Driving around the adriatic sea

This years summer holiday we spent in Korfu, Greece. At first we talked about Croatia, when somebody came up with the idea to go farther south to Greece.
Lets begin with the important facts. This time not as accurate as for the trip to Norway, since I deactivated app access a while ago, which allowed to automatically collect all the data in the past.
Duration: 13 days
Distance covered: 4’100 km
Electricity charged: 850 kWh
Waiting time for charges: 3 hours
Cost for charges: EUR 34 + tips
Our route on a map
All hotels except the holiday house on Corfu booked with CheapAir and paid with Bitcoin
Like the last few years, a key criteria was that we didn’t want to spew big amounts of CO2 and accompanying toxic gasses into the atmosphere. Thus we went again with our electric car. On the way to Corfu I drove the Balcan route. To make the trip home shorter, we took a fairy to Italy. Not only are the roads better in Italy, but also the charging infrastructure is more developed.
It was going to be the first time for us leaving the comfort of the Superchargers. There are some stations planned for the lower Balcan, but no dates are provided yet.
As you can see when comparing the above numbers to the trip to Norway, this time we had some waiting times for charging the car. It had a couple of reasons as you will see when reading through. In general, when I write about a short stop at a Supercharger, that is for coffee or ice cream and toilet. A longer stop at a Supercharger usually means lunch or dinner. These types of breaks don’t count towards the “waiting time for charges” as there is no waiting involved. With waiting times I mean times that were not necessary if it was not for charging. Not all of the waiting was strictly necessary to reach the next destination. But in countries without established charging infrastructure, I always wanted to have some reserve in the battery. You never know if the next planned charge really works out. This is in stark contrast to the normal use of Superchargers, which always work reliably in my experience. With everything else, there is always some risk involved. Thus on our trip I always had a plan B and a plan C.
I love electric road trips, but unfortunately not everybody in the family does. The compromise was to spend a full week stationary in a holiday house on Corfu island. The road trip through the Balcan was a mere means to get there. My wive wanted to have all the hotels on the way booked in advance. The one time we had difficulty finding accommodation in Norway was too stressful for her.

day 1: Driving to Croatia

We started very early in the morning, hoping to reach our destination in the early afternoon. We made it around Milano before the morning rush hour, and our first stop was at the Supercharger in Brescia. We were so early, the shopping mall next to it was still closed. Thus our plan of having breakfast there didn’t play out. So we had some breakfast from our food reserves in the Tesla lounge. We made a short (coffee and toilet) stop at the Supercharger next to Venice. The next stop was already at the Supercharger in Slowenia. Again, our plan of having lunch there didn’t play out, because there was no restaurant nearby, only a gas station shop. So, we drove to a restaurant with a destination charger that was close to our route. It turned out to be a very nice restaurant. The food was delicious, and the view over the sea marvelous. Now the battery had more than enough energy to reach the Plitvice Holiday Resort. We didn’t know that for the tiny strip of highway in Slowenia we were supposed to buy a vignette. And promptly two policemen imposed a EUR 150 fine on us. Yes, the Swiss police also hands out fines to tourists who drive on the highway without a vignette, but the signs are hard to miss upon entering Switzerland. While we didn’t see anything when entering Slowenia. Avoiding the highway would probably not even have been a time penalty, if I knew about this. On the way to Grabovac, the navigation system took us through single lane back country roads. Once even on a dirt road which turned out to be an error. I booked a tree house for the night, and it was the absolute highlight for our boys. The resort has a pictogram for E.V. charging on the website, and when I asked, they told me that I don’t have to reserve a charging spot, and that it will be all fine. When we arrived, I realized that there was no special infrastructure for charging cars, instead I could connect to one of the power outlets, that are all over the camp ground. Because the fuse constantly blew, I had to dial down all the way to 7Amp (1.6kW).

day 2: Plitvice lakes

We spent all morning in the tree house and the resort. It was a dream come true for the boys. At the bottom of the tree house there was a trampoline atop of a small artificial river. The river ended in a small artificial lake that was surrounded by nice bungalows. In the afternoon, we visited the Plitvice Lakes. It is one of UNESCOs oldest national parks. The 16 lakes and numerous waterfalls are a must see! In the evening we drove to Zadar. I didn’t care to book an accommodation with charging, because the next Supercharger is so close. We visited the old town where the car charged on a free station while we had dinner.

day 3: Dubrovnik and driving to Montenegro

We made short stops at all the Superchargers we crossed: Zadar, Split and Gravorac. Then we topped up the Battery in the parking, while visiting the old town of Dubrovnik. We knew it must look cool, if they filmed part of “Game of Thrones” there. But it was almost like Venice, just without canals. After leaving Croatia, we drove through most of Montenegro while it was already dark. But at least we got to see some of its beauty in daylight and during dawn. Next time, I would plan more time for Montenegro. I didn’t know the country, and my wive was worried about the cleanliness, so I booked a better hotel than we would usually choose. The prices are generally cheaper in Montenegro, thus we got a gigantic suite with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a big kitchen/living room in a spa hotel for the same price as we got a simple room or apartment in other places. After the last Supercharger was in Croatia, it was important that we can charge the car full over the night. Thus I booked only after making sure to get three phase power. The owner was very well prepared and helpful. I am also thankful to Benedikt who sent me an old Yugoslavian plug which is still common in Montenegro.

day 4: Driving through Albania

Before leaving Ulcinj, the boys took a swim in the hotel pool. Albania was the country where part of our family didn’t look forward to. It is really different to the other countries we visited. It has nice places, but you also see a lot of dirt and garbage lying around everywhere. Especially the suburbs of Tirana looked grim. This was close to the industrial area where we visited the Volkswagen importer which has a CCS charging station. My car got the CCS retrofit only weeks before our trip. CCS is normally used for high power fast charging of up to 150kW and potentially more in the future. So I was a little bit disappointed when I found out that this CCS station only delivers 22kW. At least the employees were very friendly and helpful. Unfortunately there was no good restaurant nearby, so we had our lunch again from our food reserves. Albania has highways that are free to use. But they are different from what we are used to. Every ten minutes or so, there is a crossing where it narrows to one lane and the speed is limited to 40km/h. And every time you slow down in concert with 10 other cars, there is one asshole who crosses all the double markings on the road and passes everyone else with 150km/h, risking fatalities if another car crossed the road. This sort of extreme reckless driving was present everywhere in Albania. I had to brake very hard multiple times to prevent frontal crashes on curvy roads where some idiot drove on the wrong lane in front of a curve with zero visibility. This really tainted my image of Albanians even though the people I had direct contact with, were really nice and friendly.
When I missed a fork, because the road looked like a dirt road and I thought there must be a better road ahead, we came to a nice beach and took a short break. After that, the navigation system told me to continue along the dirt road to the other end of the beach. To my astonishment, the road leading up to the main road was not paved, and in a very bad condition. I put the air suspension to “very high”, but still had to be very careful not to scratch the bottom of the car at the rocks. This was really at the border of what I want to put my car through. But after you drove a bad road for a while and think that it has to improve any moment, it is hard to turn around and go back.
We arrived at the Palazzine Hotel in Vlore in the late afternoon. Vlore is by far the nicest place in Albania that we saw. It has a long beach full of hotels and restaurants. It is relatively clean, not as clean as in western Europe, but cleaner than the rest of the country. For about the same price we got a nice suite again. Despite the reassurances when booking and a week before the trip, the receptionist didn’t know anything about car charging. But she called a house keeper and a cook. They were extremely helpful, and didn’t stop searching until they found a suitable three phase plug in the upper kitchen. With my 10 meter extension cord it was just enough to reach the charging port of the car. The hotel has a beautiful terrace about 20 meters above the sea. From there we witnessed a scenic sunset while having a delicious and surprisingly cheap dinner.

day 5: Reaching Corfu

Shortly after leaving Vlore, we drove up a mountain pass road. On the way up, the forest looked almost like home to us. But the way down on the other side had totally different vegetation. It was a lot drier and steeper, going straight to the sea. There was a paragliding spot, but we didn’t have time. From there we could already see Corfu in the distance. Even if the straight line distance was not a lot, driving the curvy roads along the coast all the way to Igoumenitsa took a long time. Because we didn’t wand to wait an hour for the fairy which goes to the south of Corfu, we took the one to the north which left earlier. Only on the boat we realized how much longer this detour would take. Nonetheless we arrived at our holiday house shortly before dawn.

A week in Corfu

We spent a week in Corfu, visiting different beaches, the highest mountain, a castle built for Sissi and the main city. I couldn’t fly my paragllider, because I drove to the wrong town which sounded so similar. But I took some basic lessons for kite surfing. The feel for the wing I gained from paragliding helped a lot. But standing up on the board was not so easy for me. At the premise we had access to a regular household plug for charging the car. Since our trips on the island were usually not that long, the slow charging speed was enough.

Fairy to Brindisi

For the trip back home we took a fairy to Italy. This reduced our travel time considerably. I was told to be one hour before departure at the port, where I would get the real ticket in exchange for the voucher. At the entrance of the harbor, we asked where we would get that ticket, and they sent us back into the city. After some more misinformation, we barely made it onto the ship in time. I took the shortest fairy route because I wanted to produce the least amount of CO2. But we were still disgusted to see the dirty air exiting the exhaust of the fairy boat. My wive didn’t want to sleep on the boat, so we spent an extended afternoon looking at the calm sea, and trying to find food on a boat with only closed restaurants. Arriving in Brindisi, we drove until our hotel near Pescara with a dinner stop at the Cerignola Supercharger.

Back home

Like the first day, the last one of our holiday was a very long one with a lot of driving and traffic jams. We charged at the following Superchargers: Pescara, Fano, Modena, Melide. This time eating while charging worked out again as it usually does. When we approached Altdorf in the middle of the night, we discovered that the Axenstrasse is closed, and we thus had to drive all around lake Lucerne, adding yet another hour.

Navigation

I was curious about where the car would have internet connectivity, and how far the offline maps of the navigation system would reach. My guess was that connectivity would only be available in countries where Tesla has Superchargers, namely only as far as Croatia. I was almost correct. Luckily for us the car had connectivity also in Greece. In Montenegro and Albania the car had no Internet, leaving us with only the offline maps and without traffic information nor music streaming. No big deal, really. If it were not for a little problem we discovered when driving through Montenegro in the dark. As soon as the screen switched to night mode after the sun went down, the offline maps didn’t display any information other than the current route. At least it correctly recalculated the route when I missed a fork. A bit more context would be helpful, though.

A holiday that didn't start so well

Büssli

Our camper van suffered three ripped cooling water hoses in the last two months. Together with my brother who is the engineer in charge of maintaining our vehicles, we looked for the source of the troubles. Although not entirely sure, after a test ride I was confident that we found and fixed it. We even exchanged some hoses that looked worn as a precautionary measure.
So my wive and myself stuffed everything for our holiday on the Italian island of Elba into the van. Rather than at 11pm as initially planned, we left already at 4pm. That should give us some comfortable reserve to reach the ferry the next morning. Unfortunately, the cooling water warning light forced me to drive to a service area after only 30km. It was a ripped cooling water hose again. The guy from the breakdown service replaced it and performed a series of tests to make sure the cooling system worked properly. He told us we could move on, but we didn’t trust our Hippie Bus enough to drive all the way, after what happened.

XJS

So we returned home in order to perform another episode of How much luggage fits into a vintage grand tourer. With the Jaguar I drove trough the night. I did a few stops for drinks and toilet. After one stop in the early morning, not too far away from the port, the engine wouldn’t start. Oh shit, I had this a few years ago, and remember just too well, that the highly compressed V12 engine wouldn’t start with an ordinary bridging cable. Back then, the TCS guy had a super thick cable and I don’t know how many batteries in the trunk in order to kick start my car. So this time as a first measure, I bought a 500 Amp bridging cable at the gas station. We tried it with a couple of other cars. But through the narrow contact area of the clamps, there would just not come enough power to start the engine. So I called the breakdown service again. He came with an ordinary booster pack, and wouldn’t believe that an engine could require more energy to start than his booster pack could provide. So he brought us to his plumber shop. I asked them to install a charged battery. But they insisted that the problem must be somewhere else. So he carried us 20km to the next Jaguar repair shop. After a while they fitted a new battery, and all was well again. We could continue our journey with a six hours delay. We missed the ferry we booked, but it was no problem to take another one.

Elba

The time on Elba was great and without trouble. Water and air temperatures were very nice. It was the first time at the sea for Noah. He insisted on bringing his best shirt: “Mom told me it is only for special occasion. I’m going to see the sea for the first time. That is very special to me”. With Levin we were at the Dune du Pyla when he was 19 months old. He only remembered what we told him, and the photos we showed him. The water was super clear and flat for the most part. Only the last two days we got some small waves. To see all the beaches and caves, we went on a full day boat tour all around the island. A couple of times the boat stopped, and we could go for a swim. Another day we visited the oldest city on the island that we still remembered from the last time 8 years ago. But for the most part, we enjoyed the beach. The guys that were next to us at the camp side told us that every time we were away, people would take pictures of our hippie bus tent. Also when I was driving the Jaguar around in Italy or parking it, I often heard remarks containing words such as “belleza”. Somebody liked it so much that he wanted a souvenir, and stole all four tire valve caps.

Trip back home

The drive home was mostly smooth. Only once we had some worrying moments. That was when I climbed a small hill on the highway, and right in front of me there was a plastic gas canister on the road. It would have been too risky to perform an avoidance maneuver. So I centered on it, and hoped it would slip under the car. Instead we dragged it along. I was releaved that only one hundred meters ahead was an exit. By driving the right wheels on the sidewalk for a moment I could get rid of it.

A strange kind of holiday

It all started about two weeks ago when my wife discovered water on the kitchen floor that kept coming. The plumber who came immediately, found out that two parts of the waste pipe shifted out of each other, leaving a gap open. He told us that this must have happened two or three weeks earlier. During this time, the waste  water filled up the base of the kitchen, which turned out to be water tight. He sucked out all the water, and left one part of the base open, so that some air could ventilate. He also told us that probably we would get a giant hair drier installed to get the rest of the moisture out. Nothing happened for more than a week. The smell was disgusting, and we apologized to the guest at Levin’s birthday party. Our neighbour told us that the same thing happened to them last summer, and that they had 40° for some weeks in their kitchen as a result.

When the craftsmen came to inspect the kitchen, they discovered one giant mold fungus. Immediately, they sealed the kitchen from the rest of the flat and all the cupboards. They started to disassemble the kitchen and removed the appliances. Most of it would be replaced. They sprayed some poison to contain it. After they told us the whole flat would have to be sprayed, the house management together with the insurance decided that it would be best for us to move to a hotel for two weeks. The insurance organized it for us. It appears they asked some other hotels first which were fully booked. So we ended up in the best hotel in town, the Waldstätterhof. The breakfast is included, and it is a very nice and delicious buffet. The funniest part for us was the Prosecco bottle next to the fruit juices. We usually don’t make holidays in such exclusive places, but we know it from special events such as the Musical we go to almost every year.

The insurance even pays for the additional costs we have because we can’t cook at home. But he asked us not to eat at the noble restaurants downstairs all the time. Of course we don’t want to exploit the situation, but because Levin had a surgery the day before we had to leave home, we cannot go outside all the time. The first day we ordered some food from lieferservice.ch at seewendays.ch that I could pay with BitCoin. The second day, I bought a warm chicken in the local grocery store. For the rest of the week, Mirella organized to have the meals delivered from the hospital. I must confess, it feels awkward to walk into the lobby of a four star hotel with a hot chicken in the backpack to eat at the room. But yesterday we went to the restaurant downstairs for once. It wasn’t cheap, but delicious.

The kids enjoy the adventure, especially because we rarely have so much time to play with them. Levin got a dinosaur skeleton to excavate from Santa Claus the day we left. So we went to the big hotel terrace to carve out the artificial bones from the enclosing gypsum. He was totally excited as the bones started to get released. Yesterday, we assembled a KAKU robot. Putting the parts together was easy. I had to do most steps, but the boys could help here and there. Noah walks around full of pride with the enclosed emblem. As all the manuals and information I found are in Chinese, its not always easy to find the required information. But the programming system ArduBlocks is exactly what I have been waiting for since I learned about the Scratch programming language.

 

Back from Holidays

We’re back from our family holiday on the French atlantic coast. We were at the Dune du Pyla, europ’s biggest sand dune. It’s a big playground for children as well as adults hanging below a paraglider wing. Conditions were good on three days to fly on the big dune. So I trained touching the flat slope with the wing tip without hitting the sand myself. Levin did his first four hour kayak trip, of which he slept more than an hour.

I wasn’t so cut off from the internet for a long time…

Levin in Action