CW in Guinea - Roger Western, G3SXW

In September three crazy Travel-o-Holics visited four Balkans countries in three days and got on the air from each one of them. This was Bob K4UEE, John G4IRN and Roger G3SXW.

Bob flew in from Atlanta USA, then via Warsaw Poland to Sofia Bulgaria. John and Roger flew London to Sofia arriving at the same time as Bob. We were met by Dimiter LZ1AF who took us on a short afternoon tour of the city centre. Sofia is majestic with many spectacular buildings including a stunning cathedral. We then checked into our hotel and within a few minutes were on the air with a battery-driven Elecraft K2 transceiver firing 15 watts into the four foot ‘MP-1 SuperStick’. We each made some QSOs before enjoying a cool Bulgarian beer. That evening we were royally entertained by Rumen LZ1MS who is an ex Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria and now Professor of Economics at the University. By the way, all five attendees are members of FOC.

map showing Balkans
Map of the Balkans: our route was London, Sofia, Skopje, Zagreb, London

After breakfast on the second day we were met by our pre-booked car and driver to drive to Skopje Macedonia. This takes about three hours, driving due West but of course we don’t miss a trick: the border with Serbia entailed only a ten-mile detour! Just inside that country we turned down a country lane and got on the air, again with the 15 watts and little whip. We each made one QSO on 20 metres then returned to the border, via a bar to enjoy a locally-made beer of course. We had been in Serbia for one hour!

Heading into Skopje we wondered what to expect. This city had been badly damaged during the Balkan war of only a few years ago but there was no sign of it: the city centre is like any other modern European capital, although smaller. We checked in to our pre-booked hotel rooms and again set up the station: this takes all of two minutes to simply switch on and plug in a CW paddle! The tiny K2 has about two hours battery life and takes about two hours to recharge the battery. We each operated until the battery died, allowing us to head to the bar. (You might sense a theme here – part of the fun is to sample the local beer and wine!). After a delightful dinner we headed to bed early, ready for a 4.30am wake-up call.

On the third day we flew disgustingly early with Croatia Airlines to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. We were permitted early check-in to our rooms so again were quickly on the air. As in Skopje we again threw a wire antenna out the window, sloping down to the ground. This was an end-fed half-wave dipole with transformer at the feed-point which worked very well, radiating a much better signal than the four-foot whip, of course. We each made a number of QSOs then visited the ‘Homeland War’ museum to learn much about the fight for independence from Yugoslavia. This was followed in the afternoon by a 90-minute bus-tour of the city. Zagreb is very impressive, just like any modern city in Switzerland or Germany – clean, neat, very civilised with many fascinating buildings. We were also treated to a sizeable but peaceful protest march by Transport workers blowing shrill whistles. It’s not just a British disease!

map showing Balkans
The Three Travel-o-Holics tasting Serbian beer (l to r)
John G4IRN, Roger G3SXW, Bob K4UEE

Throughout these travels we were impressed at how modern and developed all these countries have quickly become after the war and independence. Many folks don’t speak English but all were friendly and welcoming. The cities are much less congested than London, clean, well organised and with much history stretching back many centuries. They each have their own currency but Euros are widely accepted. We also learned about the cultural and ethnic differences in that region: Bulgars, Croatians, Albanians, Slovenes, Serbs are all distinct groups. We did sense some antipathy towards Albanian Muslims.

Finally, another early morning departure saw Bob heading to Sweden via Denmark while John and Roger headed home to UK. It goes without saying that three pals on such a jaunt have terrific fun, laughing until it hurts, while seeing new and interesting places. A major impetus for such trips is the DXFC programme (‘Feet’). After Sweden Bob moved on to Norway so he scored EIGHT new European countries in just one week while John got four points and Roger two. We also collect QRV points for getting on the air from different countries: the four new ones put Roger up to a new total of 97, edging ever closer to that magic century!

Come along to see the pictures which accompany this story when the date has been fixed.