So, on Saturday, February 10th I started the journey to, what now turns out to be the road trip of my life. This blog post should review one of the longest and craziest journeys I have ever made.
So, a week ago my girlfriend came up to me and asked me if I wanted to go to france, to quickly pick up a dog. You have to know, that my girlfriend and her mother are dog breeders and they specialized in a croatian / bosnian race. These dogs seem pretty rare, so breeders that spread this race are pretty spaced out and far away from each others. It’s not a rarity that a breeder travels across the globe to get the dog pregnant. Well, this post is not about the dog, so to keep it short, I said yes – so we went to France past weekend.
How we planned it:
The shortest route we plotted should take us through Germany, Luxembourg and of course a big chunk of France.
We slept over at my place, so we decided to wake up early – like around 3:00 in the morning, go over to her place and pick up her mothers diesel car; and then go to france at around 04:30. The estimated time of arrival was expected to be around 14:30-15:00, so in case we weren’t too tired and alternated between parts of the route we could have gone back after picking up the dog and be back at home around 23:00 o’ clock. We didn’t take anything with us to keep it simple. We wanted to eat out at some Mc Donald’s along the route and buy some groceries at a french supermarket.
How it really went:
So came Friday we went to sleep early. From around 15:30 til 19:00 we slept at home, but then woke up and couldn’t sleep all the way through. My girlfriend went to pick up some ice cream in Iserlohn and then we made dinner and watched a movie. After that we were tired enough again, so went back to sleep. Of course this was the first fuck up of the day. We overslept and woke up at 04:00 in the morning. Being way too late, we immediately jumped in the car and drove to her mothers. We switched cars – she wanted to take the first part of the route. We weren’t even able to complete 20km before the car apparently broke. When accelerating, the Volvo decided to switch into emergency program runtime thus we weren’t even able to accelerate further than 70 km/h. In this situation we decided to go back home and sleep until her mother woke up. We wanted to tell her, that we aren’t able to complete the journey without the car being fixed up.
When we woke up it was already 11:30. We rushed outside to see her mother already took the car and went somewhere. We thought she would wake us up, when she realized we are home and therefore not gone to France, but no. We called her and she told us that car is running nicely. What?!
When my girlfriends mother came back home, we switched cars again and started our way to France. The car was indeed running fine by now but we were still scared, that this malfunction would occur somewhere along the way.
The first part took us through the Eifel. A low mountain range south of Cologne. It was well known for hard winters and tons of snow, when in the rest of Germany the weather is still mild and calm. We were happy to see, that there wasn’t that much snow at all and so the journey to Luxembourg was pretty chill. Crossing the border we programmed the GPS to show us the nearest Mc Donald’s along the track; it turned out to be one in the center of Luxembourg City. Arriving there, we saw that apparently the McD there had to be closed down. There was no sight of McD anywhere close. The whole block of buildings seemed pretty newly built and somehow being some kind of fairgrounds. Signs around there said “Trade fair” which supported this thought. We went back onto the Autobahn and plotted the route back to Lachaux. The next McD was in Thionville, France. So we left the highway there and went through the French villages. We passed the nuclear power center of Cattenom.
With the nuclear power plant in mind, everything in this village looked fitting. I am not joking when I tell you that the villages in France look like something out of an end of days movie. Many kilometers later, we found ourselves at our first real stop. We left the car to enter McDonald’s restaurant of Thionville. Since apparently not a single soul in France is able to speak English, we decided to place an order at one of the new ordering machines, so we wouldn’t have to talk to any personell. I, as a vegeratian don’t have a broad choice of food anyways, so my choices at McDonald’s are pretty limited to begin with. Seeing that the menu in Thionville didn’t include the vegetarian burgers, we decided to just grab some food at the local supermarket next to the McD restaurant.
We didn’t want to waste much time, so we grabbed a baguette and some croissants (no pun intended). I grabbed myself a can of peas with carrots and some forks, my girlfriend got some chocolate snack. Back in the car we alternated for the first time – so I drove the next part of the route. Almost everywhere in France – apart from the paid roads – you can go 110 km/h max. As a German, let me tell you, that it is really hard to hold these speeds. I had to use the cruise control to not overspeed all the time, since this is said to be pretty expensive all over France. In Nancy, we passed one of the stations where you get your ticket which enables you to use the paid roads in France, speed limits were 130 km/h almost everywhere – which seemed like a gift to us, after being limited to 110 km/h for the most part. Still 500km to go, we decided to alternate drivers again, when we passed by the next gas station.
Resting spots look somehow different to those you are used to from German roads. So it was a sad fact, that I missed 3 gas stations along the route. With only 250 km to go, we finally made it to what turned out to be the last opened gas station all over southern France – but I will tell you more about this later.
My girlfriend took over the steering wheel and drove the last part of the highway, into the villages and into the outback – somewhere in France where only pioneers of civilization are living (it seems). Looking at architecture, age of buildings and signs along the way, I told my girlfriend “this literally looks like G.I. Joe in his american army uniform, would hop out of the bushes, holding his Tommy gun and force us to stop.”
But this was just imagination. No one would stop us; because there apparently is no one even living. Looking outside the cars windows, we only saw nature in it’s wildest form, so it seemed surreal that the road was asphalted and even bridges were crossing the small rivers.
Then finally. A small street sign showed us the way to the small village of Lachaux, France. By the time we came this far, I already thought that this village was just a fantasy. I really expected we were bein fooled and Lachaux was as real as Santa Clause or the seven dwarfs. When we finally made it there, it felt surreal. All the way along the route there was not a single car, not a single human being crossing our ways. It was only 20:00 in the evening and it seemed that the whole area had been abandoned or died out. Still: At this stage of our journey, the dog breeder we wanted to pick up the dog from, wasn’t able to a) send us an accurate destination where to meet up with him, nor b) did he answer our calls and SMS at all. All we had was an “okay” when my girlfriends mother told him, that we would be arriving at around 21:00. All the way, I had the strange feeling we were being fooled and this seem to be some fulfilled prophecy, when we arrived in Lachaux, not knowing where to go next.
Lara came to the idea, that she would stop the next car that’s passing by. 10 seconds later, we really were that lucky. The guy stopped and so she tried to ask him in her best french, if he could help us finding an address that we didn’t even have. The latest SMS we got indicated some town called Saint Yorre. After the nice dude picked up a girl in Lachaux, they decided to drive ahead of us and show us the way to Saint Yorre. They stopped at an intersection and then the whole magic of the evening happened. They were standing next to our car window, trying to communicate with hands and feet. We were trying to tell them that we are searching for a dog breeder. Lara had the idea to just use Google translate, which was a wonder that it was still working somewhere in the outback of France. I had the idea to say “Tornjak” – the woman said “grand chiens” and then somehow they knew who the person was, that we were searching for. They told us that we had to turn around and so we did. Going back to Lachaux – almost the whole way – we realized that we wouldn’t have been able to find this address on our own at all. It seemed like the breeders chose the street name themselves. It was a trail that barely one car could pass. They stopped in front of us. I looked left outside the window and I saw a sign indicating the breeders names. It was a miracle. They really knew the people that had us drive 1000km without telling us an exact address. We thanks those french people – for them it seemed usual to help out foreigners – but in Germany; in situations like those; we would have been killed (best case) and robbed. If you guys read this post, please contact me – I would like you to know the full story of this evening!
After we saw that the fireplace inside the mansion was lit and people were running around in the building – we decided to ring the doorbell. It was 21:05 by the time we rang. No one answered – yet. I decided for myself, that it was over. We travelled for nothing. I went back to the car, when the breeder came to the gate, where Lara still was standing. “What do you want here?”, he said. My girlfriend answered “We came here from Germany. We want to pick up the dog”. All he answered then was “Do you know how late it is? My wife is sick. I don’t want to see you here. Get lost.”. Then he vanished again. Around 20 dogs were barking during the whole 15 minutes we were still standing in front of the mansion. Other dogs from the village seemed to answer from the other side. We were in awe. We’ve been traveling for a good 10 hours, just to hear those sentences. After calling back Laras mother, we decided to go back to Germany – nothing on our hands. We weren’t even able to see the dog.
The long way home
We were fucked up beyond all repair. Staying at a hotel never was an option. I decided to drive all night, and get to Germany as quickly as possible. The whole way through France was rubberbanding. We were running out of Diesel and it seemed that all the gas stations, all over France were closed. The fuel dispensers were locked at every stop we took. Several gas stations and coffee machines later, we reached Nancy – where we paid the last bill for using french tracks. Fuel level was already master caution.
Somehow we found a gas station where we were able to fill up on Diesel. Looking at the price – it seemed that in France Diesel is more expenive than Gasoline (1.69€?!) – we decided to go for 30 Euros only. Soon after we stopped again in Luxembourg to fill up the tank for 1.01 Euro. Close to the German border it began snowing. Not much, but it was annoying. We started driving more carefully now. When we then crossed the border to Germany finding us in the Eifel again and seeing my stress level after driving around 8 hours already by this time – I was overcautious. And that was for a reason. Snow accumulated on the roads. Around Bitburg and further there has been closed snow packs around 5cm and more. The average speed we were going was around 50-60km/h.
Lara was sleeping. For the rest of the route I tried to stay vigilant. Arriving in Krefeld, I was happy that I was able to pull this off. This was the most challenging haul I made, ever in my life. We switched cars and alternated drivers. Lara took the last chunk of our route back to my home. Those last 100km indeed felt like a joke, compared to the stress we endured on this rally through France.
I never had good feelings about this country and those feelings haven’t been altered now. I was impressed, that the young couple we met in Lachaux helped us this nicely, but the mix out of not a single soul in the whole country able to speak English, the villages that could have been the scenery of a WW2 movie and the asshole that made us drive 2000km for no reason were enough for me. Parts of France might be nice and all good, but southern France seems to be a racist slum to me. Seeing that we were from Germany, no one was able to help us it seemed.
Please do me a favor
Also: If you are interested in buying a dog, especially a Tornjak from a breeder in France, please do some research. Please do me the favor and DO NOT DRIVE to France or anywhere else, without being sure that you will get the dog.
Above picture shows one of the Tornjak dogs of my girlfriends breed. They are based out of central Europe (Western Germany). They wouldn’t send you home, when you pick up a dog at their place. Do your research and get your dog from a nice breeder, not an asshole. Thanks.