Before I recount about our travels, I will have you know that the Great Overland Adventure has been full of fascinating encounters, and so much more. Our first stop, Istanbul, was the perfect start for the journey that lay ahead of us. Though a big chunk of our time in this Turkish city was spent stuck in traffic, the lively environment and its historic monuments more than just made up for lost time – it gave us timeless memories.
Delving into details, we not only spent an entire evening with a local street artist Erbil, we also got the chance to drive the GLA and the GL at the Istanbul Racing Circuit. Suffice it to say driving at this renowned Formula One racetrack was a welcome change! Our time in Istanbul also gave us the chance to drive an Anadol. The coupe that we drove is owned by a 25-year old Turkish local, who plans to add more models of the now long-defunct carmaker to his collection.
Next up was Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and the first challenge en route Bulgaria was getting across the border – it was a challenge throughout. Despite all the hitches we faced while entering Eastern Europe, we were keen to explore Plovdiv. After an impromptu meeting with the Indian Taekwondo team, we were on our way to discover one of the oldest cities in the world. Plovdiv had a lot to offer – the Old Town, and the splendid Roman theatre, among several other sights. We also drove a Moskvitch – another defunct car brand albeit Bulgarian – owned by a local farmer.Next stop on the GLAadventure was across the border, in the ancient town of Sibiu, Romania. If you were wondering about our border trouble, we thankfully crossed this one without any hold-up. After the medieval themed concert that night, we toured the Piata Mare, a.k.a.
Great Square, the next morning. Other than several restaurants, the biggest square in this Transylvanian city also houses numerous monuments.However, the best of Romania was yet to come – our journey to Bucharest included traversing the Transfagarasan. We had seen some spectacular pictures of the 150Km-long highway, and yet we were left dazed as we started driving on this highway across the Fagaraş Mountains. Unfortunately, its popularity translated into traffic as locals and tourists stopped along the way to enjoy the autumn sun. Then, at the outskirts of Bucharest, we came across the Indian Cricket Club engaged in a cricket match. Our weary eyes lit up at the prospect of playing cricket, and the locals were more than happy to have us join.
As tiring as that might sound, we weren’t done for the day just yet for a lovely evening at the Tiriac Collection, a classic car museum, awaited us. Owned by Ion Tiriac, the museum is a collection of over 150 cars that includes a 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda, and a 1977 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe. The exhibit also comprises 6 Rolls Royce Phantoms produced until 1972 – an honour exclusive to the Tiriac Collection. We ended our excursion to Bucharest the next morning with a quick visit to the National Museum of Art of Romania, the Romanian Athenaeum, and the Palace of the Parliament.
We reached the East European country on our list, Budapest, Hungary, the same evening; and after trying out some local Hungarian cuisine for dinner, we decided to stay out and explore the city. Before I go on, I must say the Chain Bridge that stretches over the River Danube between Buda and Pest, the western and eastern sides of Budapest, is a stunning sight.
To appease our auto-nut selves, we found ourselves a Trabant the next day. This car of East-German origins came powered by a two-stroke engine, and was fondly called the Trabi. It goes without saying that this timid looking car attracted a lot of attraction as we took it out for a spin.
However, our time with the Trabi was limited, and we were soon on our way to Vienna – an 800 kilometre drive from Budapest.
The other notable sight on our way out of Istanbul will be the Bosphorus Bridge – which connects two continents (Europe and Asia), and carries almost 200,000 vehicles a day.