Monday, August 16, 2004

15/8/04 Australia

Touch down in Sydney 07:30 local. Unlike the trip out when I virtually ran from one plane to another, I have a few hours to wait here before my trip to Adelaide. But, the clearance through customs takes ages. I end up in a line which stretches from the room where people are processed, through all the service corridors and winding nether regions of the airport. The line must be easily 100m long. Worst of all when it comes my turn at the desk I think I have lost a piece of paperwork which would require me to go and get another from some distant part of the airport. Luckily I do find it in the end and continue on my merry way to the departure lounge for Adelaide.
I sit reading in the lounge. Early on in the trip I managed to break one of the arms on the glasses I took with me. I have been carrying round the broken arm for the whole trip, It is only when I am on the flight back to Adelaide I realise that it is missing. They remained behind somewhere, in the departure lounge at Sydney.
I haven’t been able to sleep very much. Since Friday morning (it is now Sunday morning) even allowing for the loss of 8 or so hours I have only had about 4 hours sleep. Now on the way back to Adelaide, I am listening to a couple of chaps going to a dentistry seminar by the sounds. I nod off and only wake up as we get to Adelaide.I sleep for the rest of the day and night. Ever the optimist I front up for work on Monday, but am so tired I nearly fall asleep driving home. I take a few more days off and sleep a bit more. Back home again.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

14/8/04 Narita 5:12 PM

At Narita Airport again. I got on the plane at Frankfurt Friday night and flew 10.5 hours to arrive in Japan at 1500 local time. Robbed of about seven chronological hours and only got about 2 hours sleep. Not nearly as interesting a trip as the flight over, due to it being mainly in the dark. A couple of hours after leaving Frankfurt I saw the lights of a large Russian city, St Petersberg I think. The stewardesses play at window police in an effort to let people sleep.
However, I did see some movies on the flight “Hell Boy”, “Bridgette Jones Diary”, “Starsky and Hutch” and a Japanese one about some boys who didn`t want a haircut. I
probably won`t have any left for the Sydney flight now.
Very hot in Tokyo. 30 degrees and very steamy. I was only in the heat for a
little while when getting off the plane. As there is only six hours wait on the ground I can’t do a whole lot, so spend time sending emails. Sadly I lost them twice before I worked out their system. Even in the airconditioned airport it gets quite sticky when moving around, but it is pleasant enough typing at the internet cafe. Also had a curry and rice at one of the restaurants. Not really immersing in the local cuisine this time either. I board again at 20:50 and we are in the air half an hour later.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

13/8/04 Marburg to Frankfurt.

Finally we have to push on to Frankfurt where I have to catch the plane out. Sabine wants to take me to some of the museums, but time has run out. We do have a little time though so she takes me through the city itself rather than on the ring road around it. I get to see (from the car) some of the museums and galleries as well as the Max Plank Institute where Sabine studied previously. Half hearted promises are made to come back so Sabine can show me the sights properly next time.
So we drop the car off at the airport depot and find our way to the correct terminal. I say my goodbyes to Sabine who tells me she will get the bus home. I find out later that she stays and watches the aeroplanes for a while too.
I had repacked my bag so I could get my toiletries out at Tokyo for a clean up. As I go through the metal detector the nice man asks me to discard my best pair of scissors. Doh, I can’t even get them back to Sabine because I am in the secure area now. I suppose someone ended up with them.
While waiting to board I can see the television monitors and the Olympics opening ceremony has begun. I see the Australians marching round the stadium. Just as I am boarding the aircraft I see the German team enter the stadium.
Pushback is at 21:14 local time and it is getting dark because of the clouds and spots of rain. In almost exactly 11 hours I will be touching down in Tokyo.

13/8/04 Marburg

A metal downspout gargoyle at the palace of Marburg

13/8/04 Ziegenhain, Amoeneberg and Marburg

Up in the morning and hopeful of one last flight in Germany but it was not to be. Rain and low cloud put a finish to that.
I have to get on the plane to go home this afternoon and Sabine kindly offers to take me to the airport. She leaves her own car at Ziegenhain at some inconvenience to herself and we go in the rented Peugot.
As it is a non flying day Sabine promises to take me to see some castles and we head out for a little place called Amoeneberg. Strange to a flat earth Australian, this little town is built on a hill which rises up out of the plain. The streets seem to go up at nearly 45 degrees to a cathedral and ruined castle at the top. I think Amoeneberg is a monastery or similar, but language difficulties make it hard to find out for sure.
We also stop off at Marburg. Sabine worked here for a while and says that it always rains due to the geography. That is certainly true today. Marburg has a castle also, but more in the lines of a Schloss than the fortress type at Amoeneberg. Once again, we drive up the winding narrow cobbled roads which are found in the old part of the town near the Schloss. The roads are so narrow that when a motor bike coming down the hill meets us going up, we both have to stop and find a part of road which is completely clear of bins or parked cars, so we have enough room to let each other through.
We and many other tourists wander round the Schloss, but aren’t allowed in. During a particularly heavy downpour, Sabine and I go into a “Camera Obscura”, a little cabin arrangement with a lens that projects an image from outside onto a screen. The man inside seems a bit disappointed when he finds out we have only ducked in out of the rain, but he gives us his tourist lecture to his two captive audience anyway. We later go to the old commercial part of town where we get dinner. It looks like a student run bar/restaurant but the building itself is 400+ years old.

13/8/04 Zeigenhain

One thing that is constant. Travel around the world to university gliding clubs and they do one thing in common.

They set fire to things.

Friday, August 13, 2004

12/8/04 Ziegenhain.

After eventually finding my way out of Hannover I got on the road heading south. The weather, which had been sunny for the great majority of the last 3 weeks, now starts to get a bit grey and misty. The Peugot really isn’t in the same class as the Audi Quattro so I am stuck with “only” 130kph. I am trying to get to where the Akaflieg Frankfurt (Frankfurt University Gliding Club) have their airfield at Ziegenhain. After some while of driving I decide to have a late dinner/early tea and pull off the Autobahn into the town of Goettingen.
This town has a link with aviation as it’s university did a lot of the early research associated with aeronautics in the early 20th century. So what do I get for dinner? A multinational hamburger. First time I’ve had fast food in Germany in the whole trip! Everything is the same as Australia except the language (and price).
Later in the day I turn off the Autobahn near Bad Hersfeld and proceed down the little country roads. Oberaula, Olberode, Asterode. How difficult it is to keep a list of these villages in my memory, which isn’t that good at the best of times. I have to stop every few km to make sure that the village I just passed through was the right one.
Eventually I get to the slightly larger town of Ziegenhain, where I drive around for ages looking for the airfield as my map isn’t really that clear at these small scales. Finally I drop in at the police station to ask the way and get half reasonable directions to the airfield. It’s about 9:30 PM when I finally roll up and of course the airfield is deserted. A quick call on the phone and Sabine tells me they are all at a private house where there is a party going on. It is a combined end of training course and two birthdays. So I walk back out to the road and Sabine picks me up. I remake the acquaintance of the two Chrisses and Tobias who were at Neuhausen way back at the start of my German holiday. I also meet Heike who has been to the Adelaide Uni Gliding Club in South Australia previously (but I never met her then). Not a bad party but I miss a lot of what is going on due to the language differences. I cause a bit of mirth by addressing the young (pre teen) daughters of the house as Gnaediges Fraulein (yes, I know that isn’t strictly done anymore, but I think I surprised the hosts that I even knew the expression at all).
After midnight it was back to the airfield and bed.

12/8/2004 Hannover

After missing (twice) the MIG17 on a stick pointing the way to the museum I finally get there.
It doesn’t appear to be such a big museum but once inside it is fairly packed. The curator/manager/whatever picks my accent (probably like being hit with a sledge hammer) and asks where I am from. They probably don’t get too many Australians here. After some general chatting I wander into the early aviation hall (ie pre WW2). Some interesting aircraft (mostly replicas I think) and a lot of good paraphernalia. Then into the more modern part, WW2 and later. While this hall has many fine aircraft, engines and other items, it is dominated by a Ju52 display as you enter. These bits were recovered from a fairly unusual place.

The story goes something like this…

In the early part of the Second World War, the fighting flowed, for a time, through Norway. During this time the Germans had the clever idea of re-supplying their forces using a squadron of Ju52s and flying them in to a ready made airfield. A frozen lake. A couple pranged on landing but most were OK. A long story short, they were abandoned there. Next spring thaw and all of the aircraft went straight to the bottom of the lake, where they quietly remained for the next 45 or so years. Come 1986 and the museum sets up an expedition to recover some remains.
Not only did they salvage virtually four complete airframes, they were in such (comparatively) good condition that within twelve months they had a restored, flying example.

While I was looking at the display, the curator/manager/whatever comes in and asks if I would like to go and see the restored original at a nearby German Airforce base. Damn, I can’t because of the time!

12/8/04 Gifhorn, Braunschweig, Hannover and Ziegenhain.

The Puegot 206 parked near the German Airministry.
(Wouldn't you go to the German Air Ministry on your holidays?)

12/8/04 Gifhorn and Braunschweig

<- The power station at the Volkswagen plant at Wolfsberg. Built in the 1930s.

At Ralf's place I have breakfast, including vegemite left from some long forgotten glider pilot and then Ralf drives me to Braunschweig airport where he works for the LBA. I know the Akaflieg Braunschweig, a research group who build experimental gliders, is also here so I wander up to see them.
The best laid plans…
The whole group is off flying somewhere else while their workshops are renovated. But I meet one lone student called Oliver who tells me about the technology they are using to build aircraft at the moment and also shows me bits of the SB14 and the new 15. I then catch a bus into Braunschweig proper where I look around the main part of town and call back to Australia while I am in a toy shop. As I have been pretty good with money so far I go to a car hire place and get a little Peugot 206 for the last couple of days. I go back to the LBA to say goodbye to Ralf and buy him some dinner but he already has eaten. He advises that there is a good aircraft museum in Hannover so I put that on my itinerary. I am planning to get to Zeigenhain tonight to stay with the Akaflieg Frankfurt and Sabine.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

11/8/04 Berlin (Train ride out) and Gifhorn

There is an automatic ticket dispenser at the station which I study for a long time and watch others use. I _think_ I could get it right but to get to Gifhorn there is a change of trains required. In the end I am not quite confident enough, so I decide to get some human help. The lady at the information desk can speak a little English and she prints out a piece of paper with the exact two trains I need. With this firmly in hand, I proceed to the ticket office, where I am in the line for more than half an hour! It’s not really the ticket sellers fault, there are only three of them, and one of those is tied up by a young girl who really doesn’t seem to know what she wants. A lady in the line behind me is getting pretty irate, I don’t need to know what she is saying to tell that. Finally there is only a young lad in front of me and he walks up to the next free ticket lady, who promptly sends him back into the line. As he gets to me I ask whats wrong and he says that ticket seller only speaks German and won’t serve non German speakers. With a bit of trepidation I approach her and show her my piece of paper with the two trains listed and she seemed pretty OK with that. I tried to get first class, but “no first class to Gifhorn” apparently.
By 1955 I have left the Zoological Gardens station on the fast ICE (Intercity Express). 15 minutes later we are in the countryside. It’s been a fairly long day and I notice for the first time that the back of my shirt is streaked with salt. I hadn’t noticed this in the humidity of the day. The LED display shows the train is doing 220kph but there are no objects near the tracks so it doesn’t look fast at all.
I get to Wolfsburg at 2100 and it is a deserted place. I catch a local train to Gifhorn and the last few km take nearly as long as the rest of the trip. Ralf arrives to pick me up and we go back to his house.
As part of the amusement Ralf suggests we go out and see if we can see the predicted meteor shower (the Perseids). Ralf assures me that there is a deserted road which he often goes roller blading on. We nearly get run over three times! We also don’t see very much in the way of meteors either. I later hear from Sabine that a group she was part of saw them, but the sky in Germany is badly light polluted.

Thus endeth another long day.

11/8/2004 Berlin "The Wall"

I discover the Berlin Wall.

Or, at least a tiny bit left over at "Check Point Charlie"

11/8/2004 Berlin, The Technical Museum

I catch an underground tram (U6). Once again, only a two minute wait for the train. Somewhere I saw a sign that states a maximum waiting time of 5 minutes, I can well believe it. It is a bit warm and muggy down in the tunnels but as the train moves the breeze blasts through and is quite pleasant. A door or vent must be open. Next stop the Berlin technical museum. After I get off the train (at the wrong station) a nice chap offers to tell me the way. He has got cropped hair, orange glasses and a singlet and his directions lead me the long way round, but I eventually get there.
The Berlin Technical Museum is undergoing extensions so the upper galleries with the aircraft are not open yet. Still, there is a good selection of boats and trains and some other very interesting stuff. Including, in an out of the way cul de sac, an original example of an Enigma machine. In the train shed I also find an early example of a German ground level transfomer used in their distribution system. It makes a lot of sense to me now. Nearby the technical museum is a collection of old cars, but they are packed into a long narrow storage building and not shown off to their best. I also slip into the German equivalent of the Australian “Science Investigator Centre” (I have a complementary ticket from the tech museum. It has very similar displays to the one in Australia. I wander out to a little café/hotel type arrangement at the front of the technical museum and have a nice “Berliner Kartoffelcremesuppe”. I am pretty safe with that one because I like spuds. The waitress speaks English but I persist in using Germalian and seem to get by. I wonder what I really said. I have some more time to kill so I go to Checkpoint Charlie. This is also an interesting place to visit, but it is a real tourist trap and has a very artificial and rundown feel.
Finally, back to Freiderichstrasse to get my luggage (it was in a locker there) and try to get a ticket to Gifhorn.

11/8/2004 Berlin, The Pergammon Museum

The Ishtar Gate.

Famous in First Year High School History Texts!

I got chatted by the security people for this one (Whoops)

11/8/04 Berlin (What to do next? Museums and such.)

I head to the newsagents and get a copy of a Berlin Guide. The most likely thing is the “Museum Island” which is just down the road a little way, so of I head. As I approach I can see the dome of the Bode, but it is closed. A pity, so I keep going till I come to the Pergammon. As I walk past one of the museum wings and up into the forecourt I get the impression that it is a dirty and grubby place. I have very vague memories of dirty public buildings like this in some of the Australian capital cities when I was a very young child. A minute or two passes before the penny finally drops. There are many chips and pockmarks on the walls, the black is the result of fires and it is all un attended war damage! Anyway I buy my ticket and go into the museum. Well, this is unlike any other museum I have ever been in. The first impressions are that there are no human sized objects, no pots or tools or other relics of a human past. No, the museum is full of buildings! Nothing done by half measures here. If a previous culture was worthy, it seems its monuments were taken in their entirety. None of this namby pamby stuff like Elgin did with the Greek Marbles, taking only the interesting bits. The equivalent German collectors just took the whole building! While uncomfortable with the values that lead to this, the collection is an extraordinary impressive one. Not only that, it brings back first year history lessons with Mrs Kemp. As I enter one of the museum wings there is the Ishtar Gate. I remember the pictures of the blue walls in my history books and there they are, larger than life. Overall, the Pergammon is a really interesting visit, almost as much for what it says about 19th century mores, than the abilities of these older day peoples.
Leaving the museum precinct I wander back up the river towards the Reichstag. Of course now I am prepared for the little hints I see around me. There are very few old buildings to be seen and when I finally do get to the Reichstag, I am fully prepared to see the patches on what must have been an almost shattered building. Memories of the grainy black and white pictures of Russian troops with their flags are strong. Almost 60 years ago to the day. Anyway, the lines to gain entrance to the building stretch out for many tens of metres, down the steps and out onto the grassed area. Because I only plan to stay in Berlin for this one day I decide to give the inside of the building a miss and head back for the railway station.

11/8/04 Berlin (Train ride in)

Cathy is staying for one more day in Strassbourg to be formally converted to the S10 and then she will meet Swaantje to go to Italy. My plan is to go into Berlin for a look then somehow get back to Ralf’s place.
I get a tram to the main rail line and then catch the Spandau train for Friederichstrasse. In both cases the wait for the tram and train was only about one minute! I am a bit hot and sweaty from lugging my backpack and case and having to go a bit quick to catch my rides. The ride into Berlin starts going through what I think of now as “normal” German countryside. There are moderately numerous houses to the north and rural countryside to the south. The suburbs begin to become obvious between Birkenstien and Mahlsdorf and the area becoe more light industrial. It is still warm and stuffy in the train and cooler when the doors open. At Wuhletal there seems to be a major interchange and a lot of people rush across the platform to get on the train. We aren’t in Berlin proper yet but it is standing room only. As we get closer to our destination the stations grow in size until there become multitrack, curved glass cathedrals until, at 0935 I get off at Friedrichstrasse

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

9/8/04 and 10/8/04 Strausberg (Berlin)

Swaantje has lent Cathy her (somewhat) clapped out old campervan called “Bussy”. In it Cathy and I go to the Strausberg airfield to spend some time at the Stemme factory. An interesting trip that one, two right hand drivers in a left hand drive world. But we finally get there without crashing. Once again Strausberg is most interesting as it was part of the old GDR and some evidence exists if you look hard enough. There are the remains of an emergency services call system. I don’t know what it is called but in some places you will see a box with a push button from a time when private phones were not so common. At least that’s what Harmut from the factory told me they were.
Anyway, we spent two days at the Stemme factory learning the ins and outs of the S10. All the employees of the factory go to the local government offices for lunch, so that is where we went too. I have pretty much got the hang of a lot of the dishes common in Germany and can usually battle through buying stuff as well. Another discovery was the drink supplied by the factory for the employees, a cold tea based drink. The one I preferred was a very sour lemon flavoured tea.
On the airport itself is an advertising blimp which I see later flying around Berlin, but it leaves in the morning and comes back in the evening. When I first saw it, it had come back for the night. Suddenly about twenty to thirty blokes appear as if from no where and go out on to the field to catch the spider lines. Just like in the old films from the 30’s. It then manoeuvres until they attach it to the docking mast. One brave individual climbs up a ladder on the mast to make the connection secure. After the event I realize where the bloke all came from. There is a little encampment of cars and transportable buildings which they must have stayed in all day. Odd sort of job that one. It must be exceedingly boring unless they have some other tasks while the blimp is away.Apart from my night in Frankfurt, my time in Strausberg was also the only other time I stayed in a hotel in Germany. In this case, the “Hotel Annablick”. Far better accommodation than Cathy’s in “Bussy”.

Cathy needs a recharge for her phone card so we go to the local shopping centre. Apart from the normal toy shops, hardware and the rest, one of the shops sells different forms of alcohol (and some cooking oils). But there are no branded bottles. You buy or bring your own bottle and decant whatever you want out of many glass bottles on display on the walls and shelves of the shop. Each bottle is of about 15 liters or so. They are simply labeled as “brandy”, “schnapps” or whatever. For tea we go to the Chinese restaurant at the shopping centre. Hmm, ordering Chinese food from German speakers. The words are written the same, but our Australian pronunciations throw them completely.The last night in Strausberg I go for a walk to check out the nearest tram station to catch tomorrow. The station, a well built cavernous brick structure, is on the populated side of the rail lines. The other side of the lines is a wooded area which I walk into. Within a few metres it seems I am in a totally enclosed forest. I couldn’t imagine this as a few hundred metres from the hotel and a few 10’s of kilometers from the centre of Berlin.

Monday, August 09, 2004

8/8/04 Ummern

Well, we get up and still no one is here. All my camping gear and clothes are with the others still coming. Benno and I wait and wait. Eventually past 11:00 they roll up. They called in at Ralf’s place in Gifhorn on the way here, where Ralf cooked them bacon and eggs. The absolute buggers!
Later Cathy and Helge take the ASH for a flight out towards Berlin, and Benno takes me for a fly in a Super Dimona (D-KFSO, 90 minutes) to an old GDR listening post called Brocken. We all go back to Ralf’s place and spend a slightly more comfortable night.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

7/8/04 Klix and Far Beyond

After this we were packing up to go and Benno, who had his ASH25 (D-KHOL) at Klix for the last few days offered to take me along (to where ever he was going) to help with trailers and stuff. Sounds like an adventure to me, in I get. Everyone else was to finish up and meet us tonight where we land. So off we went, leaving the ground at about 14:00. After a flight of 3:44 and 430 km we come to a stop and both of us climb out. Fliegerheim Ummern looks a bit deserted. Benno rings Helge to find that they haven't even left Klix yet due to Sabine being stung by a wasp and needing to go to the hospital. So, we decide to go and get Benno’s trailer, car and caravan without the others. They equipment is at Lusse, about 160km as the crow flies, back where we came from. There doesn't appear to be anyone at the clubhouse. Benno wanders off to the other end of the airfield to see who he can find while I wait by the glider.
The world is a small place(2). While I wait a younger lady with two small children pulls up. Me being the consummate communicator, point to my tee shirt (which has kangaroos on it) and proudly announce “ich bin Australianer”. To which she replies, “hello, my name’s Molly and I’m from Perth”. Very deflating. It turns out she is married to an Italian friend of Bennos who is down at the other end of the field. We go to their caravan where Benno gets some coffee or similar. I tend not to drink hot drinks so I don’t have any. Eventually Benno manages to borrow his friend’s car and we head off back to Lusse. It is an Audi Quattro and we manage to get to 250 (!!) kph on the autobahn. At Lusse we have to clean up Benno’s camp site and rearrange the trailer and caravan loading. Benno gets the Audi and the glider trailer, I get Benno’s Volkswagen and his caravan. After taking our farewells we head off the airfield, me following Benno, but before we have gone a few km, Benno pulls over to a pension he knows where we get tea. I don’t argue as it’s been a long day and I haven’t had anything substantial yet. As we sit in the courtyard and have a pleasant three course meal the sun goes down. 22:00 and another 160km to get back to Ummern. Before we head off Benno comments about us towing the trailers so we will use less fuel. The statement seems illogical to an Australian driver. When you tow something the fuel consumption always goes up, however, Benno is right from his German perspective. With trailers on we can’t exceed 100 kph which means we use less fuel as we are forced to go slow. This is just as well as the Volksy is a bit low on petrol and the fuel light comes on while I am out on the Autobahn. Eventually after a missed stop I get to a convenient fuel station and we are able to top it up. A new and crazy experience driving alone, late at night through Germany, no real idea where I am and my only clue is Benno’s trailer. Sometimes in front in the little country roads, sometimes behind on the Autobahn. Benno only has one tape in his car, which is a badly done copy of gliding songs. Humourous the first time but after listening to it three times over I have had enough. Trying to get radio stations to listen to on the radio I am amazed at just how like they are to Australian stations, even to the same promo slogans in English. Long, long past midnight we get back to Ummern. No crew here either. I find an old ragged blanket, kick my shoes off and curl up on a mattress in my clothes.
A long day that one.

7/8/04 Klix and Freda

7/8/04 Klix and Far Beyond.

Prize giving today and pack up. I got my flight in a Wilga at last, the comp directors wouldn’t let us fly in them during the comp. Freda the tow pilot took me for a flight so I got Matthias and Gunnar to sit in the back as well. Matt and Gunnar had been helping crew for us for the latter part of the competition. Anyway, we flew over to Bautzen and had a look from the air. The Wilga is a workmanlike piece of equipment, I really like it, in an ugly sort of way. While more complex than a Pawnee and has some visibility draw backs, I think the Wilga would be more comfortable after a long days flying. D-EWBN 0.4 hours.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

4/8/04 Klix and Beyond.

Got to fly a cross country in the DG1000 today. Whacko. 360km in 5:27 D-1073. Ended in an outlanding past (!) the airfield.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

2/8/04 Klix 19:30

Aircraft are still finishing but trailers are leaving the airfield. After a good start to the day both Lisas outland about 80km away after being on task for about 1 hour. We are a bit worried out Lisa Trotter as Lisa Turner said she thought she might have seen a ground loop. When we get Lisa Trotter back, there is some damage to the belly of the glider due to an undercarriage collapsing, but it is minor and she can keep on flying. Ralf and Helge are working on sashimi for Akemi’s birthday (actually Ralf really). Akemi is the one Japanese pilot here, she also outlanded today. Swaantje won her day.

2/8/04 Klix and Gliding

The competition is going along well, today's standard class task is 400km. We have had 5 consecutive task days now and it looks as though the weather will continue fair for the next few days.
Apparently this is unusual here as they can have weather changes quite rapidly and their weather systems are small. Yesterday (Sunday 1st), the launch of the competition was delayed as a thunderstorm was building over the first leg, even though the sky above and to the north of Klix looked perfect.
At Klix private flying is allowed during the competition except when launching or in the heaviest part of the finish. If you can get up and stay away during the finish, this is OK. The only restrictions applied is that team members of competing gliders (like me) must take a logger so the organisers can ensure there has been no collusion between us and the competitors.
Over the weekend a number of motor gliders turned up to stay overnight. Of the self launch glider types there was a Ventus and an ASH25. As for tourer motor gliders I have seen a Dimona, G109B and a Motorfalke, all with tow hooks. The Motorfalke is really swish. It has a tricycle undercarriage and the instrument panel is chock full of stuff. The canopy actually takes a little bit of the side walls up with it, lowering the cockpit sill and making it easier to get into. I don't know if this is a mod or something from the factory. The fabric finish is immaculate. Both the Motorfalke and the G109B had a little bit taken off the bottom of the ridder, for rope clearance I assume. While the Motorfalke uses a fixed Tost release the 109 appeared to have a retractable rope.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

1/8/04 Klix 12:00

Sitting on the start line (as always) there is a phone call from home. The launches have been delayed to 12:30/13:00. Yesterday was probably the best day for weather in the competition but I wasn’t thinking clearly enough and didn’t rig. I took a bike ride with Cathy through Sacshen and Klix instead. Later in the day after the gliders are all back I get the chance to go for a flight in a Zlin 42. Some of the German pilots here are a bit disparaging of the Zlin, but I found it to be quite a nice machine. The pilot sits relatively high and the inline six gives a narrow nose. The combination of this gives good forward and down visibility. Cockpit is laid out quite reasonably and it uses a real stick (none of this crummy yoke business thanks). One feature which made me do a double take was the spinner, as we climbed out it looked to me as though it was going at a different speed to the propellor. That couldn’t be right I thought, it must be some sort of strobing effect from the prop, but sure enough, when we got to cruising level the spinner pretty much stopped altogether. Something to do with the automatic pitch change mechanism. Anyway, the 42 is a light crisp response and quite nice to fly, even cruises at a sensible speed. Zlin 42 D-EWNO, 0.5 hours.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

29/7 – 31/7 Klix

The days blur together. Get up, fill the water bottles. Rig the gliders, fill their tanks. Grid the aircraft, catch the briefing if I can. Wait on the grid to launch the glider. Wait at the camp for the glider to get back. Derig. Tea. No bad weather to break the cycle as I had hoped there would be. Little chance of sightseeing, at least not very far from the airfield.

The world is a small place (1). After the briefing, I was walking out to the grid. The others all took the cars and are out there waiting. For some reason I had waited at the camp, but was on my way when a straggler car with two ladies in stops and offers me a lift in German. In my broken German I try to start talking to them. After a while the penny drops with one of them and she turns to me and says “You’re not German are you?”. It turns out they are the Italians. The pilot is Margot. We then drop into a more comfortable English conversation. “Where are you from” etc. When they find out I am from Adelaide Margot says, “say hello to Gabby for me”. I have known Gabby on and off for almost 20 years. Margot has stayed with Gabby and his wife when she was in Australia a few years ago.

30/7/04 Klix Airfield

Another typical day in the life of a Sailplane Crew Union Member. Got up at 0630, a bit later than normal, to have a shower before the crowd starts. Usually I would then fill the water containers for both teams, but Keith did it last night. The facilities for filling the gliders are a bit limited here. There are about 10 taps along the south fence of the club house but it is a tight squeeze to get more than about three gliders in there. Since there are 17 in standard class and 14 in 15m it can become a little conjested. Then I headed back to the Geyer encampment and help with their gliders.
After the Swaantje camp gliders have been assembled, we normally sit down to a good breakfast and wait till the two Lisas turn up around 08:00. Everyone is getting into their routines now and we can usually have both LS4s on the grid by around 10:00. Briefing is at 10:15.
Today some advertising material was handed out by the sponsors. This comp is sponsored by a number of industrial/engineering organisations, some well known like Seimens and others less so.
I was a little slow getting out to the grid after the briefing because I was talking winches with a young chap from the Klix club. Their winches are excellent pieces of machinery, even club built ones like this one. Anyway, because standard class was at the back of the grid I knew it would be an hour after first launch, even with 5 tugs, that the two Lisas would be getting away.
Today is a blue day with no cloud to help with thermal locating. The Germans generally don't like this as it makes the days a little harder and people tend to gaggle more when they see other gliders turning. The standard class had about a 270 km triangle for their task.

In the evening everyone at the comp has been invited to a cook up by the aeromodellers club in the south west corner of the field. Last night we had a barbeque, with the all our German friends and the Australians. Sabine, Ralf and myself did the shopping for it, while the pilots were away and then we rushed back at the expected ETA but the day died earlier than everyone expected. Our pilots were left scratching along the last leg. They got home though they were the last finishers in standard class. To add insult to injury as the two Lisas were debriefing with Cathy over the slow flight, Hanno the comp director appeared. Very apologetic to be the bearer of bad news, the girls had infringed Berlin airspace and had been given a technical outlanding at that point. In truth this didn't really affect the days outcome and it was a salutory lesson. Germany is a high traffic environment and we have to be sure where we are and that it is the right place.
Anyway, back to the cooking, I was thinking about a noodle salad, but do you think the Germans sell Thousand Island Dressing? Not on your life. So I made do with a savoury tomato sauce. Also if you want pork in this part of Germany, no problem, any concievable cut. You want it, you can have it. For poultry there is a pretty fair selection of turkey too. But other meats are either rare, expensive or both. These are the details which really highlight the differences between Australia and here. Ralf did most of the cooking on something which looked like the cross between a round gas barbeque and a wok and we continued to socialise till late. I then took the opportunity to go to the briefing room to send some emails. This kept me up till after midnight They were playing “Pirates of the Caribbean” on the big projector screens used during the briefing with the volume turned up full bore. In German of course.
There are a number of traditions at Klix. One is the presentation of garden gnomes to contestants who almost make it home. I think it signifies the notion of arriving in the garden but not actually getting through the front door! Swaantje won one of these on Thursday morning for her Wednesday flight. She fell short by 3.8km (not 15 as I wrote in some earlier emails). The gnome now sits tied to the top of the caravan annexe underneath Swaantje's pirate flag. Her mascot from previous comps, nothing to do with the movie of last night.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

28/7/04 Klix

This morning I did my washing in the GDR washing machine. And what a unique device it is too. Bloomi, the tug pilot gave me a briefing in its use.
Unfortunately last night the TE probe on Lisa Trotters LS4 got broken off when we put the fuselage away in the trailer without removing it. A stupid slip, and horroe this morning when we opened up the trailer to see the probe bent right down. Ralf helped us run around to drill out the broken bit so we could use it again. At Klix they appear to have an old chap who is a full time mechanic or something. His name is Siefried. The aerodrome has two workshops, a white one for clean work on the gliders and a black one for heavy machinery work. We couldn’t find the right size drill so Siegfried went home and got his good set. They were mounted in a thick perspex block. I was impressed, it was the front windscreen of a Mig15. Anyway, by increasing the drill sizes in steps of 0.1 mm we were able to remove the offending damaged brass tube. This still left enough original material to mount back on the fin. We then got Lisa away for the task.

Ater doing that, Ralf helped me get the LS1 out. First off I flew to the south of Klix (to stay away from the competition gliders). There was a big blue hole and I was back on the ground in what seemed no time. The LS1 is more difficult on the tow than the Pirat was. Occasionally I run out of rudder or aileron when bouncing around. The short ropes make it unnecessarily difficult too, I think. They use about 35m ropes here which is just a bit more than half what we are allowed to use in Australia. Also from my seating position and in high tow I lose sight of the Wilga every now and then due to the instrument panel. I got off at 600m and chased some big birds of prey up to cloudbase (1500m). There are a few strands of straw bent over my leading edge still from the airfield. A bit of yawing sees them whipped away. The two birds do some sort of mating flight where the top bird rolls under the lower bird and they clasp claws. They then tumble for a while until they separate. Then they do it again, losing height all the time. I follow them down. The first comp gliders are due to finish at 16:00 so I zip down to land at 15:58. Not a long flight but very unique. LS1 D-3133, 10 and 35 minutes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

27/7 Klix Competition

This morning by around 10:30 all the fleet were gridded, about seventy gliders approximately in the three classes. We sit and wait for thunderstorms to pass.
And wait.
And wait.
The task is called off at 15:30.

Monday, July 26, 2004

26/7 Klix First Official Day

Today is the first official contest day. Briefing is set for 10:15. The organizers explain all the intricacies of the competition like start and finish point procedures rules of the airfield and so forth, all in German. We are given colour codes for gridding the aircraft. Our Standard glass gliders will be blue, so we have to look for the blue signs and basically position the aircraft anywhere along that line of five.

25/7 (Klix) Official Practice Day.

A good day for flying but not a competition day. The grid is 4 gliders wide by about 12 deep. Nearly 50 gliders, all flown by women. The two Lisas got away and Cathy took a flight in Helge’s LS1 to follow them around. While they were away a cadged a flight from Dieter M in the Klix club’s Pirat. I hadn’t flown a Pirat before and Dieter gave me a pretty thorough briefing. I think he is a bit wary of us. I didn’t go out of glide distance but stayed local and did a bit of a circumnavigation of the field about 10 km out. Heights 1000-1500m normally. The last climb was to 1700m to the south east of the field where I out thermalled a motor glider, a Dimona, I think. Not much lift to the south of the field and worked my way back home being wary of the model flyers who sometimes operate on the southern edge of the field. Pirat D-1376, 80 minutes.
During the afternoon Sonia has arrived to be part of Trotts crew. Helge has made a wasp trap. The wasps here are pretty annoying. Like Australian flies when they get bad, except these ones can sting too. The trap is just a plastic bottle with little entry holes. It has a bit of liquid in the bottom. Water, vinegar, apfelschorle and sugar. It seems to work quite well.
There is a get together party going on in the tug hangar, it is now 21:30. Helge has taken Benno’s trailer to another competition and he won’t be back till Friday. It is dusk. There are clouds and I can’t see any stars yet. There are bats in the trees by the airfield.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

24/7 (Klix) Technical Day

Not a flying day but a “technical” day for weighing, registration etc. Trotts water pump didn’t have a decent hose so we went back into Bautzen and spent a while in the hardware shop. Also put my first lot of films in to be processed. Everyone else has digital cameras. While we were away Turns test flew her glider after changing the TE probe and plumbing. She says its OK now. Spent a good part of the afternoon driving around looking at crops for potential landing sites. There is a big mix here, wheat, corn, rye, spuds, canola, clover, lucerne and oats. The Germans land in all sorts of crops generally the green ones, but not the canola and not the yellow ones (a bit opposite to Australia).
They tell me the old East Germany is not as wealthy as the west and I can believe it. Although Bautzen appears to be like any modern town, the small hamlets around Klix are in various states of repair. I also found out that the storage sheds near the airfield and another demolished site near one of the outlanding fields were actually communal farm machinery shed before reunification.

Today is also the final competition day at an airfield called Neuhausen. It was about 80km away so we (Cathy, Sabine, Swaantje, Helge and I) went there for a late tea. On the way there we got a close look at some lakes. These lakes are all coal open cuts I think. We saw the new power station at Schwarze Pumpe, which the Germans don’t like. It’s too efficient and its cooling towers do not produce worthwhile thermals. Another interesting thing (to me) was the type of construction of some apartment blocks. Helge called it Platten Bolten (panel and bolt?). Neuhausen is a large sport aviation site with very good buildings thanks to the previous government. First time I have seen an AN2 in the flesh. I would really like to have a go in one of these. During the calm of the evening a hot air ballon dropped in. I don’t know where he came from. I met some members of Sabine’s home club, Frankfurt Akaflieg. They were Christoph Maul, Christopher Rogos and Tobias Haas. The guys tried to get me to drink some of the German beer, “best beer in the world”. Tasted like any other beer to me. Tobias tried to point out Ursa Major and Polaris, I think I saw them but even in the “country” the light pollution is really bad. I also met Benno Beesten who was one of the German team at Gawler in 2001 where I was verifier. At the end of the night we took Benno’s trailer back to Klix.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

23/7 (Klix) Early Practice Days

It is light here even a bit longer than in South Australian summer, from about 05:00 till after 22:00, which means the days can be long. My first morning in Klix and the weather is raining and misty till around 09:00. Not a hugely encouraging start for my expectations of summer. I missed the weather briefing but it was forecast to be a flyable day with thunderstorms later. We all sat around and had breakfast with the Germans (Swaantje, Helge and Sabine) till the mist cleared. It was a late breakfast as we had to wait for Helge to get the bread. We rigged the gliders for both of the Lisas and towed them out to the grid. The thermometer in Trott’s car said 26 degrees but it seems a bit hotter, due to the humidity I suppose.

There is a club Bocian and a foreign club K13 being launched by winch for ab initio training. All the lady pilots here for the contest are sitting waiting for an aerotow behind the Wilga, but the twins aren’t staying up so no one wants to spend the money. I think the tug pilot’s name is Bloomi. Eventually it gets the better of Trotts so we push her to the front and she takes a launch. She was able to stay up, then everyone wanted a launch. Keith got a flight in the Wilga, Cathy and I got a promise for one tomorrow. Turns is having vario problems. During the afternoon Cathy manages to get a check flight with the contest director, Dieter Mihelin. He must be sick of the mad Australians as he lets Cathy give me a check. But the day is nearly done and the flights are a lot shorter. I scare her a bit trying to scratch out a longer flight by going down to about 800’ agl before breaking off. 20 minutes in Bocian D-8370.
Cathy, Sabine and I go shopping in Bautzen about 19:00. Apparently the shops in Germany stay open 07:30-20:00 weekdays and a half (or full) day on Saturday.I always forget one thing when I go away, it’s a towel! Bought one in Bautzen. We had a “barby” for tea. The thing they use is a little firepot arrangement with charcoal in it.

Friday, July 23, 2004

22/7 (Klix) Late

Finally got to Klix, I took over the last bit of the driving from Cathy and got a little run on the Autobahn before heading off to the smaller roads. The girls waiting for us were a bit grumpy as we were pretty late and they wanted their tea. We went to a little pub and I had spiegel ei. I am beginning to work out German cuisine. It’s fried.

22/7 (Frankfurt) At airport 08:00

Sabine has picked up Cathy (who just flew in) and me. We drive out of Frankfurt on our way to Poppenhausen and the Wasserkuppe. On the road to Fulda I saw the bare conical mountain that I saw when flying in last night. It looks like a mine tailings or something. Sabine is driving on the wrong side of the road. It all feels really strange.Things are familiar but different. The houses take up a smaller area but are multi stories. This is what is expected, however they aren’t brick veneer and galvanized iron! I don’t know what they are underneath but a large proportion of the house appear to be stuccoed. I saw one house with what looked like horizontal pine planks being resealed. There are lots of wooded areas, more than I had expected to see.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

22/7 (Frankfurt) At hotel 05:00

I have been awake since before 04:00. Across the road is a pine forest, which I didn’t expect to see in a major German city. I am a little bit disorientated by this. I am in room 723 so am on the 7th floor. Looking across the road, I am just under the level of the tree tops. It was warm last night before bed time, but it is cool now and “nearly” raining. Although I can’t see any rain falling on the road, I can hear a hissing from the trees. It is probably rain. Maybe it is wind but there is no movement of the trees. The sun isn’t up yet but I can see the glow in the overcast sky. There have been a couple of lightning flashes too. The hotel is an L shaped building and I can see there are a few other lights on in other rooms. While I have been writing my diary notes the rain has started to drizzle.
My final image of Japan are little pink paper notes stuck all over the place. I had seen them when I was walking about in the evening, on the bus to the airport I could see they were even taped to the tallest grass stems. For a country in full summer I was surprised by how green it was with grass and weeds growing out of just about every crack and fissure in the concrete. The rain has stopped now, I can see Oeser Sr. points down to what I think is the Frankfurt CBD.

21/7 (Frankfurt) At hotel. 21:20

Today was only a 21 hour day as I flew from Tokyo to Frankfurt but I have traveled through 24 hours of daylight. When I got to Frankfurt I looked around at the places to stay. At the airport itself it is far too expensive. I finally found the telephone and shuttle bus meeting place where I booked into the Courtyard Marriott in Frankfurt (Frankfurt Messe, Oeser Strasse 180). There was a bit of confusion as I got on the phone directly after a bloke by the name of Quigley, so that’s the name my room was booked in. I rang around and found out Sabine knows there are two (other being Cathy) to pick up tomorrow at the airport.
A long day.

21/7 Leaving Tokyo

Breakfast of miso soup and bean curd. Not too bad. But there was a ginger condiment which was particularly hot, although I usually like ginger I didn't like this one. And an odd blue pickle. The pickle was a little too strong for me and I couldn’t finish it. To waste some time before the aircraft leaves I go up to the hotel shop. I buy some postcards to send back to Australia. 500ml of coke is Y160. The area where the hotel is located appears to be industrial. There aren’t any footpaths to speak of but many carparks. I assume to service the airport.
The bus takes all the transferring passengers back to the airport. I can even check in at the hotel itself, very convenient. Last images are of driving between the concrete buildings in this area. There are little pink paper notes stuck over everything. Even a few stuck on tall grass stems. For a country in the middle of it’s summer, the vegetation is quite green and grows out of almost every conceivable nook and cranny.
We board at about 13:40 local time. There has not been an auspicious start as the aircraft was delayed due to a “water system maintenance”. As we taxi out I can see the airport’s name in a hedge along with a sort of floral clock. Both near the start of runway 16R. There also looks like an aircraft museum or similar off the end of 34L as we take off.
As we climb away, I notice the land around Narita is different to the Australian landscape. There seem to be urban pockets in bright green countryside. Not what I would call rural. I don’t see any patches of clear ground bigger than about 1k long. If the ground is not wooded it is either built on or cultivated. As we leave I can’t see Tokyo. The air is too mucky, even from 6000’ I can only see about 20km. And we enter cloud at 12000’.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

20/7/04 Tokyo, Hotel Nikko Narita

Got up early today and caught the red eye special from Adelaide to Sydney. I had to get a bit of a move on at Sydney to catch the connecting flight as there was only about 1.5 hours between flights, luckily there were no hitches, so all went well.

11 hours to Tokyo, it was not as tedious as I thought it was going to be. To while away the time I kept a log of the flight using the passengers navigation system (a good toy).
Didn’t see Port Moresby as it was slightly off to the left (I was on the RHS). A lot of cloud was over New Guinea (as expected) but I could see the Owen Stanleys sticking through, very impressive and I didnt see the tallest part! I took some pictures but they never turn out as well as the actual view.
There was lots of cloud over the Coral sea/Pacific. We overflew Guam and although very cloudy I had worked out our ETA to within a minute. I couldn’t see anything out the window but there on the entertainment screen we passed smack over the airfield.
On then for about 5 more tedious hours over the water, to make landfall not far from Tokyo. Where we crossed the coast there were a string of wind generators clearly visible (and 2 golf courses). One was located completely on an island in a river.

Then we all got off the plane, after about 40 minutes waiting for a parking spot, into 33 degree 50% humidity. It is very sweaty. So much for being forced to wear a wind cheater this morning. Customs was a bit of a let down:
Customs Man "Where are you from, Sydney?"
SWK "and Adelaide before that"
Customs man "Go through then"
Obviously not much getting smuggled from Australia to Japan at the moment.

Got to the hotel along with about 100 other passengers. After booking in I went for a walk in the very warm and muggy evening. No footpaths to speak of in this part of town (Narita) and I almost fell down a manhole! (well not quite). During the walk I found a storm water manhole (approx 800dia), with a big heavy steel lid, open. So I had a look in. Most unusual to have something like that open. A bit further along found a second one open. Both quite proud of the ground, so really people would have to be very unlucky to fall in. However, further along was a third! open and flush with the ground. Much more of a hazard there.

After that I went to tea in the `cheap` restaurant in the hotel. As well as having their menu out the front they also have a display cabinet with models of their meals. The cabinet in front of the chinese restaurant had five little figurines on display as well. 3 were definitely Monkey, Sandy & Pigsy from Chinese mythology, although it wasn’t really clear who the other 2 were. Anyway, what do you have for tea in Japan. Like the old saying, when in Rome do as the Romans, so I had spaghetti. Well I would have had something a bit more local but they only seemed to have seafood, and I am not a great fan of seafood at the best of times.