I carried the big Bulli adventure around with me for two years. In March 2015, I finally got the chance to buy a T1 bus for a reasonable price. Suddenly I had to be quick as I wanted to start the project in spring. Within a short space of time, my friends and I got the Brazilian bus ready – as far as that is possible with a classic car that was used for hundreds of thousands of kilometres as a transporter by a vegetable farmer in Brazil.
The German painter Caspar David Friedrich would have loved the gorges in the north of Greece.
Just prior to that, I had travelled around more than 6,000 kilometres in Brazil in a T2 van and had no worries handling the previous model. That was a bit naive though: When I did a trial run with the T1 on a little country road near Regensburg three weeks before the start of the roadtrip, I almost got a panic attack due to the amount of play with the steering wheel. How would I ever be able to drive this old car faster than 60 km/h without ending up in a ditch at the side of the road or in the oncoming traffic? And how would I be able to master the 2,650 kilometres to the starting point in Istanbul? The crush zone is non-existent, ABS not available, part of the steering wheel is between my legs. With all things considered there is no driving comfort and safety, and the power steering comes from my upper arms. Of course we hit the road, but I will never forget the swarms of truck drivers which immediately took us to task on the highway to Passau, how the oncoming traffic past us with only a clearance of one metre in a single-lane tunnel with a concrete wall on the other side. There was no turning back though, only the big goal which was the starting point of our big journey: Istanbul, which we reached at dusk on the third day.
Sympathy bonus included
The T1 came with many safety risks but it paid us back with a Bulli sympathy bonus. There were incredible moments on the street: Drivers of fast luxury vehicles stayed behind us for minutes to film or photograph the Bulli and then to overtake us with a laugh and a wave. The T1 brought a smile to young and old alike in many locations and it also lead to interesting encounters we would have not otherwise had.
Berlin, Berlin, we're off to Berlin! Driving towards the Brandenburg Gate is still a very special experience for older generations.
When we arrived at midnight in Triest for example, Carla – with her cocktail trailer – was so enchanted by our van that she invited us spontaneously for a few drinks, and we ended up in the middle of Triest’s music scene. Less pleasant but just as exciting was our encounter with Norwegian alcohol smugglers. It could have ended badly but we had Zombina with us, a mascot and voodoo doll my daughter had sewed together specifically for the long journey. And Zombina seemed to work magic, as the old car did not get a single scratch or dent. In Greece, I was initially worried someone would slash our tyres because of the anti-Merkel atmosphere. No way, they were superbly hospitable.
After the scary moments at the beginning of the tour I became so fascinated by the journey that I did not even think about the possibility of failure. It was not until on the last 250 kilometres in the Norwegian county of Finnmark that I became a bit nervous. Was there an unusual noise coming from the engine bay? But Zombina did not let us down all the way to the North Cape. At that point she had accomplished her mission, and only 36 hours later, on our way back, we were stranded somewhere in nowhere between Kiruna and Narvik with gearbox damage. Never mind, the Bulli had made the 15,000 kilometres from Istanbul to the North Cape!
The photo designer started his presentation career during his studies – a slide show about Iceland in January 1987 which he gave to six elderly ladies in a retirement home in Bielefeld. That was the starting point for a decades-long successful career as a visual story teller – with live multimedia presentations or via books. Find out more about the man from Paderborn on his website www.peter-gebhard.de.
15. März 2017, Text: Peter Gebhard