Following last year’s short trip to Kent for the IMM organised by Southern Mini Owners Club this year was somewhat a more challenging trip to Lake Zarasas, Lithuania for the event organised by Mini People Lithuania who won the bid to host this year’s event at IMM 2013 in Italy.
Saturday 16th May - Wootton Bassett to Essen, Germany - 421 miles - Met up with IMM friends Stephen, Jackie and Robert dock side at Dover for the lunchtime ferry to Dunkirk. Roberts mini developed a battery charging fault and needed a jump start at each fuel stop from Dunkirk. We arrived in Essen for the first night where we were met by local classic car enthusiast Peter in his Opel Kadett. He had seen the 3 British minis driving around the city and stopped to see where we were going. He offered us the use of his workshop should we need it and then he found us a reasonably priced hotel to stay for the night.
Sunday 17th May - Essen to Hamburg - 243 miles - In the morning batteries were swapped between Roberts and Stephens minis before leaving for a trouble free run for our second stop over in Hamburg, this left us with just a short run to Kiel the following day for the 22 hour ferry crossing across the Baltic to Klaipeda, Lithuania.
Monday 18th May - Hamburg to Kiel (Ferry to Lithuania) - 63 miles - We were a day ahead of the main IMM group but our 3 minis were joined on the ferry by several German minis and a Moke. The crossing went well, meals were good and much of the time was spent in the bar.
Tuesday 19th May - Klaipeda to Kaunas - 146 miles - The ferry arrived at Klaipeda at lunchtime giving us 2 days in Lithuania before the start of the IMM in Zarasai near the Lithuanian border. We had a 3 hour drive to the city of Kaunas where we were camping for a couple of nights before heading to the IMM on Thursday.
Wednesday 20th May - The 3 minis were given a day’s well deserved rest with us spending the day in Kaunas using the bus and Soviet Era trams to get around. We toured the city castle and found a good pub for a beer or three before returning to the campsite on the outskirts of the city where we had been joined by another mini.
Thursday 21st May - Kaunas to Zarasai (IMM) - 120 miles - We left Kaunas mid-morning for the final leg of the journey to the IMM. As we got closer to Zarasai the weather began to deteriorate and it looked like we were set for another wet IMM weekend. On arrival at the island passes were quickly checked (unlike last year’s IMM) and we were directed to our camping area. Tents set up in the rain and the rest of the evening spent on the site around trade stands and the main arena. Restrictions taking cans and bottles onto the island meant I didn’t have my usual IMM 6X supply but the organisers had promised cheap beer for the weekend and this they delivered at €2 a pint (result). The food onsite also proved to be excellent and we were able to use the tokens in the IMM pack any time for food and beer so there was no repeat of the long meal queues that we experienced in Kent.
Friday 22nd May - A late breakfast and we spent the morning on site as we had made the most of the cheap beer the previous night!! The afternoon was spent in town before returning to the island for the IMM opening ceremony, beer and music from an AC/DC cover band.
Saturday 23rd May - IMM Classic Rally - 113 miles - An earlier start today as we were booked to take two of the minis on the classic rally, a 100 mile treasure hunt around the region. This event was really well organised taking us to areas we wouldn’t normally see. We stopped at a local orphanage where sweets collected by teams as part of one of the earlier challenges were exchanged with the kids for mini pictures they had drawn. We picked up a number of time penalty points due to some sections of the route having clues as GPS references and we had no means of working these out, but we managed to recover some ground following a decent result on the auto test.
Following the rally we returned to the island to book for IMM 2016 in Lommel, Belgium, we visited to the Irish Mini Club stand to await the result of the vote from the presidents meeting for the right to host IMM 2017. Results announced and the Irish guys cracked out the beers having won which marks 20 years since the last Irish hosting, the excellent 1997 IMM in Banoon (2107 promises to be an IMM not to be missed - the Guinness fund has started). With no need to drive on Sunday it was time to make the most of the cheap beer, and a few free ones when the bar announced it was ‘happy time’ (too right it was!!!).
Sunday 24th May - The morning was spent on the island and at lunchtime we went on a trip to a local watermill which proved somewhat problematic to locate down some very mini un-friendly roads. This was followed by an afternoon trip across the Boroen into Latvia where due to some rather dodgy road signs and a breakdown in radio communication we managed to get split up on the return journey. Then back to Zarasai for the IMM closing ceremony and the traditional handing over of the IMM key to next year’s hosts, Mini Fun Club, Belgium. A long drive lay ahead for us all the following day so we had to take the beer a bit steady in the evening.
Monday 25th May - Zarasai to Warsaw - 408 miles - An early start to get the minis packed up and ready for the return journey. A 408 mile journey lay ahead to our evening stop in Warsaw where the Sat Nav decided to go mental and take us to the opposite side of the city to the hotel, fortunately we were able to get directions from some locals who had come to look at the minis. The hotel and a late night McDonalds were located.
Tuesday 26th May - Warsaw to Berlin - 372 miles - Stephen, Jackie and Robert had an additional week stay in Europe to me so we went our separate ways with them heading off to look at Auschwitz and Colditz castle and myself a 2 night break in Berlin followed by a 2 day, 850 mile run for home.
Thursday 28th May - Berlin to Bielefeld, Germany -307 miles
Friday 29th May - Bielefeld to Wootton Bassett - 547 miles
Total Travel 2740 Miles