Monday, August 16, 2004
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
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
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.
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.
Friday, August 13, 2004
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
Thursday, August 05, 2004
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
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.