Archive for the ‘Cars’ Category

My Candy Store

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

This year’s travels, so far, have been basically second looks to stuff I could not see during my earlier business trips. It wasn’t like I planned them this way, it simply turned out that all my business trips in the spring were to the same locations we were planning to go to later. Now ,this second POI in Bavaria was something I was longing to see for a long time. It was this spring that I first set my eyes (with the highest possible zoom on my phone camera) to my “candy store”:

And with the occasion of our 4 day stay in the area, I kind of dedicated a full day to a closer look. The plan was to visit BMW Welt and BMW Museum during the day, and after successfully driving for about 2 hours on the very crowded Autobahn from Nürnberg to München, we were almost at the destination. We just needed to do about two ridiculous round-drives, until I spotted the correct entrance into the underground parking under the BMW Welt complex. Yes, I was so excited I lost my ability to drive normally 😛 …

So there we were, the entrance to the candy store 🙂 : I knew I could not buy anything (well, not yet anyway 😀 ), but I was sure I was in for a treat. The entry to the complex is free of charge, you just have to pay for parking, but you have the possibility to check out some of the hottest models BMW can offer, ranging from all the cars and bikes they make, all Mini models and of course a taste of high-end luxury offered, in this case, by the smallest member of the Rolls Royce family, a close-up glimpse to the Ghost.

No, they do not let you too close to all models (especially the expensive ones), but for us these were enough 😀 :
Us on BMWs
The complex is a must for BMW fans, I am sure of that. What is even nicer, is what comes after a few minute walk on the futuristic bridge taking to the other side of the road: the BMW Museum. With a short stop at a convenient and not too pricey restaurant attached to the museum complex, this was our next target. The entry price per person is 10€ and for some reason they did not accept credit cards. I think this issue was only temporary, but you never know…

The museum itself is also capable to bring a wide smile to any BMW fan’s face, especially when you spot your 10+ year old car among the exhibited models (well, not exactly that, but the same model). This shows two things 1. you really need to start thinking about changing your car 2. you have chosen to buy a car that became a historic model 😉 . The visit can take up to about an hour and gives an almost exhaustive view of what this Bavarian company has given to the world. Almost exhaustive because I did not see all prototypes. I would have been interested in how Gina looked like in real life…

Anyway: yes, it was what I expected, yes I came out with a smile and yes, I had to buy souvenirs 😀 .

Photos here.


Nürnberg, Germany

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

After a brief business trip in spring this year, I finally got the chance to actually see the city I stayed at for two days back then. This time our stay in Nürnberg took from Wednesday evening to Sunday evening. Why this specific interval? Well, unfortunately the direct flight from Cluj to Nürnberg is “too young” for now, so WizzAir is still ramping up the project I guess: they got to the huge number of two flights per week (I think it is quite easy to guess by now which days 😉 ).

So, there you have it: 3.5 days to be filled with things to do in Nürnberg. Well, actually 2.5: the main attraction of the trip was a wedding, so one day was taken for that of course. And, then, if you are in Bavaria there is another attraction in a nearby city, that for me was a must (but more about that in another post 😉 ). One can easily see by now, that “hour basket” shrunk quite a lot, so it was not that big a deal to fill it with activities 🙂 .

One thing ,that was constantly in Nürnberg, however, was our hotel, breakfast and dinner. So we had quite a lot of opportunity to check out this city from many angles. But first, let me start by pointing out a vital thing we needed to have, in order to get around easily (after all, it was me, my wife and my parents: moving around 4 people in the area had to be made easy somehow): the car. I decided to rent a car for this period, and the best price I could find was actually through I am not refraining to express my honest great opinion about this site: not only that they found a great deal which was cheaper than renting directly from the rental company, they offered me an even better deal and upgraded to a bigger car. Additionally, when I got off the plane and went to the desk, I got another offer: choose the basic Ford C-Max or get a 4×4. Naturally I chose the 4×4: a Nissan Qashqai. It was a very well equipped version with modern features like start/stop system and a sun-roof and… a surprisingly small trunk. This last thing just kept bugging me and even the very cool camera system, which helped park like in GTA 2, could not make me forgive this shortcoming. Additionally, on the Autobahn, sometimes I wished I was driving my 12yr old beemer instead…

The next great thing: the hotel. We chose Ibis (Hauptbahnhof) as the main base to start our daily expeditions from. It was a perfect location, great value for money (not counting the ridiculously high breakfast price) and they have the perfect underground garage. I already rated the hotel well on, but again: I would recommend it to anyone. They did one little strange thing, though: they blocked a random sum (well, for me it is random, because it is nowhere on the invoice) on my card on top of the room and parking price. They eventually charged the normal price, but after a week that strange sum is still blocked. I contacted the hotel via e-mail, but no response…

So, how to cope with the ridiculously high breakfast price (11€/person/day)? Just walk a few hundred meters every morning up on Koenigstrasse just in front of the hotel and it is easy to find the great solution. I will not place the name of the place, I am confident that people can identify it quickly ;)… The place offers a wide selection of delicious breakfast menus in the 3-4€ price range, so it is worth the short, refreshing walk every morning.

And for dinner? It is easy to find a wide range of local restaurants which serve local food. There is even a wide range of pizzerias, steakhouses offering all kinds of food for people who do not fancy the local food. The prices are varying, but it is easy to find dinner for around 20-25€ per person (including beer of course, after all, we were in Bavaria… 😉 ). Basically each evening we did a short walk in the historic center and chose a different restaurant for dinner… it was fun 🙂 .

There you have it: the basics were taken care of. What about sightseeing? I think I will need another post for that 😉



Sunday, July 20th, 2014

So, I had another surprise trip at the end of June, and this time it was a country that I always managed to drive through, but had very little interaction with: Germany. Germany is the country I always admired, I guess it was a bit of a social thing: it was the role model country for a large part of Eastern Europe while I was a child. For us, it was the place where everything is perfect, everyone is happy and we should do everything as they do. While this utopian allure of Germany faded away, it is still an impressive place to visit, where everything, still, works (or at least I would expect) flawlessly.


My first contact after quite a few years (the last time I was in Germany, apart from just driving through, was when I bought my car almost 5 years ago) with Germany was Dortmund airport: a very bad touchdown (while, as always, everyone was applauding) with Wizz and then off to a meticulous passport/ID check. Then, I quickly found the car rental place, arranged everything flawlessly (for some reason even my German was very well understandable by the agent) so it was so far so good and everything was as expected 🙂 .

Maybe a few words about the car: it was a surprise car (as even the rental agent put it) for an economy: a Seat Ibiza FR. What this meant, was that at the price of economy, I received a car with which I had a chance on the highways 🙂 . Indeed this little car had a quite good acceleration, and on the no limit sections (which is almost everywhere on my planned route) it even reached 180 km/h without too much hustle. Do not imagine it as your average speed-cruiser, though: I would not trade my 11 year old BMW for it despite the fact it had sport seats and square-like sports wheel. The little Seat is a quick car but by far not a fast car: it shakes and it is quite wobbly at high speeds, and the accelerometer seems to struggle after 180km/h. Nevertheless, I was quite happy with it, it always managed to put a smile on my face, and it was by far much better than my last rental car.

And now, it is time for my big disappointment: after arranging my rental car, even though I was a bit late from my appointment, I decided to grab a quick bite at a McDonald’s (which was conveniently on the route) just next to the airport. I went to the counter, placed my order, and planned to pay with my bank card (VISA Electron). Now this is usually just a formality (in ALL countries I visited so far), but the woman at the counter quickly broke my appetite: “Only German cards”. Whaaat? I could imagine no VISA Electron, but no VISA, no MasterCard? Well, no. Apart from the hotel, car rental and fuel I was not really able to use any of my bank cards (not even at a supermarket as I later learned). Luckily cash-machines do accept even VISA Electrons so I did not die of hunger, but this was really disappointing 🙁 .
I quickly forgot about this bad encounter though, and I was, again, enjoying some of Germany’s finest treats: the German Autobahn, which, with the help of the little car I rented, did manage to put back the smile on my face :).

Aaand, as an addendum cherry topping: the car rental company, through which I rented the car, did not make ANY mistake with processing my request. Even though there was a misunderstanding about the billing address, they quickly corrected everything, had NO delay with creating the invoice and the invoice was automatically generated in Romanian (I guess they took into consideration the billing address): so, yes, Germany has won quite some points when talking about precision :).


The Car Rental

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

After a troublesome evening, but great night at the Eindhoven Airport hotel, the next day I was ready to pick-up my car that I reserved at one of the rental companies. This time almost everything went smoothly and I was on the highway to my destination in no time.
Citroen C4
I wrote almost, because there was still an issue with the car rental: they do no accept VISA Electron cards. The truth is, I have never tried to book a car using that card, but after using it everywhere when I had to travel (in Europe and in the U.S.) it did not even cross my mind, that they may not accept it. Anyway, when I showed them a MasterCard they were more than happy (although there were no big differences, because both are debit cards and both have chips integrated…). Anyway, this was a lesson that I quickly learned and used all the time while I was in the Netherlands: they like MasterCards more than VISA Electrons, so be prepared 😉 .

Maybe a few words about the car I was driving: a Citroen C4. I must say I was a bit worried about the usability of the controls, because, we have to admit, we are talking about an artistic little French piece of equipment here… To my surprise everything was in order (just like a VW or any other car I am used to), with just a touch of French art (just enough 🙂 ). Another great surprise was the built in GPS (although it took a while until I switched it to speak in English 🙂 ) which helped a lot during my quest to find my destination among the potato fields 😛 . The car looked and felt great… until the moment people started to pass me by real easily… Yes, yes it was an economy car I know, but still… why won’t it accelerate?? Bottom line, no matter how fancy equipment it has, I would not trade my 11 year old car for it. Period.

The next most important thing with the entire rental was the invoice: I really needed the VAT number of the company I work at to be present on the invoice. This is a cumbersome operation each time we ask for invoices in work related business, but we are used to it, so I tried to explain the agent, that maybe she can put it to comments or somewhere. Maybe I was a bit pushy, maybe not, she instantly replied, that she know how to fill in an invoice… “Well,… OK…”, I thought and left her to fill out the company data. I was assured that the invoice will be ready the next day and that it will be mailed to me. Guess what, it was not e-mailed. Instead, I had to search for it using my reservation number and download it. Guess what again: the VAT number was missing 🙂 . So, as one can imagine, I have sent them a request to correct this mistake, but, you guessed, no reply since then 😉 , although “Here at Ssst we value your opinion” as the questionnaire title (which I received instantly via e-mail obviously) says…

So, the car rental started up quite well, I had some minor issues, but the end seems a bit disappointing… I never had such problems with other companies… Lessons learned:

  1. Use MasterCards in the Netherlands
  2. An economy car IS an ECONOMY car, do not expect miracles here
  3. Make sure you see the invoice filled with your own eyes if possible, otherwise there might be problems…

Update: The invoice arrived after a few days. Everything was OK. They have won back a few points… 😉 .


New Toy

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Today I cam across an interesting article in one of the newspapers. It seems like the Romanian Police received a new toy from Lotus:

There was not much info about the circumstances of the occasion for this gift. With it, however, Romania turned out to be the third country in the world (after the UK and Italy) entering into partnership with Lotus. The first two countries I can understand: the UK is the country of Lotus, Italy is the country for high-speed cars. But why Romania? We don’t even have a proper set of highways…