Adventures in the marvellous Mini of doom!
To the Black Sea Coast
I was up early for a quick tour round Bucharest then off to visit some friends near the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria. On going to get the car from the overnight parking, this morning’s parking attendant also decided he wanted a slice of the cake and, with the usual ‘I hungry’ and hand to mouth gestures, he was after money. I can’t believe he was that hungry as he looked as if he had eaten more pies in his time than I had, and I’ve had a few. Anyway, I gave him the last few Lei I had in my wallet not thinking I’d need them again but how wrong I was to be. He looked at me with disdain, but it was too late, I jumped in the car, fired it up and shot out of the courtyard.
A few Aussies I had been speaking to in the hostel as well as the guys I’d had dinner with the previous evening all came out for a signing session. This took a little longer than expected, especially as the Aussies thought it was great that I was travelling in such a ‘gnarly’ car.
Once on the way I stopped for a couple of photo opportunities in the city, then headed south for the border with Bulgaria. Once I reached the border there was a bridge to cross and, unknown to me, there was a toll of €6 to pay. On pulling up to the booth I handed over my debit card only to be told sternly ‘cash only.’ I now rued the moment I gave my last few Lei away as I had no cash whatsoever. Smiling sweetly, I showed the attendant my empty wallet which was met with a practiced shrug of the shoulders. After me trying to explain I only had a card and no cash, she hopped out of the booth. I hoped she would let me through the barrier, but no, she made everyone else behind me reverse and ushered me out of the way leaving me at the side of the road. I tried to ask another attendant if she could speak English to help me but this was also met with a practiced shrug of the shoulders and a complete lack of eye contact.
In a bit of a bad mood by now, I crunched the car into reverse and shot backwards against incoming traffic, right in front of a Police van. I thought to myself I’d really done it this time, but not a word from the Police (can’t see that happening in the UK)
I drove back into the nearest town to get some cash, in a denomination that I no longer needed, and went back to pay for the bridge toll. Goodbye and good riddance Romania!
Once across the bridge I queued for the Bulgarian border crossing where the border guard took a cursory glance at my passport and laughed, heartily exclaiming ‘Good car’ – his signature is on the roof somewhere too.
Heading south, the road was of decent quality and good fun to drive until I caught up with a BMW X5 that just didn’t want to let me past, even though it wasn’t travelling as quickly as me, it would blast off into the distance, then slow down to a ridiculously slow speed at the merest hint of a bend, where I would loose all my momentum again. At last my chance arose on a steep downhill section, our side of the road has a few patches of about 1” depth dug out and the BMW, not wanting to ‘off road,’ pulled to the oncoming side of the carriageway and braked so I carried on and scooted up the inside, still on the correct side of the road.
Once I reached the main highway to Varna, I couldn’t understand why so many people were driving on the hard shoulder till I tried it too, the surface was far better than the main carriageway. Apparently there have been many crashes with people pulling onto the motorway from the slip road as normal and hitting cars travelling on the hard shoulder.
I arrived in the small town of Nevsha to be met by Graham who led me to their house. Graham and Amy, collectively known as Gramy, emigrated from the Taunton area to live in Bulgaria roughly 3 months ago and I was to be their first visitor. On arriving I asked if it was possible to do some clothes washing but sadly they had had no water for the day, a reasonably common occurrence it seems.
Before going out to Varna, the seaside town, we all had baths with heated buckets of water – it reminded me of times as a child when we visited a cottage in the Highlands of Scotland rented by the school I went to. My bucket seemed to have a lot of grit in it, I expect as it was used for carting sand around, Amy claimed this was exfoliant!
We ventured into Varna for the evening, which was beginning to close after the summer season and had a good dinner at a beach restaurant before heading to a rather pleasant bar with individually shrouded seating areas in a large garden.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.