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Model S roadtrip: From Germany to Israel and Jordan

Note: I posted this roadtrip diary to the German Tesla forum TFF originally in May 2018 in German language but since I still "owe" a few people an English version I'm now finally taking the time to translate it into English and post it here on TMC in January 2020 as well. :)


After my wife and I visited Moldova (in German) with our Model S 85D in 2017, and I had travelled to Portugal, Gibraltar and Andorra (in German) (from DeC to DeC) shortly before that, and made a roadtrip to the inofficial SuC in Moscow the year before it was time for a new electric car adventure for 2018.

As I was pondering which interesting destinations are reachable by car I remembered that some SuCs were built in Jordan already back in 2015 and that maybe it would be fun to visit them. But: Reachable by car? By road you would have to pass through Lebanon or Syria to arrive in Israel or Jordan. Too dangerous. And even if it wasn't dangerous: The border Lebanon-Israel is closed. Syria-Jordan would be possible, but, well...

Upon further research I found out that there is exactly one affordable way to get into the desired area with your own car: Onboard a freighter! In particular: With Grimaldi Freightercruises. The Italian shipping company Grimaldi offers something called "slow travel" on a few dozen of their freighter ships. That means you can travel on the ship (usually a car freighter), optionally together with your own vehicle, in one of the 5-10 cabins which are available for passengers. There is no entertainment program, there's just you, the crew, your cabin and you'll get served food 3 times a day. For people who really want to take a time out. Perfect for reading all those books that you purchased over the years but never managed to read and put in your bookshelf for sometime later. :) There are several routes (PDF): Europe, Africa, South America, you name it. For our purpose there was just one route a match: "ADRIATIC SEA". Board in Monfalcone, Italy and exit in Ashdod, Israel. The crossing was supposed to take 7-8 days. Sounded good! Never done before, why not try something new. Surely it would have been possible to ship the car just by itself but making the trip together with the car was better for the environment, and we could save a flight. But, it turned out not as planned...

Start of the trip was on April 21st in Frankfurt, Germany. First overnight stay was in Innsbruck, Austria. What a beautiful city and amazing views, wow!

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The ship was scheduled to depart on April 24th in Monfalcone, Italy, so we had 2 days left to spend somehow. Therefore we made a short visit to Verona and Venice and visited all of the SuCs on the way. Charging-wise it wasn't necessary to visit all of them, but I wanted to see them (again). :)

SuC Brennero, Italy:

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SuC Trento, Italy:

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SuC Affi, Italy - this is where an Italian approaches me, in a Mercedes or Audi sedan with a German car dealership license plate and says "Bellissima machina ... do you want to sell this car?" :)

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SuC Verona, Italy (no pic taken) - Verona in the evening:

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Stayed in a small hotel near SuC Mogliano Veneto, Italy, quickly charged a bit there (no pic taken), then on to Venice:

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Trying a Gondola - not bad :) :

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Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy:

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Parking garage San Marco, Venice, rate is 32 EUR per day including electricity. 2x DeC in the ground floor and some more in the upper floors. When we arrived there was a fossil next to us, when we got back an Italian P100DL with a red Tesla-T instead. Then, the last SuC in Europe: Palmanova, Italy (no pic taken).

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The next day in Monfalcone, Italy...

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...the time had finally come: our freighter FIDES had arrived! (Link at Grimaldi -> Class "Spes"). A "vehicles carrier". We had plenty of Fiat on board, but also Mercedes, Porsche etc... the cars were being shipped from A to B via C. There was no 100% comprehensible system in terms of loading/unloading. And there also wasn't a 100% fixed route, as we should painfully find out soon. :) Live tracking of FIDES over at marinetraffic.com: Link

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The car was going to stay here in that corner for the next few days. Later on they made me move up one floor because semis were going to board and they wanted to make sure our car wouldn't get hurt.

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"Limit for passengers" in the back on the right. You weren't supposed to walk beyond that mark. The Maltese cadet welcomes us on board: "This is your cabin... outside you have a bench for your use... that's it... have fun." :)

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The cars were being loaded/unloaded until around 03:00 in the night... up to 3000 cars can be loaded on FIDES. That can take a while. Our cabin was directly below the most upper deck - sleeping impossible - but fortunately we brought earplugs. :)

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Our cabin:

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The crew is 25 men strong. Half of them from Bulgaria, the other half from the Philippines, and 2 Maltese. This is the recreation and dining room for the Bulgarians and Maltese. The Filipinos used a separate room. The captain was a young guy, Bulgarian as well. Food was being served 3 times a day: at 09:00, 12:00 and 19:00. Huge servings! We really had to fight with ourselves to eat all that, also because we didn't want to disappoint the chef. :) Once we left a bit of ham and immediately the chef approached us and asked if something wasn't right :D We're just lounging around, not burning any calories. The next days are going to be difficult - we're being fattened. :) Our table at the back, to the right. The crew sits at the large table. However, they rarely eat at the same time, especially when the ship is anchoring, then everyone's at work and you see only 1-3 people eating at the same time...

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The ship is docked for about 18-22 hours per harbor. We finally started cruising the next morning:

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First signs of boredom? Somehow you have to keep yourself busy... :)

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Now we're learning that we first have to cruise to Ravenna, Italy. Not a problem, it's kind of on the planned way. But bad news the next day: We're going back to Venice. That's north of Ravenna (we want to go south), so that's totally inefficient. And then the next news: After Venice we have to go back to Koper, Slovenia. That's like directly next to Monfalcone, which is where we boarded. :D And then, last but not least, the final devastating news: We're not cruising via Pireas, Greece to Ashdod, Israel (as it was originally announced), but before Ashdod we'll have to dock in Alexandria, Egypt! Nooooooooo. 5 days delay! Our whole schedule is now destroyed ... sigh ...

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Me, totally frustrated. Had to think a bit about what to do now... my wife, employed, took vacation only for a specific date and didn't have any additional vacation days left.

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We're talking to the captain and asking for permission to leave the ship tomorrow in Koper, Slovenia, and that our Model S will continue the trip without us to Ashdod, Israel, where we're going to pick it up. He agrees. That was the only solution we could come up with where we could still check out a bit of Israel, otherwise it would not have been possible time-wise. But we're not leaving before having a couple of farewell-beers with the Bulgarian chef, who, after 4 days on board, took us a bit to his heart. A funny guy!

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Exiting in Koper, Slovenia. 4 days after we had boarded in Monfalcone, Italy, which is 30 km away. :D:D:D So, that was a nice round-trip! :) Actually, we should have been already in Greece by that time. But Grimaldi is not to blame. You have to expect something like that. Everything depends on the cargo. And we had been warned. To quote a Grimaldi employee: "2 things are certain in life, 1 of this is the uncertainty of arrival and departure of a cargo ship."

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FIDES in blue to the left. We shall meet again...

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Scarf Return Station when entering/leaving the Arab quarter @ Wailing Wall:

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Bethlehem. Short story about that. Taxi driver offers flat-rate package: Driving to Bethlehem and back and a personal/dedicated guide who'll show us the Church of the Nativity. Ok, let's do it. Guide brings us to the church, explains everything really well, and then suddenly says: "The people here are waiting 4 hours in line to see the birthplace of Jesus. I've got some good connections here, wait a minute." 15 seconds later he's back and presses 2 prayer candles into our hands and pushes us into a group of Italians who are in a ritualistic atmosphere walking towards the birthplace. He whispers to us: "Join this group!" - Suddenly we're in the middle of the ritual group and it feels sacrosanct. 3 priests dressed in black are praying, then everyone prays, but we're just standing there like ordered but not picked up. After 10 minutes the procession dissolves and we're "free" again. The guide is happy that he made this possible for us and we're still overwhelmed because everything happened so fast. On the way out of the church our guide winks to other Arabs here, gives a handshake there... yep, he really seems to be connected. Impressive somehow...

Our guide:

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Ok, enough culture. Let the roadtrip begin, right?! :) It's May 5th and FIDES arrives at Ashdod today, which is 80 km away. YEEHAA! Let's haul ass to Ashdod. :) By taxi, an Arab is driving because it's Shabbat and there's no public transportation until sunset...

Ashdod, Israel:

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FIDES is almost there. Coming over from Alexandria, Egypt right now. 4 days delayed. Disappointment: The harbor is closed today (Shabbat) and we can only take delivery of our car tomorrow. Or so we think, at least. But it should turn out differently, again...

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Ashdod by night:

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May 6th, Sunday in Germany (everything's closed), Monday in Israel (meaning: offices are open). The office of Allal*uf, a partner of Grimaldi. Here we have to pay a fee (100 USD), and then, with the payment receipt, head on to the harbor and customs. When I see this company logo I would love to... I'm not gonna say it.... what happened?..... read on......

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Day 1

Excited and full of anticipation! Our car is waiting for us!

Then, a first sign of warning: The Allal*uf manager told me via E-Mail to bring 100 USD for the fee. But now they're asking me for 150 USD. Ok. He told me in particular to bring USD, so prior I went to a money exchange and changed EUR into exactly 100 USD (because I didn't have any other use for USD except for paying that particular fee). He also had told me that the next fee in the harbor would have to be paid in Shekel. I brought exactly that amount, too, in Shekel, as requested. And the third fee, for the "customs broker", was supposed to be paid in EUR. Got that with me. Card payment not possible. Strange somehow, but oh well, paid 150 USD (50 USD in Schekel, so now I didn't have enough Shekel for the harbor fee) and headed on to customs.

At the customs office: "Hello, welcome, sooo, you would like to import your own car into Israel?" Me: "Yes, so to speak, we're tourists and would like to make a road trip here in Israel." Customs officer: "Ah, and how can I make sure this car is actually your car?" Me: "Not a problem, I got all the documents with me." He: "Ok, please show me the vehicle title." I pass him a copy of the title, which I had previously received from my bank (the car is financed). He: "That's just a copy. It's worthless." I explained the situation about the bank and that the car is financed/leased. He: "Ok, then we need a written confirmation by your bank that the car is not stolen and that you're allowed to drive it in Israel." Me: -ugh-

Thinking to myself: How the hell am I going to get that confirmation now, like, right now, from the bank? The bank is never going to be so flexible to issue that right now and send it over via E-Mail.

Customs officer: "So, what about the deposit?" Me: "Which deposit?" He: "Well, if you want to drive your own car in Israel we need a deposit so that we can make sure you are not going to sell the car here." Me: "Ah, sure, ok, and how high is that deposit?" Officer: "That depends on the remaining value of the car... wait... let me calculate this... -he calculates- ...ok, that should be around 140 EUR. Me -gasp of relief-: "Great, that's not that much, cool!" He: "Ahm, sorry, I meant to say 14,000 EUR!" Me -in shock-: "What? I don't have that kind of money." He: "Well, it's up to you, either you'll pay this amount and we can start the process of releasing your car, or we won't. Furthermore, you want to make a trip here for just a week? That's not really worth the while. I'm seriously thinking whether it makes sense to release your car at all." --- Ok, this guy doesn't care that we're just harmless tourists. He obviously has the power here and wants to show that, too. This was the first moment - of many others to follow during the next 3 days - where a strong feeling of desperation set in. Damnit. Now we've got a serious problem here...

There was a lady sitting next to me, let's call her Melanie, who was employed by the Israeli "customs broker". That customs broker was paid by me to assist while importing, and later on, also exporting the car and to handle all the paperwork. So, Melanie looks over my documents and suddenly screams out in joy: "You got a Carnet???". Yes, indeed, I had a Carnet des Passages, an international customs document which is required for entering several countries around the world, mostly in Africa and Asia. According to ADAC, which is the German equivalent of AAA in the US and the biggest motor club in Germany, a Carnet is "possibly" required for entering Jordan. To quote ADAC: "Some of our customers made it into Jordan without a Carnet, some didn't." That is why I got a Carnet. And what do you have to do in order to get one? Right, make a cash deposit! Sounds familiar, hm? In my case I had deposited 7,500 EUR to the bank account of ADAC. Since Melanie was suddenly so happy I became happy as well, because it seemed like this damn Carnet could be the solution to the problem here? Melanie takes the Carnet out of my document folder and proudly places it on the desk of the customs officer. The custom officer replies: "Aha. Well, I'm sorry, but we don't accept Carnets in Israel." Melanies looks surprised and I feel again that desperation rising...

Because, other than it may seem by this text, I did not start the trip to Israel without any preparation at all. ADAC back in Germany assured me that a Carnet won't be required for entering Israel. True, but there was no word about Israel having a separate deposit system. Further, of course the first step was to ask Grimaldi, who were basically the organizer of this trip, about what one has to do to import your own car into Israel. The answer was: That's totally unproblematic, but just to make sure we'll put you in touch with our partner in Israel, Allal*uf, and they can tell you 100% what you need to do. The Allal*uf manager then reassured with the customs broker, meaning Melanie and her boss, that importing a private vehicle (in particular: EV/Tesla) into Israel is not a problem and totally unproblematic indeed and there's nothing in particular required. There was never a single word about a deposit or any kind of crazy documents to prove ownership.

Anyway. It was Sunday in Germany and thus all offices closed, so nothing could be arranged today. So, we sat in the customs brokers office, Melanie's boss, let's call him Olaf, for the next 6 hours, watching him how he tried to solve 10 different problems for 10 different customers at the same time. One of those problems was ours, and he did try to solve it for us. He tried to convince the customs officer that a Carnet is sufficient to release the car. To no avail. After 6 hours without any progress we left, frustrated, and were just hoping for the next day. In the meantime I asked the Allal*uf manager - my primary contact before and during the trip - what the hell was going on and how he could help us. No answers, just lame excuses.

In the meantime, however, Melanie had somehow arranged that the deposit to be lowered to be just 7,800 EUR instead of 14,000 EUR. But even to get access to 7,800 EUR during one day seemed quite impossible. There's a daily withdrawal limit for every card in Israel, and it's rather low. You could maybe withdraw 800 EUR per day per card. Am I rich and got like 10 cards with several thousand EURs on each card? Nope. Then I got an idea: The customs officer said that he'd actually prefer a bank guarantee instead of a cash deposit. I asked Olaf whether he would be willing to provide that bank guarantee for me, for a fee. He thought a few seconds, then I saw the sparkling in his eyes and he said: Sure, I can do that for you, I'll charge you 500 EUR as the fee. Me: You got it! Thinking to myself: This is the only chance to get out of here sometime soon.

Except for being eaten by a fake whale and playing E-palm (or rather: acoustic-palm) there was not much to do in Ashdod, Israel:

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Day 2

It's Monday in Germany! First thing was calling the bank back home. Ok, they could probably issue the required document, but the final decision is gonna take until the afternoon. In the afternoon: "Boss gave his OK and we'll send you the document either this afternoon or tomorrow, at the latest." Of course I mentioned 10 times that I'm currently in Israel and would need the document via E-Mail, not via regular mail. Long story short. An E-Mail never arrived. But, of course, the document was in the mailbox when we got home to Germany. :D Brilliant! Anyway, since it was uncertain whether the bank would issue such a doc, I was talking with Tesla Frankfurt at the same time, asking whether they could issue me a doc which said that the car is not stolen, that I am the owner, or that I'm at least the user, but Tesla couldn't do it because they could not tell for sure whether I'm going to sell the car in Israel or whether I maybe had already sold it to someone. Frustrating, but makes sense from their perspective. However, Tesla sent over all kinds of other documents that they could. The delivery protocol back from 2015, the signed lease agreement and some more docs. I forwarded everything to Olaf immediately, who in turn forwarded it to the customs officer. I also talked to the police in Frankfurt asking them whether they could issue a doc which says that the car is not stolen, but they said I should ask the motor vehicles registration office instead. Their phone line was busy the whole day, though. Anyway, good news in the afternoon: The customs guy had accepted the Tesla docs. Now we just needed a solution for the deposit. However, the day was over, so we were hoping for the next day. Customs officer needed an address of mine within Israel. I asked a Israeli business partner via E-Mail whether I could "borrow" his address and he fortunately agreed.

Day 3

In the morning we're calling Olaf's office, hoping for positive news about the bank guarantee. The opposite was the case, though: He can't give me the bank guarantee any longer, he used the money required for that for another purpose. "Tomorrow, maybe" he says. Uarrrrghhhhhllll. (I already saw the goal in front of me but just milliseconds before kicking the ball another played fouled me) --- Plan B: My mother back in Germany will send us the money through Western Union. Daily limit is 5,000 EUR. I had already withdrawn a part of the remaining 2,800 EUR from several cards the day before. And I'll withdraw the remaining amount today. We're back in the office of the customs officer and are telling him that the bank guarantee won't work out because Olaf changed his mind and instead we'd like to do the cash deposit now. He didn't like that. He repeats a hundred times: "Better, you would have told me this yesterday. Hrm. Hrm. Better, you would have told me this yesterday. Now I need to change everything." After that I sit 4 (four!) hours in his office, opposite his desk, and watch him type in about 5 characters per minute into his computer. "We have a new software." 1000 calls to several support hotlines, no real progress. But after 4 hours he finally made it! He prints out a document which enables us to go to the Israel Post Office Bank (and only there, no other place!) and make a cash deposit of 34,000 Shekel (equal to around 7,800 EUR), which I carry around in my wallet, to the bank account of the customs office.

It feels like the 20th taxi ride during the last 3 days and we arrive at a branch of the Israeli Post Office Bank. "Sorry, you can't deposit that big amount of cash. And where do you even got that kind of money from?" Me: "Western Union". Teller: "Proof?" Me: "Here's the proof for 5,000 EUR via Western Union, I got no other proof for the remaining cash (takes several days to see that in the online credit card statement)". Teller: "Bad luck then." Next branch: Closed. Next branch: "Something is wrong on this form. Something is missing. Sorry, can't take your deposit." Next branch: "Sorry, you can't deposit that much money." --- The taxi driver, which brought us to all those places, totally supporting our cause by now and really motivated to help us, yells around a bit in Hebrew, probably telling the teller that we've already been to 10 branches and there's no progress anywhere. The teller smiles and says: "Ok, as an exception we can do it." But as she inspects the form and starts to type things into her computer she says: "There's something missing on this form. I can't use it." I take a pic of the form and send it over to Olaf. He replies: "Everything is fine with the form." We give up and drive back to the customs officer. In the meantime our taxi driver and the customs officer are talking on the phone - LOL. Taxi driver sums up: The customs guy is an idiot. We have to drive back to his office. When we arrived, the customs officer takes another look at the form he printed: "Oh, indeed, I forgot something there. We have a new software."

One hour later he finally figured it out, prints a new form and adds a certain code to it, hand-written. We jump into the next taxi and haul ass to the main Post Office Bank branch in the center, after Olaf advised us to try that branch. It's almost 16:00 and the harbor closes soon, and it would be too late to get the car today. Once arrived at the main branch the teller says: "Sorry, you cannot deposit that much money here. Where do you even got that money from? Any proof?" --- The same story, again. In that moment I feel rage and frustration building up and internally, I'm starting to give up. "Lena", I say to my wife, "Let's go. We are not going to get the car." (Maybe we would get it in a couple of days, but it's pointless then, because our vacation will be over) --- In that moment my wife approaches another teller, tells the whole point what we're trying to achieve, again, and that teller then talks with the branch manager. The branch manager calls someone on the phone and after 5 minutes she comes back to us and says: "It's OK." --- I can't believe it. We are allowed to make the deposit. Unbelievable. They're scanning the form. They're entering the hand-written code into their computer. It's working, I can't believe it. It feels like Christmas and birthday at the same time. I'm making a call to the customs officer and tell him: "Please, don't knock off work yet, we're making the deposit as we speak and will be back in your office in a couple of minutes." He replies "OK, but the harbor will probably be closed then already." --- We're hauling our asses back by taxi to his office and indeed he can see in his computer that we made the deposit successfully. But, what's happening now? He can't issue the final document that we need to release the car because somehow the same deposit amount still shows as unpaid. "We have a new software." Then he realizes that he created a 2nd "project" in his software and the first project with the incorrect form still shows as unpaid. Doesn't work this way. He can't print. And without calling the tech support he can't cancel the first project. And the tech support doesn't answer the phone, they already went home. He asks us to come back tomorrow. And for the first time, he apologizes. Wow. Everything is so crazy by now that it's almost funny. We're heading back to our hotel and I drink 2 beers.

At least we were allowed to take a look at our car today because customs needed to document how many kilometers the car had on its odometer. It was sitting in a warehouse, a bit dusty, but fine. I had given the keyfob to the chief mate of FIDES while still onboard. A harbor employee then drove the car off the ship and parked it here. The keyfob sits on the front left tire. That's how it works.

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Day 4

On schedule, at 08:30 in the morning, we were sitting in the office of the customs officer, smiling and being happy with anticipation. He had already spoken with tech support hotline. A while later he shouts out proudly: "Yes, I made it! See, I told you!" And he finally prints the release form. I'm smiling at him, but what I really feel inside I won't show him. I still need him. He approaches me and wants to shake my hand, I shake it, and he apologizes and says that the customs office represents the State of Israel and that our first impression, as tourists, is important for him and the customs office, and so on. I'm unable to coordinate words, thoughts and emotions and just say "Yes" and again "Yes" and am just trying not to throw my hands around his throat. :D Hallelujah! We take the form, head over to the harbor, through the security checkpoint, and then the nicest person of all times by the name Guy meets us. He already brought us to the Tesla yesterday. That man is like from another world. A few hundred meters away sits the most incompetent person on the planet, and here's the most committed, helpful & nicest person on the planet. Customs office vs. harbour. Guy leads us through all the necessary stations, pay a fee here, type something into the computer there, print something over here, he invites us for a coffee and we chat about the places each of us has already been to. Suddenly, the world is fine again! :) He brings us to warehouse 202. I ask Guy whether we can charge up a bit somewhere in here. In every corner of the warehouse there's several CEE red 3-phase 16A or 32A plugs. He replies: "Sure!" We're searching for a good accessible plug which is switched on. And we're charging with 32A (22 kW). A dream. Guy lets us charge up here for 1 hour, returns and escorts us out of the harbor. And the moment is finally there: Freeeedooom !!!!!!
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It's May 9th. Our plane back to Frankfurt, Germany departs from Tel Aviv, Israel on May 13th. The car will get shipped from Ashdod back to Monfalcone, but this time, we won't be on board. So, we got 4 days to check out Jordan. We're a bit fed up with Israel for now. (While it's still a great country to visit, with a few exceptions :D ).

The incorrect form:

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Security mantrap @ harbor:

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Warehouse 202:

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Tesla is charging - thanks to Guy. When we boarded in Monfalcone on April 24th, SoC was 310 km typical. When we picked it up on May 9th SoC was 220 km typical.

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SIM can't register. Internet through WiFi + mobile hotspot + Israeli SIM in cell phone. There's maps data, but the car doesn't have any navigation data for Israel and Jordan. We're navigating using cell phone + Google Maps.

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Charging @ CEE red 3-phase 32A using NRGkick in the warehouse. Charging session breaks down every few minutes, so I manually adjust to 24A and then it's stable.

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Let's finally get the hell out of here. Jordan, we're approaching...

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Originally, we wanted to drive as follows: Ashdod - Jerusalem - Bethlehem - Jericho - Caesarea - Tel Megiddo - Netanya - Haifa + Akkon - Nazareth - Lake Genezareth - Irbid (Jordan) - Amman - Dead Sea - King's Highway - Petra - Red Sea (Eilat) - Ramon Crater (Israel) - Be'er Scheva + Negev Desert - Tel Aviv - Ashdod

Due to the delay of the vessel and the problems at the customs office there was no time left for any more of Israel. In hindsight it was the right decision to exit in Koper, Slovenia. Otherwise we wouldn't have been able to see at least Tel Aviv + Jerusalem. So, in the end our roadtrip took the following route: Ashdod - Irbid (Jordan) - Amman - Dead See - King's Highway - Petra - Eilat - Negev Desert (passed through at night, no sightseeing, no time left) - Ashdod

The planned route:


The actual route:


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