Working Holiday

So my brother and I (well, mostly him, with my support) bought this little place in Slovenia.  Tiny house, 4 500 square meters of wine grapes, nice view, nice people, low cost (not kidding) of living…

Except it needs a bit of work. For rather large values of “a bit”. And since we needed to be there to sort out banking nonsense anyway, and with Ethiopian offering R7500 return flights to Vienna, off we went.

First thing to know is, you don’t hire a car in Austria. Actually, you don’t do anything involving money in Austria. The place is expensive. So we caught a bus from the airport to Maribor.

Austria is very scenic.

We enjoyed looking at the scenery…

Got to Maribor, hired a car, did some shopping (this is a recurring theme), drove to Globoka.

Now the main problem is that the little house is tiny. It was built as a “summer getaway” in the eighties, when a whole lot of this kind of thing apparently happened. But now, the people who built them are passing on and their children have no interest, so they go on the market for not a whole lot of money.

But we got basically a bachelors with a toilet, no bath or shower. I make it about 28 square meters, all in.

Fortunately there’s a lot of space in the roof, so armed with our newly-bought ladder (from Hofer) I climbed up there and started throwing out junk.

Lots of junk.

The attic space is quite roomy, but the cross beams were too low for us 6’4″ types. In the picture you will see I’ve moved the second beam from the wall up to give about 6’5″ clearance. I did this to all the cross beams except the first and last one, which are not in the way.

In the mean time, of course, we did quite a bit of shopping, eating and drinking (routine was, work until 11 or so when the roofspace got too hot, go shopping in the afternoon).

The next task was to install the loft ladder (bought from Jager, and featuring prominently at supper).

Serendipitously, the “rustic” (not my word) floor planking had been installed in such a way to make it easy to install the ladder where we wanted it, even though we had decided on the spot before inspecting the roof. This…. rarely happens. We saw it as a good omen.

The jigsaw and battery drill came from home. Everything else (electric drill, electric saw, hammer, crowbar…) we bought there.

And after more shopping to get the štirideset little screws I needed, I could screw the planks I removed back on to the cover for a neat-ish finish. Later we went shopping and got some cover strips to cover the gap.

In the mean time Pieter had cleaned the kitchen, so we proceeded to drink and cook and in general un-tidy things again.

Then we went shopping again (I didn’t keep notes, but I am pretty sure of this).

A roll of plastic and a cheap staplegun, to keep most of the dust out (we hope).

What did we do on the 24th? Well, we went shopping… but we also braaied. Sausages and chicken, since the closest thing to steak we could find looked too much like silverside so we passed on that.

And braaibroodjies, of course!

It was a beautiful day.

We have also figured out how to add a shower (it involves moving the toilet and basin), now we have to do just that. And we also need to put in a septic tank (the place currently has a holding tank which needs to be pumped every now and then, which would have been OK if it didn’t smell like the devil’s armpit) and Lohra wants a sliding door and maybe we need a larger window upstairs and and and… guess it won’t be long before we’re in Slovenia again.




Working Holiday, again

Remember this picture from last year? You should, I blog a whole lot less than I used to…

Well, it now looks like this:

The knotty pine ceiling boards are from Germany, via the Bauhaus in Varaždin, Croatia (Varaždin is actually the closest big city to us, closer than Murska Sobota).

Also in the works, new flooring (click vinyl, a bitch to work with if the surface you’re laying it on is not level (the surface I’m laying it on is not level)) and (most importantly) a shower.

Turkish Air

So this time we flew with Turkish Airlines, Cape Town to Zagreb via Istanbul. Quite a nice flight, in that the first leg is long and the second quite short, unlike the Ethiopian Air flight which wakes you up halfway through to change planes.

Also, Turkish gives you 40 kilos baggage allowance, which meant I could bring a mess of brass fittings and some poly water pipe and more — because a brass elbow which costs me R12 at the Muizenberg market costs pretty damn close to 12 Euros here and at a 16:1 exchange rate (this was before Squirrel caused more kuk) that’s a big saving.

But the leg room is atrocious. No seriously, if you’re like 5’2″ I will recommend Turkish, but for us six footers it’s ridiculous. I normally travel with my rucksack under my legs and my feet kicked under the seat in front of me. Not on Turkish, oh no. Only one place for the rucksack, and that’s overhead. And even then there’s no room to move.

And look at the nice menu you get. You know what? In the end it’s chicken or beef (in this case, chicken, and maybe veg lasagne if you ask nicely — we were not given the option). And the food’s worse than Ethiopian’s, which makes it pretty much piss poor (for the record, I think Ethiopian Air’s food is not bad at all, given the challenges).


We’re South Africans, we need a stoep so we can braai.

Bricks are easy, you go down to the Mercator Tehnica, point at the picture in their book, and say “potrebujem dveiset” or whatever number you need and before you know it they’ve loaded them into the kombi* and you’re good to go. Pretty much the same for the cement slabs, except that we got them from the Bauhaus in Varaždin.

We used wide and narrow bricks to form little interlocks of concrete to hopefully hold things together.

But to get concrete delivered we had to go through a few intermediaries. Anton, who drives the lorry, speaks no English. We asked Branco to ask Anton to deliver two cubes. After the first cube we realised we only needed half a cube more, so we phoned Branco who phoned Anton and fortunately the message went through.

In Slovenia there’s no doubt as to who is going to do the work. You are going to do the work. Moving a cube and a half by hand is hard work.

Looks good though.


* We bought a kombi. T4, 5 cylinder diesel, from some farmers (really decent people) in Kranj. Transferred it at 19:00 the evening (DMV open until eight or something), got insurance at the same office, and we were good to go. Even better, when we parked the kombi and came home, we handed the plates in and they credited us with the remaining licence fees for the rest of the year, and we only have to pay licence fees again when we are there and back on the road.


So I bought a Tesla hybrid

A red one.

It’s a Type 4159 AB “Pluto” made in Czechoslovakia in the early eighties. Basically a 12V DC set, with a built-in transformer to turn 220V mains into 12V DC. This makes it nice and heavy — fortunately Turkish Air gives you 40kg baggage allowance.

They also bounce the bags quite a bit. Even wrapped in bubbles and spare clothing it still took a bit of strain. Fortunately the picture tube neck didn’t snap.

The story: we were in Prague, and it was a Sunday, and I had heard that there were flea markets all over the place, and the closest open one seemed to be Žižkov. So I got a tram ticket and headed off there.

Not as big as I thought it would be. They did however seem to have a rather large selection of lawnmowers.

Anyway, found the TV and two Metra Blansko multimeters (a PU-120 and a PU-140) for 15 euros.

The good news: It powers up. The bad news: Can’t get a station. The good news: I have the User Manual and Technical Manual. The bad news: It’s not in English.

If I could shoot like I drill

So I needed to drill three holes for three brackets to fix a vertical breather pipe to the outside of the wall. About a meter and a half apart, above one another.

And while drilling the second hole, a flash of sparks comes out the hole and the drill stops running.

Yup, plumb on the main feed between the pole and the DB inside the house.

And by plumb I mean plumb.

Murphy is alive and well in Globoka.

Fortunately there is another fuse between the pole and this spot. Replaced that fuse, sealed the hole with silicone, plastered over it.

A long time ago, Bob Hoover (no, not that one) needed a way to get home after delivering a car, and negotiations happened, and he bought a VW Microbus (sight unseen) with the idea of fixing it up and driving it home.

Things went badly downhill from there*.

But he ended up driving it home**.

What feels like a long time ago, we bought a T4 kombi in Slovenia, abused it hauling bricks and tiles and planks and stuff from Varaždin and other places, drove it to Prague and back and then to Budapest and back (7l/100km all the way!) and parked it for a few months at the end of that holiday. Said few months turned into two years and quite a bit of change. Armed with temporary plates and jumper leads, we went to get it… and it started up immediately, no jumpers needed.

Things went badly downhill from there.

You see, Bob’s Grendel had a badly seized back brake drum after being parked in a field for a number of years. He had a hella time getting that sorted out.

Our Grendel had developed a bad case of completely rusted and seized back brake disks while being parked in a dry barn for a couple years. I have no idea why. What I do know is it took a rather long pipe and some delicate (hah! Surely I jest) hammer-and-chisel just to get the wheelnuts off, and a lot more hammer work to remove the calipers.

And the driver’s side (this is Europe), up against the wall where a dog couldn’t piss on it even, was worse. So that wasn’t it. Also the resident dog is female. And the barn was locked.

So I got onto the interwebs and found a “local” website, being — .si is Slovenia, right? Nope, they’re in Germany and the parts get dispatched from Poland. My order placed on the fifth eventually landed on the twelfth. The internet is a lie.

Anyway, parts arrived — calipers, disks and pads — for a total of  149.81 Euro (buying new calipers was easier than buying a caliper windback tool or doing it with a G-clamp and a vice grip, both of which I would have had to buy in any case).

Fitted those, much swearing and abuse of tools specifically bought to solve the problem at hand (six point sockets and a breaker bar) and I had the new brakes fitted, and the kombi was on the road.

Unlike Bob’s tale, our story takes a downhill turn from here. We drove back to Ljutomer and left the kombi with Boštjan Kralj at the local (Renault) service station. Problem is by now we had less than a week left in the country, and in addition to re-doing the front brakes and replacing the exhaust pipe, they also reckoned that we would need to replace all the metal brake pipe lines under the chassis. All stuff that I can do, easily, but by now I had learned that parts take a week to 10 days to arrive, this was Monday, and our tickets were for Friday.

Combine that with also needing a place to park the kombi*** until Pieter returns next year (assuming no further Covid crazy) and it made sense to sell the kombi to one of the dudes at the garage. He got a damn good deal out of it, but there’s going to be a lot of soaking stuff in WD-40 and maybe even applying the blue-tip wrench here and there.

It was good while it lasted. Farewell, PartyBus.

* Go here, fast forward to page 212, spend a few days reading. Or read all of it. Bob wrote well.

** And the fsck up to Alaska the next year. It’s all in the Sermons. Go. Read.

***There happens to be one garage for sale in Ljutomer. They want 6000 Euro. That’s about 2000 Euro more than it’s worth, i.e. not a good investment.