All night on end we drove across Turkey: an absolutely stunning four-lane highway goes through the entire country. Everything would have been wonderful, but the traffic grew more and more intense as we approached Ankara and Istanbul. In about 200 kilometers from the “city by the Bosphorus”, we stuck in a huge jam and virtually lost 45 minutes. The thing was that a large portion of the highway, several kilometers long, was closed for repair, and the bypass was organized along a small nearby road twisting between mountains. Quite naturally, it got immediately jammed as the main traffic flooded in. Closer to Istanbul, there were a lot of traffic congestions even at 2 o’clock in the morning, and the last time we were delayed happened on the ring road within the city due to a car accident. But after that, the road was free to go to as far as Edirne, so we managed to reach the border as early as by 5 a.m.
Courtesy of our friends among customs officials, we sped across both Turkish and Bulgarian borders faster than greased lightning, past any queues, in an accelerated mode. They let us go along a special corridor normally used by buses. It was a true miracle because we could easily have spent up to three hours in a jam there. Yet in our case, no one even inspected the car, they just quickly stamped our papers and let us go. As a nice bonus, we were permitted to make several pictures at the checkpoint.
In Bulgaria, we were met by Vladimir and Petko Tsanevs, father and son, who are the devoted VW fans and lead the local Volkswagen Club. Both speak excellent Russian, which is not unusual in Bulgaria. They rushed their veteran station Volkswagen Passat B5 across the entire country to speed up our trip to Serbia where they also managed to arrange a fast border crossing for us. By the way, we were really surprised with high quality of a highway running across the whole of Bulgaria. Because of the speed of passing cars, arrangement of traffic signs, road infrastructure and the landscape around us, sometimes it felt like we were in Germany!
Having come to Serbia, we first thought that we would have to drag across the entire country along a single-lane road, but, to our great surprise, after only covering 70 or 80 kilometers, we drove onto a full-fledged autobahn, which took us across the country fairly fast. The only thing that slightly darkened our impressions of that part of the road was a sort of fuss at the Croatian border.
But then we took a smooth and fast highway to Slovenia. We had just a few hours ahead of us to finish as planned when the navigator showed a considerable jam at the Croatia–Slovenia border. After studying several bypass options, we decided to cross the border in a small village not far from the main road. To our great surprise, we were forced back on the highway: it turned out that this border crossing was for EU citizens only. A bit disappointed, we had to return to the traffic jam where we lost some time.
And then there was Italy, the home stretch with a delicate flavor of sadness that our world-record-setting adventure is coming to an end. It's always like this: when you spent a lot of time together, pursued a goal and overcame difficulties — and now you're almost there, you start feeling that you will miss the adrenaline and the spirit of your journey.
Yet, the finish is a great joy, of course. We shared it with the Venetian port employees, Andrea and Luci, who recorded our finish at the port at 7:37 p.m. CET. We decided to postpone the champagne and the new World Record celebration party until the next day. So that night's pleasures were limited to friendly handshakes, official papers stamped by the port of Venice and wishes from families and those who carefully followed our Volkswagen Tiguan race.
After that, without even getting to hotel, we met Volkswagen representatives and Russian journalists to once again thank them for their care and support. They were really important for our team that virtually hardly slept for a month in order to cover Marco Polo’s Silk Road from Shanghai to Venice in less than six days.
Authors: Petr Bakanov, Dmitry Makarov