us out.

Oh well, nearly there, just about a bother 200 miles to go…

16:37 and still the wrong side of Stuttgart, but we have finally made it to what should be the last autobahn to get us to our destination, the A81, and as expected, we are seeing less cars on the roads and with that our speed has now returned to our cuisine speed, John’s still asleep in the front, whilst I sit here talking to Mike and typing in my thoughts for the day.

“I really should say a big Hi to Harry (MD0HEB) who we all wish was still with us…”

At last we see the first signpost with Friedrichshafen and we are certainly looking forward to this last bit, it’s 19:15, the scenery has been stupendous and our driver has certainly done a great job, we are now travelling alongside Lake Constance and to our final port of call and home or a few days and the view over the lake to the mountains of Switzerland n the distance is just breathtaking.

Soon we can enjoy a well earned beer and a change of cloths and a welcomed stretch of legs, not yet sure if this will be the correct order of this, but it has certainly been a long hard trip. The last part of the journey was very pretty, looking over the lake to Switzerland. Now down to a steady 40mph winding our way through what now looks ever so similar countryside to the Isle of Man except or the dual cartridge ways that is. But looking around now, you could almost think you were driving around the back of the island.

Our homne for the week whilst in Germany.
Our homne for the week whilst in Germany.

We managed to locate the challis that we had booked into for the 3 days whilst we are staying here, and we were all very presently surprised, the place sleeps 5 in comfort and 8 at a push, it has a really nice patio out the back which we will hopefully put to great use tomorrow, and seems to be located in a small holiday park, and not the ones we expect where there are water slides and fair ground rides, but over here, people buy holiday homes in managed locations which they can spend weeks or months away from their real home.

You couldn't ask for a better place to stay.
You couldn't ask for a better place to stay.

So after unloading the car we got Mike to take us out to buy the important stuff, I.e. beer, wine and some food, though the foods not that essential we did purchase a really nice meals worth and back at the challis Mike created a really nice meal of a salad with German sausage and potato salad, it was simple and yet much enjoyed by all, especially with a nice cold beer and a bottle of wine split between us, by the time the evening was finished we were at least fed and watered and also feeling quit merry, the evening finished with us getting the handhelds ready on a frequency that we would all know so that if we got separated would will hopefully be able to locate each other. John found a frequency in use on the 2m band and tried to call in to obtain a special QSL card whilst the ham show is on, but they seemed quit happy to carry on talking in German which was making it hard for us to understand, we id however managed to open up the local repeater, but it seemed to scare the locals off to hear an English voice and Callsign on them.

It was 22:38 when we all decided to crash out and get an early start in the morning, roll on the Ham Radio Show….

Beautiful Sunset over Germany.
Beautiful Sunset over Germany.

Ham Radio Show Day #1

Woke up way too early, but just could not get back to sleep afterwards so had a shower while the rest of the world was asleep, then after a cool down, I started to pack up what i would require for the day ahead.

Breakfast was a subdued affair, everyone still a little dazzled from the two days of travelling, but the coffee was nice and strong, and the simple breakfast of meats and cheese was made ready by Mike.

Love the number plate on our first day travelling from our challet to the show.
Love the number plate on our first day travelling from our challet to the show.

Still had 2 hours to doors opening at the Ham Radio show in Friedrichshafen, but everyone seemed to be ready for the day ahead so we left early to make sure that we could find the place and whilst driving to the site we were overtaken by Claus (DO9BC) who obviously sore the Manx number plate and recognized us, but thanks to him this made finding the exhibition site easy and with a friendly word from him to the guys on the gate we were waved through so that Mike could drive to the front of the venue and drop us off as he was leaving to drive back to Stuttgart to collect his kids, this saved us a little bit of walking.

We meet up with Claus (DO9BC) at the entrance.
We meet up with Claus (DO9BC) at the entrance.

We arrived at the show fairly early to be greeted by a fair sized queue outside the venue, which we joined once Claus had arrived, we found that if we had per-booked the tickets, then we cold have collected our passes and been in about a hour before anyone else, but we stayed in the queue and before long we were inside and being guided by Claus to the Bravian Contest Clubs stand in the main hall, more on this later, but it’s something that has to be done…

It may not look like much but this was the best stand and the show, The great guys at the 'Bavarian Contest Club'.
It may not look like much but this was the best stand and the show, The great guys at the 'Bavarian Contest Club'.

We were advised by both Claus (DO9DB) and Mike (MD0VMD) to visit the Flea Market halls first, and boy was that a good decision.

A great example of the many books and manuals that are available in all languages.
A great example of the many books and manuals that are available in all languages.
The first thing that hits you is the size of this event, the halls are massive and if you have ever seen Blackpool, Leicester and other such Ham Radio events, then in comparison, these events are the size of the toilets at Friedrichshafen, the halls are just massive and each hall must hold easily a couple of hundred stalls and they are all packed with stuff that you just don’t see enough off at our local events, I just have not seen as much test equipment anywhere, some old, lots new, and loads of stuff at ridiculously cheap prices.
Loads of tables of goodies at the flea market at the Friedrichshafen Ham Radio Show.
Loads of tables of goodies at the flea market at the Friedrichshafen Ham Radio Show.

This is why anyone comes to Friedrichshafen – I have been looking at top end spectrum analyzers that you see available in the UK for well over £4000, here a the show, calibrated second hand demo model or brand new for as little as €3000, well under half the price that we see back home, and this is not including what is available second hand and much older, it’s just a problem of getting it back to the UK, that said we spent ages looking around the site, looking at some very nice second hand and new ham radio gear that we don’t normally see up close living on an island.

We all bought one of these, a great small SDR receiver, well worth the money.
We all bought one of these, a great small SDR receiver, well worth the money.
We came across a lovely 100hz-2GHz SDR Receiver that is about the same size as a matchbox, with no blocks and just so cheap at €75, so may have to purchase one of these before the shows end, but the list goes on…
Great display on this Antenna Tuning Unit.
At the time of the show in 2014 these were not available for sale anywhere, did not stop me from wanting it though!
This I wanted - A great prototype of an Antenna Tuning Unit.

I came to the show looking for one item, and one item only, a Palstar HF-AUTO tuner and with my luck I have not managed to locate anyone selling one, I was looking for new, but would have been happy with a second hand unit, but there was a complete lack of Palstar equipment at the entire show, both on the new side in the main hall, or a the flea market in the other halls, this was a little disappointing, especially as I had the money to buy one, that said, I found a great alternative in the form of 3.5Kw Auto Tuner from Hungary with a really nice colour TFT display and it is also cheaper than the Palstar that I was looking for, so if I don’t find the Palstar before show end I will be ordering one of these, it’s just a shame that there is not an available to take away from the show while I am here, by the makers had planted them around the show with the many companies that sold OM Linear amplifiers, so they may be trying to sell these through these guys, watch this space maybe for further information, I am sure that QST will have a review on these soon…

Meeting up with some old friends at the show, Rainer Sins (DG5SBK), Me of course (MD0MDI), Sonja Schweilder, and Peter Herring (DL1SPH)
Meeting up with some old friends at the show, Rainer Sins (DG5SBK), Me of course (MD0MDI), Sonja Schweilder, and Peter Herring (DL1SPH)

Whilst in the Flea Market we ran in to the German guys from OV P08 who were running there own stall at Friedrichshafen, so we stayed there for a while chatting with Peter Herring and Gerthard who had plied us with some very nice coffee, and with a shout over the hall that made everyone stop what they were doing and turn round (very embarrassing to us) We were soon greeted by Rainer and Sonja, and shortly afterwards Gunter also turned up to greet us, it turned out to be a really nice reunion for us and after a good chat and some more opportune photos that I will get a slap for, we were soon dragged away for yet more beer, which always seems to be a good thing around here, you can never have enough beer, especially in this heat, 26 degrees today, and with all that was going on, we never actually managed to grab anything to eat, well why bother when the beer is so cold and so cheap…

At the show you can actually see every possibility of connector you ever would want!
You know you want it! I bloody did.
There is basically every bit of test equipment that anyone would want.

You cannot help notice the amount of kit being sold, loads of the obvious connectors and leads, by the handfuls being shoved into bags and pockets, but it’s the big stuff that you see being loaded up on trolleys and being dragged away, anything form very old collectible boat anchors, to some very sweet examples of Collins and Drake equipment, along with the ever present huge selection off test equipment, there are loads of strange items that appear every now that are crammed into holes, every now and then, between old radios and connectors you will see a boat propeller, an accordion, some really really old computers such as the old Commodore C16 and Sinclair Spectrums, house lamps, and scientific equipment that would not look out of place in a hospital, this is really an outstanding show, somewhat strange in places, but really well worth the travelling.

Loads of ex-Army antenna masts available.
My sort of component heaven!
A nice selection of Microscopes to help with your soldering needs.
Rainer (DG5SBK), having a laugh with Mike (MD0VMD) and his two daughters, Kelly and Trisha Birch.
Rainer (DG5SBK), having a laugh with Mike (MD0VMD) and his two daughters, Kelly and Trisha Birch.

We left the event once Mike had found us, he spent the day with his kids and had dragged them to meet us with a boot full of food, and yes you have guessed it, even more beer!

Having an evening meel with another old friend that we have not seen for a while - Bernd Bross (DH1SBB)
Having an evening meel with another old friend that we have not seen for a while - Bernd Bross (DH1SBB)

Back at he challis, Bernd (DH1SBB) turned up just after we arrived and we all settled down to a good evening of beer, whilst Mike was preparing the dinner which at the time of typing this was wafting out of the kitchen and smelling really nice, we had a really good chat, he said that the Friedrichshafen show is actually a lot smaller than it has been, the two halls that housed the flea market used to be three last year, and a couple of years previous, it was four halls, and the main hall which is where the suppliers and retailers are, used to be in two halls, and some big companies that used to come here, sadly seem to have pulled out this year, that said, the displays were large and what they had to offer was dam good, with piles of brand new stock stacked very high including brand new boxes of FTDX-5000MP’s and the big new Kenwood that were taller than us.

Some very interesting Designs of antenna were on display
Some very interesting Designs of antenna were on display

Back at the Friedrichshafen Ham Radio show – Loads of nice antennas and masts everywhere, ranging from some very sexy looking Microwave antennas and arrays, which seems to be a very big thing in Germany, to the ever present Luso tower that would be perfect for any amateur, what we did find that was quite nice was vertical Yagi antennas that looked very strange but looked to be quite good on paper, and certainly at the show.

These Aluminum square section masts were very interesting
These Aluminum square section masts were very interesting

There was also a nice supplier of masts very similar to the tennamast but all aluminum, with solutions for every situation whether it be standalone towers, mobile trailers, and what I was interested in, was 10 and 15 meter versions that could be mounted upon a Land Rover Defenders modified roof rack without sticking out to much, food for thought!

The High Speed Club of Germany was amazing to try and listen too
The High Speed Club of Germany was amazing to try and listen too

Loads of club stations also had their own stands, from the ones that you would expect to see here such as the DARC, and their regional clubs, but as well as these, others from as far as Israel and Russia to name a few also had stand, the ARRL and the RSGB had two big stands and we had a good long chat with these.

Schurr make the very best keys available
Schurr make the very best keys available

Some of the really nice things to see, we’re companies like Shurr showing off their new magnetic morse keys that proved to be a real storm with the visitors, others such as Begali we’re sharing with other companies or groups, so that that they still had a presence at the show, and so many new companies that you just don’t see anywhere, I will try and post a page of useful links if I remember, but one manufacturer for those morse code lovers out there that seemed to have a good steady stream of visitors was a small company making what he called ‘solid state’ morse keys which looked and felt very sweet indeed, and whilst overhearing him talking to potential customers, it was mentioned more than once that many members of the high speed morse code club were singing the praises of this new style of key over many of the others available.

And showing that she has a sweet side - Dad and Daughter.
The Birchall Family
Trisha being wound up by Mike (MD0VMD)

The end of he day was the highlight, with some good food supplied and some great company with mikes two kids down for the day, and with Bernd adding to the company, we had a good laugh, mostly at Trisha’s expense, which I am very apologetic for, even though I hasten to add, it was not all me, mike started it by laying into one direction… The fun went on to the early hours with me for some reason getting the worst looks, just glad they could to kill…

Ham Radio Show Day #2

Woke up way too early again, thankfully it had rained during the night which had taken the edge off the heat a little, the table in the garden had a nice layer of water on it, but you could already feel the heat creeping up, by 08:30 it was already nearing 20 degrees, so it looks like it will be another warm one today, oh well, will just have to drink more beer and buy more stuff. I must remember my trolly bag this time, my arm is still hurting from dragging back the RF Generator that I bought yesterday, and if I still can not locate the tuner that I am after, then I have set my eyes on one of the Rigol Spectrum Analysers that are just stupidly cheap at the show, we will just have to wait and see.

Bernd left early to drive back to Stuttgart to collect his son, and soon after as it neared 09:00 the rest of the household started to stir, Mike looking the worse for wear staggered down the stairs, not due to the beer and wine consumed last night, but maybe to sharing a room with his two daughters, and I am not sure if he was joking but he did say that the eldest one, Trisha, snored! Maybe he meant that he did and he was passing the buck onto her, cannot be as bad as sharing a room with John who would give the point of ayre foghorn a run for the money!

Not long after they strolled down the stairs looking a lot more alive than the rest of us, mind you we will catchup soon after breakfast, beer and cornflakes, ok, maybe not the beer, or was it not the cornflakes… I presume it will be another nice continental and somewhat healthier option than beer and cornflakes that is.

Last day prices at the show made items such as this very affordable
Last day prices at the show made items such as this very affordable

Today was an expensive day at Friedrichshafen, I Never managed to locate any Palstar kit, though have confirmed that I can order one of the new auto tuners from the Hungarian firm so that will have to do, my first task was to purchase some more test equipment, I picked up a good frequency counter for €225 and then could not make my mind up with regards to an oscilloscope, in the end Rigol offered me a deal that I could not refuse, but not on an oscilloscope, but this time a Rigol DSA1030A spectrum analyzer that would cover all that I would ever want it do do, I paid not a lot for the unit, which worked out to be around £900 better than the UK price, the unit comes with a 3 year warranty so all good there, and that was just because it was a display model and was only opened at the start of the fair, it was quickly reset and retested in front of me and the person selling it then said that he thinks he could have done me a better deal and threw in a Rigol VB1080 SWR Bridge that was also on display, saying that it could not go back with them as they had lost the packaging, this place is bloody great really.

Also added to the purchasing was the small SDR radio that I was looking at yesterday, but this also meant that I needed to purchase some leads and adapters for use with the unit along with just a couple of small antennas to just test it, I don’t thin that they will work too well as not really suitable for wide and RX, but they were cheap and I just wanted to test the SDR whilst I was still in Germany, and then find something more suitable at home.

Every Valve you ever wanted!
Every Valve you ever wanted!

I have to say that all of the people running the stalls here are really nice, always open for chat, except for one you was a complete wanker I am afraid, and if you went near his stall with a camera he got very stroppy, but I suppose that you always have one don’t you, but this did not hurt the event in anyway, and I am sure that he will not do too much business here with the attitude that he had.

Met up with some more of the OV P08 team at the show, I ran into Adriano Kleiner which was very nice, we had a good chat and the obvious talk returned to his Dad and my friend Erwin, who is missed, so this was really nice, next on the list was a surprise in the form of Eki, then shortly afterwards I managed to catch up with Markus, so this was basically nearly the entire team that visited the Isle of Man during 2009 and 2011.

Andreas Pahler (DO2TGO) with Peter Herring (DL1SPH)
Leaving the show with a few goodies
Just as we were leaving another old friend appears - Achim (DG3SAD) who visited the Isle of Man for the 2009 DXpedition that the guys did.
Enjoying the cool evening at the lake front
Enjoying the cool evening at the lake front

We decided to leave a little early as we were all sticky from the heat and we were invited to the Bravian Contest Clubs buffet, and us being us, we are not for giving up a shindig such as this, especially with the top names and contested from around the world that will be there, and we would not be disappointed.

Certainly packed a few operators into one room.
Certainly packed a few operators into one room.

The evening started with a quick talk and introduction to some of the more notable stations, after this, you are treated to an all you can eat hot and cold Buffett, and I have to say the food was really great, we all ended up going back for more more than once, and this also gave some good chances to chat with some of the visiting stations, I was surprised of how many I have worked that actually knew my own call, plus nearly every station that was there from around the world also asked me to past on their best to Bob (MD0CCE), which was quite nice, I had some really nice comments and quite a few asking me to contact them on my return to work them on certain bands and modes. We had a break to go outside and take in the view over the lake towards Switzerland, this was a good decision, Mikes kids were enjoying cooling down in the lakes water, and the evening was just right to be outside, as the light started to fad we returned to the buffet in good time to be greeted by desert, and again all you cold eat of various different sweets, I was happy as there was lashings of whipped cream, I’m very easy to please…

Relaxing in the cool outside, Bernd Bross (DH1SBB) Claus Bense (DO9BC), John Butler (GD0NFN) and on the other bench was Kelly Birch, Mike Birchall (MD0VMD) and Trish Birch.
Relaxing in the cool outside, Bernd Bross (DH1SBB) Claus Bense (DO9BC), John Butler (GD0NFN) and on the other bench was Kelly Birch, Mike Birchall (MD0VMD) and Trish Birch.

Ham Radio Show Day #3

The morning was another subdued affair, I took advantage of Claus’s iPhone and tethered my laptop to it so that I cold download the software for the SDR radio that we had purchased the day before along with some software extra software for the new toys that I have bought so that I can play when I am in Italy.

The rest of the morning was spent uploading the photos from the cameras, so far. Am up to well over 2000 images, this will need to be reduced somewhat, and I am still only up to the photos taken on the 27th, so I may be up to well over 5000 by the time I have finished, along with the 60gb of video footage I have already taken, would not mind, but it’s going to take me weeks to go through this lot…

We arrived at the show late, mind you we were kind of all show’ed up so to speak, lots of walking has been done over the last few days and we are all in need of a rest, we stayed in the main hall for most of what was left of the show and basically just checked out a few things that were interesting.

The QSL Card wall at the show.
My card on the QSL Card wall
Another Manx Card on the wall

Most of the stalls were starting to pack up at Friedrichshafen, and the halls were so quiet compared to the last few days, whilst just generally ambling around we ran into Andreas and after having a good chat with him we then ran into Akhim from the Isle of Man DXpedition of 2009 whilst we were checking out the QSL Card wall, I took a few photos of local cards and Harry’s of course, and then I noticed a couple from the Isle of Man, one of them being Alex’s card (GD6IA), we had not seen him, but it’s a big show, maybe someone just placed it there for him, though if he was here I was a shame that we did not see him…

As everything was closing down we decided to call it a day and we returned to the Brivaian Contest Clubs stand and was treated to a few bottles of beer whilst they were cleaning up, we sat there chatting with Akhim whilst Mike said farewell to his kids who were being taken back to Stuttgart by Claus.

Mike (MD0VMD) saying goodbye to his daughters
Mike daughters
Mike (MD0VMD) saying goodbye to his daughters as we head further south

We returned to the house, still raining, to a subdued, and quiet time, uploading photos, and just getting ready to pack stuff away for the trip home, well home via Italy of course. It did not take too long to load up the car, not that I was awake for this, I decided that I needed a nap after the last few days, and awoke, just when Mike had packed up all the stuff that would not be needed for the trip and had settled into chef mode creating another masterpiece using the leftovers in the fridge that needed using up, this was a much needed and enjoyed meal and we soon polished off with the last bottle of wine making the evening perfect.

Mike had decided that he was shattered and left me and John trying to locate an English speaking Chanel on the local TV network, we did come across Sky International News being the only one not in German, although is was kind of strange seeing a cult film such as Screwballs being dubbed in German which we came across while searching, we settle to catching up with the news.

John also decided that he needed to call it a night fairly early on, but as I was not yet tired enough to sleep I decided t watch a few films on my iPad till I was tired.

The Trip to Italy

I got woken up at 05:30 again which is now starting to get rather annoying, it had stopped raining, but water was still on the ground everywhere, and except for the morning chorus from the birds in the morning was very peaceful, although the sun was not up high enough to start heating everything up yet, it was looking promising for a warm day, and hopefully a nice trip through Switzerland to Lake Maggiore and Stresa in Italy for a laid back end to the trip.

We did a full clean of the challis and threw away any unwanted items, Mike did a last minute run to the supermarket to return the empties and the beer crates and with that done we managed to leave around 09:00, it was still raining as we started to head towards the border with Switzerland, but there was fingers crossed that it would not be like this where we were going.

We passed into Bavaria briefly as we head towards the Swiss border just before 10:00, the rain did not look as though it was going to ease up, and was looking much more like Manx weather.

The views in Switzerland were just breathtaking.
The views in Switzerland were just breathtaking.

The weather was starting to improve and by the time that we entered Switzerland at 11:17 the day was certainly starting to brighten up.

As we entered Switzerland we were confronted by mountains looming over you, from the border we get straight on the motorway to across the county, being very careful of the speed, as fines in Switzerland are staggeringly high.

One of the best picnic spots that you could ever wish for.
One of the best picnic spots that you could ever wish for.
The scenery here is just mind blowing, it has to be one the the prettiest places to drive through with the mountains either side of the motorway reaching up to the sky, I had left the memory cards for my main camera in the boot of the car and I was cursing this right now.
Just stunning views
Just stunning views
We stopped for a lunch break at 5600 ft above sea level at a small car park with a fantastic view, managed also to change the lens and find my memory cards, so now back to taking photos again, I have to say that the view from the motorway is totally breathtaking, and we are thinking of taking 2 days to drive back now instead of one, which will hopefully take us via a mountain pass on the way back which should be even better for views.
Our first views of Lake Maggiore near to the Italian border.
Our first views of Lake Maggiore near to the Italian border.
We arrived at Lake Maggiore and the Italian border at 14:45 and stopped at the border for a quick drink and to get some good photos of the lake, this part of the trip is looking to be really good, we should be able to relax, soak up the sun, and basically enjoy some good food and loads of good Italian wine.
The first signpost to Stresa was a welcome sight.
The first signpost to Stresa was a welcome sight.
We have arrived at our next temporary home.
We have arrived at our next temporary home.

Finding the apartment was fairly easy, mike roughly knew where he was going and with the aid of some images I had downloaded from Google maps, we located the apartment quickly.

It was very basic but should hopefully suffice for the three days that we re aiming to stay here.

So after a quick change of clothes a concessions was reached to make our way to the town to grab a bite to eat and see what is available.

Our first view of Lake Maggiore made us all want to stay longer!
Our first view of Lake Maggiore made us all want to stay longer!

The walk to Stresa is really beautiful, though downhill from the apartment, meaning that the return journey will not be as nice, but the architecture of the buildings around us is just breathtaking, the gardens are really well maintained and the view is just stunning, with the mountains the other side of Lake Maggiore offering a fantastic backdrop to the lake itself, we walked along the promenade taking way too many photos as everything that you looked at was just great, and as I have already mentioned the view is just out of this world, I personally would say its one of the best locations I have ever visited.

The beautiful walk to Strasa
The beautiful walk to Strasa
Poor John was struggling with the walking just a little and we had to stop a few times to give him a rest, when we finally got to the town we found what you normally would expect in one of the European towns, a small and somewhat delightful tourist town centre with narrow streets, and many shops selling the normal tourist rubbish to the more upmarket jewellery and designer shops, this is more present than most though, it was too early and too hot for food, so we found a shop that had some ice cold local beer and sat on the lake front watching the boats in the harbour and letting the time amble by, eventually it seemed cool enough for a meal some trotted off to a small restaurant that we had seen earlier and enjoyed a rather nice meal and a carafe of local wine.
A truly 'Grand Hotel'
A truly 'Grand Hotel'
During the walk back we stopped to look at some of the larger hotels, some had some really lovely architecture and this meant more photos, in fact for the first time since I started this trip I had filled the memory card, we got home just as it was getting dark, settled down to a beer and a chat, trying to put the world to rights, and hoped that everything that I had plugged in would be charged on the rather pathetic mains that they have here in Italy, I had plugged in the iPhone 5S over 2 hours ago and it was only at 32%, hopefully by the morning we will have success, comes of using the locals 210v system!

Stresa Day #2

Well sleeping in the apartments somewhat fun, although advertised to sleep 4, it really is only an apartment for a couple, John complained that he kept falling off the slippery surface of the sofa, but from what I heard most of the night he was sleeping and snoring very well! They wake up earlier here than we do at home, dogs seem to be let out to wake the locals up with their chorus of barking at around 05:30, then just as this has quietened down and you are just about to drift off again, everyone seems to say hello to everyone on their way to work in very load Italian operatic singing voices, which seems to the carry on till around 07:30 so not really worth trying to sleep through this, that said sitting outside enjoying the cool morning air before the sun rises above the buildings was very enjoyable, I sat watching a couple of episodes of Firefly on the iPad to stay quiet to let the others sleep, John awake shortly after 08:00 and proceeded to make so much noise that not only did I think he was going to wake up Mike, who was in desperate need of a good nights sleep, but the rest of the neighborhood, he certainly is a good one for not being able to be quiet in the mornings for others, mind you nor during the night with his snoring, hi hi…

Isola dei Pescatori, also known as Isola Superiore
Isola dei Pescatori, also known as Isola Superiore

With Mike now awake and just about stirring, everything charged, and all showered and somewhat revitalized, we waited for Mike to finish waking up and to decide what the course of action was for the day…

Today was a little relaxed, no one really could not decide what do do so we drove down to the lake and decided to jump onto one of the boats to visit the islands, I was looking forward to the main island as this one has apparently got some lovely gardens.

They certainly cared about these island off Stresa, they were just beautiful.
They certainly cared about these island off Stresa, they were just beautiful.

We visited the smaller of the two islands first, which you can walk around in less than 10 minutes, it is very pretty when you can see past the tourist rubbish and the cafe’s that seem to have sprung up all over the place, that said I managed to take a load of photos, though I had the wrong lens on as I thought that we would be going back to Stresa and was aiming to get some more shots of the statues at the Hotel Royal, but hopefully I will now do this tomorrow.

Scoglio della Malghera
Scoglio della Malghera
We then got the boat to the second island which is about double the size of the first island and much prettier, the architecture is also much bigger and bolder than the other island, and again this seems to be hidden behind the many cafe’s and tourist shops that you see everywhere, a least the shops were of a much better standard, I found another gift for home and was tempted by some of the jewelry for gifts as well, but I thought that I will leave this till we get to Stresa town.
Two old farts enjoying the sun in stunning surroundings
Two old farts enjoying the sun in stunning surroundings

In the end we did not visit the gardens, John was having to rest a lot and Mike was not too keen so I went with the flow and we got the boat back to the mainland.

Mike went and got the car and we took off up the cost to look for a few small towns to see if we could find anything interesting, in the first town we managed to locate what was the most obnoxious twat selling ice creams, I should not think that he sells many with the attitude that he has and if you ever visit Baveno then avoid this shop at all costs.

Baveno, Italy
Baveno, Italy

We drove further up the coast to a town of similar size to Stresa, the town is what could be termed as a more upmarket / designer label town as most of the shops were high class clothes shops, Rolex re-sellers, and a few large specialty shops, some of which were quite interesting, even if we could not afford to even look at the labels..

We returned home just as it started to rain, although not too heavy, the look back towards the Swiss border showed dark clouds on top of the mountains that seemed to threaten to make there was down from the mountains all day, and just around 16:00 they finally made it, so we made out way back to the house to rest, eat some food, and drink loads of cheap beer, nice wine, and maybe a brandy or two.

Rita and here husband next door came out to offer us a nice bottle of red wine, though I made the mistake of opening it too fast to find out that it was sparkling red, with most of the bottle saved we settled into drinking it, and boy was it rather nice, thou somewhat a different red wine, being a mix of a nice fruity heavy red like a Barolo, but the fizz of a champagne, but it certainly was ever so nice, we drank this, then moved on to very nice local brandy, and finished this off with a bottle of Rose Wine, a right mix, and maybe a bit mixed up in the order of drinking but a very nice evening was had by all.

John Butler (GD0NFN) relaxing after a hard day on his legs.
John Butler (GD0NFN) relaxing after a hard day on his legs.

It was starting to rain a little and although it was missing us due to the over hanging roofs, it was still a very pleasant evening in Carciano (pronounced Ca Char No).

Stresa Day #3

I woke up quite early again and sat outside watching more films on the iPad to save waking anyone, Rita’s husband called out to me and asked if I would like to go for a coffee, we drove into Stresa and to the train station where we got to a very nice coffee house, I was treated to a very nice coffee and a chocopan, I really wish Costa made coffee like this, it was really to die for. We drove back through the old town and over the back of Carciano showing off the parts of the old town that you do not normally see, all I can say is that it is ever so beautiful, and if I ever wanted to live abroad, I would I think choose Carciano as my destination, some of the more out of town houses here are just beautiful, and it seems that by design, they all have a good view of the lake.

Beautiful properties everywhere
Beautiful properties everywhere

Still raining, we decided to drive into Stresa, although not far, with the rain and John’s legs we thought it best. Last minute shopping was the call of the day, and I managed to pick up a couple of gifts for home, although this bankrupted me and I had to change the last of my English money into Euro’s, hopefully giving me enough for the journey home that starts tomorrow. Did not take too many photos today, and we came back early to basically rest and get ready for tomorrow.

Dinner in the evening was the normal affair of cooked meats, bread, and tomatoes, following by beer and more wine, no complaints here.

Back at the apartment Mike fitted the ATAS to the back of the car and tested out the FT-897D from the car ready to working from the Swiss alps tomorrow, with conditions being down and everyone complaining about QSB, we were happy with the three stations that we worked (2 from England and 1 from Ireland), at least we know it will work tomorrow.

Going Home via the Swiss Alps

Not a good night, I managed to wake up at around 06:00, John was already awake with strange stories of a ghost, and Mike was still asleep, I decided to sit out and watch a couple more episodes of Firefly on the iPad till someone stirred. It was cold outside as the sun was not yet up enough to warm the air. Once Mike stirred we all showered and eat what food we wanted. Next job was to pack the car and say our goodbyes to our ever so friendly neighbors, they have been so kind to us, and I will drop them a present from the Isle of Man in the post when I return home. We left dead on 09:00, now driving along the Lake till we can turn off to take the road over the Alps, all we needed to do was find the SS33 road to Sempione Pass which will be the first of the two passes that we will cross today. We past out of Italy at 09:50 and into ‘No Mans Land’ and a few kilometers later we pass into Switzerland at 09:55 and start our way up the Alps proper. The scenery in the Alps is just outstanding, the sun coming through the windows was causing too many reflections on the windows to take photos, but Mike stopped a few times to allow me to take photos. There were loads of road works happening during our trip through the Alps which meant that we were often parked up admiring the view while we waited for the lights to change, thankfully it was never too long. We stopped at the highest point of the pass at Grimzel to grab a bite to eat and play a little radio whilst we took in the view at 7114ft above sea level which was even better than the last time we stopped. Mike managed to get a few contacts including Martyn (GD3YUM) on 20 meters which was a nice bonus. Now for the non-stop trip down the hill to the German border and our destination in the black forest. First job was to locate the correct turn off to take us to Interlaken and as we get down out of the mountains there is such a big contrast between the farming land which is really flat and the mountains each side of us. The weather down here is a lot warmer as well and it seems to be warming up as well. We crossed yet another boarder this time back into Germany without any problems at all at 15:40, just as the temperature gauge read 30 degrees outside the car, but thanks to the air con we had a very comfortable 18.5 to content with. We now have around an hours drive to where we are staying in the Black Forest over night, after that we are so on our way home properly. The only thing we have to do is find the right road to where we are staying, but this was poring to be a little difficult for Mike, and we managed to make a few wrong turns before we found the right road.
First views of the Black Forest
First views of the Black Forest
As we drove further into the Black Forest, the views became much more spectacular, it was not too far to travel to our base camp for the night, which was a rather up market youth hostel for the night, Mike had booked a separate room for us all and we had arrived just in time for the evening BBQ which was rather good, especially from the fact that we could return as many times as needed till we had our fill, and as they did something rather nice with rice, curry powder, mayonnaise and cream which was very moreish.
Mike (MD0VMD) saying hello to some big hairy sheep!
After we had rested a bit, Mike and I went on a walk around the lake to take in the views and try and work up the energy to inhale another beer, the small village at the end of our walk was very picturesque and twee, you see the Black Forest influences everywhere, with wooden cuckoo clocks from €50 to well over €5000, Mike informed me that come christmas this town sells some really lovely wooden Christmas decorations. On the way home we managed to locate 2 local amateurs stations, and one was next to a field of Llamas which paused us to stop for a while.
It seems everywhere we go there is something nice to look at!
It seems everywhere we go there is something nice to look at!

Morning came way too early, we went down for a continental breakfast which also meant that we has lunch sorted, and left for the post office so he Mike could send a present to his kids. That done we started the main part of he journey back to Luxembourg for the much needed fuel stop, even though the car was averaging 82mpg, dam good these Audi’s.

82 mpg, Good Old Audi
82 mpg, Good Old Audi

We did a quick stop on the way to Karlruhe to drop off the empty beer bottles and John wanted a bottle of wine, so I took the advantage and stocked up on sweets for he trip home.

The traffic all the way to Luxembourg was really quite a lot slower than we have been used to, there are a lot of major building projects on and the new motorways that are being built here have been and on-going project for 10 years now. The outside temperature has been slowly rising an is now up to 30c just as we start to hit some nicer stretches of roads, an the cruising speed starts to increase, with making good time now, we crossed the border into Luxembourg at 12:10, so we re about half way home, with another fuel stop looming, but this time to fill to the brim, then out the other side an non-stop to Calais.

We had a short break and a sandwich at the fuel stop plus picked up some duty free s this is the cheapest place in Europe for such things, we he got back on the road at 13:10 we started heading up to Brussels and beyond to Calais for the ferry to the UK. At just before 16:00 we ran into the M25 car park on the Brussels Ring Road, them temp outside was still high at 29c but our speed was averaging around 30mph in between stops, thankfully we don’t have to be on this for too long, just got to get to the turn off to Gent, and at this rate it will be tomorrow, thankfully by the time that we get to Gent we are running at a nice fast pace to catchup the time lost, also Mike is now recovering from his slight episode that he was having due to bing stuck in traffic jams for so long, he goes a little strange when the average speed drops below 20mph.

We pass into France at 17:55 with roughly 30 miles to go to the end of today’s journey.

As we approached Callais we past into a small rain storm with the look of more to come, we managed to locate the hotel by the port and as soon as we were there Mike started to rearrange the boot of the car so that he could stock up on essentials, i.e. Beer! We only took out a change of clothes and our passports, along with whatever else we needed for just the one nights stay so that we would not need to take anything from the boot of the car till we got off the Steam Packet boat in Douglas, once in the hotel we had a rather normal evening meal, the first since this journey started, I have not minded the change, and I am sure that it has done me good, but I will be so happy to get back to a good fry up for breakfast, and a nice curry at nighttime!

Calais in the Rain
Calais in the Rain
Another noisy sleep, especially as I shared with John so as to make sure that Mike had a good nights sleep on his own, I had to resort t earplugs in the end, and managed to eventually get to sleep by around 02:30, only to be woken up by John a 06:30. S with a quick wash, shower and a shave, we got ready for the final leg of the journey. The weather outside is typical Manx now, pouring down with rain, and feeling quite cold, just got to hope for a reasonable breakfast on the ferry, though maybe not expecting it to be.
2411 05 July 2014
2418 05 July 2014
2421 05 July 2014

We exited the ferry at Dover at 11:16 after a fairly smooth crossing with only a slight swell in the English channel. There was about three ferries off loading at the same time so we managed to avoid customs, so after the initial hassles of strangely poorly driven UK drivers we did have a fun time trying to get out of the docks, Mike was loosing the plot a little and reverted to an Irish accent, so we knew it was getting bad!

Thankfully we made it to the actual motorway and we were able to put a little distance between us and the learner drivers behind us, so back in the UK, next stop Liverpool or maybe sooner if we make good time.

We finally made it through the Dartford Tunnel with queues that must have been 5 miles long, now a straight run to the M1 and then the nearest Burger King.

Back on the road now and hopefully the last run all the way through to Liverpool, we have had on and off rain, and the weather is so much cooler than we have been used to, would not normally say this, but so looking forward to getting onto the M6, just from the point of view that it won’t be too much longer till I am home.

Ok, Burger King have gone down hill, was not impressed, ditched most of it in the nearest bin and settled for a slightly healthier option.

The rest of the journey back was very uneventful, mainly due to tiredness creeping in and knowing that we were so near to home (and in my case nearer to playing with the goodies that I have brought back with me.

As we got to the end of our journey north, we pulled into an off-license for a few more beers for the boat trip back and a couple of sandwiches, once we were ready we boarded the boat home from Liverpool.

So with a successful trip over, we have to thank Mike Birchall (MD0VMD) for just being outstanding, we really could not have had such a good time without you and your input, having a German speaking person in Germany certainly made life a lot easier, and knowing the area was a real bonus, We owe you big Mike, and we REALLY DO appreciate all the hard work that you put into this trip, and we are sorry if we ever annoyed you…

All the Photos from the trip...

PLEASEW BE AWARE THAT THIS GALLERY TAKES FOREVER TO LOAD!

Sorry about this, its just a load of photos…

 

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