Unveiling Poland: POTA, SOTA, and a Glimpse into History – Part 1: The Rover Award

by Thomas (DM1TBE as SP/M0KEU/P)

Just like last year, my family and I combined a visit to my parents near Berlin, Germany in the summer with some extra days in the region. As in last year, we went to Łagów (German: Lagow) in Poland.  The reasons we chose Łagów again, was a lovely holiday house, directly on a beautiful lake with a beach – all not too far away from Germany – and the good memories we had from our previous stay.

There is also a SOTA summit, which was only activated once in the 5 years when we visited the area last year. As I started with POTA this year and there are also a couple of POTA spots around, I thought it would be worth another visit.

The area around Łagów has been populated since the Bronze Age, i.e. >1000 BC. In 1251, the area came under German rule and the first mention of the town was in 1299. In the 14th century, the Knights Hospitaller built a castle that exists to this date. For the year 1367, it is documented that the convent of Lagow consisted of seven knights and one priest of the order.

At the foot of the fortress, a settlement for craftsmen and servants emerged, secured by defensive walls and two gates.

Gate in the middle

It is obvious that the builders of the gates did not have modern cars in mind when planing the size of the gates.

During the Thirty Years’ War, one of the longest and most destructive conflicts in European history, Lagow was captured and destroyed by the Swedes in 1640. The hand drawn map below from 1662 already shows Lagow.

During the fighting at the end of World War II in the spring of 1945, the castle and the village did not suffer mayor damages. After the war’s end in 1945, Lagow was placed under Polish administration, and Polish migrants settled in the area. The local Polish authorities expelled the native German residents who had not fled. The spelling of the town’s name was changed to Łagów.

Germany lost large parts of its territory as a consequence of the wars it has started after both major wars of the last century. Lagow was part of the lost territory depicted in the green area below.

The territorial gain probably wasn’t something Poland was very happy about, as the Soviet Union annexed a significant portion of Eastern Poland at the same time and incorporated the previously Polish soil mainly into the Soviet Union republics of Ukraine and Belarus. Consequently, the country experienced an effective westward shift.

Red: Pre-war Poland, Pink: Post-war Poland

Over a long time, expelled Germans were very vocal about claims to return the area to Germany and yet rather quiet about their share in the terrible events that unfolded between 1933 and 1945. Therefore, Germany’s eastern border was not recognized until 1990 by the German government. However, the issues resolved over the time and today, 33 years after the official acceptance of the border, no one I know even thinks about this as an issue any more. Additionally, the Polish side appears to be more relaxed about this topic. I have seen a lot of bilingual information panels and some memorials for former German inhabitants. Nice to see the wounds heal.

The Activations

The holiday house was within the borders of a POTA park. Having a 7-year-old “early bird” son, helped my to wake up early enough to get my 100 contacts for the POTA Early Shift Activator Award.  I walked to the edge of the facility and raised my SOTABEAMS Band Hopper III linked dipole for the 20-, 30- and 40 meter bands as soon as my son woken me up and ended my activity around 9:00 local time nearly every day.

Although I had a bunch of other antennas with me, I made all activations during my journey with this antenna and an Icom IC-705.

POTA Rover Warthog Award

The density of POTA-parks is way higher in Poland than in my home region in Southern Germany.  With the help and tips from Damian (SP9LEE) I drafted a plan to activate 5 parks on a single day.

I started early with the Nad Jeziorem Trześniowskim Nature Reserve (SP-1833) (2fer with Łagowsko – Suleciński Landscape Park (SP-1832)) and was very happy that I have not scheduled it for late in the evening. After I left the popular main walking trail, I stumbled upon an abandoned graveyard.

It was a German graveyard and not used since the former German residents were expelled in 1945. Most tombstones were unreadable, but some were in a very good condition, like the one from Anna Dorothea, wife of the fisherman Wilhelm, who died in 1912 at the age of 67.

The inscription is in old German script, also known as Blackletter.

I went a bit further and placed my stuff at a small clearing. As mentioned, I used the SOTABEAMS Band Hopper III with an ultraportable 6 m /  19.6 ft telescopic mast, also from SOTABEAMS, for all activations during my stay, together with an Icom IC-705. I had a 4 Ah LiFePo4 battery with me. As 4 Ah seemed a bit tight for 5 activations, I also took a spare 10 Ah LiFePo4 battery into my car. The morse key I used the whole time was my small BaMaKeY TP-III.

I operated for about a half hour and made 14 contacts: 11 in CW and 3 in SSB. Not too bad for 8 o’clock in the morning on a Tuesday.

LogAnalyzer by DL4MFM / OpenStreetMap / OpenTopoMap cc-by-sa

My next goal was Pawski Ług Nature Reserve (SP-1834), (also 2fer with Łagowsko – Suleciński Landscape Park (SP-1832)). As far as I remember, the Nature Reserve was set up to protect a swampy area, but I have not seen one and the activation was uneventful.  I used some place along a forestry road to operate.

It was a bit tedious, so I stopped after I reached the required 10 QSOs, which took a long time: 45 minutes.

LogAnalyzer by DL4MFM / OpenStreetMap / OpenTopoMap cc-by-sa

The temperatures were expected to exceed 30° C / 86° F, so I had a good excuse to hurry a bit.

The 3rd planned activation was Dolina Ilanki Nature Reserve (SP-1855).  In advance, I have chosen a BBQ-place with a parking spot in the middle of the woods. It was a bit difficult to reach by car ….

…. but I eventually made it.

The activation was nice. I like comfortable places with a bench and a wooden table.

Although I had my 10 QSOs after 30 minutes, I continued for a while and ended with 24 QSOs.

LogAnalyzer by DL4MFM / OpenStreetMap / OpenTopoMap cc-by-sa

After that, I went on to the last POTA activation required for the Rover Warthog Award, to Buczyna Łagowska Nature Reserve (SP-1831) (also 2fer with Łagowsko – Suleciński Landscape Park (SP-1832)).  The last part of the road was cobblestone, which I think is there since more than 75 years. I liked it, my car not so much.

The roads in the area have not changed a lot since the region was mapped in 1893, so it was easy to follow the way I’ve used in this old map.

The history of the Nature Reserve Buczyna Łagowska i.e. Lagow Beech Forest, goes back to German times. It was 1937 when a protected area with 2246 ha / 9 square miles was created at this place. The current nature reserve was established to protect the 100-150 year old beech forest.

The forest was light, and I have set up my QTH on a small nearby hill on a big stone.

After about 40 minutes, I ended with 16 QSOs.

LogAnalyzer by DL4MFM / OpenStreetMap / OpenTopoMap cc-by-sa

It became incredible hot, but there was a SOTA summit not too far away. I originally wanted to activate the summit on another day, but I changed my plans and went on to Bukowiec (SP/PO-004). As mentioned earlier, the summit was the reason why I found this nice place in Poland last year. The summit was in the activation zone for the POTA park Łagowsko – Suleciński Landscape Park (SP-1832) which was also the 2fer for three of the four parks I had activated that day.  The “summit” is just above 220 m / 740 ft and without the information panel and the plate at the resting place, I wouldn’t know that this is a “summit”. The place is very convenient – here an image of my activation one year ago with the Elecraft KX3.

Appr. 90 minutes later, I ended the activation with 19 QSOs , one to the US, and nearly a heat stroke ;).

After seven and a half hours, I called it a day. I activated five POTA parks and one SOTA summit. Overall, I logged 79 QSOs, the farthest one nearly 8000 km / 5000 mi with 10 watts.

LogAnalyzer by DL4MFM / OpenStreetMap / OpenTopoMap cc-by-sa

7 thoughts on “Unveiling Poland: POTA, SOTA, and a Glimpse into History – Part 1: The Rover Award”

  1. What a beautiful part of Poland you’ve found!
    Thanks, as always, for not only sharing your field report but also the deep history of where you roved. Simply amazing.
    I get a good chuckle from the fact that you were able to use a 130 year old map to find the road to one of your activation spots!
    Thanks for sharing the journey with us, OM!
    Thomas (K4SWL)

  2. Thomas, what is your recommended counterpoise/radial/ground set up for the K2 antenna on 20m?
    What length, elevated or on the ground? Would appreciate your comment.

    1. Hello Armin,

      Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with the K2 antenna. During my POTA adventures in Poland, I used the SOTABeams Band Hopper III, which is a dipole. As a result, I haven’t used counterpoises or radials. Generally, I use radials with 1/4-wave verticals. The more, the better – however, POTA, especially when everything has to fit in a backpack, always involves compromises. I would recommend separating a flat ribbon cable into individual wires. It’s an easy process, lightweight, and doesn’t take up much space.

  3. Thank you Thomas for sharing your reports from Germany and Poland. They are wonderful.
    The history and the radio fun make me want to get back there vy soon. I have yet to visit Poland. Many ham friends there to meet in person so that day will come and I’ll be armed with QRP! Keep those reports coming!
    TU es 73

  4. Hi Thomas,

    Congratulations on a great 5-park plus summit rove, including a POTA Warthog award! I always enjoy your field reports, and especially your historical perspective.

    Your experience reminded me of a 5-park rove that I completed 2 years ago. POTA had just added over 200 Pennsylvania State Gamelands as new entities, and I wanted to do some first time activations. By the end of the day, I was very tired! Hindsight said that I had not drunk enough water during the day, and perhaps I was close to heat exhaustion, too.

    Perhaps a good reminder to all. Don’t make my mistake. Drink water even when you are not thirsty!

    Best 73.

    1. Thank you, Brian. I had a bottle of water with me during the rove, but as it took more than 7 hours during very hot weather, it was not enough. I usually carry my stuff around in a backpack. With water being heavy, I am sometimes tempted to save the weight – and regret it 😉

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