Monday, 16 March 2009

6th and last day of trip - Portugal safe & sound

As i mentioned in the last post, the night was spent in a gas station truck park. As a safety measure, tried to park in one of the corners, where presumably less movement would occur. And the place had security, i mean, once in a while there was a guy in a scooter going around the big park. This left me thinking that maybe this wasnt the safest place to be. On the other hand, what profit could someone take from a guy sleeping in a Fiat126P, while there were so many other trucks there so steal more valuable stuffs.
As far as i noticed, the night went smooth, so at 8 a.m. there i was starting the last day of the trip. About 700km to go yet.Crossing Madrid was very easy, even if was rush hour, but the M40 (a circular highway) was no big deal with no stop-and-go. Exiting Madrid i could all the way by highway until Badajoz (without paying tolls), but going by highway is so boring that i wanted to leave as soon as possible. Unfortunately could only do it when exiting in direction of Caceres.From Caceres to Marvão (already in Portugal) it was fairly easy since the national road was good. And then, around 15h there i was: entering Portugal!!!!!! Not without first putting gas (in a spanish gas station just in the border), enjoying the almost 20cents difference per liter in the price. And one thing that was very nice, was to see the difference in the landscape. On the spanish side much more dry and poor in nature terms. On the portuguese side, a lot more greener!!!! For those who dont know, there are some mountains on this area, which causes these climate differences.Then, it was just a matter of doing some 80 kilometers by A23 until Torres Novas, and then heading to Golegã, Chamusca, Almeirim and home! But these 80km proved to be hard. Never in all the trip the car suffered so much with all the up and down of the highway. All this due to the great skills of the portuguese enginers, that dont understand the difference between a highway and a roller-coaster. In some parts, i could not go quicker than 50km/h. Shitty and dangerous. Alps, Pyrenees, nah. What is really hard to cross is the A23!! Even more stupid is the fact that there are not even real mountains.
Before arriving home, time still for a pit-stop in Torres Novas to have coffee with a friend. Though, i suspect that because i was with that car and with 6 days trip on my face/hair/clothes it was fairly quick, and she convenientely had an appointment in the hair dresser, so could not stay long.
And this was it, arrived home at 18.15, on 4 of April 2008, after 3912km from Poznan.
This is not the end of the blog, since i still want to explain the preparations before the trip......

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Day 5, 3/04/08: Didnt slept in Madrid

Havent talked much about the landscape in Spain, because the center of Spain is something as pretty as this:


How the hell a big city like Saragoza was created in the middle of this landscape remains a mistery to me. So, boring trip, through highway almost near Madrid. I was too sleepy, so at 22.00h decided to pull over in a gas station in the highway near Gualajara to sleep in the middle of trucks. 800km this day

Day 5, 3/04/08: Mis amigos

To be accurate, i had experienced already in France a taste of the behaviour of some spanish truck drivers, giving me light signals meaning that i should go faster. But honestly, although i was expecting more bad behaviour, in the road between Lerida and Saragoza it reached its peak.
Sure, it was not an highway but the road was in good conditions. But it was up and down, so my poor Maluch sometimes was just trying to survive the hills.
This would be ok, if this wasnt a heavy traffic road for trucks between Barcelona and the Northwest of Spain and with very few areas to overtake. To cut short, i was thrown out of the road by spanish trucks about 5 times. Meaning, if i hadnt went on the right side and brake, they would have hitted me (on purpose). Sadly, i could not identify any of the drivers. Although, i believe these guys that drove trucks resembled something like this:
Note: Dont do this road: Lerida-Saragoza. Way too dangerous.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Day 5, 3/04/08: Entering enemy field

After a night sleep in Béziers on some residencial street choosed in a somewhat random (but not that randomly) way, i was close to the spanish border. So, at 8am, engine started and 100km to reach Perpignan by national roads.
But, because i needed to do more than the 600km of yesterday, i entered in Perpignan on the highway directing Spain and to cross the Pyrenees. Although the mountains looked high on the distance, after having no problems crossing the Alps on highway, i was pretty confident all was going to be ok.
In fact, not only went well, but almost near the border and uphill i was taken over by a polish truck that obviously greeted me, and still with some energy on my 652cc engine i was able to overtake him a couple of km ahead to thank him. In fact, i believe all the polish drivers greeted me during the trip.
At the border, and because they still do some random checking, i was pulled over by the police. Luckily i believe they just wanted to check a bit better the car (their exact words were: "esto es la ostia, nunca he visto uno igual"), so they just asked for my ID. Nice guy. I didnt had to show them any documents of the car, which could lead to some questions, starting by the fact that the car was not registered in my name. My excuse to give would be: "....its from a friend....". Never will know if it would have worked....
I was still undecided if either to stop in Barcelona to visit a friend and rest a bit, or continue trip until Madrid. Because i was ahead schedule, decided for the second.

Status of the trip (so far)

- Mechanical problems: 1 (solved with purchase of spare part still in Poland)
- Almost accidents: 1 due to my mistake
- Problems with the police: 0 (even asked stuff to Austrian policemen..)
- Problems with truck drivers: 0 (no stupid horning or light signals)
- Times i used the jerrycan: 1
- Money spent in hotels/pensions/hostels/camping: € 0
- Days: 4
- Bigmacs: 2 (plus a kebab)
- Baths taken: 0
- Km: 2400
- Countries crossed: 4
So far, so good

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Day 4, 2/04/08: oooohhh, la France

Because the day started with 35km/h averages in Italy riviera and the time in Monaco also delayed things a bit more, the schedule was getting tight. Besides that, start and stop driving maybe was not the best for the car. This is why i skipped visiting Nice, Cannes, Toulon and Marseille.
Instead, 200km of french paid highway (4 times) and no sightseeing at all. I would like to reach at least Montpellier. Already in Montpellier, i was almost causing an accident when i was cutting right and didnt saw (badly regulated mirror and luggage covering all the back) that there was a car there. Luckly it was just a close call.
Because i got lost while crossing the city, i saw a little bit more of it than i was counting. And it looked a very interesting city to visit on a next opportunity, as well as all the region of the Languedoc. The day finished in Béziers, after crossing a beach area (during the night) where i parked/slept somewhere that i dont even recall any more. Only 600km on this day (2400km in total).

Day 4, 2/04/08: Monaco


Shortly after entering France, Monaco is there, stuck near the sea with mountains behind it. If i would have to define Monaco in one word i would say: bluff. Honestly, i was not expecting much of it and it really looked ugly to me (way too many tall buildings and spread in a not organized pattern). And ok, you can see great cars (i saw a Porsche Speedster....or a replica) and luxurious hotels, but there are also a lot of normal medium class buildings and not so glamorous areas.
As for doing part of the track of the F1 circuit, from what i could identify, the most obvious part was that famous set of tight curves. As you check on the picture, my performance was below expected due to the bus ahead.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Day 4, 2/04/08: rallying through San Remo, Ventimiglia

The road that goes along the coast is called "Via Aurelia", or SP1. Though there was not much time (and places) to stop to enjoy the view of the sea just on my left side, nonetheless i took some pictures.
I was even able to see the grandfather of my Fiat 126P, the much prettier Fiat 500. In fact, while in in Italy i saw maybe 5 or 7 of these true classics in very good condition (some even driven by women).
Before arriving to the border of France, i had the opportunity of finally seeing in San Remo, the typical italian city parking. Scooters, loads of it. Crossing all these cities alongside the coast during day took its time, but i prefered like this, instead of just going by highway. And indeed, this coastline is very, very beautiful (though chaotic). And maybe the only thing that i can remember similar to this in Europe should be Madeira (which i havent visited yet). The photos arent the best ones, but it were the possible ones for someone driving.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Day 4, 2/04/08: Italian Riviera

In the end, i didnt slept the previous night in Genova because i decided to park the car in a bit less busy place. So the night was spent in a place called Spotorno. This time, my mobile-hotel was parked in a nice place (just in front of the beach). Unfortunatelly there was a wall that didnt allowed me to see the sea while inside the car. But, at least i could hear the sound of waves, splashing, splashing, the dirty sands of this italian beach.
In the next picture, it can be seen a panoramic view of this small bay. And basically, many of the beach locations are like this: not that much sand, many buildings very close on the bottom of (not that) small hills. I could only imagine the big confusion that this must be during the summer if you need to circulate by car.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Day 3, 1/04/08: Crossing northern Italia. Bella Italia

Like i wrote, there was no time to waste going to Venice, so my goal for this day was to reach the Italian riviera. Must say, that this part of the country really impressed me, because it is visible that these are very dynamic regions economically, with a significant number of factories.
This day also proved to be the worst for the machine, because since i was going in national roads, crossing cities (therefore traffic lights) and with a lot of traffic, often there were periods of stop-and-go. After some 4 hours of this, i was feeling that the clutch was starting to be upset of being used so often. Time to stop for lunch, for another Big Mac (what else should i had choosen).
While i was eating, i watched something that still now, after some months, i cannot find an explanation for it. A Ferrari F50 enters the McDonalds parking, and a guy comes out of it and meets what it seemed his girlfriend for a lunch. Uhh, yeah, this guy really knows how to use his money to make a woman feel special. A guy with a Ferrari that goes to have lunch in McDonalds with a girlfriend, is like giving an Armani suit to an animal treater. Pretty, but completely out of context and useless. Without seeming too racist, i must say that the guy didnt looked at all Italian. Or at least his origins were from another country. It would be mental for a typical italian to do something like this. Honestly, that guy really looked like he lives in the car (meaning he spent all his money in buying a Ferrari)
After my stomach pit-stop, i decided to reconsider my track, in order to avoid all the traffic. I didnt mind if i was going to go in worst roads and take more time, but one thing i was sure. 6 more hours of stop-and-go traffic, i would just damage the car. Therefore, choosed to go by a mountain road. It didnt seemed that long, and for sure without much traffic. So after some two hours more on national roads, bye bye, Alps landscape.
This mountain road proved to be really tricky in some points, cause i was going like 40km/h in very narrow road, and with some steep ravines. Sometimes i was just thinking "please brakes, dont fail me now". They behaved bravelly. Other times, i got excited and imagined i was in some Rally stage of Monte Carlo, and wildly push the Fiat to astonishing 70km/h (in third gear) squeeeezing it. Finally i arrived already during the night to Genova. And wow, although it was dark, this looked like a city with a fantastic landscape. The city is in the end of a river valley, but the mountains are really close. In fact, nowadays, i could notice that the city is already in the mountains. And it was very interesting to see how the city grew in between this valley. I know i want to come back to Genova, just to see it during the day.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Day 3, 1/04/08:(not) visiting Venice

To be only 160km from Venice and not go there and visit it might be hard to understand. But in fact, this would have implied a small detour on the route, probably city trafic (am not imagining that driving in Venice is easy), so no Venice for me. This time. Because i had already been in Venice.
From what i remember of it, and taking in consideration that i was there for two hours, it is indeed a unique city. And since it is known by everybody the good points of Venice, i would like just to signal some of the negatives: too many tourists (it seemed that Japan was left without inhabitants); a lot of buildings falling apart; bad smell and prices, well they are imaginative. Definitely a place to go back, but with some money in the pocket.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Day 2, 31/03/08: Entering Italy

Like i already mentioned, crossing the Alps was fairly easy, and around 21.30h i entered Italy. Even though it was a dark night, i could still understand that i was crossing a really beautifull landscape (by the way, this is close also to the Slovenian border). My objective was stop for the night in Udine, but that was not possible for two reasons:
1st - i entered Italy with very low fuel, since i thought that it would be cheaper to fill up in Italy than in Austria (wrong). Because of that, and mainly because i was crossing mountainous region, there where not that many petrol stations. The outcome was that i needed to exit the highway where i was, and make use for the first time of my 5l jerrycan because the reserve light was blinking.
2nd - i was feeling tired and sleepy after more than 12h on the road and 800km.
When i woke up in Gemona del Friuli, this was the view of my....parking place.
Ps: Maybe the picture is not very clear, so just some small notes. On the botton of that mountain, there is really a city over there. Also, 10m away from my car there is a train viaduct, but i only found out this while i was sleeping. Because when i parked the car, i didnt saw shit, and now comes the ironic part, i didnt stoped near the main road because i wanted a less noisy place...

Monday, 23 June 2008

Day 2, 31/03/08: Crossing the Alps

I wrote that after Viena it was highway all the way to Italy. Well, it isnt true. There was a point that the highway finished and it was normal road up the Alps. Indeed, crossing the Alps (at least where i did it) was piece of cake. Not very steep slopes, a significant amount of tunels, not too much trafic. Before the trip i was afraid my Fiat was going to suffer here, but he behaved bravelly.
As for the landscape, the idiot here crossed it at the end of the day, beggining of the night. So, i suppose that i missed the most pretty landscapes, and there is a strong possibility of not passing these roads again. In the middle of the Alps, and because i was hungry, decided to stop in a small village for a dinner. Those who know me will immediatly think that i stoped in some McDonalds. That would be unlikely to be found in a village on the Alps, and also would be an insult to Austrian cuisine.....
Found a restaurant owned by a middle-east looking person and had a kebab.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Day 2, 31/03/08: (Not) visiting Wien

Although Wien was on my exact track, and in fact i crossed the center of it, there was no time for stops. I had already been there, and hopefully will return. On the trip there was no time to pass by (but not enter) the variety of museus in the Museum Quartier, not seeing the Opera building, no Sissi Palace, no paying a fortune for a ordinary chocolate cake in a supposedely famous pastery (pasteis de nata, now that is something worth waiting). Wien, an imperial city, calm, organized, and with splendidly conserved buildings.
A perfect place for a long weekend to take your girlfriend/wife/mistress, just to enjoy a sophisticated capital and with an abundant cultural life. Not for a guy travelling alone across Europe in a Polski Fiat.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Day 2, 31/03/08: Crossing Austria

After having lunch, or more accurately, eating some food and things with calories around 2 p.m., it was time to enter in Austria. Again, the border was open, having nonetheless police that was checking randomly some vehicles. For my surprise, and why not say it, some disappointment I was not picked up.
Like in Czech Republic, also in Austria it is necessary to buy a stamp to circulate on the roads. On the Austrian case, this is only for the highways, and if not mistaken, was around EUR 8.
Allying stupidity with myopia, I didn’t knew where to buy this road stamp. So I parked the car, and went back by foot to the border to ask the police man where can I buy it, using as an ice-breaker my best: “Entschuldigung sprechen Sie englisch?”. With some condescension, one of them politely replyed in English that I can buy it in a petrol station. More or less 200m ahead…..(where I had parked my car).
On the way Viena, two curious things: there were road signs written also in Polish indicating to circulate on the right side of the road and I saw a lot of wind-farms (but in plains, not mountains).Arrived at the entrance of Viena around 16.23h, and exited it at 17.18h. In the meantime, just a small mistake in the center of Viena choosing one exit, but fairly easy to find my road just by following the indications. It was also already when exiting Viena that for the first time the limitations of the vehicle became really evident. 5 lanes each way, in rush hour but sometimes moving fast. As a civilized country they are, I had no problem. After that, highway all the way to Italy and through the Alps.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Driving slow – harder than it seems

Driving a matchbox per se is already stupid and dangerous. A slow matchbox in high traffic international roads or highways increases the level of stupidity, lets say, by 37 times. Therefore, and this is true, driving slowly demands much more concentration than driving fast. Normally, I am the type of insecure guy that in order to feel macho behind the wheel, needs to overtake as many cars as possible.
With my 126, all this virility was left aside. I was driving much more looking through the review mirror to be aware of the cars and especially the trucks that wanted (and did) overtake me. In fact, and now I will be brutal, this sucks. Instead of looking and enjoying the landscape, many times when I looked to my left side all I saw was semi-trailer wheels almost as tall as my Fiat. On day two, even without seeing, I could already know, for instance, whether it was a DAF or a Scania overtaking, if it was a V8 or V10, just by listening to the noise. Bullshit of course, though not totally impossible for a motors fanatic.
So for those that thought that while I was driving I could read Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, you are wrong. I needed to be focused 110% unless I wanted that a truck would mistake my car for a speed bump, so the only reading I was doing was of maps.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Day 2, 31/03/08: Still in between Czech hills

During the period where i was crossing small country villages in Czech Republic, i could not help noticing two things. First one was that pratically in every house frontyard, there was a Skoda parked. The second was that in each 100m i could see speakers hanged on electric poles (i do not mean here the persons from Poland ok!), for what purpose i still do not know (to spread communistic propaganda in the old days maybe??).
After these incursions off the beaten track, finally arrived to the right road. Not much traffic, good road, so all conditions gathered for a significant increase the cruise speed to 80km/h. Therefore, Brno came quickly. Second most important city of Czech Republic, didnt had time to see more than the outskirts of it, so i will jump descriptions of suburbs.
From Brno to the border with Austria was pretty quick, just in time for the lunch hour. The border city is called Mikulov, and it has quite a nice castle in a picturesque landscape. Not that picturesque, but curious was the Casino right next to the border with Austria to wellcome the austrian peasants pockets with Euro.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Day 2, 31/03/08: Międzilesie (PL) - Gemona del Friuli (IT)

Pre-sliced bread, Nutella, yogurt (or small flavoured milk package) and one banana. This was my concept of a balanced breakfast for this trip, and if not mistaken it was like this during all the days. And, as i knew from previous low-budget trips that i had done, this was enough to give energy. Besides, i was going to be seated most of the time, then not much calories wasted (either phisically or mentally).
After this, my entry on Czech Republic. First thing, i needed to buy a stamp to circulate on their roads for a week. Not expensive though (6/7 euro). The road quality improved visibly, the amount of Skoda's increased exponentially also. There was still some snow on the side of the road on the higher points, and for the first 50km all went ok.
Then, i started doing mistakes on the roads (like going in the wrong direction). Because i am stuborn, and going back the same way is not the way i drive, decided it was best and cheaper to buy (€5) a road map of Czech Republic. For a small country, the map was huge and very complicated to handle. Maybe this would explain partially the fact that i made (again) some mistakes choosing the roads, which lead me to real narrow country-side roads. But thanks to that, i saw some funny villages, like the one in the photo, that for sure i would not see had i went in the quicker, better, less steep roads.

My yellow thing near a small lake in a tiny village on northeast czech republic. After this photo, 40km of narrow forest road following the undecided path of a river. And it only took me one hour to do it. No fear!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Day 2, 31/03/08: Mechanical problem #1

Around 7.30 am, and even without breakfast, the priority was to check how much oil had i lost. Looking to the engine compartment i was afraid of much worst, but in fact not that much oil was spilled. Therefore, i could say that i had some luck, but i prefer to see it in the way that i was stupid not to have solved this problem before starting the trip. Since i bought the car, that this piece was always loose, so it was only a matter of time until i lost it. Good that it was in Poland.
To get to a shop, my sollution was to use a plastic bag with tape around it. It worked perfectly, mainly because i only needed to do 3km to find a place where to buy a cover for the oil compartment. The man told me that he had it for this Fiat (i would be surprised if i was not able to find this for a car that sold 3 million units in Poland), in fact it was very similar, but when i tried to put it, it simply didnt close well.
Went to the shop again, asked the man to come and see my car, he saw that in fact it didnt close but he didnt had anything different. Decided to buy an extra-one in case i lost this again (it was around 1.5€ each), used a plier to force it to stay as stable as possible, and on the top, again some tape to help reduce the vibrations. Problem solved, for the rest of the trip, though i was checking always the oil more often than i expected.
Above, picture of the main square of this border city already in a somewhat mountain area. But the best part, was the great weather. Clear blue sky.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Day 1, 30/03/08: Poznań - Prague (what could be done with another car)

Leaving Poznań around 10 am, it is possible to reach (180km) Wrocław around 1pm with no hurries. In this city, the obvious option would be the main square for the lunch. From Wrocław to Prague is a bit less than 300km (only with 90km in highway), and if without much traffic can be done in 4 1/2 hours. Therefore, around 8 pm it would be possible to find the Hotel in Prague.
In Prague, the options vary accordingly with the company. If with the woman, then must find a decent but kind of pricey restaurant with so-so food, then see some churches by night, the main square (in the photo), Charles bridge, overlook the castle/palace on the other side of the river, yada yada yada and all that crap. If alone, or just with guys, then time to spend some money on the numerous small casinos that are spread all over the city and after explore the nightlife of Prague which may or not include visiting the (probably too turistic) strip clubs in one of the most central avenues of Prague.
This was not my option quite simply because Prague was not in straight line on the way to Wien. I did not needed more extra km/costs on gas.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Day 1, 30/03/08: Poznań - Międzilesie, Part III - sleeping

For several reasons (safety and money, mainly the first one), i decided it would be better not to abandon the vehicle during the night. And because i never did camping in my life, the sollution was to sleep inside the car. Due to some space limitations, the seat was in the very same position when i was driving and when i was sleeping. The normal question then pops out: "How tha fuck did you manage to sleep like that?"Not simple, but nothing too complicated also, and i will describe briefly the steps:
1- take off the shoes;
2- take off the socks (optional);
3- take off the jeans (also optional), or at least open the buttons of it;
4- put on some wool slippers (laugh all you want, but warm feet are very important anywhere);
5- put yourself inside a good and long sleeping-bag;
6- remove your shirt (again optional, but me latin, therefore very warm person);
7- grab a normal bed pillow, put it against your left side between the window and your head;
8- open a bit the window to let fresh air in;
9- cover yourself completely with the sleeping-bag, so that the light will not disturb you. As option you can use some blindfold, but thats a bit gay;
10- not be too pissed of if you woke up more than 10 times during the night;
Seriously, my main problem, was really the lack of space for my legs. That was why i woke up so many times. The neck, also suffers a bit, i must admit.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Day 1, 30/03/08: Poznań - Międzilesie, Part II

Already before starting the trip, i had already reached the conclusion of what would be the speed i should drive. The expected fuel consuption was clear (between 5 to 6l/100km). As for the best driving position, and also because my seat could not go more to the back, i was a bit more uncertain.
Since this car obviously does not have rpm indicator, and quite frankly i have no idea what is the maximum rpm this engine can hold on. So, just learning by experience and by hearing the engine, 80kph (marked, not real), is the maximum advisable cruise speed. Above that, the engine starts to suffer a bit more. The maximum speed that i marked with the car was 110kph, but just once and with some effort, although the car could have marked 120kph. Anyway, another important thing that i tried to do, was to once in a while if there was not traffic (more or less each 10min) was to reduce the speed a little bit, so that the engine wasn't for hours always at the same rotation.
With a fuel consumption around 5l, this means an autonomy of around 250km. Taking in consideration the very poor average that i do on national roads (more or less 60km/h), i could drive the Fiat during four hours without stopping. Never did that, and the maximum i did before the trip was 2 1/2h. During the trip, at least two hours i wanted to stop (even if with the engine on) just to play it safe. So, now i believe it becomes more clear why i did only 350km in 6h.
Last, but not the least, the driving position. Since the speed was not outstanding, i could drive only with one hand. But, i didnt went for the classic taxi-driver position (left hand on the steering wheel and right on the gear). Mine was left hand in a 6.30 position and right hand in my equator area. Since i was not going to change gears that often, i could be playing an individual version of the popular "nob or bollocks" game.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Day 1, 30/03/08: Poznań - Międzilesie

Following the good old portuguese tradition and stereotype, the departure hour suffered a significant delay. Instead of leaving on this sunny sunday around 12.30h as i wanted, i ended up leaving Poznań only at 16.05h. Nothing serious, because there were no hotel reservations made, so absolutelly no concern of being late.
For several reasons, sunday was for me the best day to start this trip. Specially because i wanted to avoid the traffic of trucks in the Polish roads, and also the city traffic when crossing the cities. For instance, on a week day, it takes at least 1hour to cross Wrocław coming from Poznań. After Wrocław, i kept going down in direction to the border. If i wanted to go to Prague, i would have directed to Kudowa-Zdrój. But, as much as Kudowa would be interesting to see, i choosed to go to some place called Międzilesie. So, after 350km in national roads of reasonable quality (for polish standards), one mistake reading the map that costed me 30km extra and around 22.15h i was 10 km away from the border.
In a sudden glimpse of rationality (and also some experience), i thought it would be better to stay this night in Poland, just in case i had some problem to solve in the car on the next morning. So, since this was a small but nice mountain village, it was not difficult to find a place to park the car. On a parking, between the main road and a church seemed a good option.
When i stopped the car, and stepped out, thanks to the public illumination i noticed that the back of my car was somewhat covered with.....engine oil. Sweet! Opened the engine compartiment, and noticed that the cover of the engine oil entrance was no longer there. So, for the last 2km, 20km, or 40km (i have no idea when i lost this since my last stop), i was driving the car without this, causing the oil to jump out and colour the back of my (now even more) dirty Fiat. It was 22.30h, i was tired, was not going away any more for the night, so this would be a problem to think of in the next morning.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Luggage - what to take and where to put it

In this type of car, there is not much space for luggage. In the back stays the engine, and in the front the space available is only valid for the spare tyre, fire extinguisher and mechanic tools and liquid recipients (maximum 5l) for example. So, all your luggage will be visible for others.
Minimum required: small luggage with changing clothes, hygiene items, bottles of water, fruit, cakes and very important a small jerrycan for petrol in case the one in the 13l deposit runs out before you reach some station.
On my turn, it was necessary to put more stuff inside the car. For starters, a huge luggage (weight around 50kg) with practically all my clothes occupying all the back seat surface. On top of that a normal luggage filled with books and shoes. Behind the right seat, a small television. Still on the back, one small backpack, one laptop bag, one volumous winter jacket, and a small handbag. I could have putted more stuff in the back, but decided was better to have some vision to the rear behind my seat. Besides, in case of strong braking or an accident, is never good idea to have loose objects that can use my head as a target for the laws of physics. In the photo, we can see that in the back seat there was still some space left.
Also, on the right seat it was possible to squeeze a microwave, a backpack with my laptop, sleeping bag, a pilow and three bottles of alcohol. Not the best of the ideas, i must say, but nothing was broken!

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Driving position

I decided to delay the part dedicated to the (fulcral) mechanic preparations for later. Now, just small notes about the driving position that should be adopted for a long trip.
Ideal: the seat should a little bit more distant from steering wheel than on normal day to day driving to allow for a more relaxed and more confortable position. If possible, the seat should be a little bit more reclined since many km on highway are expected.
Mine: Due to the amount of luggage in the back seat, i was limited in terms of space. So, it was a very normal, close and straight position. More complicated, was also the room for my left leg, because the car is so narrow that the wheels positively "invade" the inside of the car. The best solution i come out with, was to drive with my left foot below the clutch pedal (you can gain some awesome 5-7cm for your leg with this trick). On this particular situation, i was happy that i belong to the european country with the lowest average height. By the way, with this position, my head was always above the head support. Not being a safety expert, i suppose that in case of accident, this situation is never positive for the driver. But its a matter of choice in this Fiat: either you have your head supported but then you drive pratically laying down, or if you are properly seated the head support is at supporting your...shoulders.
Ps: For the most curious, yes, there was indeed a microwave inside the car. But, that's a subject for the next post - the luggage challenge.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008


Normal person: According with the Michelin website, the best option to drive from Poland to Portugal is to go through Germany and its excelent "autobahn" in direction to Belgium, and then come all the way down through France, and enter into Spain near the Atlantic side. The only drawback of this, might be the expensive french tolls.

My choice: After being advised not to go through Germany because police men there are not particular fans of this kind of polish car, and also because in case of problems i would have problems with the car i do not rely that much on normal German person goodwill to help me. If in the last time i was in Berlin, i had troubles asking for informations for schedules of trains/buses to Poland, i didnt wanted to find out how i would solve mechanical problems with a Polski Fiat in Germany without speaking Germany. That settled, the option was to go through Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Monaco, France, Spain (which included aside from the Pyrenees, another big mountain - the Alps). More km (aditional 500), more border passages, worst roads, more traffic, more time spent in mountain roads. The good point, was that since i was not going to spend that much time on highways, i could see some landscape and some cities. And another good thought was: "hey, if i reach Italy, there i will have a lot of spare parts for some problem my Fiat might have".

Ps: As for my help, no GPS or Michelin Guide notes. No, i intended to do it solely with a single map of Europe just with the main roads marked. Nothing of these fancy businesses that people use these days when driving. Good, old fashion PAPER map!

Monday, 7 April 2008

Il Gran Turismo

My perspective: This is a very funny small car, especially because of its engine. A very simple, 2 cilinder, air-cooled engine. It basically sounds like a tractor. Of course that with 652cc, 24hp (when new), 4 gears, high-performance cannot be expected. Mine, i bought it with 86000 km (let me assume that these were the real ones), and although it does not look like it, the car is practically new (1996)! More info, just go to wikipedia :) .
Normal perspective: Shity, small, slow italian-polish piece of rubish from communistic times that should be banned from the road.

Sunday, 6 April 2008


This blog, as the name indicates is fully dedicated to my yellow Fiat 126P EL (aka “Maluch” ), that I bought while in Poland and that after some months I decided to drive to Portugal. And it will be exactly with a report of this trip that I will start in the following posts, because now memories are still fresh. The reason why I decided to write in English instead of my mother tongue – Portuguese – is as a sign of appreciation to all the persons that helped me in this trip, and that without them I couldn’t have done it. Once again, many thanks for your help, specially the mechanic “team”: Ania, Kajtek and Marek :) .
To make it more appealing to the reader I decided to make this report in two ways: what I have done and what a normal person would have done. Maybe at this moment, this is not perfectly clear, but you will understand what I mean a little bit ahead. Otherwise, this would only be interesting for nuts like me that really are crazy for cars.