THE SLOVAK village of Podbiel has an attraction for would-be tank commanders. Local businessman Jozef Krupa is the owner of an old armoured vehicle to which he has made technical adjustments to allow him to take passengers on a white-knuckle ride. After fifteen minutes’ driving on muddy tracks in the tank – as locals of the village, in the Orava region, call the vehicle – tourists usually applaud, the ČTK newswire wrote.
“I used to haul wood in Podbiel and the vicinity with a similar machine,” Krupa told the ČTK. “In the 1990s, it was no longer profitable to haul wood. So I got the idea of adjusting the armoured vehicle to transport people.”
He bought the tracked vehicle, which is about 20 years old and had been decommissioned by the armed forces, from a company processing scrap iron. He removed the roof from the rear section and added several metal crossbars, which passengers cling to during the drive. Krupa has driven the all-terrain convertible some 4,200 kilometres.
“The route is three kilometres long,” said Krupa, who is in his 50s. “We drive down a back road, across mud, through water, uphill and downhill. The main thing is not to bore tourists. We want to tire them out with this experience.”
In a typical ride, a group of enthusiasts, including young people but also some forty-somethings, boards the tank. The driver starts the engine, reverses briefly, then accelerates violently down a muddy track. Before long, the passengers’ smiles change to wide-eyed looks and loud cries. The vehicle, adorned with a Slovak flag, crawls up an almost vertical hill, only to plunge immediately down the other side. It passes dunes and boulders, and ploughs through water without any trouble. Whooping tourists have to grip the metal crossbars tightly and bend their knees like skiers to remain upright.
The lurching vehicle tosses passengers in all directions for 15 minutes, before halting abruptly in its parking place.
“It was super, no carousel in the world can match it,” one tourist said. Passengers do not seem to mind the mud which ends up covering their jackets during the ride.
Krupa considers the ride safe. In four years, he says, there hasn’t been a single injury. But he did say that passengers do risk some leakage in the trouser department.
“We prolong the years, straighten the spine, improve blood pressure, do away with migraines, offer rehab. In fact, we treat people here,” the former army sapper and policeman laughs.
He says his tank is ‘the best’ and is a very reliable machine. Apart from replacing the caterpillar tracks, he has not had to carry out major repairs so far. He drives it year-round, with people showing most interest during the summer and winter holidays. As well as Slovaks, Poles, Czechs and even Spaniards have enjoyed the ride. The vehicle accommodates 15 to 20 people, and children are said to be able to complete the ride too.
29. Sep 2008 at 0:00 | Compiled by Jana Liptáková from press reports