The Bulgarian Van

It was a big problem when we had to buy a sofa\bed system for additional guests staying at our farmhouse in Skalitsa. This was just for the reason that we couldn’t find any electric pump system for a blow up bed in Yambol.

The problem was that they wanted 35 lev to deliver the sofa to Skalitsa and Galia wasn’t having any of it. The system was just too big to put on the top of the Lada roof, although if I were a Gypsy it would have fitted quite easily and room for another one!

The idea of borrowing Galia's brothers van came up to save money of course. On approach her brother willingly said, 'No problem!' in true Bulgarian fashion, and we arranged to pick up the van a few days later when the sofa was ready for collection. The cost of gas would amount to 15 lev as her brother knew exactly how many kilometres to the litre it did.

So we arrived at Galia’s brother’s factory to pick up the van. I had not seen it before and when taken to it by one of the worker I was quite excited. There sitting parked in a field was an old tatty sky blue transit van. It must have been about 15 years and had character written all aver it. Big enough for a sofa for sure but I was looking forward to driving this typical old style Bulgarian work vehicle which in it’s past had friends such at Thomas the Tank Engine of it’s Bulgarian counterpart.

Firstly we had to see how it worked and looking at the rear doors there had fitted on it was not the original lock but a front door handle and locking system with a yale key to open and shut it. The locking system to these doors was a little piece of wire holding the handle down so it didn’t get bumped up and fly open during transit. Inside were empty oil canisters covered over with old flattened cardboard boxes creating a safe cushioned base for the sofa.

The driving area was a maze of DIY inventions added to keep the systems working. There wasn’t a key to start it as it had been hotwired and converted onto a push button to start the engine and a flick switch to turn the engine off. The clutch was shin level off the floor and you had to raise your whole leg to get on top of it to disengage the clutch. The floor was not there in places and the road/ground could be seen in places.

The gears were on the right of the steering wheel and each time a gear change was made a major grating noise was made not too dissimilar from nails on a blackboard but 40 decibels louder. The light switches were homemade and screwed on the dashboard with another odd bit of plastic to raised it away from the main instruments.

Going further into the instrument panel speedometer didn’t work the mileometer or kilometre if that’s what you call it didn’t work nor did the tripometer. The fuel indicator was at 0 therefore I can only assume this didn’t work either. Judging the temperature of the oil was impossible, as this didn’t work either. And there just to the left on the window screen was an up to date MOT sticker!!

Well being a Bulgarian van with all unnecessary instruments working the most essential piece of equipment was working perfectly – The Radio! It was finely tuned to radio Vasolina and blared out Bulgarian popfolk music as we moved off.

Apart from the noise of the gear changes still not quite drowned out by Bulgarian radio the van worked perfectly and got us to and from where we wanted to and at a cost of 15lv we paid for the gas. Half price of the delivery service we were first offered. But what price can you put of the experience?