Driving through narrow lanes and peering out of the little windscreen, I feel like I can just keep trundling back in time for miles yet. I imagine myself setting off on an adventure with my battered, old suitcase on the Trabant’s back seat in the days before motorways and traffic as we know it. Meandering through villages, waving at locals en route, passing horses and carts working in fields, only stopping for a bite to eat before continuing with my journey on the open roads.
If this sounds like an idyllic secret pleasure to you, then it could become your reality too.
Classic Car Holidays is a new venture based near Veliko Tarnovo which is offering self-drive holidays, either for day tours in the local area, or longer tours around the Balkans, and from the comfort of your very own Soviet designed, iconic Trabant. The brains, inspiration and CEO of the company, Neil, was motivated by his own nostalgia for classic cars, and Bulgaria seemed to be the perfect choice to showcase the combined aspects of the country and a unique driving experience: ‘The Trabant is Bulgaria in it’s mechanical form. It fits Bulgaria: simple, robust and keeps on going regardless. This also applies to Bulgaria and its people.’ And he should know, having travelled and lived in Bulgaria for a number of years, the tour itineraries have been hand-picked from his familiarity and knowledge.
One of the first things that might come in most people’s minds when they think of a Trabant is its reputation as being an unreliable vehicle, but fear not, as this pristine fleet of ten classic cars is kept in tip top condition. CCH works with two very passionate and enthusiastic Bulgarian experts, Macho and Toncho, who maintain each vehicle with great attention to care and detail. The cars themselves have been sourced from all corners of the country, and are often abandoned or in need of an comprehensive overhaul before lovingly being restored to their former glory and ready to be taken back the road.
If you have any further doubts, rest assured that the tours are accompanied by support vehicles and Neil as your guide. They drive either in front or behind you so you can enjoy the authentic driving experience safe in the knowledge that if anything goes wrong, help is never too far away. Additionally, cars are fitted with GPS, phones and tracking so you have peace of mind and they’ll always know where you are.
As Neil explains, ‘we aim to offer flexibility so that clients feel hosted, not herded. We are determined our guests feel like it’s their holiday, not ours.’ This said, he stresses that they’re always on hand for advice about local attractions, restaurants, etc but ultimately, ‘you can be as independent as you want to be.’
It’s both common and easy to make fun of the Trabant, usually for it’s basic design: a body made from Duroplast, not dissimilar to fibreglass, two-stroke engine and it’s tiny frame belching out smoke, but this symbolic icon of Communism is also a fabulous example of inspired ingenuity that just keeps on chugging away. However, you don’t have to be a Trabie fan to experience the Balkan countryside in this way, just a desire to do something different…and here’s how:
Try a Trabie for a Day Tour
If you’re visiting Veliko Tarnovo and are looking for something different to do whilst wanting to explore more of the surrounding area, then their Day Tours are an ideal solution. CCH offer Countryside Tours to the local attractions of Dryanovo and Tryavna, or Bespoke Tours, tailored to your personal specifications, to other landmarks in the area. Drive yourself to caves, monasteries or waterfalls and experience a Trabant on the open roads to see the beauty of the Bulgarian countryside further.
Try a Trabie for a Week
Whereas many Eastern European cities offer the experience of driving a Trabant, it’s very often only for a few short hours, a day if you’re lucky, but with Classic Car Holidays, you also get the opportunity to take one on holiday for a whole week! Routes to and around Bulgaria, Macedonia and Romania have been carefully chosen so only scenic itineraries have been mapped out, allowing you to drive, stop off and simply do as you please at your own leisure. They also take the stress out of organising your travel plans by arranging all your overnight stays in 3/4 star hotels, which, along with your fuel, insurance and airport transfers are included in the price.
Travelin2bulgaria Tries a Trabie
So, what’s it really like to Try a Trabie? Neil kindly offered me a test run in one of his fleet of Trabants who runs by the name of Chantilly, and I jump at the chance, despite my initial nervousness. Before I get in the driver’s seat, Neil talks me through the mechanics and gears as he steers her first, a procedure that every driver goes through before taking the wheel themselves.
When it comes to my turn, it takes a few kilometers to get used to the pedals and gear changes, but after a while, I get accustomed to the feel of her, start to relax and enjoy the drive. I’m surprised how comfortable it is, and although I’m concentrating on the road, we barely encounter much traffic in these winding lanes and my imagination starts to wander. Anyone who’s driven a Trabant would know it’s certainly not about speed but the actual experience of the car, and in this instance, also enjoying the landscapes at your own pace.
(Disclosure: I received a complimentary drive with Classic Car Holidays in exchange for posting my honest review. All opinions are my own and reflect my personal experience.)
Want to Try a Trabie with Classic Car Holidays? Check out their website or Facebook Page for more detailed information, pricing and itineraries. In the meantime, get a taster with this promo video from the team.