Friday, September 15, 2017

Top sauna day

 Photos © Vitae Wellness, Leiden

It was a great day, the monthly high level (13th floor) sauna tradition with the younger generation. Location: the Vitae Wellness in Leiden, Netherlands. Our ritual: steam room, coffee, sauna, pool, coffee, steam room, sauna, pool, lunch. Today: fish soup and panini with smoked salmon and crab salad, an Erdinger white beer for me and a La Trappe Isid'or for the younger generation to go with that. And endless conversations. It is a privilege. Photo shows the pool and our favorite sauna cabin.

Apparently marketing people want us to know that such a day of nudity in the best possible taste should inspire to more daring endeavours. Because leaving the elevator to go to the car there was a not so subtle sign reminding us of the upcoming Kamasutra fair...

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Australia and the Petrov Affair, it all started with a Škoda

In December 1953 a wrecked Škoda triggered a series of unfortunate events, that resulted in the cutting of diplomatic ties between Moscow and Australia for five years. This is the story of a political car – and if anyone knows some more of these stories, I'd like to hear them.

 Facts: On December 23, 1953, Laventi Beria, former head of the Soviet secret service MVD (later KGB) was found guilty of treason, and executed that same day. One day later, Christmas Eve, a burned out Škoda belonging to the Russian embassy, used by embassy staffer Vladimir Petrov, was found on the side of a rural road near Canberra, the capital of Australia. On Christmas Day, Vladimir Petrov, who was assigned to the Soviet embassy together with his wife Evdokia Petrova in 1951, reported to the police claiming he was run down from the road by a red truck. The Petrovs were no regular diplomats, but spies working for the MVD, and sent to Canberra by Beria. Police investigations concluded however that though the car was turned over and burned out, there were no signs of it having collided with another vehicle.
A few days later, Vladimir Petrov defected to the Australian secret police ASIO, and agreed to tell everything he knew about Soviet spies and their contacts in Australia. As a 'Beria man' he feared for his life when returning to the USSR, and claimed that the alleged collision was a murder attempt. But Petrov had not informed his wife...

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Toyota dashboard memories

Waiting for my father, sitting in the passenger seat of his new 1970 Toyota Corolla, I was quietly admiring the beauty of the modern dash of the small car. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder for sure, but that simple white metal dash with its two big gauges surrounded by a piece of black plastic, looked like nothing else in the entire automotive world for me as a young 12 year old at that moment. Because this was my father's first new car in many years. And with each subsequent new car, at an average interval of every two years back then, I witnessed progress in technology and luxury. How easily satisfied we were.

A Japanese family happily enjoying their late 1960s Corolla.
The 1970 car my father owned for a couple of months had a slightly different grille.

Of course, that Corolla was not a marvel of advancement. It was modestly handsome, and the Japanese early fame for offering a lot for bargain money was somehow lost on this car. It offered nothing. Not even headrests. And this Corolla did not last long with us. It was part of the household for a mere three months. When my father ordered his car, nobody knew that a new Corolla, the swoopy 1971 model, was waiting to be launched. And boy, was that new model an improvement over the old one. Flashy styling, bigger, and my father immediately felt old school with his 1970 Corolla. Since he worked at a Toyota dealership, he could order the new 1971 model while selling the 1970 Corolla without a loss. So, what did bring the 1971 car us, except new styling? Well, actually not a lot. Still the rear wheel drive setup with leaf springs at the back and recirculating ball steering. But wait, there was nylon carpeting and two vents at the far ends of the dash, which was now a black plastic affair. And the seats had fixed headrests, which made this car's cabin look like nothing else available then. Otherwise, there was nothing. No rear window demister. No tinted windows. No trim. Not even seat belts. But to compensate all that, it was bright yellow! “I saw your dad driving a big car”, someone in my class said to me. “What is it?” Well, a Corolla...

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Tucker Tesla – no future for Elon Musk's cars

Elon Musk spoke, and European countries have a nervous breakdown. Tesla is planning a 'megafactory' in Europe. No surprise that every country and region is flirting with Tesla now. Poor Brexit Britain, it disqualified itself, but for the others it will be a winter and spring full of suspense until Mr. Musk will speak again. And to the winner I will say, enjoy it while it lasts. Because anyone who is familiar with the Tucker story, knows how the Tesla adventure will end. Musk and his companies will be there in our future, but Tesla won't. So, if you want a Tesla megafactory within your borders, you better start thinking about future re-employment and outsourcement programs as well. 

Tesla Model S

I have never driven a Tesla Model S. Frankly, I'd love to be behind the wheel of one, if only for an hour. The Tesla Model S has become a common car on Dutch roads, helped by massive tax incentives. Apparently, it is even the best selling car in Norway. Which is cheeky, since Norway was the homeland of an early, small and capable electric vehicle, the Th!nk. Yes, that acclamation mark is correct, that's what the marketing guys came up with. Briefly owned by Ford, but when it was on its own feet again, it stumbled. Too bad, I've seen 'm managing high and steep Swiss mountain roads.