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.

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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.

Itinerary’s stopmotion

I’ve just finished a short stopmotion showing more or less what’s going to be the trip’s itinerary. Far from being a great production, and there are no reasons for such production.

Now officially the Youtube channel debuts. Subscribe and soon new videos, now about the trip itself, will be uploaded.

Automotive experiences, 2nd part – Italy.

Quer ler em português? Acesse AQUI.

 

In 1989 Brazil was through a lot of things. The Military Dictatorship finished four years before but still many brazilians didn’t have the feeling of choosing their own president. The new 1988 Constitution was already working, overtaking the 1967 one, fueled with the outrageous AI’s. But still freedom wasn’t full. Only going to the polls and choosing the new president would make these braziliand feel free for real.

The first democratically elected brazilian president in 29 years was Fernando Collor. Collor, as far as I’ve studied – because I can’t remember it – was young and he was “chosen” by the brazilian mass press to be the president. And the Media did it.

I don’t want to create any polemics, so I won’t express my opinion about him. The fact that he was the president is something that has changed my family’s life completely and that’s important for the understanding of the story.

In the previous post I’ve commented that in 1989 my mom was working in the public sector and my father was the owner of a small building supply store. We were facing Hyperinflation and deep economic instability. People weren’t constructing houses of building at all at that time.

So it was that the store bankrupted. My father and his brother-in-law sold everything they could and with the few bucks the made out ot it they invested in the private asset. Also, the Brown Brasília was a part of the payment my dad got from the new owner of the store.

With the little money on the private asset, almost nothing in our hands and an undesirable car in the garage, we entered in 1990. And Collor, aware of our great situation, assumed the chair in March 15. On the very next day he announced the so called and unforgettable Plano Collor. 80% of all the private assets were blocked without any warning. So, literally, from one day to another our situation was from awful to unsustainable.

Without any cash, with the few we had blocked, my father unemployed and my mom with an underpaid job, we were thrown to our own luck of the “neo-poor” of the Plano Collor.

We sold the car, which gave us some relief for a while. Time enough to trace the escape plan. In 1989 some relatives from Italy came to visit Brazil and my father, who knew how to speak italian, helped them.

These relatives were cousing from a far degree from my Grandmother, who came to Brazil in the beginning of the last century and never gained brazilian citizenship. So my father (and me as well) was born already with two citizenships, brazilian and italian.

The friendship between us and our relatives in Italy was very high and as soon as they knew what was going on here, they called us to know how we were doing. My father told them the bad news and they offered us a helping hand. What a help!

First the paid us all, me, my sister, mom, dad and my grandmother, tickets to go visit them in Italy. Once there, they made the offer to us: they would arrange a house for us close to them, a job for my parents and all the assistance we needed until we could go back to our own feet.

My father didn’t even come back, he stood there. We came back and while my mom was seeking someone to rent our house, me and my sister were getting used to the idea of moving to completely new country.

Before we go, we received a letter from my father with the good news. He had found a job in a furniture industry, rented a house close to the factory and even bought a car for us. How fast!

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(In the picture my father is the one in front of the car. An Autobianch A112 from 1975)

In the end of the year we were all together in our new hometown, Pasiano di Pordenone, in the Friuli region, Italian northeastern.

My father at his new job, my mom working as housemaid, me and my sister making new friends in school. We were well, happy, free. We were only missing out beloved tropical and naturally blessed country.

In Italy I started to get interested about cars. There they live it. And me, a sponge as all kids, was absorving this culture.

Between posters of Rijkaard and Frank De Boer from my sister, I had mine from Formula One Cars, Ferraris, Maseratis and so on, on our bedroom wall.

My passion for F1 and, of course, Ayrton Senna, started there. I remember to have some diecast models from Bburago. I had a F1 green car that, now I know, was a Benetton. But I also had the blue one from Williams. Unfortunately I struck them all against the wall pretending they were crashing while racing. Sorrow.

The Autobianchi A112, besides its size, was a great car. We travelled a lot with it on our weekends. We spent Christmas in Munich, went until Salzburg and even to some caves and lakes in Slovenia. With snow without chains and everything worked out great.

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(Us in our Autobianchi somewhere in Italy)

My father wanted to have two cars and bought a Fiat Duna 1987. Even newer, bigger and stronger than the Autobianchi, this car just gave us trouble and didn’t last long. We don’t miss it at all.

Whilst, the Autobianchi was strong and steady. My father even tried to bring it with us back to Brazil, when we decided to come back in 1993, when the Plano Collor was finally over. But unfortunately he couldn’t.

Nowadays this car is a rare piece in the countries where it was sold. The brand was bought by Lancia.

And then, after two and a half years living in Europe, we came back to Brazil.

It continues…

Obrigado, Flavio Gomes.

Após algumas semanas de negociação, por assim dizer, o Flavio publicou em seu lendário blog Warm Up a respeito da viagem. E esse mirrado blog, que até então colecionava pouco mais de 2 centenas de visitantes, de ontem para hoje triplicou esse número! Inclusive com um comentário! Uau!

Mas, como disse acima, já havia algumas semanas que entrara em contato com o Flavio. Comentei em seu blog sobre minha viagem e qual não foi a minha surpresa? Alguns minutos depois havia recebido um e-mail pessoal do próprio, me perguntando mais detalhes da viagem. Daí se iniciou uma breve conversa e ficou combinado que assim que esse blog começasse a publicar com uma frequência maior – o que vem acontecendo essa semana – ele o publicaria em seu blog. Dito e feito.

Agradeço a todos que chegaram aqui por intermédio do Flavio – e não foram poucos. E asseguro-lhes que novas publicações virão!

A viagem em si começa só na primeira semana de Maio, mas até lá vou falando um pouco das minhas experiências em viagens e automobilísticas. Até para que quem não me conhece comece a saber um pouco quem sou e quais os meus propósitos.

Mais uma vez, peço que curtam a página no Facebook (que também colecionou dezenas de Likes de uma hora para outra).

Quem quiser contribuir para a viagem com alguma doação (haverá recompensas!), entrem em contato direto comigo pelo email renatomattar@yahoo.com.br

 

Obrigado a todos e continuem acessando o blog. Em breve falarei um pouco sobre as minhas (poucas) experiências automobilísticas ao redor do mundo.

 

Abraços.

Is this the one?

Quer ler em português? Acesse AQUI.

 

I’ve been searching for the perfect car for the trip for ages. I remember a white Lada 2101 I found even before arriving in Vilnius, in 2010. I was stunned with the price (something around 300 euros) and I really thought about buying it. It would have been cool, but completely useless. I’m glad I didn’t buy it.

Weekly I search for new offers in Polish websites – country where I intend to buy the car. I found a green one 3 months ago. Gorgeous, just gorgeous. I’m a big fan of green (it’s the colour of the football club I support, Palmeiras). The price was somehow higher than what I was expecting to pay, 1500 euros. I left it in stand by and kept searching. Found anothers for lower prices. There were one quite interesting. “Younger” than the green one (the green one is 1981/1982), this one was 1988. Less than 60000 km and the reason: the car is owned by a disabled person that barely took it off the parking lot. In the offer he stated that no one has ever used the back seats. The price? 800 euros! My eyes were shinning and I asked my polish friend, Tomek, to contact the owner. He tried but couldn’t and a few days later the offer disappeared. But the green one is still there.

And for my surprise, I check it out and the price is 300 euros lower than before. Now the owner wants 1200 euros and says it’s possible to negotiate. So, is this the one?

The link for the offer is here.

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