As the giant steel behemoth roared down the hillside and plunged through a river, three thoughts rapidly entered my mind:
“I wonder if travel insurance covers this”,. Seconds later, “this is possibly the best 12 euros I have ever spent!”And finally, as the mechanical beast rose from the water and charged up the embankment, a simple – “WOOOOOOOOO”.
After a night in the Polish mountain resort town of Zakopane, and en route to Budapest, we stopped in the Slovakian countryside. And staring back at us was the promised vehicle. A tank. A real, live, working tank.
It may have lacked guns, but this extra space meant twenty or so people could cram in and go for the ride of their lives, through rivers and up hills, narrowly avoiding trees and hurtling down terrifying descents – not the most environmentally friendly way to travel, but seriously amazing fun.
For approximately fifteen minutes, the brute trampled around the hills, covering everyone with mud in the process. More worrying than the dirt, however, was the driver’s continued shouts of “everyone ok?” as we ploughed along.
Were people ever not ok while being driven headlong in rivers, flying down small peaks and jumping over mounds of earth?
The tank “commander”, a local businessman called Jozef, used to haul wood in the region with a similar machine, before deciding to purchase the decommissioned army vehicle. One cannot help but think his new occupation is slightly more enjoyable.
Sadly, after fifteen intensely enjoyable minutes, the tank slid around a corner and the finish line was in sight. A final loop of the surrounding area provided a great photo opportunity for bystanders, but then the beast slowed and the engine ceased its mechanical snarls.
When I get home from Europe, my first tale won’t be of the Colosseum or the Eiffel Tower, of Spanish beaches or Scottish mountains. No, it will most definitely be about my tank ride in the Slovakian countryside.