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?


Herzlich Willkommen

Or, how I came to be in Freiburg writing this entry

If you’ve read our About page, you have a clue why we’re in Germany on this fine sunny day in August. On the first of the month, we installed Randall at the Goethe-Institut here in Freiburg, where he’ll learn the German language for 10 months or so, in order to attend university here next fall (2017).

Most German public universities are tuition-free, outside of a modest administrative fee, even for international students. You still have to pay for books and supplies, of course, as well as all your living expenses in this not-inexpensive country. Still, when you consider the caliber of the schools here — the university Randall is aiming for is rated something like number 14 in the world for his specialty, Physics — it’s still a screaming bargain.

I’ve read that the reason Germany does this is to attract motivated, well-educated young people in the hope that many will stay and contribute to the country’s success once they graduate. Which makes a lot of sense.

Meantime, our route here has been a bit circuitous.

In May, Carol left the US to take the Queen Mary to the UK, in preparation for Tamsyn’s graduation from the University of Edinburgh. Why the boat trip? you may ask. It was all for Pippin the Wonderdog. Slightly too big to fit in an under-seat airplane carrier, and too old and fragile to travel in airline cargo, His Fuzziness’s only transport alternative was a kennel on the QM2.

Randall and I joined them after his high school graduation in early June, taking a more prosaic approach via Icelandair.

After spending a couple months in the UK, we took the Chunnel and raced across France to Freiburg. Check out the photo gallery links below for an idea of what we’ve been up to.