Photo catch up

Assorted other photos from Berlin, London & Warsaw.

Steamy Warsaw

Some shots close to the Marriott hotel when they were cleaning out the heating pipes one day:

Babka’s patriotic erection

Babka's patriotic erection

Babka’s patriotic erection

Imagine my surprise.

I’ve not been out for a while thanks to the near death experience of a bad cold. It didn’t seem like long enough for anyone to mess with the city but as I approached rondo babka or “Zdenerwowany Cholera Jasna” as it is now called I could see was wrong. While I was away someone had started erecting something huge.

Giant cranes. Large, shiny, white, structural steel pointing at the sky. Virgin Galactic launch site? Giant ray-gun to zap those ignorant fuckers who keep blocking the junction? Apparently neither. According to this article from Gazeta Wyborcza it is to be a super-massive Freedom Mast sporting a Polish flag with the emblem of the Warsaw Uprising.

Now I don’t mind gigantic modern city landmarks as long as it is tastefully done, actually has some artistic merit or other redeeming features appropriate to its size and placement and is somehow properly planned (voted for even) and regulated. This appears to be none of those things and is the plaything of a couple of presumably well connected and wealthy businessmen.

The Uprising, important as it clearly was, already has a huge memorial over at plac Krasinskich, not to mention a very nice museum and goodness knows how many other smaller monuments dotted around town. Does it really need more visibility. I mean 60m high annoying visibility? The answer is no but the Uprising, like John Paul II, is one of those things you can use as a mask for exercising your own ego, like a get out of jail free card for statues, monuments and the like. Nobody is going to argue about it and most people will like it so if you’re a rich, well connected person and you want to erect a giant copy of your own penis in the Old Town Square, no problem, just make sure it’s got an Uprising logo on it or a likeness of JPII etched one one side and you’ll be good to go.

Is this just an overreaction to the amount of publicity the opening of the new Jewish Museum has been getting recently?


Well it’s all happening around here, isn’t it.

Zosia was put in hospital this evening to treat her for pneumonia. She’s been coughing for a couple of weeks. Nothing obviously nasty but it wasn’t going away. Roughly half way through she seemed to be getting better but I took her to the quack anyway who prescribed what another doctor has now told us is a completely useless syrup. Well, it was useless because she started getting worse so we took her again today, to our normal pediatrician (also Medicover like the first one) who immediately diagnosed pneumonia, backed up by an X-ray.

He showed us the X-ray and it was clearly quite a bad infection in the right lung. No fluid yet though so it seems we have caught it at the right time.

Immediate hospitalization, a little OTT to be honest but ever since I got this VIP tag they have always erred on the safe side. I just spoke to Marta and they are already in action with the treatment. So mum and Zosia are sleeping in the hospital tonight and hopefully will get them home in a few days. I will of course be visiting!


Nissan Qashqai 2010 clutch failure

We got Marta’s Qashqai in mid 2010 and generally speaking it’s been a good car. Has to be said though that since the guarantee ran out, about a year ago, it has needed more attention than I expected. Whether this is just coincidence or they built the car with a three year lifespan I don’t know but either way it is annoying.

As the reliability, or lack of, of the Nissan drops off the cost of having work done at the official dealer (in our case, Odyssey) rises. One also begins to question whether their attitude to what work is required changes once the three year clock has ticked. Thankfully, after the guarantee runs out there is less, or even no need to use the dealer and after the latest episode that’s what we’ve decided to do.

The primary point of this post is to put something out there for people searching for clutch problems with a Nissan Qashqai because I’m convinced Nissan are behaving badly here. Also perhaps a warning about the dealer Odyssey. From day one the gear change in the Qashqai was the worst part of the car. There was nothing actually wrong with it but it was a long way from the crispness you might expect from a German car, or the Toyota, or a Ford or just about any other car. It had that air of stirring porridge and hoping for the best. Slight exaggeration but makes the point. Early on this was mentioned to Odyssey who basically said they are all like that so…that’s it.

Over time it slowly got worse but throughout the guarantee period there was never a mention that something should be done about it. At the last service, the first one out of guarantee, suddenly Odyssey were full of great advice about all the things that needed to be done – primarily the clutch and the brakes (discs). They quoted 4,500 PLN with a caveat that it depended what they found when they opened up. We declined their generous offer.


Fast forward a couple of months and Marta is involved in a non-injurious head-on with a batty woman who said she had the sun in her eyes, but kept pulling out into the main street anyway! The Qashqai went into the garage for a fair bit of front body work. This was kind of good news because it meant we got a dent in the front wing repaired for free. Hurrah for small mercies. The work was organised by Odyssey.

When the car was returned the clutch problem had significantly worsened to the point it was hard to drive the car at all. I think the best description is that it was slipping badly as there seemed no relation between engine speed and car speed. My wife mentioned this but again nobody was prepared to take ownership. The car was moving and that’s good enough. Presumably the front end shunt has just made an existing problem worse. Pre-existing condition = our problem.

Prior to the smash, we had been talking with the in-laws about the work that needed doing and they mentioned they had a great mechanic down in the woods south of Warsaw where their cottage is. We asked what his price might be for the things Odyssey wanted 4,500 for and his price was 1,500. With the car now largely useless we took it down immediately so the mechanic in the woods could get it fixed.

The Qashqai comes home tomorrow after having all manner of work done and a total bill of 5,400! The in-laws are distraught that they appear to have been responsible for more than trebling the cost and are going out of their way to make up for it. They even went as far as checking with Odyssey what their price was for the work the guy in the woods has done. Their price was 11,000! The main problem seems to be the flywheel, which comes as a combo with some other part and that part alone costs 6,000 from Odyssey or 4,000 in the woods. Add to that the brake discs and a long list of other stuff (won’t know exactly until tomorrow) and you get a significantly larger job and bill than expected.

We do not blame the in-laws in any way, all they have done is be extremely helpful. Both my father in law and his mate Janusz are better mechanics than I will ever be so I trust their judgement implicitly. Interestingly, mechanic in the woods feels as I do, and as I mentioned more than once to Marta, that this was a problem right from the beginning.

Switch to Google and searches for “Qashqai clutch” and there is no shortage of people with similar problems to ourselves. Clutches that fail far earlier than you expect. No action being taken by Nissan or dealers. Get out of jail free cards being thrown around like “it’s the way you drive” or “it’s normal wear and tear” which are actually pretty hard to argue against no matter how much bullshit you know them to be.

So. We shall see how the new improved Qashqai drives tomorrow. If everything has been properly fixed it should be a damned fine car. I also expect our fuel bill will be noticeably lower as we won’t be wasting engine power anymore.

Here are the conclusions I have come to:
1/ Nissan are hiding something. These clutches were a problem and they knew it. A recall would have been nice but no doubt the cost or replacing millions of clutches (the Qashqai is a best seller) was something they decided to avoid, mainly because pinning the blame on them was not going to be easy.
2/ The dealer was hiding something.
3/ Nissan can go screw themselves when we come to replace the car.
4/ Odyssey can screw themselves too.
5/ (assuming a good job has been done) the mechanic in the woods is now our go-to car repair guy.

The journey home

Praise where it is due, this is the first year I can say that the Polish roads were NOT the worst of the holiday. In the past, the difference between highway heaven Czech, Austria and Italy and medieval horse and cart Poland was striking but those days are gone (depending on your destination and route).

The worst driving this year on a country level was in Czech and on a local level the E45 in Italy. In terms of a fully joined up highway system Poland is still the loser but now they have finally completed what was the biggest problem, the highway connection between Ostrava in Czech and Poland (A1), there are only a couple of pieces missing now:

> final improvements (turning S1 into A1) between Katowice Airport, through Czestochowa and up to Piotrkow Tribunalski
> connecting the A1 to the A2 around Lodz.

Despite this, the roads in their current state are an extremely significant improvement on what they used to be and I can honestly say the drive from Ostrava to Warsaw was a pleasure. Must be said we were lucky with Czestochowa though. This could be a major spanner in your works, as it was with us on the way down. Mind you, the old McDonalds at the traffic lights junction in Czestochowa will be missed as a convenient point for a break.

Let us all pray to the Gods of the EU for proving the funds to do this and also give thanks that nasty encounters with Chinese or otherwise contractors were no worse than they were!

I predict, or perhaps repeat what I have said earlier, that building highways with only two lanes will quickly become a very obvious mistake. This is the golden period for driving in Poland – highways are pretty much built but are not clogged with traffic. Make the most of it.

The Czech Republic got off to a bad start by taking three hours or more to clear an accident in Brno on our way down. On the way back there was no repeat but they had decided to do roadworks to every stretch of motorway near to big cities – Brno, Olomouc, Ostrava – which wasted at least an hour. They then brought on the remnants hurricane Bertha with such downpours of rain that driving was almost impossible. Add to this the psychopathic and apparently inexhaustible army of lunatic Skoda drivers and Czech takes the prize, by a long way.

Italy was okay. It can get very sticky around Bologna and they have the never ending roadworks between Venice and Palmanova but neither of these held us up. It was interesting watching the clouds and the temperature as we rose from Palmanova through Udine and up into the Alps.


The clouds got blacker and more menacing, as you can see, and the temperature dropped from what had been a steady 30C down to 18C at times. The holiday was definitely over!

Driving in Austria was fine apart from all the limits of 100 or 80 km/hr for tunnels and mountain bends, of which there are many, and the fact that everyone follows the rules. The only thing to annoy us in Austria was my car, again!


This warning had come on a couple of times on the drive but only momentarily when navigating twisty entrances and exits from the highway. On the flat it went off again and stayed off so I ignored it. After we checked out of the hotel in Vienna….


….and started the car in their car park the warning light was immediately on. Just for kicks I called Arval Nonsistance who assured me they would call their Austrian people who would come and recover my car. I explained that all I needed was some coolant liquid and didn’t have time to bugger around. They said they would get right on it.

An hour later I had found a garage open on what was an Austrian Bank Holiday, taken a taxi there and come back with a liter of coolant, filled the thing, eliminated the warning light and was ready to go. I called them again to see how they were getting on. They were getting nowhere. We left.

The only annoyance between there and what I’ve written above was that bloody silly missing bit of highway between Mistelbach in Austria and Pohorelice in Czech. One lane, pretty much zero overtaking opportunity and enough trucks to cause a problem. It was actually on this stretch that the Czechs played their trump card. A section of roadworks just by Aqualand Moravia where they had removed the tarmac and then cut a series of deep grooves into the road meaning anyone not driving a hovercraft had to go very slowly so as not to break something. This led to at least a 5km tailback in the direction we were going and at least 45 mins delay. There was nobody actually working on the road. Looking at the map now it was pretty easy to avoid this by taking a different route – bad SatNav lady!

The final tally for the holiday was 4,500 km (2,800 miles), roughly the same as driving from New York to San Francisco.