Adventures in the marvellous Mini of doom!

Dave Smart

Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie

Part seven:
Berlin to Gdansk – what a day!

Before I left Berlin, there were a few things I wanted to do, get pictures of the car at Checkpoint Charlie, The Wall and a BMW MINI dealer around the corner from the hostel.
As I reversed on to the pavement outside the BMW dealer, a few people looked on in disgust, but then a few of them began to smile after they realised what I was doing and even got their phones out to take the same picture that I was after.

Almost all of the former wall has been removed, there are only 3 parts that I could find that still stand, 2 of these are now protected as many souvenir hunters (as I would have been if I could have could have reached it) have removed chunks from it.

On leaving the city I popped into a garage to grab some sustenance for the trip, and was met by a lovely girl, who declared I had a great car, so the pen was out for more signatures. Soon many of the other workers were out signing the car too.

The road from Berlin to the border was a dull dual carriageway, but I needed to cover ground quickly if I wanted to get to Gdansk. It was here I found what I thought was the most unpleasant road I’ve ever driven on. The concrete blocks seemed to have a length that compared well to the Mini suspension’s fundamental frequency and I drove mile after mile of horrible pitching and bumping, it’s the first time I’ve been in a Mini and I wished I was in another car. I really thought I was going to see breakfast again, it was terrible.

A short respite from the pitching and bumping hell saw me pick up speed again until the road deteriorated into a far worse condition than earlier. There were now miscellaneous potholes of varying severity randomly placed to make this the worst tarmaced road I have ever driven. At least with the concrete road earlier the bumps were predictable and I could fight some of them, this was another story completely and after a short while I really thought I was going to have to give up, the poor Mini and I were taking an absolute beating. At one point I slowed to around 30 mph to lessen the severity of the battering we were receiving, but even that didn’t work. It was bliss when this period of relative hell was over.

Once at the border I let my GPS do a calculation of the time to Gdansk so I could let my friend Jagoda know roughly when I would arrive. The distance in Poland was some 220 miles, the GPS reckoned on about 3 ½ hours, this seemed reasonable, however I remember driving in Poland from a previous trip and how there seemed to be a huge disparity from what the GPS says, and what actually happens, so I added on an hour and said I would arrive about 4pm. How wrong I would be.

Initially the road was a really pleasant dual carriageway. This soon turned to single carriageway, and whilst attempting to take a photograph, I missed the slip road for Gdansk, so blundered on blindly to what I thought was a road that would take me back to the highway (my GPS had no detailed maps of Poland) This turned out to be a big mistake as it was a map border, not a road at all, so I had to back track for about 10 miles until I found a major North/South road. Eventually I made it back to the highway.

The highway was not what we would expect in the UK, it was all single carriageway and went through every village conceivable on the way. What was worse was this was the only major road to Gdansk and so was full of lorries and huge queues. This is where the Mini came into its own, managing to squeeze into and through ridiculously small gaps. Colin, the Mini’s previous owner, would have been both proud and, I expect, a little scared with the day’s antics.

Eventually I made it to Gdansk at 6pm, 2 hours later than my expected arrival. I managed to get to the Railway station where I was met by Jagoda in her Red Mini.

After settling down and showering, we wandered into Gdansk Old Town which really is a charming area with many bars and restaurants and beautiful architecture, we took a wander around the Marina and walked home for a deserved nights sleep.

Front gate of shipyard
Front gate of shipyard
Keith Adams

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