From Prague to Brno.

After picking the car up in Prague, I tried to take the way to the road using just my memories from the google maps I studied he night before. Apparently it was a simple way. Right, then go straight ahead and turn left before the bridge. It would be awesome if it was true. I turned a street before the one I should and suddenly I was totally lost.

I pull over and turn on my awful GPS. It takes its usual 15 minutes to start working and as soon as I’m located, I put the address in Brno. It says the address doesn’t exist. I put only Brno. Doesn’t exist. I take a deep breath and zoom in the map until I find Brno. I click on it and it draws the route. It asks me if I want the toll free route, I click no and I follow it.

Three minutes later, when I was about to take an important turn, my location gets lost. Several possibilities to turn and I don’t know which one to take. It’s one of those moments that even with the GPS on, you take the wrong turn. I almost stopped in the middle of the road to ask someone. But I had to choose a way and, of course, I chose a wrong one. The road signs weren’t showing “Brno”, but neighborhoods in Prague. Completely useless to me.
I was following a wrong route until my GPS located me again and showed me the right way. It took a while, but I was on the right route. After a short unwanted sightseeing in Prague suburbs, I finally found a roadsign showing Brno. Hallelujah!

There are no turns on the highway. Straight, straight, straight. I noticed that, differently from the other places I was so far, here the drivers ride on the left lafe, just like Brazilian drivers. It didn’t take long for me to understand the reason. After 50 km, the right lane, even though hole free, it’s very bumpy. The car shakes like there is an earthquake going on. I felt like Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura movie when he is driving his Land Rover Defender.

It’s impossible for me to go to the left lane. Lubenica may be an old warrior, but she isn’t fast enough. I have to face she shaky road of the main Czech road till the end.

When the signs were announcing Brno within 30 km, I pulled over, turned on my GPS again, found the proper address and followed the route. In half hour I was there.

Even before I leave the car, Daniela was already there waiting for me. We introduced ourselves and she said she could hear the noisy car and came to check if it was me. And it was indeed.
At her flat, she introdced me to her brother, Matěj. We sat down and talked for a while. Daniela offered to cook something and me and Matěj went to a nearby pub to buy beer. Apparently this beer, a good one they said, could only be found there.

We came back, ate, drank and talked. Soon we would go out. Matěj wanted to show me a bar in an underground part of the city. Before we left, Marie, Daniela’s friend, arrived. On the way we met with Eva, Matěj’s girlfriend.

So we climbed up a quite high hill right in middle of the city. Narrow streets and cottage houses. Matěj explains me that at this hill it used to be an old village for the employees of a mining state company, during the communist times. After the communism broke down, the village was abandoned. In the last years, some artists and intelectuals started to move to the hill and now the neighborhood became some kind of the underground cultural center of the city. And, of course, now the houses are more expensive.

We arrvied at a very small and crowded bar. There were all kind of people.
It was cold and inside the bar everyone was smoking, literally. Between stay outside and get cold or stay inside and get smoked, me, Daniela and Marie decided to stay outside. Matěj came with some beers and we talked more.


(Matěj)

A band starts to play. It’s not the best one, but they are residents of the neighborhood. We kept talking until the cold started to hurt my bones, so we all decided to go inside. I barely entered and Matěj takes me outside again, telling me he had to show me a place. We go all the way up the rest of the hill and there’s a spot where you could see the whole city. I took some pictures and we went back.

Matěj went for a smoke with his friends and meanwhile a long haired dude came talk to me, telling me heard about my Lada and the trip. He said he has a green Beetle and we talked for a while. His name was Matoej or something like that. These Czech names aren’t the easiest ones to write down.

After so much smoke in our eyes, I tell the girls – who weren’t feeling like home there – that we could change the place, assuming that Matěj was going to stay there longer and we weren’t so excited about the idea. We said goodbye and went down the hill.

At the city center, Daniela and Marie told me about some streets and buildings. Soon we are at a residential area that looks fancy and where we could have some local beer. We had a last one each talking about life in Brno and soon we went back to the flat.


(Beers in Brno)

Before we go to sleep, Daniela made some scrambled eggs and we talked a bit more and then we hit our beds. The day after we decided to go to Marie’s hometown, Ochoz u Brna, near Brno and to see a very interesting church.
I slept as much as I wanted and needed and I woke up late, obviously, the next morning. Daniela had woken up way before me and Marie left to meet a friend. I have my breakfast and soon Marie is back and we can go. She was the driver.

The road isn’t the best one and Marie isn’t so confident at the wheel. Me and Daniela laugh a bit about it, so we wouldn’t show how afraid we really were.

The church is really something compared to the rest of the city. It doesn’t look like it’s part of the city. Actually the city doesn’t seem to be part of the church. There are a few tourists and we go inside to take a look. We talked a bit about religion and faith in the country and I’m not surprise to hear they are one of the least religious countries in the world.


(The big, big church)

We left and went to Marie’s house. There I’m introduces to the “vices” of the region. They are spirits made of virtually everything they have at their yards. The most famous one is Slivovice, made of plums. There is the calvados, made of apples and the merunkovice, made of apricots. While I try them all and make a huge effort to taste a difference between them, pretending I could feel some fruit taste among so strong alcohol, we talk about the worldwide fame of Czechs and alcohol. As I could see, beer is the country’s pride, but they don’t stick just to it. The vices are also quite strong in the culture, especially in small towns and, as I could see later on, wine is also very important. Long story short, the wisdom of not mixing alcohol is bullshit for them.

Marie’s brother, one of the many she has, Vlaclav, comes. He joins us. He’s a kitesurfer – something quite weird, remembering Czech Republic is a landlocked country. He tells me his stories about trips to Poland, where he could practice the sport, and his attempts to become professional.

The sun sets and it’s the Museum Night in Brno. We go back to the city and Marie returns the car to her friend, not without scare us a few times more. The weather sucks and it doesn’t stop raining. We tried to walk around, but the rain is annoying. After trying, with no success, to check some museums, we decided to go to a bar.

The bar was quite interesting. The name of it was “Standing up” and the idea was, trust me, to stand up. The tables around the bar were mostly to leave the beers and finger foods and no chairs available. After a few beers more, local ones, and more talk about life in Brno, we went back to the flat.

Matěj came back to the flat in the afternoon and left again. Daniela told me she doesn’t even try to know where he is anymore and I’m glad I was with them and not with him. Who would know where I would be ny now? We go to sleep.
Sunday morning, Martina, Daniela’s friend who would host me in the first place, calls inviting us to come and pay her a visit. She lives in Straznice, near the border with Slovakia. We say yes and Lubenica takes us there.

I didn’t want to take the main road, so we took a countryside one. We went through a lot of small villages, whose names were completely unreadable to me. After two hours we got there.

Martina was waiting for us outside. She couldn’t hold her laugh when she saw the car. She knew about it, but still couldn’t help but laughing.

We go in and I meet her cute little sister, who doesn’t even care I’m there. Martina makes us a coffee and we talk. Soon she takes us to the garage and shows us the bikes we would use to ride around.

The first stop is at a near village called Petrov. There we met Martina’s friend, Šárka. She invites us to go to her underground wine cellar of her family and explain us a little bit about the tradition of wine making of the region. We try the red and white wine. I have to drink just a little bit, because I would be driving later, but the girls drank more.

Martina said that if the weather gets better, we could to Slovakia with the bikes. It was just a few kilometers away. I get excited about crossing a border on a bike. Never thought I could do it.

Finally there is some sun and we decided to go to Skalica, in Slovakia. I haven’t ridden more than 300m on a bike in the past decade. And the few kilometers Martina said were almost 10. Ten to go, plus ten to come back.

We got in Skalica and the city is quite charming. We rode around, I took some pictures and we had ice cream. Yeah, Ice cream! They felt pity for me and instead of order a beer, they ordered ice cream.


(Marie, Martina and Daniela in Skalica)

On the way back, we stopped at the “border” and took some pictures with the road signs showing the countries. I wasn’t the only one there crossing a border on a bike for the first time.


(Martina, me and Marie crossing the border)

Back to Martina’s house, my legs were burning. That’s the result of sedentary life. Her parents were there now. Her mom, Pavlina, spoke with me in English. She was very interested about a dumb brazilian traveling her country with an old car. She said a few times she didn’t see that car for a long while. Her father, Ivo, answered a few questions and made some other ones. He was a bit shy to talk.

We had to go back to Brno. It was getting late and we still had 80 km of road and the sun was setting. They asked me if I liked Czech Slivovica, I said yes and Ivo brought me a bottle of a homemade one. I thank him for his amazing gift, we take some pictures and unfortunately we leave.


(Me, Ivo, Pavlina, Martina’s little sister and Martina)

Before go back to Brno, we stop at Marie’s house again to have dinner. In Brno it was a little bit more difficult to find a parking spot and we had to ride around the neighborhood for a while until we found one, not so close. The weather wasn’t good. I leave my stuff ready for the next day. Matěj and Eva wanted a ride to Bratislava so we agreed to go together the next day.

The sun rises on Monday and the weather is finally good since I got to Europe. It was warm! Matěj had left early to deliver his master thesis. Marie had left even earlier, because she had to teach french. I woke up when Daniela came back from a test she needed to attend.

Marie came back from the class and was taking a nap. As soon as we three got ready, we went outside to meet Matěj and Eva at a restaurant.

I could see the summer coming. I wondered why Europeans love tropical countries so much. Sun, warm weather, people smiling, shorts, skirts, short sleeved shirts. It wasn’t that tropical warm yet, but I could easily be using shorts. But I changed my mind when I got hit by the wind. The pants weren’t bad after all.

The restaurant looked like a very traditional one. When you spot several mason jars around the balcony, filled with potatoes, pickles, fish and other stuff you’ve never seen before, all of them bigger than your chest, it means the place must be serious. They have only one thing in their menu: a colossal and juicy pork knee. The other options are a big or small draught beer. Rice? Potatoes? Get outta here! I ordered a small beer, because I was going to drive later on.

I was almost fainting of so much pleasre. I ate roughly half of the knee while everyone was staring at me in shock. I didn’t care. I always loved pork knee and this one, especially, was outstanding. At the end, Matěj asked me for some time to solve a few things before we leave. Me, Marie and Daniela decided to take a walk around the city.
I could finally see how the city really looks like. The bad weather was leaving a bad impression of the city, but with the sunny day I could see how beautiful the city is. Old buildings, wide streets and forests surrounding it.
Martina was back to Brno and come meet us. We had a coffee while waiting for Matěj to let us know when he was ready. The time was ticking by and no news from him. I ask Daniela to call him and he asks for more time. I didn’t want to drive at night.

We go back to the flat. I give Martina a hug and she leaves. I leave my stuff ready and Matěj arrives only late afternoon and I was sure I would have to drive in the dark. It’s ok. At least I would have some company.
Before I leave, Daniela gives me a bottle of Medovina, a traditional czech drink made of honey. I hug her, quite happy about the gift. Marie comes and give me her gift. A small sound box that I could use to listen to some music in the car. I’m speechless and I hug them both a few times more. We all go to the car.

I put the bags in the trunk, give a last hug to Daniela and Marie and we leave. I few more horns and in a few minutes, me, Matěj and Eva were in a new country and in a new phase of the trip.

And this part I will tell you next time.

The plague in Prague.

On Tuesday, May 13th, I woke up late. Slowly packed all my stuff. I wrote down the address and how to get there. I didn’t want any kind of problems.

Made coffee, ate my sandwich and made some more for the trip. Everything was going according to the script.

I took my stuff and left with plenty of time to arrive in Prague, around 8pm, as we have arranged.

On the street where Lubenica is parked I saw two small jeeps I thought they looked familiar to me. First I thought they were the DWV Candango, quite popular in Brazil in the 1960’s, but after I was told they were a VW military jeep nicknamed “The Thing”. Even though, they are not common, so if finding one is a rare thing, to find two is even harder.

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I put my things in the car and, once more without the help of my GPS, I take the car and try to follow the instructions I saw the day before in internet. And everything goes out quite fine. I refuel the car before leave Berlin and soon I’m already on the road.

The road is great, but the weather is awful. It rains all the time and sometimes it was so heavy that I could barely see the car in front of me. The heat is on to avoid a steamy window and I slow down and stay behind a truck, with a safe space between us.

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When the weather seemed to get better, I felt the rotations of the engine were lower than usual for the speed I was. Usually at 100 km/h, the engine was at 4000rpm and now was at less than 3500rpm. Also the window wiper was slower.

I stop at a parking place on the road. I turn off the car and check the lights. They seem to be ok. But when I try to turn on the car I have nothing. The battery had completely discharged.

I ask people for the cable to help me out turning the car on again. The first few didn’t have and after 10 minutes without any help, I try to push the car myself to try to kickstart it. I couln’t gain speed enough to do it, mostly because the car is heavy and the parking lot was on a small hill. I fail. A guy comes to help me, but just to put the car back to the parking spot.

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(These pictures say it all)

Then parks a guy near me and I tell him my story. He didn’t speak English and I don’t speak German, but mimes are a universal language and he could understand what I needed. He had the cable and helped me to turn on the car.

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On the road I notice my battery still doesn’t recharges. The lights are weak and I start to worry if the Police could stop me for that.

At the border, I have to stop to buy the vignette stickers. When I stop I let the car die and I feel like the worst driver ever. Like an Andrea De Cesaris.

I bought the ticket and went to find someone else to help. I ask a man who was driving an old Twingo and he, in English, told me he knows he has it, but had to find it. And his car was a mess inside. After five minutes searching, he found it and we turned on the car again. I swear to myself that I would take Lubenica to Prague, no matter what.

I had to pray for the rain to leave me alone, because the car was completely out of battery. I had no lights, no turn signs, no wipers or anything. It was quite dangerous, I know, but I couldn’t stay a day alone on the road.

The GPS Works again in Czech Republic, mas I can’t find the address. I stop on a gas station, and this time without letting it de, and I had to search for the address on the map, so then my GPS could calculate the route. I found out that I had already missed the entrance and the car was running out of fuel. It was later than 20h and it was almost dark.

I had to go without lights and the turn signs were working sometimes only. But I got there anyway. I park the car wherever I could and I left it there until I could find a solution for it. I went to the building and met with Anezka.

Anezka is a friend of a friend of a friend of mine. Yeah, weird but true. Because of my delays waiting for the car to get ready and the lenses, I arrived four days after the original plan in Prague and the person who would originally host me had to host someone else. Kind of at the last minute I found her and everything was really fine.

While we’re cooking dinner, I turn on the camera and start recording the interview. She was really tired from work and went to bed right after it. On the next day she would work from 8am to 8pm, as it has been all these last days, as she told me.

Before fall asleep, I check in internet and I found out that the place where the car is parked is strictly for residents only. The penalty could be since a clamp on my wheel to even the car being towed away. I panic a lot.

I sleep, but a bad sleep, thinking about how long it would take for my car to be towed and how huge would be the fine to take it back. I woke up and went there, still wearing my pijamas. She was still there. I felt relieved. I come back and have my breakfast searching for some people to help me out in internet.

There are some pages in Facebook related to Ladas and “communist” cars. I knew already the problem should be the alternator, but still, how would I take the car to a mechanic?

On these pages there are some people with czech surnames. I send some messages to them. One answers me, but using a translator. It’s alright, we keep trying to talk. He sends me some adresses of mechanics specialized in Ladas. I ask Anezka to call them for me, but she is really busy at work. I start to feel bad about the whole situation.

I was still without a cento f czech Money, going crazy with the car and in one of the most charming european cities. I decided I should take a walk around the city, without destiny and completely alone.

I walked around for almost four hours through the old town and came back. The car was still there. At the flat I cook something and keep searching someone to help me out with the car.

Anezka comes back at 9 pm and goes straight to bed. She was exhausted. She is a very nice girl and helped me a lot, but unfortunately she couldn’t help me with the car. And I’m still in Facebook and Google searching for help.

Then, about 11pm, a lithuanian friend asks me how I was doing with the trip. I tell him where I am and my situation and he tells me he has a good friend in Prague that maybe can help. He sends me Ondrej’s profile and right away he are chatting. His brother, Prokop, and a friend of him can come the next morning to take me and the car somewhere.

Anxiety wakes me up the next day. I slept a little better, but still had dreams of my car being clamped and taken away, with an outrageously high fee to pay. I go down to check the car even before washing my face and I’m relieved to see my little green eyed love standing there. I open the trunk and I put the triangle above the steeting wheel, showing to anyone that the car was there solely because it’s broken. Who knows? Maybe this way the police would feel pity for me and wouldn’t give me a fine.

Back to the flat, I have breakfast and wait. We decided they would come around half past noon and was still 10am. The previous evening I was searching for accessories for cars and I decided to go there buy the cables to help the cold start. I didn’t know which bus or tram to take, so I went walking. It was 4km to go and plus 4 to come back. I get back at noon, tired and swet. They arrive at 1pm. I go outside to meet them. Prokop, Ondrej’s brother, and Lukas, his friend. We go towards the car.

We manage to gear up the car using the cables. The fuel level was low and we needed to refill it before reach the mechanic. They go ahead of me and I follow them, carefully trying not to let the car engine die.

Inside a tunnel the car started to make some funny noises. Stopped at the traffic light I pulled the lever beneath the steering wheel that helps the car’s engine to keep revving. When the light went green, the car didn’t have enough power to move and the noises got even louder and more explosive. I was petrified. I was lucky that the car could go down the street slowly and I could take it to a safe place, where Prokop could come and rescue me. The car was still running, but had no power. I step heavily on the accelerator pad, put the first gear and the car finnaly ran. Lukas and Prokop took the lead and I kept following them.

A few minutes later, at a big avenue, the car simply stopped running. I put my head out and shout. Prokop, once again, came running for my rescue. I asked him to push the car and for the very first time in my life I kickstarted a car. I was scared but proud of myself.

At the gas station, I refilled the car’s tank and Prokop helped me to pull the car. For the second time I managed to kickstart it and we went to the mechanic.

The mechanic was actually an employee of Lada’s car shop in Prague. The car shop had a 2101 in mint conditions that left me with an open mouth. I almost left Lubenica for her.

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He went to check the car and went straight to the alternator. It was misplaced. He took some old, dirty screws out of the engine and showed it to me. They were too old and simply went off. The alternator was fine, but unplugged and misplaced. He told us to go to an electrician nearby and he would put it back on its place.

Once again we had to restart the car and went to the new place. There he took a look while talking to Lukas about what he was finding out. Lukas told him about my trip. When he told him I’m Brazilian, he couldn’t help but laugh. Then he came to me and shook my hand. Said he envies me and my idea was quite cool. I was happy.

We left the car there and Lukas brought me back to the city center. We decided to meet in the evening for a few beers and to make an interview with him and Prokop. Before get back to the flat, I bought some food and beers. I could finally relax.

I made my dinner, had a shower and uploaded the vídeos and pictures to the computer. Anezka had a date and told me she would be back late, so I didn’t have to tell her I would also go out. I dressed up and left.

At the bar were Lukas, Prokop and Péta. Ondrej was on his way. I turned on the camera and we had a long chat about everything, specially the car and their lives. Péta, however, didn’t want to join and end up recording only the guys. Later on Ondrej arrived and the conversation flowed.

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(Prokop, Ondrej, Lukas, Péta and me)

Before the last subway we all left. Back to the flat, Anezka was about to sleep and I went to do the same right away. The next day would be a long one. Go back to the electrician, take the car and drive it to Brno.

Anezka wakes me up to say goodbye. She was going to work and we wouldn’t see each other anymore. I thank her for the last minute couch she offered me and she leaves. I sleep a bit more, but the sun is shining and it’s impossible to sleep. I go have a shower.

I pack my things and wait for Lukas to call me. Not much later he sends me a whatsapp message telling me the car was ready. I take my stuff and go there by myself. The mechanic isn’t there.

I call Lukas, that calls the mechanins, that tells Lukas, that warns me he would be back soon. While he doesn’t come, I use my spare key to open the car and put my stuff. I turn it on and everything sounds OK. He comes, I pay him, we greet each other and I leave.

The way to Brno wasn’t far, but there was a whole big city to cross until I reach the road.

And I will tell it in the next post.

Finally, Berlin.

Thursday, May 8th. Two weeks travelling and it was finally time to pack and leave to the “first” destiny of the oficial trip.

I wake up really anxious, as always, waiting the store to call telling me the lenses were there.

In the previous night we went for some beers at my farewell party of Poland, but we came back early. Wojciech had to work and I had 300 km to drive.

The time passes by and the store doesn’t call. We call them and they answer the same answer over and over “it’s about to arrive”.

I decide to put my bags in the car and drive Wojciech to his work. While he would be there, I would be taking a walk around the city waiting the call. And the call never happened. One day more in Poznan without the lenses and a huge feeling of time lost.

I get really sad and angry, but getting sad and angry wouldn’t help now.

Wojciech comes back from work and we go to a studio where his friends were playing. There we would have a last beer and some fun.

The band is formed by Piotr, Bartlomiej and Damianek. They are making a jam session and sing, ironically, that I should have not bought that car. Then they overload me with questions about my trip and we decide they would make a special song for the trip and also that I would use some of their songs for the video.

On our way back the trams are completely full of Young people going to a party that was taking place near the flat. Wojciech explains me that it was the end of the semester and this was a traditional party that happens every end of semester and everyone was going there to distress and get completely drunk. We decided to go back to the flat and sleep.

My anxiety wakes me up on the next morning. This had to be the day, with or without the lenses.

Wojciech was outside already solving some stuff at the post office. I call him and ask about the lenses and he tells me he had already called the store and they still didn’t know when they would be there. I almost punch the wall. Then I take a deep breath and try to forget it.

I ask him to call them again and let them know that I was only going to buy these lenses if they would be there before noon, because I had to be in Berlin before 6pm, otherwise I wouldn’t have a place to sleep there. He then sends me a link to a polish website. I don’t understand anything, but I could see a picture of a white sheet covering a body near the tram line that we were yesterday night. I ask him what has happened and he tells me that it was a friend of him. He tried to cross the line when coming back from the party, completely drunk, and was hit by the tram. He died.

Wojciech comes back quite sad and I didn’t know if I should be sad about it or angry with the store. I felt really selfish for not being able to share my friend’s pain.

The store finally calls and tells us that the lenses would arrive at 3pm. I ask Wojciech to send them to hell and that I was leaving to Berlin. I take my stuff and we go down. Wojciech hugs me a melancholic hug, we take a picture together and he takes a few pictures more of the car. I get inside and leave. Another goodbye with a horn.

It was 11:30am when I left. It didn’t take much time for me to take a wrong turn and get lost. The GPS, as usual, wasn’t working properly. While I was trying to find the way, I stop on a gas station to refuel. When I left the station, I turned on a street and suddenly I’m back to the starting point. Lucky me. This time I don’t commit any mistakes and soon I’m on the highway.

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On the highway there’s nothing much to do. It’s a straight road, boring, annoying and without any company. The radio is broken, so I have to sing alone, like a crazy person talking to oneself. I don’t really care.

I got used to be overtaken. Some people turn their heads to see the car. Some kids point their fingers, some young laugh and the older get surprised. Two cars with Russian license plates overtake me. The first one goes fast while the second I could notice the woman on the passenger’s seat taking a picture of my car. I try to thumb up for her, but the driver wasn’t on a good day and speed up.

After around 200 km I arrive at my first international border. I go through a bridge, leaving Poland behind and facing Germany right in front of me. And right after the bridge I notice some police cars around the road.

A 100 km more and I arrive in Berlin. Without GPS, I try to remember how should I do to get to the address. I had studied the way on internet the day before. I’m not sure if I was lucky or if I was a good student, but I get there without any mistakes.

I go up to the flat and Erik is there to meet me. I met him last December. He tells me that Tina, his fiancée and whom I met four years ago in Lithuania, is working. Soon they would be going to their hometown, near Dresden, to solve some things regarding their wedding celebration.

He leaves soon and I’m alone in their nice flat. Before he leaves, he borrows me his public transport card and with this card I go to Alexanderplatz to find a store where I could buy the lenses I was waiting for days in vain.

One of the lenses were not available. Precisely the one I was waiting for so long. It’s okay. I take another one. The filter I bought was useless then and I have to buy another one. At least in less than an hour I solve the problem that for the last three days I couldn’t solve. I go back to the flat and rest. Not without going to a market first to buy some food and, of course, beer. After all, I was in Germany! I make a carbonara sauce for my pasta, drink my beer and can finally lie down and use the internet with no worries.

On Saturday I go meet a former work colleague who’s living in Potsdam, a city in the outskirts of Berlin. I meet Gabriela in Alexanderplatz and we go for an “alternative tour” through the city, as the website suggested. The guide, a british guy with his heavy accent, speaks as someone who really knows what’s talking about. He says about the graffities and the unknown streets. He takes us to Kreuzberg and then to East Side Gallery, where the tour was over. He asked me about my videos and I tell him about my trip. He liked the idea but asked for permission of use of his image. No problems.

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I and Gabi walk for a little more and we stop for lunch. Kebab, of course. She eats hers in a matter of minutes and I can’t even finish mine. Never happened to me before.

Although the sun was still there, it was late already and Potsdam isn’t so close. We said goodbye and I went back to the flat. Not before buying some beers more. Do I have to remind you where I was?

The Eurovision final was being broadcasted. In Brazil no one knows about it for an obvious reason: we are not in Europe. Anyway, I haven’t watched it so I didn’t know who were in the final. pela Rússia, “doou” seus 12 pontos para eles. E a Rússia retribui e dá os seus 12 para eles.

And it was quite ridiculous, I must say. At the final were Russia and Ukraine. And every time a country voted for Russia, the boos were loud

But in the end, the winner was na austrian singer who turned into a drag barbed queen. I still didn’t listen to the music. Actually I haven’t listened to any of the songs and I don’t really want to. I think it was quite interesting for her, or him, to win. In such times, where xenophobia in Europe is rising as a hundred years ago, this message of tolerance would not be in vain.

I turn off the TV and go sleep. No plans for the upcoming day.

I woke up, turn on the PC. I try to talk with Jorge, a goode friend of mine from Venezuela and who lived in Vilnius too. He told me he would be in Berlin so we decided to meet.

We went to Reichstag and Brandenburg. Meanwhile, we talk a lot about Brazil. Such an interested guy about Brazil he is. We make some comparisons with Venezuela and he explains me his situation in Europe.

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Even though he has a masters and doctor’s degree, each one in a big European institution, he can’t find a job, even in telemarketing. This has been draining his health and I can see his wasn’t as smiley as he was four years ago.

He has been living for almost a month in a latvian friend’s flat, who called him asking for the flat Keys. He had to go and I went to the open museum about the wall. I took some pictures and made some videos of a place that was somehow not exclusive for tourists

Back to the flat I finally meet Tina and Erik. They had just come back from their trip. We talked a bit about their trip to Brazil last year and about mine too. It doesn’t take long for their friends to arrive. Lech and Tania are a couple. He was born in DDR and she in GDR. Now they both live in Berlin.

We made a dinner that was mostly everything we had on the fridge, plus some aspargos and potatoes they borught, stew and with some cheese sauce. And then I could make my first officially interview. I turn on the camera, point at them and we start to eat. The conversation naturally flows and a lot of nice answers and questions come. I liked the way the interview was being taken. It made me happy.

At 1am, Lech and Tania have to leave and Erik and Tina need to sleep. All, except of me, of course, work in the next morning. I get my PC and check how did the interview look like and then I go to bed.

Monday I go to Potsdam meet Gabriela again and get to know the small but quite importante german town.

We were hit by a quite heavy rain right after going down the bus stop and we had to run to the university’s restaurant. I pretended to be a student and had a nice meal for a cheaper price. We met a Bulgarian friend of her, Adam. I told him about my trip and, again, after the initial surprise, he liked the idea. We decided to try to meet in Sofia, if he will be there when I am there.

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We three walked around the Neu Palais, that was right behind the restaurant. The rain was still annoying us, but lighter than before, but I still couldn’t use the camera. We decide to go to Orangerie and the Sans Souci Palace. A big complex of parks in just one place. A lot of green that I really liked, but I couldn’t stay for long. We go to the train station, where we said goodbye. Not a sad one because I know we will meet again soon. We live and work in the same city. No dramas.

I go back to Berlin on a long journey. I feel people look at me quite ofte. I think it’s weird because, after all, I’m in Berlin, a multicultural city where I’m just a regular person. I remembered that in São Paulo, when someone looks at me, I feel like my zipper is down. In this case, I felt like I had no pants. I tried to look to the landscape and avoid any eye contact.

At the flat, Erik arrives a few minutes after me. We decided to go meet Tina at a Lebanese restaurant. She always wanted to go there but never found a good excuse. Now she was with a half-lebanese guy and that was the perfect excuse she wanted.

We had a nice dinner and went back to the flat. On the next day they had to go early to work and I would go only later to Prague. We hugged, I thanked them for all the hospitality and a little bit of sadness was on the air. Another goodbye, actually two goodbyes, of so many I would still have to give.

Before fall asleep, I talk with my host in Prague about the time I should arrive there, 8pm, and then I go to bed with my mind wondering how the road would be like, how the new country would be like and how many people I would interview there.

I sleep tight.

The Second Week

Just like the previous Thursday, April 24, this Thursday, May 1st, I woke up at 10am. The car was ready. What wasn’t ready was my anxiety for driving the car for more than 300 km for the very first time.

The bags were packed since last night. I leave the room and go wash my face. I tell Tomek everything’s ready. We eat something and soon I have to leave. Not without give a hug in Krisztina. Grzegorz I gave a hug before he leaves for his training. Both, besides the initial shyness, liked the hugs – I think so.

Before I leave, Krisztina asks me to take a Picture with me – as if it was needed to ask such thing. We go down and Tomek takes a few more pictures with me and comments “You know how my mother is, she liked you and wants some pictures of you in the car”. I smile and make some scary faces, like if I was suffering while driving the Lada. Tomek then goes to his car and I follow him. He would guide me to the road I should take.

We get to the road and he pulls over and gives me the sign to keep going. Our goodbye was a horn from Lubenica and now I was on my own. I take the road and start feeling the car in faster speeds. I get surprised with how stable the car is. Even though it was shaking a lot before, when it’s on cruise speed, it softens a bit.

I tested the engine behaviour while speeding. After all, the car has only four gears and I didn’t want to press the rev pedal too deep and consume a lot of fuel. I noticed that between 80 and 90km/h the engine was dealing fine. Between 2800 rpm while at 70km/h and 3500 at almost 100km/h I’ve done the first 350 km of the trip, between Zabrze and Poznan.

The first half was until Wroclaw, that was a double lane highway. From there I took a one lane road to Poznan. A little break at a gas station for water, bathroom and a check with the map. I bought one in case my phone’s GPS, that isn’t any real GPS garment, fails. It wouldn’t be so hard anyway.

The fuel tank was half full. Small one, only 40l of capacity and I had already rode more than 200 km. Bad fuel consumption also, no more than 9l/100km. As I still had more or less 180 km to cover, I decide to fill up 10l more, just to be sure I would get there.

Everyone in the gas station were surprised to see a Lada and even more surprised when they saw a brown-skinned guy, with big nose and arab face leaving the car. I felt like a not so famous celebrity, that everyone knows the face but can’t remember the name.

I follow my way, this time at this one lane road. Field and more fields of yellow flowers showed up. I was never quite interested in botanic so I have to admit I still don’t know which flower it was – and actually I still don’t care much to know. I only know that the road was quite scenic, calm and nice to drive.

In Leszno, a city 80 km away from Poznan, I stopped the car for a while and called my friend, as we had planned. I put on the GPS where I should go and, even though the signal was lost sometimes, I followed my way. While I was stopped, a kid, not older than 15 years old slapped the car while he was walking with a friend. I looked at him quite angrily and we was in shock when saw my face. I think he thought no one was in the car. Jerk.

One hour later, around 5pm, I was already in Poznan, precisely where I should be. The GPS worked after all.

I stop in a gas station and saw some parked trucks. I park near a Polski Fiat 126, the Maluch, made in Poland during communist times. It was quite popular and nowadays is admired by classic car enthusiasts. It wasn’t in the best shape, but the color was quite similar with my Lubenica.

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Wojciech arrives right away with his friend Marcin. They enter the car, not before make some jokes about it, and we head to the flat. I park, we go up and we start eating something.

It was holiday and the next day would also be. Just like in Brazil, when a holiday is on a Thursday, in Poland they also take the Friday off. So, unfortunately there were no reasons to try to go the city office or to the camera store.

So we had no choice but get some beers and start talking about my trip. Marcin was really interested and asked me more questions than I asked him. He wanted to know all details about life in Brazil and he was really surprised to know how similar we are.

Wojciech wanted to party harder. We didn’t see each other in the past four years and we were party buddies in Lithuania. He wanted to revive those times and soon he brought the vodka.

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Since I moved back to Brazil I didn’t drink vodka in shots. I couldn’t refuse and suddenly I had already three shots. I was already drunk. It was time to go to the city center.

Poznan is the third biggest polish city and one of the most famous places for Erasmus students there. With this nostalgic feeling, Wojciech took us to the official Erasmus party in Poznan. And it didn’t take much time for me to know that the past was somewhere far from me. It was too much hot, crowded and I was drunk and lost. In 20 minutes I couldn’t stand anymore and we left.

I asked to go to a calmer place, without so many foreigners. Then we went to this rock and roll bar. There wasn’t a table for us so we stayed somewhere and kept talking. A couple right next to us overheard about my trip and we started to talk about it. They liked the idea. But their friends, also a couple, didn’t care much. They didn’t talk to us at all.

When I came back from the toilet, I wanted to comment about how cold it was – and it was really cold, -1C for May it’s cold even for them – and I used a word they use simply all the time, “Kurwa” – more or less their “fuck”, but that can be also understood as bitch. I said “kurwa cold night” and the friend of the couple, who didn’t like me since the beginning, stood up, pointed the finger at my face and started to say a lot of bullshits in polish that until now I have no idea what they mean. He was bald and really tall. I was completely speechless and while his friends were taking him by the arms, my friends did the same for me and we left. Unfortunately our time at that bar was over. And maybe I shouldn’t try to know what has happened there. Some things we should better not try to understand.

Back to the street, we decided to go to a last bar before we leave. It was a fancy-but-looking-dirty bar that I am used to see in São Paulo. They pretend to be dirty and cheap but they are actually fancy and expensive. There I told Wojciech I didn’t want to drink anymore but even so he brought me a shot of vodka. I refused it and then he offered to a couple next to him. They started to talk and he came to introduce us. The guy was Indian and started to tell me I was Indian too. I smiled and said I was Brazilian. Then the girl was happy. She was Brazilian too. Now everyone was smiling.

After forty hugs he gave me we could finally leave. On the way a homeless guy came to me to ask for money. I told him I didn’t have anything and that I was just a poor Brazilian. He smiled and asked me in English “communist?” I wanted to play with him and said “yes, I am”. He smiled a smile with a few teeth missing and said he was too. He tried to told me that during communist times he had a job and now he was homeless. I wanted to talk more, but it was really late and we all were quite hungry, cold and tired.

Then, finally, after a week in Europe I could eat my first Kebab. How I missed it. No onions, of course.

The second day was quite useless. We were all with hangover and me even more because of the driving and still trying to get used to their time. After a whole day recovering, a Italian friend, Nicholas, who dates a polish girl and lives in Poznan, calls me inviting me to play bowling with him and some of his friends. We all decide to go and the day ended up nice.

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On Saturday, my friends took me to Gniezno, a city 50 km away from Poznan and that was the first polish capital. Finally a historic and not alcoholic trip.

Pleasant city, small but quite touristic. We went to a history museum and we were invited to attend a 3D movie about the History of the city. I couldn’t understand a word and even see the movie properly due to my strabismus, but it was interesting anyway.

Back to Poznan, Wojciech wanted again to party and invited some friends to come to his flat. One of them, Mateusz, brought a homemade vodka made with plums and that had something like 60% of alcohol. The tragedy was announced. One, tro, three shots. Finally the bottle was over. More friends arrive bringing a new bottle of vodka. We were in more people now, so it was “only” two shots more before we leave.

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Before we leave, Mateusz tells me about his polish motorbike from 1962 and he wanted to show me. Unfortunately he lives in a city a bit far, but I promised him I would try to go there and see it.

On the way to the city center I was quite drunk. I wanted to be nice, but I could have said now. Now it was gone. I just had not drink anything more and soon I would be ok.

In the center, I stop in a kiosk to buy na energy drink. I had to be ok and stay awake until the end, so I needed something to slap my face and put me back on my feet. I leave the kiosk and my friends go to a bar famous for cheap vodka shots with something colorful inside. I refuse to even enter the bar.

Outside, two homeless guys come talk to me. I said sorry but couldn’t speak polish. Then they tell me in English “a cigar please”. I tell them I don’t smoke, but give them some change. They were happy and we started to talk. It was a nice chat, honestly.

While my friends were laughing at me from inside the bar, I was out there, save from drinking more and having na interesting conversation about the life on the streets of Poznan. We said bye and I entered the bar. But just to use the bathroom.

On the street again, my friends decided to go to the same Erasmus bar we went two days ago. I tried to convince them not to go, but they won. At least this time people weren’t hitting me with their elbows like the previous time. But anyway, I wasn’t enjoying too much.

Marcin is missing while Wojciech is on the dance floor trying to find a girl I stay behind, with their friends, Rafal and Ewelina. After more than one hour there, they leave and Marcin is still missing. I go to the dance floor to try to talk to Wojciech and ask him to leave. He says yes and we go to take our coats. His coat was missing. He decided to go back to the dance floor, but I take him by the arm and insist to leave. So we leave. I get up the stairs and when I look back, Wojciech isn’t there. He didn’t go up and went back to the dance floor. I try to go back, but the security guy disallows me. I had to pay a new fee and I had no money left with me.

I go to the street and found Marcin completely lost. He was drunk and got into a fight with the security guy, who kicked him out of the club. He was there simply waiting for us for more than an hour.

I was tired and angry with my friend’s behaviour. I try to call him but he doesn’t pick up the call. I send him some SMS, but he doesn’t reply them. I start to get realy angry. I was really tired, very cold and hungry. Marcin pays me a Kebab and I calm down a little bit, but still with no answers from Wojciech.

After one hour, he finally decides to leave. I was so angry I could have punched him, but that’s completely stupid. He tries to explain me that he went back to try a last time to find his coat, then started to talk to a girl, got her phone and decided to meet the next day. I pretended to be happy with him, but deep inside I was really angry. He pays the taxi on our way back, kind of an “I’m sorry, dude” act.

Sunday is another useless day. Wojciech leaves early – 1pm – to go meet the girl from the night before. I and Marcin stayed in the flat. I take the time to edit the timelapse, write a little bit, calculate the costs so far and use the internet freely. Wojciech comes back in late afternoon and Marcin has to go back to his hometown, nearby Poznan. He gives us a ride to the city center and there we walk around the Warta river’s shore, where there’s a small cultural spot made by old containers. It’s windy and cold and we can’t stay much and soon we went back to the flat. We talked for a while and went to back not so late, after all, Monday was almost there and there were plenty of things to go still.

We woke up early and left to the city office. At the information desk a lady told us the process is quite simple, all we need is the responsible for the flat, owner or who’s renting, proves that I live there and after that the car could be registered on my name. This process wouldn’t take more than 20 minutes, as long as the Head Officer was there. And he wasn’t there right now; he would be only in the next day. She told us to come back the next day. I was happy with that and we left.

He wants to show me his team’s stadium and there we went for a guided tour. The stadium is big, nice and cool. The second biggest of the country. It hosted a few matches in the Eurocup 2012 and is regarded as a motive of pride between the supporters of Lech Poznan.

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Then we went to the câmera shop where I have found the items and prices through internet. Unfortunately almost everything needed to be ordered because they didn’t have them in stock. I make the orders. In Berlin the prices were almost the same, but somehow higher.

We went back to the flat. Lech would play soon, but not on the nice stadium we have been a few hours before. They were going to play in Bydgoszcz. Lech won by 2 x 1 and was closely following the leader, Legia, on the fight for the title.

We drank a few beets, laughed about some stupid polish and brazilian vídeos on youtube and went to back as early as the previous night.

Tuesday starts a little bit later than Monday. We went back to the city office with the Lada and my friend asked to drive it. He has some troubles with the toughness of the steering wheel and the gear pedal and stick, but we arrived alive. We took off the license plates and made the registration. The girl who made the registration, when knew I was Brazilian and the car was being registered on my name, couldn’t hold herself and laughed a little bit. It was too much absurd for her. We three laughed a bit and soon the document was on my hands. The car was officially mine. We changed the license plates and drove to the camera shop to check how the ordering process was.

The camera has arrived, but not the batteries and lenses. I buy the camera, a couple of memory cards and had to keep waiting for the other things.

It was Wojciech’s birthday and we decided to drink a few beers on the river’s shore with some of his friends. Ducks are swimming on the river, a lot of youngsters are drinking and having fun. But as he had to work the next day quite early, we didn’t take long to go back to the flat.

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I got the feeling that birthdays are quite calm around there. So calm that they don’t even have a proper song to sing on someone’s birthday. It’s just “happy birthday” and “I wish you to live a hundred years more”. I found it a bit disappointing.

The next day Wojciech leaves early and I stay sleeping in the flat. I decide to clean the flat, after all, I had plenty of time and I had to pay back somehow all what Wojciech was doing to me. I also use the internet to check on another stores for prices of lenses and all the stuff I was still waiting for. I found that maybe a store could have one of the lenses I needed and I call my friend. He tells me to go meet him at the restaurant he’s working, so we could go together after he leaves his job.

I arrive at the restaurant and it’s quite fancy. He brings me some toasts with roast beef and ruculus. Even though I don’t live ruculus, I eat it anyway and it was quite good. After that, we leave and go to the shop, on a distant shopping center, and there we found out there were no lenses. I buy then some UV filters and a monopod. On the way back we crossed the Warta Poznan’s stadium, the second team of the city. A small stadium for a small club that only became famous lately due to the fact that its former chairwoman is a celebrity in the country, also a former Playboy cover. The team got the chauvinist alias of “the football club with the hottest president”.

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We go back to the flat and rest a bit. I take my time to pack my things, in hope the store would call me soon and tell me the things had arrived. They didn’t call.

The evening has come and it would be probably my last night in Poland. I ask Wojciech to go to the city center to have a couple of beers. I couldn’t go without say goodbye. I had ups and downs, but it had been two very intense weeks. I hadn’t even officially started the trip and I was already feeling like a completely new person. So many people supporting me, helping me and believing on me and on my idea. And so far it was only an idea, nothing really was done.

At this moment I will leave you and get dressed to go and say goodbye to Poland. Tomorrow everything restarts. A new country, new language and finally the trip itself will start. See you soon.

The first week

Thursday, April 24, I got up late. Even though I went to bed early, it was quite hard to sleep. I was on my bed for ten hours and couldn’t sleep even half of them. I didn’t sleep well the last two nights also. I was really nervous.

At 10am I got up and went to eat something. While I turn up the pc I eat something. My bags are all over the living room, upside down on a mess. I knew everything was there already, but still I couldn’t close them and say “now I’m ready”. Something should be missing. There’s always something missing.

Anxiety rises. My father arrives at noon and we have lunch. A friend comes up at the last minute to say good bye. The farewells, that were lasting a week already, are over. I hug my friend, kiss my sister on the cheek and start to put my bags in the car.

It would be only five months, but still the feeling of “the last time” for everything was odd. I lock the door and catch myself wondering when I would be doing it again. Something so silly like that, but that at the moment had a big impact on me. I remembered four years ago when I did the same before moving to Lithuania and I saw Peter, our dog, for the very last time before he died, a month after I left. It wasn’t the same, but at the same time it was a little bit.

I think about my girlfriend. My parents. My grandmother, uncles, aunties, cousins, friends, former work colleagues, enemies. It would be just five months, why should I be so worried?

We are on the street, towards the airport. We stop to pick up my mom in the city center and the way to the airport had never been so fast.

We arrived. It was a quick good bye, but took me some tears. Now it was me and my destiny. “I feel an empty on my chest and I actually feel my chest empty”, it’s what Cartola, a Brazilian singer, says in one of his best songs. I couldn’t help but sing it when I entered the airport and started to check-in the bags.

Thursday afternoon, airport is crowded, the queues are huge to go through the immigration. “I wonder how it will be during World Cup”, I thought to myself ironically. “Fuck the World Cup”, I whispered. Someone must have heard it, I’m not sure. Fuck it. Sorry for my swearings. I was nervous.

I ask an employee of the airport if with my italian passport I could take the queue for the foreigners, that was completely empty. She said yes and I could see the angry faces of the other people looking at me. I would be angry too. I hated myself a little bit, but I never played the good guy.

As soon as I got through the Police Control, that politely told me my attitude wasn’t wrong, making me like myself again, I am stopped by an Argentinian girl who’s completely lost and doesn’t know where to take her flight. In less than an hour I was already speaking with my world renowned portunhol – a mix of Portuguese with Spanish. I found out that she was in the wrong gate and it made me like myself even more. I was still nervous, but starting to get relaxed.

I sit down and call my girlfriend. Maybe I shouldn’t have done it. But I would probably regret forever for not doing it. I cry a little and turn off the phone. Even though I was still in Brazil, I was feeling abroad. It makes no sense to keep the phone on.

I enter the airplane and it looks full. My seat is in the corridor and I wanted to kill the employee that got me this seat. I asked for the window, dammit. Window, always window!

I wait to see who will sit by my side. I was never really worried about who would sit by my side and this time wasn’t different. The door closes and no one would sit next to me. I didn’t hate the employee anymore.

Ten hours of flight, three movies watched, at least thirty songs listened plus two sitcoms watched. Sleep? Nope. I arrive in Madrid at 6am.

I try to entertain myself in the airport until 9am. Then I decided to go to the city center. I ask, now with my spanish from Madrid accent, how to get where I wanted to go. I found out a cheaper option than the one I found in internet. Go by train instead of the Metro. The ticket was 2,50 euros and not the 4,50 euros for the Metro. I bought two tickets and get to the train. There I found out that the train doesn’t stop in the T1 terminal, where I would take the other flight. I felt the dumbest person in the world.

I got to Nuevos Ministerios station, found the shop where I was researching for prices before in Brazil and the prices are slightly cheaper than I was expecting. I wasn’t feeling so dumb anymore for losing the 2 euros of the train ticket.

I had done what I had to and I still had plenty of time before my next flight. I took a walk around the station. I saw a lot of homeless people, mostly foreigners, but I also saw a few homeless spanish. Two ladies stop me to make me a few questions for a research and I tell them I’m not spanish. They say I could speak spanish very well and that would be enough. I was happy to hear that and accepted to answer the questionnaire, but I had to be living in Spain for that, unfortunately. At least my accent was praised.

I buy a snack, bread and jamón. After all, I was in Spain. I throw everything in my bag and go to the airport. I still had 3 hours before my flight. I sit in front of the check-in place, waiting them to call, and I had my lunch.

I see muslims going to Morocco. Then I see French going to Paris. Mallorca, Pisa and finally “Cracovia” is on the screen for the check-in. It was time. I check-in my bag and go towards the gate.

The flight departures a little bit late, but the pilot made it to land on time. At 8pm I’m in Polish land. On the 3 hours flight I could sleep. But it that kind of sleep you have when you are completely exhausted. It wasn’t a good sleep.

At 9pm I got to the Hostel, left my things, took a shower and sent a message tom y parentes saying I was alive. After 28 hours of travelling I can finally sleep properly.

On the second day I woke up early. My friend, Tomek, who I met four years ago in Lithuania, is sleeping on the bed beneath mine. He arrived while I was sleeping and didn’t want to wake me up. One by one, everyone in the bedroom wake up and he gets up. We said hello to each other, a hug and went to breakfast.

We discussed what we would do in Krakow and about my plans for the car and the trip. We left the Hostel at 11am and went walking to the city center. There we met Kasia, another friend from Vilnius’ times.

At the restaurant we decided to go I can, finally, order my first beer. It was later than noon, so I didn’t feel bad ordering it. A little bit  later, Gosia and Beata arrive, more friends that I haven’t seen in the last four years. We stayed there for a while and decided to take a walk and eat Zapiekanka.

We went to Kazimiersz, the Jewish neighborhood of Krakow. We ate the delicious zapiekanka and then went to a boat-bar at the Wisla river, right next to the Wawel tower. There we met with Samuele and Asia, also friends we made in Lithuania. The meeting was complete and we started to drink more.

Some Tomek’s friends I didn’t know started to arrive while my friends started to leave. It remained me, Tomek and his friends. More beers and an invitation to go watch Klitschko fight in one of his friend’s Flat, Lukas.

More beer, polish pizza and boxing. It was already 2am and I didn’t know what was going on anymore.

Back to the Hostel, at 3am, we slept. The next day we would go to Zabrze, Tomek’s hometown, where I would buy the car.

I woke up with hangover, but I didn’t have time to feel sick. I had a shower, coffee, eat something, took my things and we run to the bus station. 1pm and we are already in Zabrze. Charming, especially on a sunny Sunday.

Already off the touristic area of Poland, people started to look more at me. I wasn’t just one more tourist between so many.

We got to his flat, at a traditional communist building. Small but really cosy flat. I met his parents, Grzegorz, gym class teacher and running coach, and Krisztina, math teacher. I ask for some time to rest before lunch and then the hangover, that was hidden somewhere, reappears. I start to feel a bit sick.

Tomek brings me a tomato soup with rice that was delicious. So sad I wasn’t feeling good. I try my best to eat, but the hangover didn’t allow me to eat everything. I decided to take a shower and rest more. At 3:30pm we left to meet the Lada.

The place where the Lada was is Ruda Slaska. In 20 minutes we were there and it was impossible not to see that green car parked on the street. Before we call the owner to come meet us, we took a look at the car. It wasn’t as good as it looked like in the pictures, but still it was in a very good shape. Some rust here and there, something missing here, but ok. It was time to take a look inside.

We called the owner and a tall, strong Polish guy, not older than 35, arrived. Said hello to everyone and Grzegorz started to make some questions while Tomek was translating to me.

The car was given to him as part of a payment for a service he had done it to the previous owner. He had never really used the car and he wasn’t so sure about his real situation. We entered the car and took a ride around the block. To me, the car looked like brand new. Soft, no shaking and noises. I liked it.

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We got back to the starting point and discussed the car conditions, price and documents. The owner said we would have to change the oil and also the car should be revised by the authorities in order to get the documents. We decided he would do it the next morning, Monday, and we would meet him after it to make the deal. He offered a discount quite interesting and I was happy about the idea.

Back to the flat, I laid down to rest more. Grzegorz then started to search for other cars in internet and tried to change my mind about buying a Lada. I explained him that the trip wouldn’t be the same with a “normal” car and that if wanted to travel in the most comfortable and cheapest way, I should go by bus or train. He laughed and said ok.

Tomek’s sister, Anja, and her boyfriend, Arek, arrived at the flat, bringing Zula, their dog. I told them a bit about my trip and, after the initial surprise, they thought it was an interesting idea. Soon Tomek told me his friends wanted to meet us for a couple of beers and my brain said yes even though my stomach screamed no.

We met his friends, Adam and Kasia. I had my first beer and regretted to do so. I donate my second to him, who doesn’t think twice to take it.

At midnight we came back and went to sleep. The next day would be really important.

I woke up really anxious in the next morning. I was still very tired from the trip, from the hangover and the few hours of sleep. But no time to feel sick again. This time Tomek had to go to work. After all, it was Monday already. His father took me to meet one of his students to help us with translation.

We picked up Monika in Zabrze’s city center and went to Ruda Slaska. On the way I explain her about my trip and, once more, after the initial surprise, she seems to like the idea.

The negotiation was quick. Lux, the owner, filled some papers while was talking to Grzegorz about documents and insurance. Meanwhile, Monika was translating to me, even though she had no idea what they were talking about. The deal was made, the documents and keys were mine now and I could, finally, drive the Lada for the very first time.

I started having some troubles with the Keys. Then with the seat adjustments and, at last, to put up the back gear. But everything went ok.

I am not really experienced with old cars, as I said before. When I first tried to steer the steering wheel, I felt like I was opening a shrunk submarine from the Second World War. Suddenly, the 1973 Beetle I had felt like a Ferrari. At least the Lada wasn’t so noisy as the Beetle was.

I follow Grzegorz and Monika to the car shop. We buy oil, the oil filter and then we head to a gas station. The fuel red light was already blinking and who knows since when it was like that.

After filling up the fuel tank, we went to the mechanic, near Tomek’s flat. When Grzegorz announced to the mechanics that an 1981 Lada was there to change the oil, everyone started to laugh. When they knew about my trip then, there was one that almost pissed on his pants. I felt like a completely crazy dude.

They lift the car, take out the old oil. Meanwhile they check under the car. Everyone said that for a 33 years old car, the situation was quite good. But a small bump in one of the back tires was found and they decided to change it for the spare tyre.

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They put the car back to the ground and the step tyre was in a better shape than the other one. They open the hood and start checking the engine. Zbginiew arrives, an older and more experienced mechanic.

He checks here, there, everywhere. And he founds a small leak on the carburetor. Doesn’t make a nice face and tells me in English “change it”. Then the question we all made was “where the hell could we find a 1981 Lada’s carburetor?” He tells me he would try to fix this one while searching for a place to buy a new one. And we could go back home. Monika was bored and had no idea what was going on and why she was there after all. I tell her sorry.

Once more in the flat, Grzegorz leaves us with Krisztina and goes to work. I, she and Monika started to talk about the car, my trip, traditional polish food and many other things. I say that Zapiekanka and Pierogi are my favorites and soon there were three different kinds of Pierogi on the table. I felt very welcomed.

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Grzegorz comes back and this time is Krisztina that has to go to work. Teachers never have a regular schedule, in Brazil or in Poland. After a while we got a call asking us to go back to the mechanic and there we go.

Zbginiew shows me the carburetor and its inside. He changes the filter, clean properly the rust on the pieces and tells me “now, good, no change”. He notices I was interested about a small white car parked near us and invites me to go inside.

The car is a Syrena. Made in Poland during the 1960’s and 1970’s. I ask if the car is his and he tells me that is not. But he had one and used to go every summer to Varna, in Bulgaria, 1500km away from there. “Simple engine, breaks, easy to fix”, he tells me in his interesting English accent.

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Tomek’s back from work and comes to the mechanic. His father and Monika leave. It was already 4pm. I ask about the breaks and if it was possible to test them. They say yes, but only in the next morning.

Zbginiew teaches me a lot about mechanincs before we leave. I say thanks, pay for the services and leave. Tomek was starting to be nervous. His football team was going to play soon and he didn’t want to miss it for nothing.

We run to the flat, left the Lada and got up. We ate something quickly and went downstairs again to meet his friends at the bar. There we met Kasia and Adam again.

The bar was a former Brazilian restaurant. There was a Brazilian map in limestone at the entrance but it was completely odd with the new decoration. We got some beers and the match starts.

The match was between Górnik Zabrze and Pogón Szczeczin. It was a tough match and the final result was a draw, 2 x 2. It was an away match for Górnk and Pogón has been playing better in the championship, so it wasn’t a bad result. We leave.

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We decide to do the same thing we did last night, buy some beers and drink them in front of the flat. This time I wasn’t feeling sick and could drink a bit more. They ask me to see the car and Adam tells me “what a huge bottle opener you bought”. We laughed a lot, took some pictures and found a place to sit down and drink.

The next morning, the fifth day, we woke up early and took the car back to the mechanic to test the breaks. This time was another guy that could speak English. I leave the keys and Tomek and I go back walking to the flat.

There, Grzegorz waits for us and Tomek goes to work. Soon Grzegorz also has to leave and I stay alone in the flat for a couple of hours. I lay down on the couch, get my computer and start to write and check how much I had spent already. The internet doesn’t work properly so I can’t open the blog. I decide just to write.

Grzegorz comes and goes from the flat while I’m on the couch writting and watching some Polish TV. I think about the car a lot.

In late afternoon, Tomek comes back from work and we decide to go to Gliwice, a near city, to watch the Real Madrid and Bayern Munich’s match. There we met Anja and Arek again and had a nice, long talk.

It’s already the sixth day and the car isn’t ready yet. Tomek goes to work early and told me he would warn me if the car was ready. I keep the hope to go to Poznan this same day, even though the next day would be holiday and wouldn’t help me to get the documents.

The time passes and the car isn’t ready. Tomek tells me to go there myself, after all, the new mechanic could speak English. I do that and when I get there I meet Grzegorz, who had the same idea. The car was finally ready.

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We go back to the flat and while I was packing my things, Krisztina asked me to go only in the next day, to avoid driving at night. I didn’t have to think twice and said yes.

In the evening we go to Katowice, the silesian capital. There we met Olia, an ukranian girl that lives there for a while. We talked about the ukranian situation, my trip and many other things. I knew I had to drive the next day, but I couldn’t resist and had a few beers.

The next day I woke up a bit later than expected and it’s time to leave Zabrze and go to Poznan. The first real adventure with the car. But this one I will tell you next time.

Automotive Experiences, 3rd part – Coming back to Brazil.

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As soon as Collor was taken off the charge of presidency and his economical plan was finally expunged of the national economic policy, we felt secure to come back to Brazil.

Despite the life quality we were having in Italy, there weren’t many expectations to grow and, after all, our country was and has always been Brazil. That’ss why my parents didn’t have to think twice about coming back when things started to settle here..

My mom could take her job back because the permission was still available. My father got a temporary job in a research taken by SEADE (A state-funded Institution for economical researches), thanks to a friend from college times. Years later I had a two-year internship there also.

Meanwhile, both of them started to study for a new test that would allow them to take a better position on the public sector. And our car was a blue Gol, quite old. And this car gave us tons of pain in the ass.

Our lucky was that our house was located on a hill and every time the Gol (aka Goleta) needed to be pushed so it could start, the hill played a big role for us.

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The Goleta was really similar to this one, but way more destroyed. I remember the blue colour was precisely that one. It was made in 1983.

But it didn’t last much, though. My father got so pissed of always parking the car backwards, so it would be easy to push it down the hill, that he decided to sell that piece of junk and got a better one.

The “better one” was a 1990 Ford Verona, the colour was beyond any possible definition. Then we entered a VIP club of the 90’s car’s owners. We were giving a step forward to our lives standart.

I remember that car quite well. So well that I can even remember the car plate: YY-2937. And we were already in 1994.

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The Verona was quite similar to that one. Two-door, kinda silver, kinda golden, kinda whatever.

With the Verona in our garage, my parents were aproved at the same test they were studying for and got a new job working for the state government. The office wasn’t in São Paulo, but in Taubaté, a city located more or less 130 km away from where we were living. And for half a year they had to go back and fourth daily to work.

In 1995 I was about to turn 8 and we found a little house in the even smaller town of Tremembé, 10km away from Taubaté. A “cul-de-sac” (I had to google it to find the proper translation for it. In english is “dead end” street) street in the very end of the countryside town that had less than 35 thousand inhabitants at that time. Indeed, the street was completely out of traffic and I had the chance to grow up playing street games.

And that was how I grew up. It was 1995 and I only left that little street 10 years later, when I had to come back to São Paulo for college.

Back to the Verona, she (Verona is a woman’s name) didn’t last too much either. In 1996 my parents were seeking to buy a house. Our rented one was too small and quite old. In the end of the same street there was an abandoned unfinished house. My parents made a deal and gave the car as part of the payment. So long undefined-colour Verona!

The next car was an old pal my father loved, a Belina again. But this one was newer one than the one lost in the accident with the police beetle. It was a Belina Del Rey, 1988, metallic blue (if there’s such colour in english). Large comfy car that stayed with us for a couple of years.

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In 1997 we moved to our new house. Even deep down the end of the cul-de-sac street, the house was surrounded by trees and grass. No houses or neighbors close by. It was so calm and quiet that I was woken up by the cows, frogs and dogs fighting. Boy, the dogs of my street were fighting a lot.

Talking about dogs, Giulinha – that can be seen on the first part of the post – was already 8 years old. The previous year she gave birth to 12 puppies. We took one for us, Peter.

Peter loved the new house. A huge garden and a gate with holes big enough for him to create his own technique to sneak in to the street. And we, living in the end of a dead end street on a 35 thousand inhabitants town, never really worried about keeping him inside. Actually we tried, but failed. Every time we heard the gate bouncing, we knew he was jumping to his freedom.

He was a strong dog. Beyond his size, he was really strong. He wasn’t even a year old, at the old house, and he got a very deadly disease called Parvoviruses and somehow managed to survive. In the next year, at the new house, he had a quite dumb habit of jumping in front of the car when my parents were arriving home or whenever we left the house for a while. He knew how to recognize the engine sound (or as we were the only ones who reached the end of the street, he could recognize it was us) and jumped the fence to meet us.

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He and his god-please-give-me-something-I’m-starving-to-death face.

But one of these times, he jumped and stumbled. My father couldn’t break – or didn’t even notice he got stuck in front of the car – and ran him over. I remember hearing his whinning from the living room and left the house desperate to see what was going on. The Belina had crushed him over but, luckily, none of the wheels had hit him.

He got a broken leg and a concussion. And there he was at the Vet’s again, Dr Ingrid, that called us the next day begging us to take him away, because he was bringing chaos to her office. That little guy, even dizzy and with a broken leg, still wanted to fight the other dogs.

After this trauma with the Belina, my father got a new car. a Fiat Tipo mpi 1996, the only Tipo produced in Brazil. Bye Belina, hello Tipo.

It was our first 4-doors car. Finally! Freedom! Better late than never!

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The colour wasn’t this light blue like in the picture. It was a dark green. And it was a nice car, I must admit. It had plenty of room for my 10-years old kid’s legs, that was growing everyday. And a Pioneer radio. It was the best radio ever.

I remember to go down the stairs every night, get in the car and listen to the radio. The radio stations from São Paulo couldn’t reach the regular radios, but the radio on the Tipo could. I used to listen to 89 FM, the rock radio. There I was introduced to many rock bands like Pearl Jam (specially Do the Evolution, Soldier of Love and Last Kiss – these last two from an album made for the refugees in Kosovo). I also became a fan of comedians “Sobrinhos do Ataíde”.

With that car we made our first countrywide trip. We went to Maceió for the new year’s eve of 1997.

Besides the car managed the travel quite well, it was starting to devaluate and my father decided to change cars again in 1999. This time was a 1997 green Ford Escort.

From there on I will tell in the next part. This one is big enough.

 

 

My “first” car.

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After the post about how life was in Italy, I’ve noticed I’ve had completely forgotten to talk about my “first” car.

As I said before, my passion for cars started there. Senna was unbeatable in F1 so was I in my imaginary races on my bedroom floor. Ok, once and a while I crashed the car on a breathtaking accident. But that was just because it’s boring when only one person wins everything. Nevertheless, I was just a human being.

But my dream was yet to become true.

I admit I don’t quite remember how did it happen, but it happened. There was a abandoned car in my relative’s yard and me, after a long time asking, got their “ok” to go there and play on it. Finally I would be able to sit on the cockpit, put my colorful helmet and deep rev.

Well, it wasn’t like that. If I could manage to step on the accelerator, I wouldn’t be able to use the steering wheel. Sitting I couldn’t see anything. So I decided to be a pioneer. I was the first-ever pilot to drive standing up. You bet I was! The accelerator pedal I fixed it. I could handle it mentally. The breaks? Never used them.

Unfortunately I was so fast, so fast, that no one could ever take a picture of me driving it. The only ones available are me and my sister – and I was teaching her how to drive it. And we could see that it wasn’t something natural. She was always quite bad at it.

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Here, as we can see, the car – a Fiat 500 from God-knows-when? – was ready to enter the pits. I was helping my sister to correctly park the car, so the mechanics, that were too shy to appear in the picture, could change tyres and refuel the car.

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At this one – unfortunately the last one taken – I was in the back seat to help my sister to drive the car away from the pits. As I said, she was quite bad at it. But I was always a cool brother and supported her. Notice that I am so cool that I even gave her my helmet, so se could feel how champs are.

It was an unforgettable day.

A few months later I had to abruptly end my promising racing career due to a surgery I had to make in my eye. I was born with strabismus. Brazil lost its arguably best pilot ever.

Since then I’ve been focusing my career as a broadcaster. I am still very promising.