Coming from the UK we are naturally or maybe trained to be nostalgic about all things….from places we visited as a child, to meals our mother used to make, but for those of us that drive I would like to bet that the majority of us feel some affection for our first car.
This is not something that our friends here in Bulgaria are big on and I’m not sure if this is sad or not. Having lived here for a number of years we see the old villages starting to empty as the older generation pass away and the younger generation make the move to the bright lights of the city for university, friends and careers.
This is sad because there are many houses left uncared for, but also great for us foreigners looking to change our way of life as there are still many bargains to be had.
It was one such Brit (Neil Penn), driven by a desire to remove himself from the rat-race and somewhat genetically programmed to be nostalgic, that had the unique idea of establishing a way that western travellers could explore eastern Europe in the most unforgettable manner.
It was this one man’s vision that was the catalyst for the creation of Classic Car Holidays, who offer the opportunity to see the Balkans… all from behind the wheel of a Trabant. Really this is a thing! Check it out here www.classiccarholidays.co.uk
So when my friend that works in PR and Marketing in Motorsport came to visit, it was an event not to be missed. We booked a ‘Try a Trabie’ with Neil and abandoned our modern hire car in favour of something very different.
Travelling at a slower pace, but with a certain amount of zip, Neil was great at demonstrating the foibles of the old East German built machine. With column gear changes and offset pedals it was an experience that not many have had and we will certainly not forget.
The Bulgarian countryside is something to be treasured and too many of us (myself included) miss things as we whizz by so busy with our lives. To really benefit from this experience you have to change your perception of what travel is about.
Touring the Balkans is just as much about the journey as the destination and with two clients that have a racing past it was definitely a challenge not to accelerate out of the corners and down the straights, moving up the gears in quick succession, but to relax, put your arm on the window, look at your surroundings and let the engine take you to your next pit stop.
Our little car was ‘Colonel Mustard’, one of eight cars run by CCH and in true nostalgic style, Neil told stories about how these cars were owned by doctors and the like to service the community and as we pootled around the lanes we learnt a whole new respect for this little car and a whole new way to time travel.
If anyone out there has visiting Bulgaria, Romania or Macedonia on their bucket list then you really should come and try this, and if you have never thought of visiting then think again…even if it is just to drive this iconic piece of history and be surprised at what else these countries have to offer.
You will not be disappointed.