The price of paper

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)

Day Two

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)

Valentin and his Saab
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)

"Yo Eddie!" I shouted while Cosmin was busy diagnosing our car
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!

13 thoughts on “The price of paper”

  1. “the farmer’s tractor just left the field” is by far the funniest thing Google ever translated. Rune, you knew better than Google. 🙂

    Glad you found time to drop in and I hope you have a safe trip!

  2. Hi rune.
    I’m glad by the way you presented Romania :). I hope the policemen stopping you and asking for bribe were in Bulgaria and not in Romania (I hope you understood what no paper means 🙂 – i.e money going to their pockets and not the country ones).

    What was your montain path? Transfagarsan (the road that was featured in Top Gear show), river Olt valey (if you traveled through Sibiu town) or Prahova valey (if you passed by Brasov town). Also did you went by Transilvanian highway (A3, aroudn 50 km of hayway, entered between ORadea and Cluj) or did you passed through Cluj?

    • Good evening Razvan!

      Yes, the guys who stopped me were Bulgarians and indeed I realized they were looking for a bribe. Eddie had warned me in advance, but I was perplexed by the amount they were asking for. I suspected there was some room for bargain and I held my ground.

      As for my route from Hungary to Bucharest, I just do not know. I let the GPS call the shots, except in those cases when it was obviously wrong. Part of highway 1 did not even show up on its maps, and that shaved 20 minutes off the estimated arrival time. Most of the time I simply followed anyone who appeared to know where they were going. Figuring out the de facto speed limit was an interesting exercise.

      I should have added that there was a helpful soul who took me through one of the mountain passes. He was OK at cornering and made good time through some confusing roads.

      Given my desire to reach Valentin’s house within a semi-reasonable time, there just wasn’t any time left for sightseeing. Hence the lack of pictures.

      • btw, I’ve read in autobuil romanian version that highway speed limits in norway is 90 km/h. I think there was a typo.

        About the route, any of the one mentioned by me have curvy roads, a pleasure to drive with a good car if you have desire for minimal rally experience :).

        I hope you will enjoy more the trip back.

        Btw, in avareged a medium of 100 km/h for about 100 km on roads with 100 and 50 limitation, so bare in mind that we have very defensive speed limits. They were made to cope with Dacia 1310, a car with a small evolution from Renault 12.

  3. Another thing that I forgot to mention earlier today: There is a gathering for Saab owners around August 12th I think in Romania. Hopefully someone will supply more details about the when and where.

  4. Hi Rune

    I just love these road trips, that end up totally unorganized & Chaotic. That’s the stuff of the
    non-motorway days.

    Have lots of funny, be happy & keep checking the oil!!. Wait for your full post.

    • The return will be a bit more organized I think. I will heed Jelger’s advice and take a ferry from Greece to Italy. That should hopefully end my vacation on more relaxing terms. 🙂

  5. Well done, Rune! Have a safe trip back, although you are going to miss the fun of driving through Romania.

    For Razvan: I advised Rune to go through Valea Oltului, which is a pretty difficult bit with all the lorries on tour on a working day.

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