My 100th confluence visit
7th confluence out of a trip of 7
Continued from 50°N 10°E
The last day of my four-day trip was finally sunny but the night must have been frosty because I had to de-ice the car in the morning. After a pleasant one-hour drive on the A70 I left the motorway in Scheßlitz and arrived in the village of Windischletten. The turn into a side road to the confluence was so well hidden that I missed it and had to U-turn. Among fields I drove up to a little wood and parked the car as close as 60 m from the confluence point.
It was a great early-spring morning. Sunny day, nice, hilly surroundings and the smell of fresh, crisp air put me in the perfect mood. There was also another reason – that was going to be my 100th confluence visit. A time to celebrate and a time for reflection. But first the confluence point was to be found.
I located it near the edge of the wood but it took some time until I pinpointed it. Finally, I settled for the accuracy of 6 m although for a moment I had 5 m on the display, but exactly then the batteries in my GPS went dead. I took the pictures of a thin forest with the remains of snow, surrounded by green fields and returned to the car. No champagne, of course, in honour of the jubilee visit because I was a driver, but I had a good cigar prepared for the occasion. I am a non smoker, except for very rare special events and I recognized it to be one of them. After a short celebration I headed home and after a 600 km long journey I arrived in Poznań at 6 PM.
- Time at the CP: 09:54 AM
- Distance to the CP: 0 m
- GPS accuracy: 6 m
- GPS altitude: 337 m asl
- Temperature: 1 °C
My track (PLT file) is available here.
A reflection on 100 confluence visits
I have always been very fond of maps. When I was around seven my Dad started taking me on hikes and then he also taught me how to read a map. I grew fond of it very quickly and over the years I have collected quite a nice library of paper maps from all over Europe. Reading a map has always been a pleasure for me because I could imagine trails that run across the region and how it would be to hike there. When I was in high school I came upon professional topographic maps while helping surveyors in their work – I was holding the levelling rod and I was jumping over the furrows with the measuring tape. That gave me an insight on geodesy.
In 1990, at the advent of digital maps I started to work in a company that created one of the first digital maps in Poland. In late ‘90s when I continued my study at the University, I learnt more about the GPS system, its scientific background and technical details. At that time, on 1st May 2000 the US government switched off the Selective Availability signal and GPS accuracy for civilian use suddenly improved to less than 20 m.
Having all these experiences I got my first GPS receiver just before Christmas 2003. At first I was delighted with the device itself, but after a couple of weeks, when I marked all interesting points in my neighbourhood, recorded several tracks and plotted them on self-scanned maps I started to search around for more demanding applications of my GPS.
And then I came across the DCP project on the Internet. My first thought was “What a brilliant idea!”. There is a strictly defined target you have to reach, you have a device to help you and it is entirely up to you how you get there. By that time all Polish confluences had already been conquered but nevertheless I decided to try my hand at visiting confluences.
For my first visit I went on Sunday, 14th March 2004. I had just recovered from a flu, the day was overcast and it was going to rain but despite that I drove to a little town of Dolsk some 50 km south-east of Poznań and started the search for 52°N 17°E.
It was merely five years ago but from today’s perspective it looks like another era. Neither Google maps nor satellite images of the target area were available at that time. There were not even detailed paper maps with WGS’84 grid, the only help I could use was Microsoft AutoRoute 2002 – a very useful tool indeed. Even though it didn’t show local roads and had no terrain information, it was the only navigation help that covered Poland at that time. In those pioneer days visiting a confluence was a true expedition during which you had to entirely rely on your GPS’s readings. Is that forest track right or the other, take this turn or the next one – it resembled children’s hide-and-seek games.
I remember how content I was when I reached the zero point for the first time. It was forest all around, nothing particularly interesting but my satisfaction was immense. I started with a typical newbie mistake, i.e. I hadn’t read the rules of the project carefully enough and at the confluence I took only two pictures. When I submitted the visit, Polish DCP coordinator Mr Grzegorz Chyła pointed out my fault and I quickly went to the point again to shoot additional photos. In those days I hadn’t even dreamt of a digital camera and with the analog one you had to finish off a roll of film, develop it, order the printouts and only then you could see if the pictures of the confluence turned out well. Before uploading them to the DCP site the images must yet have been scanned.
I took to the idea of going into the country and seeking an invisible point of the confluence right away. According to the rules of the project it showed a variety of landscapes coming out of the strict order of the longitude and latitude grid. But it was also a perfect pretext for going out on a trip. In less than one month after my first visit I went north of Poznań to 53°N 17°E, and later that year when I was planning our family summer holiday it was the first time that I also took into account which holiday destination would give me an opportunity to add a new point to my collection.
I am kind of a collector – I have always liked to “gather” some geographical extreme objects like highest mountains. As Himalayan mountaineers climb all fourteen eight-thousanders I climbed all highest summits in 28 Polish mountain ranges (the Crown of the Polish Mountains). In the DCP project there were 40 land points in Poland – quite a challenging collection. It took me almost four years until I visited all of them. I used different means of transportation and took different opportunities to get to the confluence. I travelled by car, by bus, by regular train and by special retro train, I travelled in the middle of cold winter (-18 °C) and on a hot spring day (+30 °C), during spring melt and after a summer storm. From the sea shore in the North (54°N 15°E located 8 km away from the sea) to the mountains in the South (51°N 16°E) all these points were finally conquered. Along with them I saw many interesting sights that had always been on my “must see” list but I had never had time nor opportunity to get there – the Łańcut Castle, the Elbląg Canal, magnate palace in Pszczyna, the Teutonic Knights Castle in Malbork, the Narew river swamps, fortress Boyen in Giżycko and many others.
In 2005, after an 800 km long train journey (one way) I visited my first point abroad – 51°N 07°E near Cologne in Germany. Soon afterwards I added next points – primarily in Germany and the Czech Republic – Poland’s nearest neighbours. These journeys were again a perfect opportunity to see so many interesting places – from the Market Garden HQ near Arnhem in the Netherlands to an Etruscan cemetery in Cerveteri near Rome, from post modern quarters of Paris and London to a Gypsies settlement in East Slovakia. There were different excuses for confluence visits – it could be a business trip, or an annual meeting of the Mountain Guides Association, a weekend get-away to Milan, Rome, Paris, or London, or a travel to the European Football Championship match in Austria. I travelled by plane, by train, by car and even by ship. Any reason was good enough to go on the road and see something new. And so I have come to the hundredth confluence visit…
The project has changed over that time. It’s much easier to prepare for the journey now – we’ve got detailed digital maps and satellite images of the destination area, we’ve got more precise GPS-s and car’s navigations, we’ve got digital cameras to document the visit. It is easier to drive up to the confluence – the roads are better, the motorways wider and faster. What remains unchanged is the satisfaction of the visitor when he finally sees zeroes on his GPS’s display.
Five years ago, when I joined the DCP project my home country Poland joined the European Union. After 45 years of Communist rule differences between Eastern countries and the West were immense. And so it was regarding the confluences – but it was in favour of Poland. If a sample of 40 confluence points is representative for a country, Poland is a beautiful land. Large forests, waving cornfields, gently rolling hills, glittering lakes – all these wonders of nature could be found around confluences. The infrastructure is, however, still under development and there are not many “drive-in” confluences, what demands more involvement – a longer walk or a use of an off-road vehicle.
The project has changed and so have we. As many of us I travel mainly by car now and drive up to the confluence as close as possible. As many of us I am tempted to visit as many points as possible during a journey. It is not a race, it is not a competition, we know, but another couple of confluences wouldn't do any harm, would it? As many of us I do not spend much time at the confluence point, just enough to take pictures and rush off. Perhaps it has come time for a “slow confluence” movement? A travel by public transport, a nice walk to the confluence and a quiet rest on the grass? Anyway, what really counts at the end of the day is our satisfaction achieved in harmony with nature.
One hundred confluence visits in nine countries, 92 unique confluences – so many adventures, so many memories... Poland and the Czech Republic done, Germany completed in 70%, but there is still more than 16 thousand confluence points to visit. Who knows what the future will bring but – circumstances permitting – there is still a lot of fun before me...
Last but not least – I would like to thank to all great people I met during my journeys. First of all these are the DCP coordinators – Mr Grzegorz Chyła of Poland and Mr Gordon Spence of the UK that not only had to deal with my narratives but also invited me to visit together confluence points in their area. These are also Mr Włodzimierz Kania – a DCP hunter from Wielkopolska region and Mr Joseph Kerski whom I haven’t met personally but we’ve discovered that our ancestors originated from basically the same area. Thank you to all of my fellow travellers – my family (my Mother, wife and daughter), and friends who visited many points with me and had to bear with my extravagances. And that is also to express thanks to all nice people that I met during my journeys.
As my way to the confluences was ignited by my late Dad I would like to dedicate all these visits to him.
03 marca 2009 -- Ostatni dzień mojej czterodniowej wycieczki okazał się wreszcie być słoneczny, choć noc musiała być mroźna, gdyż rano musiałem odladzać samochód. Po przyjemnej, godzinnej podróży autostradą A70 zjechałem z niej w okolicach Scheßlitz i dojechałem do wsi Windischletten. Skręt w boczną drogę prowadzącą do przecięcia był tak dobrze ukryty, że przeoczyłem go i musiałem zawrócić. Pomiędzy polami dojechałem do niewielkiego lasku i zaparkowałem samochód w odległości zaledwie 60 m od punktu przecięcia.
Był piękne, wczesnowiosenny ranek. Słoneczny dzień, ładna, pagórkowata okolica i zapach świeżego, rześkiego powietrza wprawiły mnie w doskonały nastrój. Był po temu jeszcze jeden powód – to miała być moja setna wizyta na przecięciu. Czas na świętowanie i czas na refleksję. Ale najpierw należało odnaleźć punkt przecięcia.
Zlokalizowałem go w pobliżu skraju lasu, a zabrało mi trochę czasu zanim uzyskałem same zera. Ostatecznie zadowoliłem się dokładnością 6 m, choć przez chwilę miałem na wyświetlaczu 5 m, ale właśnie wtedy baterie w moim GPS-ie wyczerpały się. Wykonałem zdjęcia rzadkiego lasu z zalegającymi w nim jeszcze płatami śniegu, otoczonego zielonymi polami i wróciłem do samochodu. Obyło się niestety bez szampana, jako że byłem kierowcą, ale dla uczczenia jubileuszowej wizyty przygotowałem sobie dobre cygaro. Generalnie jestem niepalący, za wyjątkiem bardzo specjalnych okazji i uznałem, że jest to jedna z nich. Po krótkim świętowaniu ruszyłem w stronę domu i po 600 km podróży dotarłem o godzinie 18 do Poznania.