With good will, this year's North German summer could be viewed as the Low German equivalent of the tropical rainy season. If you ignore the temperatures. It was really wet and not very summery. So what do you do when you have some time and are in the mood to get going?
Exactly, you go to where it is beautiful. With the SAAB.
At the beginning of September it was time to go out into the sun if she didn't want to come here. The destination was Brela on the Croatian Adriatic coast, about 50 kilometers south of Split. The place is clearly large and is located directly on the Adriatic.
At half past three in the morning the packed 9-3 from 2002 set off from Lüneburg, via Magdeburg - Hof - Regensburg - Wels - Graz to Ptuj in Slovenia for an overnight stay. The ride was solid, comfortable and quiet. I probably don't need to tell anyone here. And the hatchback easily fits 14 days of luggage for two people, including sun loungers with cushions, a folding table and a cool box.
Ptuj is located in one of Slovenia's “wine districts”, with views of picturesque mountain ranges, the Drava and a friendly, small old town. Ideal for switching off after an eleven-hour drive.
The following day we continued to the destination via autoput. The descent from the Dalmatian Mountains towards Dubrovnik was impressive. Electronic display bridges warned people to keep to 40 km/h because of “wind”. At first I dismissed it as an overly cautious warning; as is often the case in Germany, when these bridges simply have to display something because of their raison d'être.
Or, unfortunately, show “traffic jams” far too often, which is why one often actually arises, even though previously there was only dense but flowing traffic.
That was different here. “Wind” was literally true. Downdrafts that blew violently and required holding the steering wheel. Even the locals didn't drive faster than 70, and that's saying something. Is the 9-3 floor susceptible to crosswinds? No, I would say. You have to counteract, but you don't get pushed out of your lane. A very impressive experience that lasted many kilometers.
Brela was reached in the afternoon. We rented a nice holiday apartment from which you can reach the beach directly via 100 steps. Unfortunately you have to climb these 100 steps again, but that's another story. The 9-3 had a box seat under a pine tree overlooking the Adriatic.
A little household tip in between: The best way to remove resin stains from the paint is to rub the resin with a little butter and wait about an hour. You can then easily wipe away the softened and dissolved resin on the buttered side of the SAAB.
Clear, green-blue water, sun at 30 degrees in the shade, that was the balance for our northern summer. You can choose a quiet location or more busy beaches. Depending on how you like it. You never run for longer than 20 minutes. Beautiful, several kilometers long, more or less fine pebble beaches alternate with rocks, so there is definitely a beach spot for everyone.
There are also plenty of culinary delights in town. We were particularly impressed by one establishment: the beach restaurant “La Bomba” with a terrace right on the beach and an outdoor grill. Čevapčićí, sea bream, grilled sea bass, with chard potatoes or grilled vegetables, salad and wine or beer. The waves roar in the background, accompanied by Yugoslavian hits and pop music, of which the disco number “Pusti, Pusti Modu” by Zdravko Čolić particularly stuck in your ears.
And so almost every evening ended there after an impressive sunset with good food, perfect service and a drink.
Were we just in one place? No of course not. You also want to see a little more. Trips took us to Split, the island of Korčula and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Despite the waning season, Split was still heavily visited by tourists, primarily from Italy, but also from the USA, as we suspected from the language and accent. And if you didn't know exactly, you would think you were in Italy when you looked at the buildings. Which is certainly not insignificant due to the history of the city.
The situation is similar in Korčula, a small, friendly town on the island of the same name, which can be reached from the mainland by car ferry. Our route led south along the Cost Road to just before Neum, a small Bosnian-Herzegovinian part of the Adriatic coast. Until a few years ago you had to drive through there on the way south; with mandatory border controls for just a few kilometers of transit. With Chinese help, Croatia has now built a kind of bypass road that connects one of the islands directly to the mainland.
By the way, the path here leads through a wine-growing region, unmistakable by the many signs and this nicely laid out “rest stop”:
For the trip to Bosnia we chose the Kravice Waterfalls and Mostar. The waterfalls were recommended by the waiters at my favorite restaurant “Marjan-Grill” in Berlin. And they were right: it's worth seeing. The water masses pour over the edge of a semicircle into a lake, you could almost say: Niagara in miniature.
I was very excited about Mostar, I was there once in 2019. Tourism has noticeably developed further; and of course you notice that you are in an Islamic country, the minarets of the mosques cannot be overlooked. That's why you can also find some tourists from Arab countries there. This story is not that simple, the interested reader can form his or her own opinion. This does not harm the country and its people. Bosnia is a really beautiful country, always worth a trip.
And Mostar is a must.
During the season, bridge jumpers can be found on the Old Town Bridge, which was destroyed by Croats during the Yugoslav Wars and later rebuilt. Daring and dizzying men collecting money from tourists. Once you have collected 50 euros, you jump into the Neretva. It's worth waiting for it and positioning yourself below the bridge for it.
Our way back from Mostar to Brela took us along side roads through forests and mountains, past breathtaking views.
Had to refuel on the way. The lonely gas station on the country road was equipped with new gas pumps some time ago. These advertised Shell Optimax (Link) and displayed all information in German. That's also sustainability, especially since I had to pay for the gas in marks. Convertible Bosnian Mark.
The gas station operation reminded me of the long-defunct Texaco gas station in my hometown about 40 years ago. Functions.
And while we're at it: My co-driver Jaroslaw tried to determine the number of Golf IIs that were coming towards us or that we generally saw. He later gave up. Part of the fleet was built directly in the country at the VW joint venture in Sarajevo.
The other part apparently came directly from Germany. It feels like 80% of the car fleet is made up of the Golf II. That was very, very impressive. And – in addition to many commercial vehicles – there were also really excellently prepared treasures. SAAB, however... I didn't see any. But you didn't feel out of place with the 9-3 floor, on the contrary: it fit into the picture. And you got an impression of what it meant in Germany at the time compared to the Golf II, which was also widely used there.
Even the most beautiful trip comes to an end. And so we left Bosnia in the last evening light at Lake Buško.
And the vacation was soon over and we went back north. This time we made the stopover in Vienna after a somewhat strenuous journey in the return traffic of many Croatia holidaymakers from Poland and the Czech Republic.
Freshly strengthened, we continued home the following day via Brno and Prague. And in Prague we came across another SAAB after we hadn't seen a single one since we left home. On the city highway in Prague, a black 9-5 station wagon OG I appeared in the rearview mirror. He pulled over and walked alongside, father and son apparently. We drove parallel for a short time, there was a wave and an exchange of gestures about the two beautiful cars, then we parted ways again.
Conclusion of the trip: the 9-3 OG is a very pleasant touring car with a large luggage compartment, which is still fresh even at 21 years old and is suitable for such tours. The Croatian Adriatic coast is a very pleasant place to stay if you are tired of the constant pouring rain and on the other hand want to avoid finding beach sand in your clothes. And the local excursion destinations show you how beautiful this part of Europe is, how much effort the people there put into keeping the country and life going.
And as I write this, I look out the window and see... pouring steady rain. I think it's time to organize your next vacation...