Odd title? Answer can be found at the end.
Last Saturday my wife and I finally got rolling on our road trip from Sweden to Batumi, Georgia. That is about 4800 km on the road. We didn’t get moving until the afternoon, and I had some bizarre ferry-issues getting from Gedser to Rostock. I was told “maybe later tonight, some people have been waiting 6 hours”. I drove for half an hour and got on the ferry at Rødby instead. I was among the 10 first cars to board…! (VIP treatment because I have a roadtax-chip for the car)
My initial and very ambitious plan was to impose on Till72 and his lovely wife’s hospitality, but my skewed time schedule turned an overnight stay into lunch the next day instead. When we left it had started raining, and I was too frozen to ask Till to pose for a picture. I do not recall having seen his image on these pages before, but at least his 9-3x can be found in the SU archives. It was a very nice meal, and I had a chance to practise my German vocabulary (consists of about a dozen words and some strange hand acrobatics). I tried to compliment one of Till’s daughters with “was für eine schöne mädchen!” that I thought meant “what a beautiful girl!”, but google translate thinks it means “the farmer’s tractor just left the field”. I helpfully supplied with an abundance of (I hope) appropriate hand gestures in an attempt to not frighten the child further. Anyway, we enjoyed the meal immensely and I also took the opportunity to query Till on a “strange” problem I had. My car had told me a couple of times that “Engine oil level is low. Add more oil.”. On the surface of things, that sounds like a pretty straight forward error message, but what to do when the measuring stick shows your car has plenty (even a tad too much) of oil? (More on this further down)
Through Austria I was held up a bit by roadworks and a constant stream of lorries. At one point I found myself behind a passive Opel. My Norwegian driving habits means that I do not ride up right behind other cars’ bumpers. An Austrian Saaber noticed this, passed me on the right hand side, got right up behind the Opel, pushed him over and then let me pass. To the gentleman in the blue 9-5 with faded badges: Thank you! We stayed together for a few miles until we lost each other in another roadwork zone along the way. I tried to wave to him at one point, but I could not see if he noticed. (driving 140 kph while looking over my left shoulder is not something I am used to)
Day Three (Monday)
After my first query here concerning what route to take, Valentin contacted me and offered us a room in his home. However, given my slippage in scheduling, our paths crossed in Wien. We stayed at the same hotel and in the morning Valentin joined us for breakfast. He carefully explained me how to drive through Romania. His advice was to propel through hundreds of villages, going at 30 kph above the speed limit. The problem is that outside the villages you are allowed to go 100 kph. Once you get to a residential area, the limit drops to 50 and sometimes 40. Go that slow and you are blocking traffic behind you. It turned out to be one of the most challenging roads I have ever driven. Many twists and turns, but also the duration felt unique. We spent more than 12 hours getting from Wien to Bucharest where Valentin’s son and mother were waiting for us. Oh, Romania is in a different time-zone, so what I thought was 1:30am turned out to be quite a bit later. After that drive I understand why Valentin picked a 9-3 XWD w/eLSD. The extra grip in those sharp corners is both felt and welcomed.
The roads curving around Romania’s mountains are both fun and tiresome at the same time. Fun because of all the cornering, tiresome due to all those lorries blocking your path.
Day Four (The day after Monday)
Another late start. I had asked Eddie (Valentin’s son) if he knew where the local Saab dealership were. I explained about the six or seven warning messages pertaining to the oil… After an expertly prepared breakfast (thanks to Valentin’s mother) we headed down to Auto Cobalcescu SRL where we were welcome by Cosmin who proceeded to give the car a thorough examination. Here is the funny thing: The measuring stick now showed that it was close to the minimum point. They added almost a liter and the car certainly seemed much happier after that.
My 9-5’s BioPower gauge got some attention. I still had 10% E85 in my fuel tank (from a gas station near the Hungarian-Romanian border), so the gauge was working and the mechanics were curious about the gauge in general.
Cosmin was a well of information. Eddie was curious about fuel filters, as he had been told that several Saab engines did not include such. I did not realize this either, so I was a bit surprised when Cosmin confirmed this.
Eddie then guided us to the bridge crossing over to Bulgaria. Although the road was easier travelled compared to north of Bucharest, Eddie’s help was much appreciated! Thanks Eddie!
Bulgaria was largely uneventful. We powered through so we would reach Istanbul at a reasonable hour. Luckily the traffic was light. I was stopped only once. The officer who stopped me say “Beautiful car!” and the other sitting in the police car tried explaining “I write paper — 100 Euro and you have to go to police station to pay…” (Oh no!), “No paper? 40 Euro”. I remained calm and said “40 Euro? That is a bit much…” (Eddie had said the going rate was 5 Euro). In the end they gave up and let me go.
We arrived in Istanbul in the middle of the night. This is the fourth country my car has travelled that does not feature in the satnav’s maps. Sometimes it shows only a compass, and other times it shows us in the middle of nowhere with a trail of breadcrumbs behind us.
Today: Onwards to Georgia!