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Do the time warp again in Nowa Huta

Relics of the communist era abound in this Krakow ‘suburb’ and, as David Whitley finds, some are coming back into fashion.

Java is in a state of near panic. “No! No! Not the red light!” our driver shouts at the road ahead of him. If he has to stop now, he might never start again.

The journey so far has been noisy, juddering and punctuated by exhortations to the shambolic red box we’re trapped inside to not give up the ghost just yet. We’re in a model S (“some say it means sport, some say it means super, most say it means shit”) Trabant. It’s the iconic Communist-era car across much of eastern Europe, and this one was built in 1989, the year the Iron Curtain collapsed. The engine, however, appears to be somewhat older – perhaps belonging to a neglected lawnmower from the 1950s.

That might not be too wide of the mark, actually. It has a 200cc, two-stroke engine and spits fumes out of the back like a flatulent dragon. There’s no fuel gauge – you have to open the bonnet and dip a plastic ruler in to check the level. Java admits that he usually cheats and just shakes the car to see how heavy it is.

Driving it is the motoring equivalent of dragging a seriously wounded colleague to safety across a bullet-ridden battlefield. It’s no wonder that Java lets out an ecstatic, gallows humour-drenched “Yee-es!” every time he manages to successfully change gear.

Once ubiquitous throughout Poland, the Trabant’s role is now one of novelty. Java says you can’t even buy them dirt cheap any more – the prices are being inflated by vintage-car collectors. But for the purposes of today’s trip, our hobbling red box on wheels is perfect.

via Do the time warp again.

April 21, 2013 - Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, Recommendations, Tour Information | , , , ,

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