Another POTA activation close to the “Bridge of Spies”

by Thomas (DM1TBE)


The day after my activation of Park Babelsberg, I wanted to activate a second new POTA park. The new Park Sacrow is a picturesque park located on the River Havel in Potsdam, about which I have written a brief summary in the  QRPer activation report for Park Babelsberg.

One of the prominent landmarks in the Park Sacrow is the Heilandskirche, also known as the Church of the Redeemer.

This neo-Romanesque church, completed in 1844, is a striking sight with its red brick façade, white stone accents, and tall tower. The Heilandskirche is overlooking the Havel River and offers panoramic views of the surrounding park and river.

During the time of the Berlin Wall, the Heilandskirche in Sacrow was located near the border between East and West Germany. The church was in the “No Man’s Land”, i.e. behind all East German border barricades – see photo from 1972 below with the Berlin Wall –  preventing anyone from visiting.

Ulamm, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

After the years of decay, when the bad condition became too obvious from the West Berlin side, citizens of West Berlin tried to stop the further decay. After long negotiations between church authorities and the government of East Germany, the exterior of the church building was restored in 1984/85. Today, the church looks as beautiful inside as it looks outside.

With the border between East and West at the middle of the river, the whole area was a kind of border protection zone, only available to locals or those with a special permit.

The park is close to the Glienicker Bridge, also known as the “Bridge of Spies” from Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster, on the opposite of my position the day before.

Arne Krueger, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As mentioned in my previous report, I have grown up less than a mile away from this famous bridge, in Potsdam, i.e. Soviet controlled part of Germany.

In my opinion, Steven Spielberg told the wrong story. There is another, more interesting story related to this bridge. It is the story of the Military liaison missions. A few British, US and French army members were allowed to roam freely in the Soviet controlled part of Germany and, vice versa, a few Soviets in West-Germany. These members of the military liaison missions had immunity from all German authorities. Since East Germany was frontline to the western world, the Soviet army had their most advanced technology there and the mission members’ task was it to spy, for example with this US Military Liaison Mission vehicle – note the license plate.

US Army

The uniformed, but unarmed mission members drove military-green cars with a special license plates – here a British mission car on display in a museum. For me as a child, those cars looked like from another planet.

Von allen watkin from London, UK – flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wiki Commons

The Glienicker Bridge border crossing wasn’t open for public, but only for those mission members and diplomats. The French and British mission houses were close to this bridge in the Soviet controlled part, the one for the US was some miles away.

French Mission House today:

British Mission House today:

Just imagine these two buildings with a huge British and French flag on top, in proximity to Soviet military installations behind the Iron Curtain.

It did not always go as smoothly as it could. The image below shows the Soviets handing over the corpse of Major Arthur D. Nicholson to the US authorities on the Glienicker Bridge. Nicholson was shot down in 1985 by a Soviet sentry at a Soviet army base in East Germany.

Alliiertenmuseum /Allied Museum Berlin / USMLM

In 1984, Philippe Mariotti, a member of the French Mission Militaire Francaise de Liaison died after the East German Secret Service has set up a trap and rammed Mariotti’s car with an army truck.

The British BBC aired an interesting documentary about the British mission The British Commanders’-in-Chief Mission to the Soviet Forces in Germany (BRIXMIS)  called “The Brixmis story”.  If you find the topic interesting, there is a lot of stuff on YouTube when searching for Brixmis or USMLM.

The activation

The weather was significant better than the day before, with sun shining and warm spring temperatures. I also had more time available.

I found a nice place at the river close to the mentioned church…..

…with a stunning view and the Glienicker Bridge in the Background.

The equipment was as usual.

  • Elecraft KX3 Transceiver
  • 12V 4Ah LiFePO4 from EREMIT with battery management system
  • BaMaTech – BaMaKeY TP-III – ultra-compact twin paddle key
  • 10 m / 33 ft fiberglass mast “mini” (67 cm / 26 in collapsed)
  • wire antenna with the extension for the 30/15-meter band from ANjo and my homemade 20-meter band antenna
  • No-name Koh-I-Noor pencil & No-name paper

I started by raising the wire antenna for the 30-meter band on my 10 m /33 ft pole.

Over the next 30 minutes, I made 15 contacts. Then I switched to the 12-meter / 17-meter wire antenna, but I got no response on either band. Only a single receiving station on the Reverse Beacon Network got my signal on each band. I then switched to my homemade 20-meter band antenna and made one additional contact, but time had passed and I stopped working. So I ended up with 16 QSOs, all in Europe.

Log Analyzer by DL4MFM / Google Maps

A behavior that I have noticed was that the antenna tuner of my KX3 took longer than I would have expected for the resonant antenna. Also, the SWR was raising rapidly after tuning. I did not pay too much attention, but will have to keep an eye on it. All in all, I was very satisfied. The All-Time New-One activation was a success, the weather was beautiful and the QTH stunning. It was a pleasure to work there.

5 thoughts on “Another POTA activation close to the “Bridge of Spies””

  1. Fascinating history Thomas…. And a fantastic activation.

    I well remember the cold war tensions, and when the Berlin wall came down.

    Ham radio itself seems as a bit of a “Liaison” of sorts… and those who operate afield, a brotherhood. A distant contact, can, in time, become a friendship. We listen, and decode faint signals. Trying to garner as much information the ionosphere offers. Our curiosity and willingness to bridge the distance, with only a call sign, is proof we can understand what divides us.

    Great Report Thomas! de W7UDT

  2. Thomas, again a story that took me back to my time in Berlin when i lived at Royal Air Force Gatow (the only RAF base to be opened by Adolf Hitler) which has a maze of underground tunnels that lead to various strategic points in Berlin !
    You should go Portable and work from the old NSA/RAF listening site at Teufelsberg in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf where i used to work !!!
    Best 72 my friend Ady F5VLY ex DA2QW

    1. Thanks a lot for your comment, Ady. I would operate from the Teufelsberg, but I had just 2 days with my family before I returned home to Southern Germany. Hopefully, I find the time one day, the history of the Teufelsberg is pretty interesting and still visible. Thanks again, Ady, Hope to meet you on the bands one day 🙂

      1. Thomas, certainly look forward to working you on cw qrp, if you call CQ on 30m i have a SDR running cw skimmer 24/7 so it should spot you !!
        Certainly Berlin is a fascinating city, i loved the time i lived there and visited as much as i could when not working, maybe one day we can have a good chat over a nice cold German beer Thomas next time i visit friends in Ulm.
        Thanks for the hard work you put into your articles, i really enjoy reading about what you have been up to out portable, all the best my friend Ady.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.