TÄNAVALT: (From the street) Arctic beasts as posterboys for winter fuel
Next door at the Estonian-owned Alexela gas station (Neste Oil is a Finnish company), a similar banner had been hung above the snowbanks. Instead of a põhja/põder (reindeer), its product promoter is a jää/karu (polar bear). The banner reads: Talvine diislikütus. Otse Soomest! Winter diesel fuel. Straight from Finland! It seems like Finland is the place to trust (and flaunt) when it comes to winter-hardy products. The jääkaru brand also comes with a garanteeritud külma/kindlus or guarantee to withstand cold up to -32. Looks like we shall soon see...
I wanted to know what this all meant and proceeded to discover that local Estonian quality controls (kvaliteedi/nõuded) state that as of Dec. 1, only winter grade diesel can be sold which has a hägustumispunkt (cloud point) of -16°C and hangumispunkt (pour point) of -26°C. If something is HÄGUNE (e.g. your thought process or a photograph), it is the opposite of clear – cloudy, blurry. The verb HANGUMA brings to mind candle wax and SÜLT (jellied meat). Something that begins to solidify or gel from a liquid state.
As all of you car and motor buffs know, it turns out this is due to paraffin (parafiin in Estonian), which is naturally present in diisli/kütus and begins to form cloudy wax crystals at a certain cold temperature, which then coats the filter element and reduces flow, starving the engine. An Estonian mechanic would say this is the "temperatuur, mille juures on parafiinikristalle nii palju, et need ummistavad sõiduki kütusefiltrid". UMMISTAMA is another great verb, which means to block. As in a drain, pipe, filter or traffic – liiklus/ummik = traffic jam.
Alas, I don't drive a car with a diisli/mootor. I know people who do are diehard fans. Instead, we drive a Italian ex-pat Alfa Romeo. Perhaps not the best car to drive in Eesti, as there are lots of folks you think even French Citroëns and Peugeots are too "southern" for this land's harsh roads and climate. One thing all cars definitely cheer about here: they have to deal with minimal sool (salt) and therefore rooste (rust). Main roads and highways are salted, but driving on smaller side streets always makes me feel like I was in Dawson City Yukon or some other fantastically remote place driving on a crazy, bumpy, arctic landscape. Or in two worn (melted) tire tracks through a bumpy, icy landscape. Can you hear my muffler (summutaja / summuti) dragging on the ice? (Summutama means to muffle, smother, suppress.) Side streets are peppered with sand and fine gravel. That's all that is put on sidewalks here as well.
Our red itaalia Romeo of a car is definitely in denial of the cold (ta eitab külma). Currently his readings of the outside air temperature are always a bit tamer than what they really are, including this morning's -16. ( Feb. 1st) The passenger side door has been frozen shut for days regardless of me spraying the lock, but I'm beyond feeling embarrassment about climbing in through the other side. Once I'm inside I look cool.
I must admit that on these bitterly cold mornings when I turn on the ignition (PANEN / KEERAN SÜÜTE SISSE) my pulse races from fear the AKU (battery) might fail us. I shouldn't of course let the car sense that I have these doubts about his performance-ability, but seeing our neighbour with the kapott (car hood) of his Mersu (Mercedes) up this morning and telling me (in Russian) that his battery is dead, made me feel dread. (I've told him numerous times that I don't speak Russian, but people seem to think I'm kidding...)
This same neighbour helped us a few weeks back when we got stuck on some ice on our own lot. Most people here don nael/kummid (studded tires) come winter. We were happy our Romeo came with all-season tires (lamel/kummid or -rehvid) and we didn't have to fuss. We hadn't had any trouble until 2 incidents on seemingly tame ice this year, both requiring the help of friendly Russian-speaking men, who came running to our aid. I made sure to hug them in a typically non-Estonian emotional fashion. "Okei, so I don't speak your language, but I can speak graditude." I guess I wanted to surprise them a little. Now they probably think I'm faking not being able to speak Russian and I'm weird... (hägune JA segane).
P.S. A mere 24h after this article was penned, our aku did fail (-24°C was its breaking point) and Romeo now waits under his ever-renewed white cloak.