Tourist Advice From A Croatian Olive Grower

Pics:

  • Passed a rock that looked like it had a blood stain and I was riding around without a helmet
  • Three rusted wheelbarrows
  • Charger GX Touring in front of a Croatian village sign
  • The fifth largest Roman Colosseum in the world is in Pula
  • James Joyce was here!

Although unable to snap a few pictures of the olive farm we went to yesterday on account it was raining like crazy, at least we now have eight bottles of delicious Croatian olive oil to take back to Germany, which we will use for salads, flavouring and, as recommended, for toping vanilla ice cream. That’s right, dear worst-reader. Did you get that? That’s the advice from our friendly olive grower after I asked what I should do with olive oil that is too good and too expensive to cook with it. She said to get your favourite vanilla ice cream and eat it with a few drops of olive oil on top. Since I’m not a big vanilla fan I immediately asked if it will go well with pistachio ice cream. Although she never tried it with pistachio, she thought it a good idear. Btw, between the olives, the grapes and the truffles–and the things you can do with all three–Istria, Croatia, has got to be one of the finest places to hang out if you’re into all things fine that won’t break the bank. Even though the weather has kind of turned on us the past two days–it rained cats & dogs last night–we’re still enjoying it here. The air is fresh, the views are brilliant and if a neighbour gives you a few fresh Anchovies all you have to do is slightly coat them with flower, add a touch of salt and pepper, and fry them up in olive oil. After the little fish are browned to perfection, all that’s left is to add a fresh salad and glass of local red wine. While enjoying it all, though, I couldn’t help but think of the one more piece of advice we received from a very friendly olive grower.

“Don’t come here in the summer. It’s hell here in the summer. Too many tourists. Too many!” -A Croatian olive grower

Rant on.

-T

Link that motivated this post:

Speeders Beware

speeding ticket Croatia

I should consider myself lucky, I guess. I mean, if the Croatian police officer with the fine penmanship could read my mind about what I was thinking at the moment I received my first speeding ticket in this really, really, beautiful, picturesque country, I’d be in jail right now. But I kept my cool. I paid my fine by credit card and I moved on heeding the officers warning as he returned my papers and gave me the receipt: “you drive slower now.” Indeed. After driving around Istria for a few hours the other day, on the return to our villa, after about a five kilometre downhill trek, penmanship police officer waved me over at the base of the mountain. Of course I was going too fast. I was driving down a fcuking mountain! Although I can’t remember how many times within that five kilometre downhill stretch the speed-limit changed between 40, 50 and 70 km/h, I was obviously in a 50 zone doing 74 when his speed-gun caught me. Yeah, he was even kind enough to show me the speed gun. Did I mention that I was only a few hundred metres away from the base of the mountain? Oh well. So that’s what they do in Croatia, eh. Be warned those who might come here by car. They wait for the tourists to struggle between engine braking or over-heating your disc brakes and if you let go of either for a just a second or two, perhaps while conversing with someone in the car, the downhill slope of 10-15% degrees will rocket your vehicle to excess before you know it. There were at least four other cars behind me doing the same speed but not one of them was pulled over (Croatian plates?). In fact, at the top of the mountain I was passed by at least two cars doing excessive speeds and not one of them was pulled over at the base. Dumb me, eh, for getting caught and/or not knowing how the police fill the coffers of the state here. Oh well. No hard feelings.

Rant on.

T

Labin E-Bike Tour And Testing Limits

My better half surprised me with some R&R that includes e-biking. Since I’m staying at one of the higher elevations as my e-bike starting point, heed this: you’re either going up or your going down any given surface when riding an e-bike in Labin, Croatia. Other than the backyard where you rest your machine, or the beach where you stare at the euro-bikini-chicks (the flat area in the graph below), there’s no surface here that is NOT going up or down. I suppose that’s not such a bad thing if you’ve got the right e-bike–or if you’re a bit younger and not suffering from too much wine and too many truffles with noodles. With that in mind, hats off to my boys and gals at Riese & Müller–my favourite bike maker in the whole world. And since I’m not the great photo-maker (I am worst-photographer), let me share a few worst-words on what I’ve just experienced.

I just finished the hardest 4-5km bike trek I’ve ever been on. The whole ride was about 17km. Of course, this isn’t an issue of endurance or physical stamina (I have neither), it is instead a testament to what I consider to be one of the most difficult surfaces I’ve ever ridden on and the only bike I’d ever do it on again. As you may (or may not) note in the pics above, the two pics that show the trail and the gravel road are what you must face here if/when you leave paved roads. The trail, btw, (the one with the red sign) I haven’t done as of the writing of this worst-post–but I’ll get to it soon enough. The gravel road, on the other hand, I just finished riding UP. As you may (or may not) note in the pic below, that area where “Rocks, boulders and bears” is indicated is pretty much a pseudo-road filled with baseball and softball sized rocks that goes for about 3.5km… UP! The area approaching the serpintine (see the map) has grades of (I’m guessing) 20% before and after it. I didn’t make it up the front of the serpentine without having to get off the bike due to lack of control on the rocky surface. But I made it up the back after having learned/adjusted a bit how to navigate under e-bike power over the large and loose rocks. The average grade of the entire distance of the hill is about 7-12%. Would I ever attempt this without e-bike power? Only if I stop drinking wine and eating truffles. But then, if that happens, I wouldn’t be in Labin, Croatia. Or?

17km ebike trek Croatia

Although it only took me about half an hour to make it up the hill (Rocks, boulders and bears side of the graph above), and I plan on doing it again for practice, I’ve never before experienced my bike in this type of environment. This bike is so well built that I enjoyed feeling the tires gorging on the edges of rocks. The Bosch CX motor was brilliant in assisting me and not allowing any overcompensation with wild pedal kicking due to the rocky, loose surface. Also, I noticed for the first time how the Bosch computer was telling me when to up or down shift. In fact, for the past 5000km I thought the shifting indicators of the computer didn’t even work because this bike has a derailleur. Goodness knows, the “mountain biking” I’ve done up to now, which has been mostly in and around Wuppertal and Solingen, Germany, doesn’t compare to this rocky Croatian surface. With that in mind, I really feel as though I’ve finally tested my Charger GX to its limits. After riding just under 100km in this area as of this post, the bike is rattling, humming and weirding out on me as never before. But not one thing has snapped off, broke or come loose. Can’t wait to get back on it and find new trails tomorrow.

Note: The pic with my bike and the Adriatic Sea in the far background should provide some perspective on how high we are. The 3-4KM ride is up the side of the hill (cause it’s not quite a mountain yet, is it).

Keep up the good work R&M!

Rant and worst-ride on, baby.

T

PS The reason the grey Ortlieb bag is strapped to the top of the rear rack is because they jostle and bang around too much when hung on the side. Seriously rough surfaces here.

First Time In Croatia

Although there are lots of Das Volk out there that don’t mind long car drives, I ain’t one of them. So. On our way to Istria, Croatia, for a bit of R&R we stopped for two nights in Salzburg. Perhaps more on Salzburg later. Exhausted from the drive from Salzburg to Istria, we eventually found our way driving up and through winding, barely paved road-ways to a luscious Tuscany-like villa with heated pool and a view of the Adriatic that is to die for (pic not included YET). The only problem is the heated pool can’t get heated enough with the chilly fall winds that have suddenly turned on. In fact, after one or two tries and my better-half catching a cold we’ve given up on swimming in here. But enough bitchin’ and moaning (ranting).

Istria is gorgeous. Can’t recommend it enough. Even though you have to drive to get around, if you stay in the outer hills, as opposed to a village or resort hotel, there’s very little traffic–other than a few minor delays due to road work–to stop you from getting around. The only problem is, once you start driving around and looking at all the little walled-in, mini-towns built waaaaay back atop rolling forever hills (mini-mountains?), like Motovun (above), you’ll want to stop at them all.

And then there is the food. Or should I say: the truffles. If you like gorging on truffles, this is the place to be. I only wonder how long it’s gonna last as an affordable place to hang out for a week or two and eat this delicatessen–as opposed to how expensive it is in Italy or France. If you find the right place along one of them hill roads, all you need is a few Euros for plate of perfectly cooked noodles in a butter-wine sauce and then topped with dark truffle shavings (above). The cats seem to know what they’re begging for under your table, too.

And by-the-buy, check out the arrogant über corporate message from LA Times when I was trying to read up on some #SCOTUS bull$hit this morning. Even though the message is trying to be sympathetic and show interest in problem solving, any rational mind knows that what they’re really trying to say is that my grand & missed United Mistakes of #Americant is having a hard time getting-on with the EU’s attempt at reigning in on digital greed and abuse. The whole point of what the EU is trying to do (I hope!) is to right a long standing wrong–as long as the attempt is about users being the ones to decide what happens with their data. FB, Twitter and even the LA Times have no business whatsoever thinking they can own and manipulate what I do on the Interwebnets. That’s right, baby. You may own your software, you may own your website, but if you put it out there on a public network–which is what the Interwebnets is–then you have no right to own, sell or manipulate my data–even if it’s going through your website (or software).

Or something like that.

Rant on.

-T

From New To Old Or Skipping What’s In-Between

ibooks v kindle v book.JPG
1st Gen iPad Air, 2nd Gen Kindle Paperwhite, a fcuking real book!

Subtitle 1: E-Book reading. Looks like there’s no turning back (for worst-moi).

Subtitle 2: A pseudo-review of e-readers.

I first started e-reading on a Kindle 2. I loved the design of the Kindle 2, especially the analog page change buttons and the odd but fully functional keyboard that enabled the best note-taking (at the time) while reading electronic books. Luckily, including voice dictation, I think I’ve finally found a viable replacement for the only Kindle I’ve ever loved. More on that in a sec. Because the battery died on my Kindle 2 and Amazon offered no upgrade, I broke down and bought a Kindle Paperwhite while it was on sale. From day one I’ve hated the thing. Talk about technology going backwards! Ok. Ok. The “Paperwhite” screen is pretty good, especially during night reading. But to be honest, that really doesn’t matter until night lamps go the way of the Dodo. Also. What can one expect from a guy like Jeff Bezos, the greatest mooch and scavenger capitalist the world has ever seen? Or do you actually believe that hijacking already marginalised capitalism from the likes of Walmart and retail, physical book stores is really such an ingenious endeavour? Please. Amazon and Bezos suck bat balls on account he’s only found a way to lead in the race to the bottom. But before I get to far off subject.

I’ve pretty much given up on Kindle as my e-reading device (for now). Here a few reason:

  1. Eco-system. There’s basically three digital eco-systems that I would consider using. Amazon and Google have lost out to Apple (for now). But to be honest, if/when I have to change eco-systems, my next choice will be Google.
  2. 3G. When I needed it, it never worked. I remember once traveling through Asia and not being able to download a book for a research project. Not only that, when I finally connected to WIFI in an airport lounge, Amazon wouldn’t let me download the book that way either–something about copyright. Go figure!
  3. Performance and obsoletism. We’ve had three Kindles in our family so far. Sure, they are relatively cheap devices but now that Amazon has gone full expensive with their newest fancy-pants Kindle (as of 2016 or so), where’s this gonna go? Their colour screen tablets are a joke. They can’t make a phone. And that voice-AI speaker thing… No thanks!

Of all the Kindles we’ve had (I can’t remember exactly but it’s somewhere between three and four), they are all, after eighteen or so months, great door stops. The third gen Paperwhite in the pic above is also so incredibly slow that it’s no fun to use. Yeah, Jeff Bezos. Innovation ain’t just about bringing something to market but also making it better without breaking the bank.

Moving on.

I gave up using an iPad 4 three years ago. The main reason for giving it up was because 1) I’m a Mac guy and 2) I have an iPhone. Although I did learn to appreciate the iBooks interface and preferred it over the Kindle, the iPad 4 was just too heavy as a reading device. There are times when I read for more than two hours. But last year after my wife upgraded from her shattered iPad Air 2 to an iPad Pro, we also discovered in a drawer her shattered first gen iPad Air. We traded in the shattered iPad Air 2 and she got a pretty good deal on a new iPad Air Pro. But since Apple only lets you trade in one device for another device, we put the shattered first gen iPad Air back in the drawer. While visiting our local Apple store a few months later, I happened across a conversation with one of the dunces in the blue shirts. When I mentioned that I still had a shattered iPad Air he quickly checked inventory and told me that if I trade it in, he’ll sell me a brand new one for €250,-.

A brand new what, I asked.

Oh. Sorry, he said.

Even though Apple had just announced their new low-end iPad line which had a better processor and more storage, the hundred to hundred-fifty price difference wasn’t a factor. Reason? I don’t need an iPad. I especially don’t need a low-end iPad. I mean, let’s face it. As much as I fight it, it looks like Macs are doomed. Apple is going full iOS. I’ve since learned from my wife’s multiple iPad to iPad Pro experience, that I’m eventually gonna have to give in. Of course, it’ll take till iPads can drive a second monitor–as that’s the way I use both my 2016 MacBook and my 2015 MacBook Air–I’m putting off full iPad integration into my life. Again. All I really needed was a new e-reader on account of how much I hate the Kindle Paperwhite!

Long Apple-Store story short: I went home and got the shattered iPad Air. I traded it in and nervously paid €250,-. Gee, I thought, I just got the best e-book reader there is, didn’t I? And not only that. It really was a brand new first generation iPad Air with 32GB and cellular. It’s not even a refurbished one. Say what you will, dear worst-reader, about my lack of scruples when it comes to consuming tech $hit. I mean, I could have easily afforded the  new iPad. I just don’t need a new iPad for anything but watching the occasional video while it’s propped up in the kitchen and I’m cutting onions or I’m consuming lots and lots of research, reading, study, etc. Since the newest Kindle (that’s waaaay overpriced one) cost almost the same… Yeah, it was a no-brainer.

I think I lucked out. I’ve had the iPad Air (version A1475) as a news reader, the occasional Plex client, definitely a useful you-tube watcher and, when needed on account I’ve already purchased books there, it’s great with the Kindle app, for about six months now. And to be honest, I’m enjoying reading/using Apple’s iBooks more and more. Not only is the iPad Air much lighter than that iPad 4, but its also got a much better screen. The only negative with the iPad as an e-reader is the battery life. Yeah, Amazon does have the advantage with that one. Which means I have to charge the iPad every night… along with all the other krapp I have to charge. But then again, compared to the Kindle, it’s a fcuking computer beast.

As stated, I really like to interact with what I’m reading. I like to write short notes in the margins of pages (of real books) and also underscore text. The iPad does that huuuuuugely better than the Kindle. In fact, with the iPad I can highlight text and if I have a comment about the text, I then call up the note function and instead of using the cumbersome iPad keyboard, I just dictate my comment and voice recognition transcribes it. Also, if I need to write anything longer, I can immediately go to Apple’s Note app, which I’ve actually become more and more dependent upon even when using my Mac. So I’m really digging Apple’s eco-system right now. It works great when reading.

Who knows how long relations with Apple’s eco-system will last. Btw, I’m still not using iCloud for all my files. I prefer Dropbox for that. Also, as far as home media is concerned since we stopped watching TV ten years ago, I haven’t and don’t plan on upgrading my old AppleTV3 anytime soon. For one thing, as stated, we don’t consume TV anymore. When we do watch stuff, we do so through the internet or our Plex server which is on a 2010 headless MacPro in the basement. Replacing our living-room TV with a new bookshelf system where my wife and I are able to combine our entire (physical) book collection into a really, really cool private library, has been one of the best choices we’ve made yet when it comes to life and living at home.

Rant on.

T

Tyre vs Tire Or Summer vs Winter

Pics as follows:

  • 2017 Mini Clubman jacked-up for tyre change
  • Michelin CrossCountry all-weather tyres; the ones with the sticker on the top tire
  • Bridgestone “Run-Flats” with around 5000km on them after being removed and now in my basement on top of a flat/folded moving box ready for sale or whatever else their fate has in store (size 225/45/R17)

First, dear worst-reader, for worst-moi, after all these years living within the Germania  tribe of #Eurowasteland, it’s “tyre” and not “tire.” Coming from an American expat that may not sound like much to you but according to (expat) folklore it is an indication of having gone native. Thank you for letting me get that out of the way.

I can’t remember ever considering changing from summer tyres to winter tyres while living in my beloved & missed #Americant where I owned three cars (before expating). Usually the vehicle you consumed determined whether or not you had season oriented tyres. Keep in mind that I grew up on the mid-Atlantic coast, which has a fairly mild climate. Although we had snow once or twice a year and ice more than that, the costly idear of actually changing tyres for seasons…? Whaaaaaaa? I mean, get this. #Americant is a country that still allows krappy, cheap retreads. Ever wonder why #Americant highways are so polluted with exploded tyre rubber? Ever get caught on a motorcycle riding behind a tractor-trailer going sixty-five mph and one of its retreads explodes? Seriously. Retreads shouldn’t be allowed on public roads. Nomatter. I’m waaaaay off subject.

I’ve been tickled, don’t you know, with our new Mini Clubman. In fact, every time I get in it and take off, I can’t help but say to myself: wow, this is a great little car. We’ve put a bit more than three thousand kilometres on it so far (we bought it with two thousand kilometres). And although we’re pleased with it, there is still one major thing left to do. As the lawmaking goes in #Eurowasteland, winter tyres are mandatory now. And although it’s a bit early to worry about snow season, we’re about to embark on a trip to Croatia with our big-little Mini. That means we’ll be crossing the Alps in Austria in late September. I know. I know. I’m sure it won’t snow then, plus, the summer tyres will be fine in Croatia but… I’ve got to get winter tyres anyway. How ’bout doing so now and thereby killing two birds with one stone?

Did you know, dear worst-reader, Germans are brake-drivers. That’s is, they drive their fancy, leased, German engineered and sometimes über high-powered cars with their brakes. Unfortunately, with the current state of Autobahns, there isn’t much choice to drive fast anymore because you’re constantly driving through construction. The good news is, because of the enormous cost of driving a car here, people are going with smaller, less powerful, less heavy and less super fast vehicles. That means, people don’t need to change tyres all year round–if they go with so-called all-weather tyres–which are nothing more than detoxed (if you will) winter tyres. Hence the two birds I’m gonna get with one stone, don’t you know.

Keep in mind, this isn’t a review of tyre brands. Even though I picked the Michelin brand, I could have easily gone with Goodyear or Bridgestone or Continental, etc. The only thing that was important to me was to get a major branded tyre. There are a lot of tyres out there to choose from. But I will never forget changing from a cheap brand of tyres to a major brand a few years back and boy was there a difference. That said, the price difference between major brand to non-major brand isn’t enough to sway my prejudice to the cheaper tyre. So Michelin it is. But first a few thoughts on the run-flats.

The Mini came with Bridgestone “Turanza” summer run-flats (RF). Some years ago, I had a run-in with run-flats on a drive from Stuttgart to Munich. Half way through the drive the onboard computer of the Mercedes notified me I had a flat. At a rest top I checked the tyre. It didn’t look flat to me. At the time I had not idear what RF tyres were. So I got back in the car and drove the remaining distance to Munich. When I gave the car to the leasing company to deal with the “flat tyre” notification they asked how long I had driven on the flat. “What flat,” I said. The guy explained the RF concept to me–all the while holding back any (deserved?) ridicule of stupid American drivers. The only problem is, I was stuck with that car for a while and it needed a new tyre–NOW. The guy said it would take three weeks to get the same brand tyre. Whaaaaaa? I had to drive two days later from Munich to Köln–with that car. “No problem,” the guy said. So he replaced the tyre within twenty-four hours with another sub-brand RF tyre.

Go ahead, dear worst-reader. Call me a stickler. I’m spoiled. I want better. With that in mind, I don’t care what you think (of me). So get this: I can’t stand the idear of driving a four hundred horsepower Mercedes Benz on the fcuking German Autobahn for hour after hour and that vehicle not being in tip-top performance condition. Running three Continental branded RF tyres with one no-name RF tyre–that had a totally different tread profile, as well–just pissed me off. But of course I went with it. I was working for the man. I could only bitch (rant) at the world so much. Did the Mercedes drive differently? Of course it didn’t. Did it look different? Well, yeah, kinda, on account the profile of the one tyre was different. But I don’t care. In fact, I might even tolerate two different brands front and rear but… three brands to one? No. No. No. (Talk about provoking my tourettes.)

Anywho. RF tyres cannot be repaired if they’re punctured. They have to be replaced. That means, if I don’t have to, I don’t want to be in the predicament again where I have to wait (for weeks) for a tyre maker to deliver me the right tyre or have to then choose between buying a brand new tyre that doesn’t fit to the other three. But there’s one other thing.  RF tyres are extremely uncomfortable–even with the proper suspension. You see, RF tyres have something akin to metal lining in their walls. That’s how you can drive on them if they go “flat”. The metal lining prevents the tyre from buckling completely so you can continue (at limited speed, of course) without the wheel rims ruining everything. But then… Those metal walls, when filled with air, are as hard as rock.

The Mini Clubman is pretty bumpy and unnecessarily uncomfortable with the RF summer tyres it was delivered with. Also, the Mini is far from being a performance vehicle. The Bridgestone tyres are simply too much tyre for this car. With that in mind, the significance of “performance” only plays a role, IMHO, with vehicles that can also deliver that performance. By-the-buy, don’t get me wrong, I’ve since learned that the BMW 1.5litre, three cylinder turbo-charged power plant is a lot stronger than I thought it would be! But the Mini still does not perform in a way that requires anything more than solid, well built, good running tyres. Although I’ve only gone a few kilometres with the new Michelins, I have already noticed how much more comfortable the Mini is now. And. Since the tires are all-weather, I definitely killed those two birds.

-Rant on

T

PS Did you catch that last expat mis-spelling?