Sharing my city: Amsterdam with Lizzy van der Ligt

car2go: Lizzie van der Ligt in an apartment in Amsterdam.

What does it feel like to go on holiday and not just live in someone else’s apartment, but to immerse yourself in someone else’s life?

What was travel like before the advent of platforms on which private individuals can rent out their apartment by the day or week or that enable you to discover an unknown city for yourself using car2go? For some people, those times are now little more than a vague memory. It’s just so fantastic to make your own fried egg in the morning in a city that was unknown to you until yesterday, to browse someone else’s well-assorted bookshelves and, in most cases, to be supplied first-hand with insider tips – following the motto: “immerse yourself in another life”.

Digitalisation and the opportunities offered by the “sharing economy”, in which you don’t need to own something to use it, are opening the door to new ways of living, travelling and working. People are not just sharing car2go vehicles, using Facebook to stay in touch with friends in faraway places and following their latest music discoveries on Spotify. These technologies are causing people’s own networks to grow exponentially. Often, all it takes is an email to get in touch with friends of friends on the other side of the world.

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Our video with stylist and blogger Lizzy van der Ligt describes this way of life and the wide-ranging opportunities that arise from networking and the sharing of information and things. What would it be like if we were one day able not just to book a private apartment for a city trip, but to totally immerse ourselves in another life for a day? Sharing my city: Amsterdam.

car2go: Lizzie van der Ligt next to a smart in Amsterdam.
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class exploring the hidden beauty of France.

Guest article: France’s hidden beauty.

The photographer duo Martin Krolop and Marc Gerst on tour with G-Class and A-Class.

12 days of comfort and driving pleasure.

Martin Krolop and Marc Gerst spent 12 days travelling through France, accompanied by two elegant vehicles. The G-Class combines comfort and transport volume while at the same time providing lots of opportunities for taking photographs off the road. The A-Class drives beautifully and the 250 Sport version is particularly fun on out-of-town roads. A perfect duo for a lot of photography equipment and 5.000 km over 12 days. Any specific aims in mind? To have fun driving, gain some nice experiences and to come back home with as many fascinating car pictures as possible showing the versatility of France.

The A-Class drives beautifully and the 250 Sport version is particularly fun on out-of-town roads.
A 250 Sport: Fuel consumption combined: 6.7 l/100 km; combined CO₂ emissions: 156 g/km.*
A black Mercedes-Benz G-Class is photographed on a sandy beach between old shipwrecks.
G 500: Fuel consumption combined: 12.3 l/100 km; combined CO₂ emissions: 289 g/km.*

Fascinating weather conditions.

12 days of travelling across France doesn’t necessarily mean summer and sunshine all the way. Of course it sometimes rains there and we didn’t exactly pick the best days of the year for travelling around Brittany. But we did have the best vehicle to brace the weather.

The G-Class helps you to cope with things a lot better and even to turn them into good points. In the pouring rain, we jumped into the car and drove right into an old ship graveyard. We headed straight into the mud. And lo and behold, the best pictures come out of the most testing of circumstances.

The front of the anthracite-coloured A-Class 250 Sport on a sandy beach.

Car wash four times a day.

Of course, as a photographer, you’d like to keep digital editing as simple as possible. Everyone wants to avoid making mistakes when taking photos and, while powder is important for portraits, the car wash is just as important in car photography. This resulted in us washing the cars at least twice a day, and sometimes even three or four times. We even went through the car wash in the rain and bad weather, which caused some people to give us strange looks. Who washes their car in the pouring rain? But it was definitely worth it and the right thing to do because a clean car just looks better, even in the rain.

Unusual perspectives.

For photographers, it’s that special angle or the most thrilling camera position which makes photography so special. A new tool has recently become available to help achieve this. Quadrocopters or hexacopters are aerial devices which can be used to get a camera into the air. This way, exceptional photos can be taken which would otherwise not be possible. It is possible to shoot from different angles and the pictures have a fresh, exciting quality. Communication is, of course, a particular challenge. Two technical devices have to be synchronised with one another: the drone and the car.

With the help of a drone unusual perspectives of the mercedes-Benz G-Class are possible.
Even in the cloudy and grey Bretagne the Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport looks great.

Bonjour, tristesse.

In the beginning, we were quite disappointed about the bad weather but then we encountered the beauty of France. On a road trip, you have a lot of time to look around you. You have plenty of time to take a nice detour and then you are bound to discover different forms of beauty. The surroundings look different, the colours have different hues, and the effect of the images is also different. It didn’t take us long to adapt to the weather and soon enough we were on the lookout for the right images.

The cockpit of the A 250 Sport at sunrise near the Côte d'Azur.

Shocking moments at the wheel.

No, it’s not what one might think. These were positive shocks. There’s one moment in particular that I’ll never forget. After we had continued our trip towards the Mediterranean, and, on the first day on the Côte d'Azur had gotten up extra early to photograph the sunrise, the sun appeared on the horizon at the exact moment when I was sitting behind the steering wheel of the A-Class driving along a winding coastal road.

We stopped and, although we would normally have gotten out of the car, we both just remained in our seats. I wrapped my hands around the steering wheel, felt the leather, looked out into the distance, watched the warm rays of sun caressing the instrument panel and just enjoyed a true moment of beauty.

The G-Class is at home everywhere.

I will never forget the positive reactions the G-Class received on our trip. Everywhere we went, people commented on the stylish German car. Every time we filled up with fuel, we were given compliments and had to answer people’s questions. Some people even asked if they could jump in. The most interesting thing was the genuine admiration which we were shown. As a photography subject, the G-Class was, of course, also an absolute dream. Regardless of whether we were at the beach, in the dunes or in town, it just wasn’t possible to take a bad picture of this car.

The Mercedes-Benz G-Class on a road lined with palm trees at sunset near the Côte d'Azur.
The Mercedes-Benz G 500 on its way to the French alps.

500 kilometres per day.

That doesn’t sound like a big deal on first hearing it, but when you have ploughed through 500 kilometres on out-of-town roads, narrow lanes off the main roads, and through enchanted little villages, then that number takes on a whole new meaning. And when you pause to stop and take photos regularly and are always on the lookout for a great location, the physical demands are really quite high. Then it’s especially nice to have comfortable seats and the ride comfort they provide. When the car seats are more comfortable than the hotel beds, you either made a lousy choice selecting the hotels or the car seats are just unbelievably comfortable.

500 kilometres per day.

That doesn’t sound like a big deal on first hearing it, but when you have ploughed through 500 kilometres on out-of-town roads, narrow lanes off the main roads, and through enchanted little villages, then that number takes on a whole new meaning. And when you pause to stop and take photos regularly and are always on the lookout for a great location, the physical demands are really quite high. Then it’s especially nice to have comfortable seats and the ride comfort they provide. When the car seats are more comfortable than the hotel beds, you either made a lousy choice selecting the hotels or the car seats are just unbelievably comfortable.

The Mercedes-Benz G 500 on its way to the French alps.

Bends, bends, bends.

On the whole, we steered clear of motorways and attempted to drive on out-of-town arterial routes as much as possible. The roads around the Carmargue region near Montpellier proved to be a real dream for motorists. The winding bends didn’t push the two cars to their limits, rather they gave the cars the chance to show the power that the engines had under their bonnets. We knew right from the beginning that we had to somehow record the dynamism, power and driving dynamics of the vehicles in our photos and this challenge was very close to the top of our list of priorities during the whole journey.

The Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport likes its streets mountainous and curvy.
The black Mercedes-Benz G-Class alongside a ruin on a mountain road in Brittany.

Where getting lost is actually desirable.

Coincidences often provide the best basis for special pictures. Every photographer knows that. For a road trip, that means you have to take the odd wrong turn here and there. In other words, you could say that you have to deliberately incorporate some detours through unknown territory. In the High Alps, you can land on the most beautiful locations by simply taking a dubious-looking pass road and suddenly turning into no-man’s land. A small, inconspicuous path will lead to a mountain stream or to a charming ruin.

A mountainous landscape in Brittany surrounded by clouds with a view down onto the Mercedes-Benz G 500.

A passion for highs and lows.

Of course, you should have a certain predisposition to do this but I can hardly imagine anything more beautiful than clouds, snow-covered mountain peaks, flowering meadows with cheerful cows and a powerful V8 engine to fight your way up the winding roads. What’s special about France is the extent and the diversity of the country at every juncture.

Well, you can see that in Australia or the USA, too. But France stands out with its particular European charm. We went through a kind of time lapse. One day, we were on the Atlantic with the waves whipping up on the sea, and on the next, at the Mediterranean in 29-degree heat and without a cloud in the sky. Later still, we were standing on a high alpine pass with our feet in the snow. Bewildering and absolutely fascinating at the same time.

The black Mercedes-Benz G-Class in the Breton hills in the sunshine.

Off-road.

Neither Marc Gerst nor my humble self are experts when it comes to off-road driving. But we utilised the advantages of the G-Class and left roads and man-made tracks behind us as often as possible. And what was our verdict? The G-Class belongs there as much as it does on out-of-town roads. Maybe even more so. As you slowly drive over tree roots and approach gradients thinking: “This one’s surely going to be too steep,” but then see how the G-Class gently hums its way up, you know what kind of vehicle you are in.

Sophisticated snapshots.

As photographers, we can, of course, employ the odd trick to make our shots look more special. One of these is the so-called car rig shot, for which a very delicate construction is fixed to the car in order to drive the camera with the car. As long as the camera position is not changed in relation to the car, the car is pictured in sharp focus and the background is blurred due to the car’s movement.

The Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport seen from above while two photographers prepare the vehicle for a car rig shot.
Seems faster than it is. A car rig shot of the Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport.

Looks like 100 km/h but it’s actually being pushed.

In the finished photo, it looks as if the car is speeding along. The perceived speed is 100 km/h or more. In reality, a photographer sets off the camera, the other photographer releases the brakes gently and lets the car roll forward for two seconds by about 50 cm.

The image is taken during these two seconds and the result is really amazing. Many thanks to co-author Patrick Lehmann for the help he gave us.

Image gallery.


Guest article: All statements in this article are personal opinions and impressions of the author and sometimes not of the Daimler AG.

Related.

Kyoto - Take your time.

Take your time.

Kyoto is famous for its temples and shrines. A group of artists have taken up this theme, giving the traditional a new twist.

The infamous mountain basin location.

The glass teahouse glistens in the hot midday sun. But the glass benches in front of it feel cool despite the heat. This modern art installation stands on the wooden observation deck of a little known Buddhist temple in the mountains east of Kyoto. The deck provides an ideal vantage point from which to observe the checkerboard layout of the city, famed above all for its countless shrines and temples. Not to mention because it’s also a great place to spot passers-by clad in traditional kimonos. 1,200 years ago, the emperor at the time decided to relocate his palace to the plateau here, surrounded on three sides by mountains, for protection. Kyoto’s location in a mountain basin is infamous: it makes the summers hotter and the winters colder. The Kamogawa River bisects the city from north to south, and in spring when the cherry trees blossom, it transforms into one long pink ribbon.

Kyoto - Take your time.
Kyoto - Take your time.

The natives love their city’s beauty.

But they are even prouder of Kyoto’s status as the cultural capital of Japan. Despite all the modernisation going on, traditions are upheld here more than anywhere else in Japan. That sense of elevated esteem inspires artists and creative spirits to ensure that in Kyoto, “old” is never equated with “old-fashioned”. A few of them have kindly provided an insight into their lives and work.

 

In the expansive park of the Imperial Palace, home to the emperor for 1,000 years before the imperial residence was moved to Tokyo 150 years ago, joggers do their rounds these days. Just a few steps away, Fumie Okumura resides in a gorgeous Machiya townhouse. Sunlight passing through carvings paints flowery patterns on the walls. “Before I moved from Tokyo to Kyoto two years ago, I thought of it as being very provincial,” remarks the 45-year-old about this city of 1.5 million inhabitants. “But then I began to understand that what’s visible is only a tiny part of this city.”

Kyoto - Take your time.

In search of an identity.

A former stage actress, Okumura reinvented herself as a food director. Constantly on the lookout for Japan’s future tastes, she develops new food concepts and marketing strategies, encouraging farmers to produce apple wine rather than apples, or to grow organic vegetables. Distances are shorter in Kyoto, making it easier for her to implement many of her ideas.

The impulse for change came in 2012 when she married a German gallery owner who had commuted between Kyoto and Tokyo for 30 years.

What Okumura loves most about Kyoto is its close connection to nature, reflected in its cuisine. And the Kyo-yasai vegetables, ancient heirloom varieties cultivated by farmers in the surrounding countryside. “Kyoto vegetables define the identity of the local cuisine,” says Okumura. Her own personal identity, a place where she truly belongs, is something she’s been searching for her whole life, explains Okumura. Judging from the twinkle in her eye, she may have finally found it.

The gentle passage of time.

The artist who goes by the name of Shoshu never really left town. Born in Kyoto, the internationally recognised calligraphy artist cannot imagine living somewhere else. “In Kyoto, time passes tick-tock, tick-tock – very slowly and gently.” In Tokyo, where he often travels on business, everyone is in a hurry. Bald and small in stature, the 58-year-old bears a passing resemblance to a Zen monk. He sits on tatami flooring in a small, inconspicuous house in one of Kyoto’s many narrow side streets. Spatters of black cover the walls. “Kyoto essentially consists of one big historic old town. At the same time, new things are constantly being born here. So it just makes sense for me to work here,” says the artist, known for his unorthodox style. What calligraphy character would he use to describe Kyoto? “Shinkyu – new and old.” In Kyoto, he asserts, everything comes together.

Kyoto - Take your time.
Kyoto - Take your time.

The same is true of his art.

While others base their work on the old masters, Shoshu prefers channelling the guitar riffs of his idol Eric Clapton into energetic brushstrokes using homemade ink. With a brush nearly as wide as a broom, he applies the ink to soft washi paper. His unique approach has earned him 200 students from across the country and prestigious commissions, including Mercedes-Benz advertisements.

 

“I love tradition,” emphasises Shoshu, “but we live in 2016. So we experience certain events, in politics and life. I want to create artworks that reflect this. That’s the only way tradition can be carried on.” His aim is to completely revolutionise calligraphy.

The same is true of his art.

While others base their work on the old masters, Shoshu prefers channelling the guitar riffs of his idol Eric Clapton into energetic brushstrokes using homemade ink. With a brush nearly as wide as a broom, he applies the ink to soft washi paper. His unique approach has earned him 200 students from across the country and prestigious commissions, including Mercedes-Benz advertisements.

 

“I love tradition,” emphasises Shoshu, “but we live in 2016. So we experience certain events, in politics and life. I want to create artworks that reflect this. That’s the only way tradition can be carried on.” His aim is to completely revolutionise calligraphy.

Kyoto - Take your time.

Innovation against all odds.

Innovation comes from three groups of people – outsiders, young people, and idiots, says a Japanese proverb. Eriko Horiki smiles and nods in response to this. The 54-year-old paper and lighting artist belonged to the second category. In her early twenties she resolved to save the art of washi from extinction – the manufacture of paper from the bark of the mulberry tree. There was only one small hitch: the former bank customer service representative knew nothing at all about the 1,500-year-old handicraft. For years, local craftsmen said, “You didn’t go to university, you never studied design or management: it’s impossible.” Undaunted, Horiki tried out new methods, began thinking in larger, more practical terms. And succeeded, with innovative, large-scale sheets of paper over ten meters (33 ft.) long. Fashioned into wall coverings or folding screens, her paper is used today by museums, luxury stores, hotels, and company offices to supply that unmistakable Japanese touch.

Kyoto - Take your time.
Kyoto - Take your time.

“Kyoto’s inhabitants are in no rush.”

Nature is Keisuke Kanto’s teacher. He loves the mountains around Kyoto. He stands tall and proud beside a maple on natural stones in Okumura’s courtyard garden. Kanto creates gardens so that nature can take care of itself – and look beautiful without any human interference. He, too, values the close ties that exist among Kyoto’s creatives – “not just for work, but also over sake in the evenings,” the 40-year-old adds with a smile. Kanto, who studied in Tokyo for several years, also appreciates the unhurried lifestyle: “Kyoto’s inhabitants are in no rush, not even the staff at McDonald’s.” The chain’s logo is brown in Kyoto, since red is reserved for the gods.

A feast less ordinary.

Takao Fujiyama magnetically draws diners’ attention to his side of the counter. Brandishing a sword-like knife, the 44-year-old head chef at Wakuden Muromachi cuts a roll of frozen pike conger into paper-thin slices, then drapes them over crispy green vegetables. Founded nearly 150 years ago in Tango, north of Kyoto, Wakuden is the proud holder of a Michelin star, and shook up the local restaurant scene when it moved to the city in 1982. In accordance with Tango’s cooking traditions, dishes are prepared in a very straightforward manner. “We combine the best of the countryside with the best of Kyoto,” explains Fujiyama. And they use rare ingredients such as grilled sea cucumber ovaries. Freshness is paramount: vegetables are organically grown, the restaurant catches its own fish, and staff all lend a hand during the rice harvest. On theme nights, diners get to take Fujiyama’s place behind the counter, knife in hand.

wakuden.jp/ryotei/en/kyoto

Kyoto - Take your time.
Kyoto - Take your time.

Pike conger (Hamo).

When head chef Fujiyama presses his knife down, there is an audible crack. The pike conger – a type of eel up to two meters (almost two yards) long – has around 3,500 bones, explains the chef. When it has been cut into wafer-thin slices by experts like himself, however, diners don’t notice any sign of these when eating it. Hamo is considered a harbinger of autumn and enjoys elevated status in Kyoto cuisine due to its long shelf life. Whereas in days gone by, other types of fish had to be preserved with salt to withstand the 100-kilometer (62-mile) journey inland to Kyoto, the pike conger stayed fresh much longer.

Pike conger (Hamo).

When head chef Fujiyama presses his knife down, there is an audible crack. The pike conger – a type of eel up to two meters (almost two yards) long – has around 3,500 bones, explains the chef. When it has been cut into wafer-thin slices by experts like himself, however, diners don’t notice any sign of these when eating it. Hamo is considered a harbinger of autumn and enjoys elevated status in Kyoto cuisine due to its long shelf life. Whereas in days gone by, other types of fish had to be preserved with salt to withstand the 100-kilometer (62-mile) journey inland to Kyoto, the pike conger stayed fresh much longer.

Kyoto - Take your time.

Savour like an epicure.

If you don’t look carefully whilst strolling through the back alleys of Gion, Kyoto’s traditional entertainment district, you could easily overlook the entrance. Zenya Imanishi maintains that he purposely avoided putting up a big sign. “The Zen Café is intended to be a quiet place for rest and relaxation, a secret.” The 43-year-old head of Kagizen, whose family has been producing Kyogashi – traditional Kyoto confections – for 300 years, serves up things like warm Kuzuyaki (toasted arrowroot) with caramellised wasanbon sugar in the café. When selecting the colour range of his confections, Imanishi is inspired by the refined taste that Kyoto displays in so many areas: not too overpowering, sometimes more symbolic than realistic. Up to the end of the Edo period in the mid-19th century, sweets were reserved exclusively for the upper crust of society, and were used in the tea ceremony, for example. These days Kyogashi are prized as souvenirs or small gifts.

kagizen.co.jp/en

Kyoto - Take your time.
Kyoto - Take your time.

Drink like a local.

“What a fantastic name,” exclaims Masami Onishi about Ki No Bi, the first gin made in Kyoto. It means “beauty of the seasons”. “I love the fall colours in Kyoto,” says the 72-year-old, who for decades was responsible for crafting the flavour of Suntory’s famed Yamazaki whiskey. With the aid of a binational team around head distiller Alex Davies, Onishi is working on the perfect flavour. To a base of rice spirit and water from Fushimi, Kyoto’s sake district, local ingredients such as yuzu citrus fruit, hinoki cypress wood or green tea are added to conjure up the unique Kyoto flavour. The new spirit is nothing less than a declaration of love for centuries-old traditions and the beauty of nature. 27-year-old U.K. native Davies, who has lived in Kyoto since the beginning of the year, agrees: “My favourite time of day is half past six in the morning, when I cycle along the Kamogawa River to the distillery.” In the evenings he prefers to sample the city’s excellent bar scene.

kyotodistillery.jp

Ups and downs.

Starting at the famed Kiyomizu-dera temple (1), a short way down the main shopping precinct, a side street (Sannenzaka, 2) branches off to the right, then heads abruptly downwards past attractive (if not authentic) shops and eateries. The route turns right again at the Ninenzaka steps, heading northwards. The Kodai-ji Temple (3) is well worth a detour. Several times a year the temple is open and illuminated in the evening. For shoppers, the route veers left at Maruyama Park (4), heading past the Yasaka Shrine (5) towards Gion (6). Devoted hikers should turn right here. From the park and Shorenin Temple (7), a fairly steep trail leads upwards to Shogunzuka Seiryuden, 220 meters (721 ft) above (30–45 min.). The observation platform (8), open some evenings in early summer and fall, offers a view over Kyoto. You can also get there by taxi.

Kyoto - Take your time.
Kyoto - Take your time.

Living on the river.

In Kibune, a small river valley north of Kyoto, the summers are noticeably cooler than in the city. Those prepared to venture onto the Kawadoko platforms suspended directly over the river and order traditional light Kaiseki cuisine, are rewarded by dining temperatures that are far more pleasant than those elsewhere. The majority of visitors arrive during the day, but overnight accommodations in traditional inns – known as Ryokan – are also available. 200-year-old Ryokan Ugenta offers small, very tastefully designed rooms in Japanese or Western style, with two floors. In good weather, breakfast is served on the Kawadoko platforms, otherwise in the rooms.

ugenta.co.jp

Living on the river.

In Kibune, a small river valley north of Kyoto, the summers are noticeably cooler than in the city. Those prepared to venture onto the Kawadoko platforms suspended directly over the river and order traditional light Kaiseki cuisine, are rewarded by dining temperatures that are far more pleasant than those elsewhere. The majority of visitors arrive during the day, but overnight accommodations in traditional inns – known as Ryokan – are also available. 200-year-old Ryokan Ugenta offers small, very tastefully designed rooms in Japanese or Western style, with two floors. In good weather, breakfast is served on the Kawadoko platforms, otherwise in the rooms.

ugenta.co.jp

Kyoto - Take your time.

Image Gallery.

Good to know.

Driving

If you want to drive in Japan, an international drivers’ license won’t get you very far. Some drivers need a notarised Japanese translation; rules vary depending on your country of origin. Navigating the narrow passageways of Kyoto’s old town is easier on a bicycle anyway; it’s the ideal method of unlocking the secrets of the ancient imperial capital.

Dousing

Red buckets filled with water sit in front of many houses on Kyoto’s narrow streets. Fear of fires, such as those that occur after an earthquake, for example, is especially prevalent in areas with old wooden Machiya townhouses, like Nishijin, the old silk weavers’ district in northern Kyoto. Many people even head to the local shrine to buy tablets offering protection against fire.

Drawing

The human-animal scrolls in Kozan-ji Temple are considered the earliest manga. The stories run from right to left, which remains the standard today. The Japanese comics have been co-opted by academia: the Kyoto International Manga Museum has 50,000 titles displayed on 200 meters (656 ft) of shelf space, while Seika University in Kyoto offers PhDs in Manga Studies.

Making Sacrifices

The emblem representing the huge Gion Matsuri festival in the Yasaka Shrine resembles the cross-section of a cucumber, and eating the vegetables in July is frowned upon in Kyoto. Instead cucumbers are sacrificed on the fire altar during the Kyuri-Fuji ritual at Renge-ji Temple. Since the cucumber resembles the human body, the July ritual supposedly wards off illness in the summer.

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Forever young.

At the wheel of a 280 SL from the R 107 model series, actor Marc Benjamin discovers a form of motoring which fascinates to this day.

The car blends into the landscape.

One can hear it coming long before it comes into view. As the Mercedes-Benz SL approaches on the bend, its rich, throaty sound rumbles along the road, while the car itself blends almost perfectly into the landscape: the sky over Lermoos is blue, highlighting every one of the surrounding mountain peaks with razor-sharp clarity. The light blue bodywork catches the sunlight and seems to be a seamless extension of the cloud-speckled skies overhead. The original standard paint finish is called “Labrador blue”, and that name alone captures the whole aura of style and romanticism that this vehicle was suffused with from birth.

Beauty might be enough to catch the eye.

Beauty might be enough to catch the eye, but to become etched in the mind, it is real character that counts. This SL has both in abundance. The photo shoot with actor Marc Benjamin takes place in the Tyrol region, and everything comes together perfectly on this fine day: Benjamin was born in 1986, and the Mercedes built in 1983, making it three years older. But while the car is currently having its second lease of life, the actor is celebrating his international breakthrough. Most recently he appeared in the US hit series “Homeland”.

Beauty might be enough to catch the eye.

Beauty might be enough to catch the eye, but to become etched in the mind, it is real character that counts. This SL has both in abundance. The photo shoot with actor Marc Benjamin takes place in the Tyrol region, and everything comes together perfectly on this fine day: Benjamin was born in 1986, and the Mercedes built in 1983, making it three years older. But while the car is currently having its second lease of life, the actor is celebrating his international breakthrough. Most recently he appeared in the US hit series “Homeland”.

Feels like coming home.

“Driving is now more than just getting from A to B,” claimed the original SL model series brochure. Taking a seat feels like coming home: everything seems instantly familiar. And because one is aware of sitting at the wheel of a piece of automotive history, one is filled with an uplifting sense of majesty. Perhaps that’s what makes it feel as if the car is floating along, despite the sporty, taut suspension that keeps it firmly on the road. The vehicle’s original motto is also an apt description of how the fans of such classic cars live their lives. They are part of a technology-savvy generation that chooses its means of transport carefully. Given the travel options available these days, motoring has once again become more than getting from A to B. It is a conscious decision to travel in a car that underlines one’s individuality. Now that the functionality cars offer is becoming increasingly uniform, this individuality is more desirable than ever and it rubs off onto the driver.

Built to last forever.

“Today, so many cars have a cookie-cutter feel to them. There’s not much to distinguish them apart from the brand. But you can recognise an old Mercedes from a long way off,” enthuses Marc Benjamin. This is no doubt one of the reasons why the generation of cars from the early 1980s is currently enjoying such popularity. Hardly any other brand can match the role played by Mercedes-Benz in this regard. The cars are valued not just as design classics: vehicles from that era were already being built to last. The beautiful styling of the body, the view along the seemingly endless engine hood, and the consummate comfort of the car’s interior combine to make the SL model series totally unique.

Second-longest in production.

So it’s no surprise that the R 107-series SL was in production for longer than any other model from Mercedes-Benz apart from the G-Class. And it’s also little wonder that lucky owners would prefer to keep an eye on it at all times: to cater to their needs, the Mohr Life Resort in Lermoos even has a suite with a built-in garage available. “So in the evening, you can admire your classic car through the window while sipping a glass of wine,” grins Marc Benjamin – although the idea doesn’t seem absurd in the least.

Technological pioneer in its time.

In a classic car, you focus more intently on the task of driving. There are hardly any technical assistants, even though the SL was a technological pioneer back in its day, boasting air conditioning, power windows, automatic transmission, ABS, airbag, and trip computer. So driving an old SL also means getting back to basics. This is particularly appealing to the generation that got to discover the world from the back seat of a car. Those who grew up with Polaroid cameras and audio cassettes.

“I like it best when I can savour the full sensory experience of a car journey.” For Benjamin, this includes treating the vehicle respectfully but without being awestruck. The R 107 is easy to drive, it doesn’t take a great deal of expertise to get it moving. “Of course, the older someone is, the more respect you should show them,” says the actor. He is starring in two films in 2016. “Unsere Zeit ist jetzt” (our time is now) is based on the life of Stuttgart-based rapper Cro.

High expectations.

The expectations of the car have not diminished, their focus has simply shifted. The technical advantages of the SL-Class still pay off today. The 1971 R 107 was the first Mercedes model to be fitted with exterior mirrors that could be adjusted from the inside. It also came with an inertia reel for the seat belt, and new tail lights which barely picked up dirt thanks to their shape.

 

As the sun slowly sets in Tyrol, the inviting aroma of herb infusions wafts out of the spa. Now it’s definitely time to park the car in the garage, or rather the hotel room. After all, you should never let the beautiful things in life out of your sight.

Related.

Explore South Tyrol with the Mercedes-Benz G-Class and the photographers of the “German Roamers”.

Guest article: #MBdolomates – With the G-Class in the Dolomites.

On the trail of the “German Roamers”: Follow the outdoor experts on their favourite routes through the mountains of South Tyrol.
Text: Katalina Präkelt
Photos: German Roamers
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class with an unfolded roof tent in front of the starlit sky.

Photographers on the road.

Thick fog blanketing green meadowland, coniferous forests against a backdrop of rugged peaks, mountainous clouds suspended above shimmering lakes – this is South Tyrol at its best, as seen through the lenses of the German Roamers. The professional photographers will go to any lengths for the perfect shot. The German Roamers have been exploring South Tyrol – and now, they reveal where to find the very best light, the most stunning views and the brightest night sky. Johannes Höhn and Max Münch, part of Germany’s best-known Instagram photo collective, spent seven days exploring Italy’s northernmost province, along with four friends and two G-Classes. The six Roamers set off from Cologne and headed for the mountains via Stuttgart and Bolzano. And what would you most likely call friends who go exploring the Dolomites together? Correct – Dolomates – #MBdolomates.

Shifting down a gear.

Narrow passes snake through the mountains. Serpentine driving at Würzjoch, for instance, demands full concentration, with guard rails often the only barrier between the road and the abyss. But all the effort is definitely worthwhile – snow-covered peaks, untamed valleys and endless miles of pasture abound, with a wonder of nature waiting around every corner. But what about shifting down a gear from time to time to deal with steep inclines? “No problem at all,” asserts Johannes. “Quite the opposite, in fact. It gives us far more time to focus on the scenery. We stopped all along the way to take pictures and to simply enjoy the view. But obviously we gave the cars a chance to show what they’re made of.”

The Mercedes-Benz G-Class climbs up a serpentine on a beautiful mountain road in the Dolomites.
From Frommeralm the Kölner hut is accessible by foot or chairlift. From there the route takes you via Tschagerjoch and Vajolet hut straight to the towers.

Capturing the last of the light.

The Vajolet Towers soar majestically into the sky like craggy cliffs. The rocky peaks dominate the skyline above the Schlern-Rosengarten natural park – an area prized by walkers and climbers alike. “We set off in the afternoon from the Kölner hut in search of the best light,” recounts Johannes. And they were successful – bathed in the red glow of the evening sun, the climbers witnessed the full splendour of the peaks. But what about the hardships of the five-hour climb, via fixed rope routes and sharp descents, loaded down with equipment? Not an issue. “When we reached the top, we were utterly exhausted. We had absolutely no energy for celebrating,” recalls Max. “We were totally blown away by the amazing view. It’s an indescribable feeling to get to the top and experience the last sun rays. We just sat there and revelled in the scenery. This absolute peace, the remoteness, the light. Every step was worth it.” He is still fascinated, “But no camera can capture what you feel in a moment like that.”

Heaven’s mirror.

Deep-green fir trees and snow-white mountains are reflected in the surface of the Karer Lake, lying there so calm and unspoiled, it could be made from glass. “I would never have thought that lakes like this existed in Europe,” says Johannes in amazement. “Only in Canada have I ever seen so much beauty in one place.” If you get there early enough, you can witness how the morning sun bathes the Latemar group in rich red hues. “One peak after another changes colour until finally the whole valley is aglow.” Max is bowled over, too: “That’s exactly what the German Roamers want to show to people. There are wonderful things right on our doorstep. You don’t always have to jump on a plane to see breathtaking scenery.”

A man sitting on a rock, in front of him – smooth as a mirror – lies the Karer Lake, with an impressive mountain crest towering in the background.
Mountain pastures and scree lead the way to the Plätzwiese , which lies on a plateau. This is also the location of the Dürrenstein hut.

Reaching for the stars.

The Dürrenstein hut stands on the Plätzwiese surrounded by rocky slopes and rolling pasture. This is a place where you not only can stop en route to the Dürrenstein summit, but can spend the night as well. “The view from the bedroom was breathtaking,” says Johannes, “the panorama was simply stunning.” In the evening, the photographers walked to the Strudelkopf to watch the sunset. From the low grassy mound they had an unhindered view of the surrounding summits – including the Three Peaks, the Dolomites’ iconic rust-red landmark. By night, the Plätzwiese, which is part of the Fanes-Sennes-Braies natural park, is plunged into darkness with zero light pollution. “The Milky Way was so bright above us,” recalls Johannes, “we couldn’t get enough of it.”

A snack with friends.

Anyone who has gone to the effort of climbing a mountain has definitely earned a visit to one of the rustic huts. Fortunately, their landlords are always well-prepared for guests and are happy to provide exhausted walkers with hearty local fare such as Käsenocken (cheese dumplings) and Kaiserschmarrn (a sweet, pancake-based dessert). “The feeling of having achieved something with your friends and then rewarding yourself is one of the best in the world,” says Max. As far as Johannes is concerned, it’s not just the food and the view that make a visit to a hut in South Tyrol so unique: “If you’re lucky, the landlord offers you a schnapps, too. Although, unfortunately, it means you can’t drive a G-Class for a while afterwards.”

Highly concentrated herbal specialty in a regionally typical shot glass with wild flower decoration – the mountains in the background.

Image gallery.


All statements in this article are personal opinions and impressions of the author and sometimes not of the Daimler AG.

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