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.

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

Quer ler em português? Acesse AQUI.

 

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.

 

 

A little change of plans.

I’ve been asking myself for a long time if I should report this trip in my mother tongue, portuguese, or in english, so more people could see it. So I decided I will do both.

So this blog will be only in english while the new one “O Leste num Lada” (literally means The East on a Lada) will be only in portuguese. From now on every post there will be translated here.

If you didn’t like the page in Facebook (both languages in the same page), go there.

https://www.facebook.com/ladaroadtrip

 

Thank you =)

Lada Road Trip. Why?

Quer ler em português? Acesse AQUI.

 

A Brazilian road tripping Eastern Europe on a Lada. Wait a second, did you just say a Brazilian road tripping Eastern Europe on a Lada? Yes. That’s it!

But, first, let me tell you a little bit about myself.

In 2010 I had a once in a life time chance to move to Vilnius, Lithuania, and spend a semester studying at Vilnius University. My love for Eastern Europe started then and since I’m back, I’m sure I left my heart somewhere around there.

From Lithuania I could travel to some neighboring countries, like Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Belarus while still studying. When my classes were over, instead of comeback straight, I took my backpack and left, without a precise destiny. All I had was a flight ticket to Tbilisi, Georgia, that I was gifted from a Georgian friend. So I took it and started my 66 days backpacking in completely mysterious – for me at least – Georgia.

The trip was, in order, Georgia, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia and Italy.

The highlights of trip were (all, but I’ve chosen just five):

Stepantsminda, Georgia. This small town in the border with Russia is home to the Kazbegi National Park, one of the most breath taking mountains I have ever seen. The Gergeti Trinity Church, in the peak of a smaller hill, sets the perfect scenery for the place. Worth visiting! Whole Georgia is a great place to go and I highly advise anyone to go there.

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Ohrid, Macedonia. On the shores of the lake with the same name, Ohrid is a touristic town in the Albanian border. Cheap hostels, crowded streets and good food, this place should be in anyone’s itinerary in the Balkans.

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Kotor, Montenegro. If you think Dubrovnik is amazing but you are running short of money to go there, try Kotor. Dubrovnik’s miniature, Kotor is charming, cheap, easily accessed and amazing. Don’t forget to stop at Budva and take a look at the small Sveti Stefan peninsula there.

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Nida, Lithuania. This small seaside town is located in the Curonian Spit, in the border with Russian Kaliningrad. Sand dunes, colorful wooden houses and wind, lots of wind, this place is simply amazing.

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Tallinn, Estonia. The smallest of the capitals from the so called Baltic States is actually more Scandinavian than eastern European. The old town is well preserved and shows the shared history Estonia had with Finland. You will feel like in medieval times!

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Back home and the Lada Road Trip idea.

 

Since I’m back to Brazil I’ve been planning to go back to Eastern Europe, but this time not as tourist. The idea of use an iconic soviet-era car came up instantly. I always liked the Ladas and their lack of design innovations throughout the years. And as they were popular in Brazil in the beginning of the 90´s, I thought it would be a way to enlight a trip that could be unattractive for some people. This way I could add different people and opinions in just one objective – to explore and show the Eastern Europe after the fall of communism.

Now you may be asking yourself “a lot of westerns already came here with this same idea, to show how here changed since communism dictators were all put away”. And you are right. But this time is a little bit different. Instead of asking the elderly and mid-aged generations, that have lived both controversial years and nowadays, I’d like to know the new generation opinion. The young people who are now between its 20-30 years old, who were born in the very end of communism or after it and haven’t lived those times actively.

And for that I took myself as an example. In Brazil we had a military dictatorship that ruled the country for two decades, from 1964 untill 1985. I was born in 1987, so, I didn’t live those dark years myself. But I have a strong opinion about those times and how they affect present days here. And since I’ve been to at least a dozen of former communist countries, meeting and having fun with lots of young people, I’ve noticed they have the same thing as me. They didn’t live those years, but still have a strong opinion about it. Let’s show it to the people and try to understand what really goes on at this shiny part of the World now.

Feel free to contact me and ask me anything about the trip. Facebook page.

25 years ago, 9 countries. Today, 22.

Twenty-five years ago, they were only nine countries. Now they are twenty-two. Communism has fallen. Cold War is over.

But, two and a half decades after this process started, what do western people think about these “new” countries?
If we take the image depicted in Hollywood movies, Cold War is still on. Everyone who was born east of Berlin is Russian. And they are all dumb and drunk. Girls are hot and easy to get. And communism isn’t really over.

Many of us are smart enough to understand Hollywood lost a great source of villains after the fall of communism (and now they are gradually being replaced by mad arab terrorists). But there are still a lot of people who think this is what really goes on at this part of the World.

Now there is a whole new generation of young people who didn’t live the communism. What do they know about those times? What do they think?

The goal of this trip is break the prejudice that there is just one culture and they are all the same, by showing that there are different cultures, languages, music and so on. And for that, these young people will be interviewed in an informal way, showing, with no pressure or political bias, their needs, desires, feelings about nowadays and communist times.

With this blog and the facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/ladaroadtrip), anyone interested in the idea can follow the trip. Also all tips and ideas are always welcome and will help to improve the trip. So, please, feel free to do so.

Thank you.