Yeti

When Carol and I decided to move to Europe, we knew we would need a car right away — so we made the unconventional (and possibly mad) decision to buy one in advance, online. Since we didn’t want to spend any more money than necessary, we decided to get a used car.

And since we were going to be using it for the first couple months in the UK, but thereafter on the continent, we decided to buy a left-hand drive car from a British dealer (i.e., in a place where right-hand drive cars rule), thus limiting our selection of both cars and dealers.

Oh, and the brands that we were most interested in are generally not sold in the US, so we had had no direct experience with them.

What could possibly go wrong with this scenario?

Improbably, as it turned out, nothing.

The car we settled on was a 2013 Skoda Yeti. From a couple previous European trips I had seen a lot of Skodas on the road, and they looked attractive and well-built. Researching them a bit, we found out that although Skoda is made in the Czech Republic, it is part of the Volkswagen Auto Group. Most of the internals come straight from VW (the Yeti is basically a Volkswagen Tiguan underneath). While Skodas are priced quite reasonably, they are well crafted, and indeed are often better-reviewed than their VW-logoed cousins.

More Yeti photos, please!

When Carol found out that the UK’s Top Gear guys loved the Yeti in particular, I was there.

After about 15000 kilometers or so, I’m hugely impressed with our little brown beast. It gets good fuel mileage, has nice acceleration and handling, and despite the many ways we have tried to break it — such as exceeding the max load by a few hundred pounds and, in an early blunder, fueling it with gas instead of diesel — it has performed brilliantly without a complaint.

Given my last car, the Ford POS that nearly ruined me in the US, I couldn’t be happier. A couple hours ago, as Carol and I passed the car on our way in from a walk, I hugged my Yeti.

Have you hugged your car today?

Urgencies

This past Sunday, Carol and I went to Heidelberg for the day. Straddling the placid Neckar River in Baden-Württemberg, the city hosts one of the most impressive castle ruins in Europe. It has also been a college town since the 14th century, when the excellent Heidelberg University was founded in 1386. ¬†We found the city to be beautiful and bustling, and even—despite the legions of visitors on a sunny weekend—quite gracious.

Have a look at our photos from the trip »

It was also my first real immersion in the German Autobahn experience, which was terrifying  sphincter-twisting  nerve-searing interesting.

The Autobahn comes in two flavors: the kind with speed limits (about half the total Autobahn mileage in Deutschland) and the kind without. Traveling on the latter, which I was for maybe half the trip, I posted a personal record by getting our trusty Skoda Yeti up to about 145. That’s kilometers per hour, mind you, but it was still pretty thrilling for me. Of course, at that speed, I had an unending parade of German and Italian performance cars passing me as if I had brought a golf cart to Daytona. But that’s exactly what those cars are made for. It’s actually kind of fun watching a Lamborghini Gallardo drop you like a bad habit on the Autobahn.

Know what else the Autobahn is good for? Bathrooms.

I’ll probably be talking a lot about bathrooms in this blog, because … well, never you mind why. Let’s just say I’m a 58 year old guy, and keep the HIPAA police happy. If you’re coming from a place like the US, where there’s a free public toilet about every half block, you may find Europe a little … cavalier. But on the Autobahn, blessedly, you’ll get treated to a rest stop about every 10 or 15 miles, just like back home.

Anyway, more on that important subject as time goes by.