Driving from Germany to Dubai ... at 81
By MUAZ SHABANDRI | Khaleej Times, Dubai, UAE | Published: January 12, 2013
It's no ordinary feat to drive from Germany to Dubai, and 81-year old Martin Blaskowitz knows it all too well. The German national completed a solo journey crossing 13 countries and covering 20,000 kilometers before reaching Dubai, where he met his son Alexander.
"It was my dream to go on a road trip all alone and I have proved to myself that I can still do anything even at this age," says Martin.
Dressed in a checkered shirt and blue denim trousers, Martin has a good laugh sharing some of his memorable moments while talking to Khaleej Times.
"I knew it was always going to be risky but I don't have any regrets when I look back," says the 81 year old.
Buying a 1988 Fiat Ducato motorhome from a second-hand dealer in Germany, Martin started his tour in the Wesel District of Germany. Travelling to Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Italy, Sicily, Albania, Greece, Turkey and Iran, Martin finally reached Dubai 45 days after setting out.
"After crossing the age of 80, most people consider themselves scrap and they really don't have anything to look forward to in life. I didn't want to sit at home and get bored doing nothing," remarks Martin, who has spent his lifetime working as a contractor.
Driving between 400 to 600 kilometers a day, Martin stopped over at gas stations every night to rest. Complete with beds, a washroom, a cooking range and an LCD television, the camper was his home every night. "I used to eat spaghetti because it was easy to prepare and it didn't take a lot of time. In Turkey, it was also convenient to get groceries from the gas station," recollects Martin.
He had his own share of challenges and difficulties during the road trip but his good luck and determination helped overcome the problems.
"It's very hard to communicate when two people don't understand the same language. Even buying something as simple as a SIM card can become a matter of how well you explain yourself using hand gestures."
Beating all odds, Martin survived two robberies on his journey. He was even left without money during the last leg of his journey. "I was robbed twice on my way. Once in Italy half way through my trip and once in Iran. I lost more than 1,500 Euros but I still did not give up," says Martin.
The most challenging bit of his journey was crossing the border from Turkey to Iran. Unaware of the visa policies and customs regulations, Martin had to spend three days at the border check post before being allowed into Iran after getting a visa to enter the country.
Once in Iran, Martin had to face an even more difficult journey ahead. Without a map in hand, he could only make his way by asking people who could read the road signs written in the local language.
"A person put a few dots on a piece of paper and marked the important cities and towns with the distance between them written beside the point. That piece of paper was my only reference through the journey in Iran," adds Martin.
His problems were made even more difficult when his international ATM card did not work in Iran.
"I could not withdraw any money because of the banking restrictions in the country and I was left only with 500 Euros which I had withdrawn from Turkey," remarks Martin.
Luckily though, Martin was lent $1000 by an Iranian person whom he met on the journey. From there on he never looked back.
"I had an accident in Bandar Abbas in Iran and the windshield of the motorhome cracked. From there, I took a ferry to Sharjah and that was the end of my journey," says Martin. He now lives with his son Alexander in Dubai's Tecom area and has no plans to take a road journey again for a long time to come.
"I have decided to sell-off the motorhome and go back to my family after spending some time in Dubai," says the German national. Later this month, Martin will take a flight to Las Vegas where he plans to build his own house and settle down with his wife. Looking back at his time in the different countries, Martin still believes the world has a lot of good people.
His son Alexander has little to say as he remarks, "I know if my father ever says he is going to do something, he will do it. There are no questions asked."