Eurotank is Dead! Long Live Eurotank!

After much deliberation between BMW and Volvo, in the end the SS (Safe Sweden) won again. The BMW was going to be more and really, I don’t want a diesel 1999 5 series. I started to remember why I love the BMW brand and much of it can come down to the BMW short films starring Clive Owen. The 2002 era M5 is where its at and im sticking to the dream. So that means for now i am entertaining some perverse sentimentality I have for Volvo wagons. Laugh if you want but within 1 hour of picking it up, it already had a use, hauling Ifat and her friends down to the ferry terminal. oh ho ho ho. Maybe im just a sucker.

This is it! Check out the image gallery for all of the fantastic beauty shots.

Cultural Learnings Of… Car Buying In Estonia

My priority in the last week has been to get myself a car here in Estonia, while its very good for my health to be riding around everywhere on my bike, it kinda sucks in the rain not to mention the winter months. Ive been cycling around to all the car dealerships in Tallinn and it has been a very eye opening cultural experience for me.

In Australia, I take it as a universal constant that car dealers have a certain personality. Outgoing, talkative, wanting to do a deal, kind of pushy but hopefully not too much. When you walk into a car yard, you expect the guy to come and greet you and ask if he can help you in anyway. Hes then going to do his best to sell you that car you were looking at because hes weighed up your personality and then tries to sell you the features you might like the most, for example a young lady walks in, hes going to sell the style and the ease of driving or a young man walks in and when you go for a test drive, hes going to give it that extra bit of gas to show its got some grunt.

this was my first car, a Holden Gemini. Small, rear wheeled drive, it was a great little car to learn to drive on and went pretty good down the dirt too. Shown here after the motor had blown up, anything of value had been removed and it was going to the junk yard.

Now, to me, all of this is a fundamental constant of the universe, its absolutly what happens in car dealerships, there can be no other way. It sounds funny but Ive never had to evaluate this before.

Then enter an Estonian car yard. Noone comes to talk to you. Suddenly you are free to wonder around at your will because the guy will never come and talk to you. no way. This freaked me out at first. Dont you people want to sell me a car? The closest I had was "Hello" (in estonian) and after a week of car shopping, this freaked me out. Holy shit, he said hello to me! Please, take my money!

So if you want a car, you find one which looks nice then you go into the little office in the corner and ask the guy to show you around. Getting the guys attention is hard sometimes, it seems that I am interrupting very serious games of solitare going on here. I understand that very important email just came in from your girlfriend, so why bother with pesky customers?  This doesnt also just happen in the el-dodge car yards out the back of Lasnamäe, oh no, walk into any big dealership and you will have to ask around to speak to someone. Do you have 1,000,000 EEK burning a hole in your pocket and you absolutly have to get that new mercedes? You are still going to have to fight for his attention! I swear to god this happens, everyone has such a story to tell. I dont know why, to me its selling 101, the most basic first lesson. It was suggested to me "maybe these guys are doing so good already they dont need to". Maybe you dont need more money? Dont you understand anything about selling? I have money, I want to give it to you, do everything you can to help me on this one fellas.

my second car, BFW00P, so named because of a) a TISM song b) really BF WOOP and c) it is a BF model mazda 323.  A fantastic car that along with a little work on the way (new exhaust, motor, suspension, body welding, not much really) went great and was good fun. With such plates, it was easy to spot me around town and in the end the car still ran and I gave it to my mechanic Anthony since he had cared for it for so long. As fate would have it, someone backed into the car later so in the end, this one went to the junk yard too. I had only one request of Anthony, that if he wrecked the car then could be please keep the plates. One day Ill return home and put BFW00P on a nice new BMW. for the moment however, Anthony put them onto his work ute instead.

So where was I? Oh yes Estonian car dealers!

Heres the next thing. In Australia we expect some haggling. We expect to like the car and then turn to the dealer and say "mate, are you some kind of comedian because this price is a joke" and then the "game" begins. How far can you get him? What extras can he include? We know the original price is inflated because he expects this game to be played with us.

Not so in Estonia. As is typical, all cars get put on one central site (more or less) called and you can see them all online. Prices arnt inflated, pretty much what you see is what you get, maybe you knock off 5%, maybe you get rego thrown in but thats it. Paying sticker price for a car is a weird idea for me but as was pointed out by Meelika, maybe when all the cars are available online in one place such as market forces already push the price of the car down. When old mate dealer sees his 5 series isnt selling he can easily see its because he is charging too much and adjust the price down. An interesting idea, which give the cultural background, kind of makes sense.

here we have the infamous, suspensionless bane of traffic enforcement officials throughout Europe, EUROTANK. Dieter, Adam and I bought this boat in Sweden with 300K on the clock for 5 grand and sailed it down to Estonia and all across Europe for the year. Two tyres burst on me because I didnt know tyres has a "speed rating" but beside some minor things which were nothing for the mighty mechanical stylings of Dieter, she went great for a year without a service, even with a hole in the exhaust at the end,  until the clutch finally gave way in north Austria. Realising noone was ever going to register this car again, let alone a German mechanic, it got sent to the junk yard too. Shown here on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, the greatest race track in the world and a fitting end to a dear old friend

However, in defence of Estonian car dealers, I didn find two guys who seemed cool and warmed to me in the end. I was warned that for my first time I shouldnt buy private and I should find atleast a decent dealer because there are some horror stories going around so it kind of limits my choice. Also I have found everyone had advice for me as to where else in Europe I should buy the car because its cheaper "go to germany!" or "go to denmark!". Ive had almost every country suggested and I am sure if I went there, they would suggest somewhere else. Right now however, I need a car this week, im renting one for the weekend to get me through midsummers

So I have 2 cars lined up

1999 Black Volvo V70

1999 Silver BMW Sedan

Ive had both these cars inspected by their respective factor dealers and the Volvo checks out almost perfectly and the BMW has a few things needing to be done, maybe up to 1500AUD worth. The BMW is sex on 4 wheels for sure but at this price range, I am at the bottom end of the range and it might take a few more eeks to stretch to a better one.  The Volvo is typical safe Sweden, big reliable and will carry all my bikes and crap inside. The BMW is the dream car but maybe I need to wait a year and focus on a slightly newer one? But it is a 5 series however… old mate selling the BMW doesnt speak much English however, he speaks german to me and I mostly understand because i sprechen ze sehr gut Deutsche . Or I could get the Volvo and put these guys on it. Rollin! I dont need to decide until Wednesday. What will car number 4 be? Suggestions on the guestbook please!

What Sort Of Idiot Spends 9€ and gets 1€?

Me of course! See, Nederlands was super sweet this last week, after I checked out of Maggies i headed down to Utrecht where Hester lives and hung out there for the weekend

So we are crusing around her neighbourhood and the Dutch National Coin Museum is right around her corner and guess what! They are having an open day with lots of coin collectors there! So much to the surprise of hester, I bought out my inner nerd (although for long time readers, this is well established) and attended and found all kinds of nerdy and cool things. I’m more fascinated by euro coins rather than a hardcore collector but I did pick up one little beauty. Remember that Euro coins all have a common side but each country produces its own reverse side and circulation is based on the country’s size so you see lots of German coins around but what is not so common is…

Monacos coins! This is from 2001 which is the first year they were minted. The price for this 1 euro coin was 9€ and when i went to pay, the guy mistaken started to give me back like 6 and then 7 euros.. so like the friggin boy scout I am I asked "errrr how much was the price again??"… "oh whoops, i read the price as 90 cents…" oh man, what a douche bag I am, not only was a prepared to pay 9€ for 1€ but then I was about to make a direct profit too!

Dont worry though because a quick google search shows my nose for rare euro coins isnt too bad after all! someone else might pay 49 USD for this baby! next stop, profit town!

So before all of this Nederlands played France and kicked their frenchie asses! Wha a glorious game, packed into a small bar in Utrecht, its a sea of oranje around us and they were.. as they say in the classics, all going APESHIT. My favourite was when france scored their one goal and then within a minute of the kick off they SCORED ANOTHER GOAL. Just to rub it in, just to tell them that their names are all pronounced funny and things have only being going downhill since zizu did that headbutt two years ago.

After the game it didnt stop, oh no, they partied on the street until the wee hours and I literally mean on the street, theres a big sqaure in the middle of town with lots of room but oh no, these guys had to party on the road next to it blocking busses and cars going through. Even better was the way the crowd climbed over everything there, including a big statue and lampposts and the COPS STOOD THERE AND DID NOTHING. Nada, absolutly nothing. When I inquired about this i was told "Why should the cops do anything, the crowd isnt hurting anyone or breaking anything" Oh yes, climbing on to to the top of lampposts is all good! Thank you Nederlands and your amazingly cool attitude to life, as long as you dont hurt anyone, do whatever you want! Wanna smoke some pot? Wanna get married to your gay partner? We should all want to be as cool as that. I even tried to get a round of "YOUR GOING HOME IN THE BACK OF A DIVVY VAN" going on this evening but alas.. noone was going home in the back of said divvy vans!

thats right old mate, climb as high as you can, you are in the nederlands!

That was my freaky deaky dutch adventure, I had good fun and earnt a few €€€ too. Cant ask for a better week than that.

No story about Nederlands would be complete without a picture of a windmill. Now wheres my wooden shoes??

Cultural Learnings Of… Everything About The Nederlands

Hup Holland! This week I am in Amsterdam and what better time to be here! With the UEFA Euro 2008 competition on right now, every is out for a party and last night Nederlands beat Italy 3-0 and they went APE SHIT. Fuck it, I WENT APE SHIT. Take that you bunch of actresses! Its little comfort for our, still stinging loss to Italy 2 years ago but it helps. Beside, that have a player called "Buffon". Buffoon more like it. yeah thats right, take my razor sharp gibes as you run back to mumma.

So Amsterdam is going off right now, its a sea of Orankje and the vibe is good. Its fun to walk around and watch all the kiddies getting stoned in the coffee shops, walking around with red faces looking for the closest pizza shop. I think the Dutch are mega smart, they got all the countries riff raff, put them right in the center of town, leaglised some good shit and then turned it all into a huge money spinning tourist attraction. Thats some freaky deaky dutch thinking alright. Speaking of freaky deaky, im the only douche who after a long day, gets off  the train at Amsterdam Centraal and thinks to myself "wow, what a strange smell, it kind of smells like pot….. OH RIGHT I REMEMBER WHERE I AM NOW". Right.

Since I am here, enjoying all the Euro 2008 games, i felt it no better time to go through why Nederlands is cool. They strike me as an "aloof" people, which in my book means relaxed with a kind of cool quirkiness to them. They are friggin tall too, i thought all those ones had migrated north years ago.

So whats cool about the dutch? STEREOTYPES! Oh man, this country is full of them, lets break them down because pop culture, LOVES the dutch.

Some easy ones

* They love tulips, lots of flowers everywhere

* They wear wooden shoes around the place. Its common place in the center of Amsterdam. You will see business guys in suits, wearing wooden shoes. i swear to god. while riding a bike too..

* They ride bikes everywhere. They is one person for about every 10 bikes in the city. the Dutch hate to walk, its gotta be two wheels or nothing (or indeed "fly", see points made below about coffee shops)

* Windmills. Every dutch person lives in a windmill although since they are all connected to broadband and everyone has a job as an internet millionaire, they have forgotten exactly what the windmills were used for.

hmmm boring, lets get better

* They smoke drugs all day long. High as kites. I tell ya.  You can sit around smoking in cafes all day

* They are kinky and cant get enough sex. Did someone say VANDERSEXXX? You can buy sex in the street, big, small, any color, its yours.

* They have a weird floobidy doobidy language, heres a typical dutch word written down

* They put mayonnaise on their fries and they fucken drown em in that shit. Actually i can get behind that in a big way.

* You can buy a beer at mcdonalds. thats right, a BEER AT MCDONALDS. ( i have no idea if this is still true)

* Gay marriage is legal and they run around the streets going wild.

I am staying at a small guesthouse right in the center of town. Its kind of nice inside, has a good window which is great at 3pm to catch the afternoon sun however not so good at 1am when the trams keep on rumbling past

Thats Centraal station right there. Top location. The place is run by a lovely lady call Monique whos family comes from Suriname, which is the former Dutch Guiana so they all got EU passports before independance. Dammit, how come they can get them and I cant. Anyway, its a cool place and I am sure Monquie would like me to mention that if you find yourself in Amsterdam, do be sure to pop into the Popeye Coffeeshop on Haarlemmerstraat because her uncle owns the place. How many of you can say your relos do that eh?

Cultural Learnings Of… Swedish High School Graduation

Some time ago I showed you how Estonians celebrate the graudation of high school, or "gymnasium" (same word, spelt differently in places up here). This week I was in Stockholm for a few days and saw how the Swedish* also celebrate this important time in a young persons life… by getting wasted and riding around in the back of massive trucks with music blaring.  All I had was a gemini and a cassette adapter… happy days. It appears "Time Of Your Life" by Greenday has fallen out of favour with the graduating kidding these days, however I was enthused to see them rocking out to "Living On A Prayer" instead. I can get behind that!

Not only were the kiddies riding around on trucks on Friday but there was a massive Iraq conference going on in Stockholm with all kinds of international people like Condi Rice attending. Apparently it was insantiy. For Sweden. Or so the taxi driver said. You get all the good advice from taxi drivers.

* I am pretty sure Sweden isnt the only country to have this tradition. I am yet to find out if they do this in Estonia too. I cant imagine they have a tradition of it however, doesnt strike me as something the commies would have been down with.