Batch and I are currently sat in a Slovakian hotel bar, sipping Heinekens and eating barbecue-flavour crisps after experiencing a very strange day.
Why are we here? Well, to mark Skoda’s sixth model launch, we are driving a brand new Citigo back from the factory here in Bratislava, Slovakia, to the UK, taking in six European cities on the way.
An early flight out of Heathrow and a short transfer across the border from Vienna saw us arrive at Volkswagen’s Slovakia plant in time for lunch, where the strangeness began.
Confronted with a choice of eight dishes on two TVs, we opted for ‘Grandma’s menu’ which consisted of chicken and rice. And garlic bread. And gherkins. And pickled chillis. And soup. Yes, told you it was strange!
After attempting digestion, we collected our Citigo from the production line and I promptly drove it out of the factory – via a pedestrian exit. Whoops.
After an afternoon’s video and picture shooting, we headed to our hotel deep in the capital, Bratislava. Our hotel is a Citigo’s throw from the Danube and is surrounded by teeming bars and packed trams. From what I’ve seen it’s a lively city.
Our day ended with a dip in the hotel pool. Unfortunately we hadn’t realised swimming costumes were ‘optional’ and Batch discovered, to his horror, just how open the natives can be when he was confronted with full-frontal nudity from a saggy couple. Pleasant it was not… at least the Citigo is nice and pert.
Not so. Volkswagen’s Slovakia operation is a paradigm of cleanliness, efficiency and innovative thought.
We’ve spent the day having a look around the plant where the German powerhouse builds the Porsche Cayman, Audi Q7, and the VW triumvirate – namely, the Volkswagen Up, Seat Mii, and Skoda Citigo.
There are Ron Dennis levels of cleanliness here. Not only is every surface coated in McLaren-like gloss white, but there’s not a speck of dirt. Anywhere. In fact, whenever a car is driven around in the main inspection area, there’s often a man with some cleaning fluid and a mop polishing the floor to get rid of those nasty tyre marks.
We’ve experienced this hygiene obsession as today we had the treat of driving Skoda Citigo, registered OY12 AWH, off the production line. And then through the pedestrian exit to the outrage of many Slovaks instead of the designated car exit (editor’s fault).
The rest of the day has been filled with a bit of filming, here and there. Luckily we’ve got someone who knows what he’s doing behind the lens, and we’ve been doing ‘interesting’ pieces to camera which you’ll have the joy of viewing in the iPad version of Issue 52.
All in all it’s been a jolly old day. That was until we got to our hotel and its swimming pool. It would seem Big Daddy and his wife are here. Naturally, both are naked, and have taken it upon themselves to barrel-roll into the pool with all their genitalia bouncing around. Remember I though Slovakia was ugly? Well…