Opinion: Iconic picture taken on St. Maarten to become part of Mercedes Museum Collection

POSTED: 07/30/12 1:30 PM

An iconic picture taken at the beach in Maho will become part of a collection at the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart next year. The picture shows a by now 23-year old Mercedes G-class car. The woman facing the camera must be Christine, the late wife of Günther Holtorf, a German airline executive who set out for what was supposed to be an 18-month tour of Africa in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
But 500, 000 miles (about 800, 000 kilometers) and 200 countries later, Holtorf is still on the road. In 2010, Holtorf’s wife Christina passed away, but that did not stop him. At her explicit request, he kept on traveling.
Next year the 74-year old globetrotter will finally call it a day and that is when his car, an 85 horsepower diesel G-class jeep-like vehicle will go to the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart.
What has all this to do with St. Maarten? As the picture shows, at one moment during his epic world trip, Holtorf and his wife ended up on our island. Looking at the background, it seems that the Caravanserai property was not built yet.
The undated image surfaced this weekend when global media picked up the story and posted a series of pictures that document the destinations the Holtorf-couple visited: from Brazil, Paris, Mount Everest, Cuba, Northern Iraq (during the war, naturally), Hollywood, San Francisco, Kazakhstan and Albuquerque, the Caribbean, many African countries, North-Korea and Alaska. St. Maarten was one of the stops in the Caribbean.
Holtorf lovingly baptized his car Otto. Last month Otto hit its two-hundredth destination and the odometer marked close to 800, 000 kilometers. That odometer posed a problem though, because it originally had only five digits, meaning that the counter would return to zero after hitting 99, 999 kilometers. Holtorf found a solution for that: upon approaching the 100, 000-kilometer mark he swung by a European Mercedes dealer who cracked open the meter and manually added a sixth figure.
Holtorf obviously set out on his epic trip before the birth of the internet, so blogging about his adventures was not an option. In Vietnam he encountered a photographer, David Lemke, and he has documented the trip in a fascinating series of pictures.
Holtorf had no sponsors or factory-backing. He put up his own money for this journey of a lifetime. Interviewed by BBC-news, Holtorf said that restaurants and hotels are the main cost for travelers. That’s why he equipped Otto with cooking and sleeping facilities. That freed up money to pay for fuel and shipping cost.
Remarkable: in the past 23 years the G-class Mercedes never ever experienced a serious mechanical breakdown. A baffling testimony to German gründlichkeit.

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