Have you seen anything unusual while traveling?
21 days, more than 5000 kilometers and two men who could hardly be more different: The unusual journey of Torben Kroker and his neighbor Carlos, whose real name is Karl-Heinz Schulz, could also have come from the pen of a scriptwriter. Because Carlos decided at the age of 93 that he would definitely like to travel to the places of his youth again. And preferably with his young friend Torben.
Since Carlos is not a man of empty words, he simply suggests Torben take the unusual trip last autumn over a meal together. However, the 20-year-old is initially more skeptical than enthusiastic. "I just couldn't imagine how that would work," says Torben the reisereporter. Carlos, however, does not want to be turned away so easily, he wants to go to the sea! So he just gives Torben the road trip for Christmas. “Then I couldn't say no anymore,” recalls the 20-year-old from Emmerich in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Road trip leads through France, Spain, Italy and Monaco
Today, a good eight months later, the two men are right in the middle of their adventure together. In Torben's old Mercedes they travel through the Basque Country in Spain, stroll through Monaco and make stops in Italy, France and Germany.
And with each new stop, a different Carlos story comes to life. “He often told me about his past at home. But now that we are really in the places from his youth, I can imagine a lot of things better, ”says Torben.
What is often like an exciting history excursion for the trainee is often very emotional for Carlos. Because the pensioner was captured after the Second World War. He was then employed on a vineyard in France, fled to Spain, where he worked as a lathe operator and lived with two host families in the Basque Country. It was there that he got his nickname Carlos. And the very places where he walked as a young man he now visits with his young friend.
And he not only enjoys the many exciting stories of the pensioner, but also the many places that they explore together. The prospective insurance salesman was particularly fond of Monaco: "It took me a while to process the many impressions of the city, the port and the many people there."
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Torben brings mobility, Carlos the serenity
His companion, on the other hand, is a rather calm contemporary. “Carlos is such an oasis of calm, I don't know that from anyone else. Especially in the last few days I have taken over a lot of the serenity. ”But such an unequal friendship has advantages for both sides. Carlos especially appreciates Torben's mobility and organization. But there is another thing that the younger part learns from his older friend: “What it's like when you're old at some point.” For example, the friendship has made him much more sensitive to the needs of older people.
The extraordinary friendship between the two began when the then 16-year-old mowed the lawn of his neighbor for the first time. Somehow they liked each other, the two very different men, so they saw each other more often from now on. Torben stopped by for coffee, they went for a walk or met in front of the house for a little chat. Today they talk on the phone at least twice a day and spend a lot of time together.
And yet their views often diverge widely. This can also be seen on her European road trip. Because even on vacation you cannot avoid one topic: the coronavirus pandemic. “That was really crazy because we noticed very clearly how differently European countries deal with Corona. We had to adapt to new rules in almost every country. "
And because Torben is concerned about his friend Carlos' health, he takes extra care and strictly adheres to the rules. That means for both of them: “In Spain we had to put on the mask as soon as we left the hotel room, in Italy there were even fever checks in the hotel, while in Austria we were told by the receptionist that we could take off the mask. "
Torben does not notice a real difference to the vacations in recent years: the tourist hotspots are well attended, the vacationers relaxed, and on the beach there is often even a party.
Carlos wants to travel despite the coronavirus pandemic
But what does Carlos do when Torben is worried about the crowds around him? The 93-year-old remains calm. Because although Carlos belongs to the risk group at his age by definition, he knew exactly what he was getting into. "When the pandemic spread, I tried to convince Carlos to postpone our trip," says Torben. He just didn't want to take any chances to protect Carlos and not himself.
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The 93-year-old, however, remains determined to show his young friend the places of his youth. And this summer, not sometime. The pandemic should not prevent him from doing so. “I have to go sometime anyway,” he says to Torben. Until then, he doesn't want to spend his time waiting, but rather see the world.
The media hype surrounding the European road trip surprised both of them
Carlos has been demonstrating his determination every day since then. With his rollator he defies even the greatest heat and the steepest mountains. And thanks to Torben, thousands of people are now seeing that on social media and in the newspapers. Because the 20-year-old shares the impressions of her trip on his Instagram profile. With unprecedented warm feedback from his followers.
So it didn't take long for the first media to contact the two of them. “The local press from our town somehow found out about our trip and wanted to make a story about it.” Of course, neither of them have anything against that. But it should not stay with the one story. This is followed by interviews with various media and even a shoot with a television team.
The sudden media hype surprised the unequal friends. Carlos in particular cannot understand the interest in the trip. “What do they all want from us?” He has asked Torben several times since then. For the retiree, it's a normal trip with a good friend. “Unfortunately, he doesn't see how impressive it is to be so active and brave at his age,” says Torben.
Will the friends be making another trip to Europe?
However, it is of course clear to his young friend why the story interests many. He hopes that at the end of his trip to Europe, maybe one or the other can motivate himself to deal more with the people around him. Because Carlos isn't the only retiree who is lonely and maybe just needs a friend.
"It is enormously enriching for us young people, too, to give older people part of our time, because we always get something back." On the contrary: "Who knows: If Carlos turns 100, then maybe both of us will travel through Europe again."
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