Road Trip: Commie Style


FSO Polonez TruckThe FSO (a Daewoo LLC) Polonez truck is the workhorse of a small city like Budapest. Assembled in Poland, the extended cab version can accomodate 5 people with the other half serving as some form of cargo space, the FSO comes with a 1.9L diesel engine.

Ljubljana is fairly easy to navigate with less traffic and a newer highway system. The city center is pedestrian only but most directions within walking distance have plenty of parking. One thing that always throws me for a loop in Europe is trying to leave a place. Whether its a garage or an apartment, there's always some button you need to push to get the door out. Leaving Ljubljana for the Venice airport (a 2.5 hour drive) was an ordeal on par with a Mr. Bean adventure. The Panda was on floor -2 of the parking garage. Shockingly, nobody had stolen this amazing creature… Unfortunately, the garage door to open the gate leading out of this floor alone was a Mensa challenge. No matter how close or far the Panda got, pushing the garage door opener didn't yield an exit. Pulling the panda intimidatingly close to the gate, I left the car for further inspection and noticed a button which in my limited fluency of the Slovene language translated to “push here to open.” I should probably return that Rosetta Stone! Fire alarms sounded and yet another door started closing, virtually biting off the Panda's nose.

I went through all the emotions- first, humor. These things don't happen to most people. My friends refer to these adventures as pulling a Sarah. Then confusion- why do all European buildings try to keep you locked in? Then anger- where are the thoughtfully designed Swedish parking garages or at least German style ones with rules that keep you in check? And finally panic- am I really going to miss a flight because a parking garage outsmarted me? What if I weren't a fatigued tourist with a hangover from Slovenian beers consumed at an English pub the night before?


Fiat PandaNot any better from the back.  It certainly doesn't look good locked up in a garage either though I'll say reaching for the camera wasn't a priority at that time!

A walk of the perimeter proved fruitless. This door was my only way out and if TSA had let me bring a switchblade on the plane (which gets you anal probings for life at security screenings, trust me), the first door would have the outline of a Panda door by now. But even at full speed, the Panda would never gnaw through Door #2. After a few dial a friends and a 45 minute contemplation of life in the Eastern bloc, zoo security arrived to let the Panda out of the cage. At this point, autobahn or not, this Fiat had to put down some power. Flogging the Panda Express to Venice, I arrived to find a slow security line (boo!) and a delayed flight (yeah!).


Citroen CactusThe Citroen Cactus crossover provides protection against those rogue shopping cars with it's funky version of bubblewrap, using air capsules under a thermoplastic polyurethane shell.

Sometimes my travel dates coincide with interesting events and other times I fortuitously dodge situations by a few weeks. This route through Budapest and Slovakia into Austria is currently heavily traveled by Syrian and Afghan migrants attempting to flee their tumultuous countries. These exact roadways that I sped down a few months ago have been intermittently closed to traffic to accommodate the migration.


budapest bridge

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