09 July 2015

Friedrichshafen Ham Radio 2015 (I) - the road, the city and the campsite

Friedrichshafen Ham Radio (yes, the name is not particularly creative) is the largest amateur radio convention in Europe and the second-largest in the world, marginally surpassed by the Dayton Hamfest as far as attendance goes. In 2014 it attracted about 17.000 people and even if the figures aren't out for this year yet, to the regulars it looked to be a just bit smaller. This year's (2015) edition of the Friedrichshafen Ham Radio was the 40th and was held from 26th to the 28th of June in the same place it has always been, the Messe (expo area) of Friedrichshafen, a small university city in the south of Germany, right on the North coast of Lake Constance (Bodensee).


Friedrichshafen is the home for some of Germany's iconic aviation / automotive companies, Zeppelin, Maybach, ZF (second largest automotive parts concern worldwide) and Dornier (manufacturer of bomber and fighter planes in WW II, now defunct) being based here. And thanks to the absolutely scenic geographical placement (you can easily see the majestic Alps in Switzerland and Lichtenstein on the other side of the lake), Friedrichshafen served as a resort for the german Nazi.











But visiting the amateur radio fair and the beautiful town of Firedrichshafen weren't the only things on my agenda for this trip. Oh, no ! Do you remember how I'm one of the crazy guys that like to go on mountain tops and use their radio from there, in a program called SOTA (Summits On The Air) ? Well, there are alot of us, and the Baden-Wurtenberg area surrounding Friedrichshafen has alot of tempting summits (still) included in the program, so I couldn't waste the chance to activate a few of them. To be honest, it wasn't my idea at all but Sorin's (YO2MSB), with whom I travelled to Germany and who planned all the trip.

With these plans in mind, I left Bucharest on the evening of June 22nd and on the 23rd at 07:00 in the morning at was at Sorin's doorstep in Timisoara, getting ready for the next 12 hours drive to our destination. Between some talks with Sorin and 20 minute naps the time passed pretty quickly, so somewhere in Austria I decided to install the FT-817nd + tuner in the car, using the CB antenna to try and work some DX. Surprisingly, I managed to get one QSO (barely) with a station from Guernsey on 10 meters - the antenna was pretty much useless below 12m, especially with QRP. Listening on 40m I heard Adi OE/YO3HJV/M who was 20 minutes ahead of us going the same way, so we got in touch and met up for a quick chat in a parking lot just by the border with Germany.

We've arrived at the camping site in Friedrichshafen around 19:00 local time, met other people there, set up our accommodation, went for quick food/drinks shopping and went to sleep early, to wake up early the next day. The campsite is between the Messe area, the Zeppelin offices/hangars and the airport and it was full of campers and tents with all kinds of antennas installed, from creative verticals or huge mobile antennas to long dipoles hung between lighting poles or even portable hexbeams (yes, there were two of them). The airships were taking off and landing every 30 minutes or so, during the day:


In the campsite I had the chance to meet some great guys during my stay, Sandor (Sanyi) YO6PES (Thanks for every morning coffee !), Jim ZL1BOS (sir, sorry again for bothering you and your lady every evening with our noise) or Thomas ON4AVM (this guy makes the most delicious bread!) just to mention a few of them. Staying at the campsite is definetely part of the Friedrichshafen Ham Radio experience and now I wouldn't have it any other way.

Heading back home on the morning of June 29th was hard after a week of intense activity and little rest, we stopped two times so Sorin could have quick power naps and I arrived late at the pension booked in Timisoara but got a well deserved sleep in a proper bed. On the 30th I left for an uneventful 8-hour drive to Bucharest.

What happened in Friedrichshafen, how were the SOTA activations and what did I see at the amateur radio fair ? I'll tell you all about that in the next articles, as these things take some time to write and I do it when I can. In the meantime, you can check out the Friedrichshafen photo album.

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