Your own four walls are generally regarded as a place of safety and security – a kind of oasis of well-being in which you can relax. However, the walls, ceilings and floors of many houses contain harmful substances that can have an impact on people’s health. Through evaporation, they cause symptoms such as headaches, rashes or asthma. So that your own home doesn’t make you ill, you should pay attention not only to the appearance but also to the health of your home. The correct choice of building materials ensures that pollutants do not find their way into the house at all. With a holistic health concept, Baufritz has taken up the cause of healthy house construction.
To be able to understand the origin of the Baufritz mentality, you have to go back almost four decades. The year is 1981, and a severe misfortune strikes the Fritz family: Mother Gerti Fritz unexpectedly falls ill with cancer. In their search for the cause, the family takes a closer look at their immediate surroundings, especially their own four walls. She identifies fumes and dust from building materials, electromagnetic radiation and other environmental influences as possible factors for the disease. Soon afterwards, the first Baufritz house was built from pollutant-tested natural materials and free of hazardous substances. To date, around 3,500 homes have been constructed according to this principle. They correspond to the motto ‘Good for people and the environment.’ “Every day, this experience is the incentive for our actions to protect the health of our customers.”
A sustainable approach to house building is an essential parameter for both longevity and ecological considerations. “On average, a Baufritz house will reduce 40 tons of CO2 in the long term.” When materials are delivered, the first step is to determine whether they meet the company’s own biological building requirements. This approach applies to all areas. From glazes to mineral plaster through to paint – everything that is used complies with the high standards set by the company’s building biology. “We only use materials that have been tested for harmful substances and are of natural origin – free of chemical adhesives or additives.” In this manner, Baufritz has developed its own natural insulation material called “HOIZ”. The wood chips produced during production are enriched with whey and soda. The soda ensures that the wood is resistant to fungal diseases so that no mold develops, and the whey ensures that the specified fire protection level is achieved. “This gives us an insulating material that is neither synthetic nor artificial.”
“As we have to plan our tours and assemblies well in advance in the interests of customer service, it is essential that we can rely on our vehicle fleet.”
For the assembly of the individual components and repairs, Baufritz relies on a fleet of Sprinters. They are used to transport the tools required on site. For the interior design of the vehicles, Baufritz opted for a Sortimo system. “We try to make the work as easy as possible and efficient for our fitters and service personnel who are on the road. Safety is particularly important to us.” Over the years, they have adapted the Sortimo system to their individual needs – from site operation to after-sales service. “There are many parallels between Baufritz and Mercedes-Benz. For example, high quality, tradition and “thinking outside the box.” To anticipate the wishes of our customers and to reflect them in the product.”
There are no off-the-shelf houses here: “With us every house is individually planned by architects.” The customer’s wishes are implemented according to ecological standards.
And what’s next? “We are delighted that the topics of ecology and sustainability are currently experiencing an upswing.” Even in times when these topics were not as relevant to society as they are today, Baufritz was already thinking about how to deal ecologically with resources. “This gives us a certain advantage, which we will continue to expand in the future.” In the future, it will become more and more critical to build more densely. “In urban areas where there is little building space, we will have to look to make living even more efficient. We are working intensively on this, and it will certainly become an increasingly important task in the coming years.”
Paul Jacobs was looking for his own brand. The software developer from Holland wanted to find a product he could see and touch – a contrast to the digital world of technology in which he was active. By chance, he came across a scissors factory in Sheffield. The Ernest Wright family business had been producing high-quality scissors for 116 years until 2018, when it was close to bankruptcy. Paul and his business partner Jan Bart decided within an hour to buy the company. Why did he save it? “I fell in love immediately. Products like the wheel, the paper clip – or even the scissors – will never go out of fashion. And the good thing is, everyone has scissors at home.”
After the assets were bought and the building rented, Paul and Jan bought back all the machines and hired the employees who had already been made redundant. “It was time to become part of Ernest Wright’s story,” says Paul. In the beginning, the new owners were still being met with skepticism. “It’s a strange story. After 116 years you are on the verge of collapse and then two Dutchmen without any experience in this field come and promise you all kinds of things. Of course, the employees were skeptical at first,” Paul remembers. It wasn’t until they bought an extractor to improve the working conditions that the concerns disappeared. “Suddenly they knew we were serious and unpacked their tools.
The company, in which machines from 1936 are still in operation, expected an innovative upswing. Paul and Jan improved the processes and renovated the machines. “Instead of working according to the ‘trial and error’ method, we have established fixed processes,” says Paul. Thanks to his software background, a web shop and his own website were added. But one thing hasn’t changed in 116 years: The attention to detail in making scissors. “In the workshops you can feel the love and passion of every craftsman. This is also reflected in the feedback from our customers. We receive letters, e-mails, and even customers, from Australia for example, fly in to pick up the goods personally.”
From the Netherlands to England and back again. With the upcoming Brexit, Paul and Jan have decided on a small warehouse in the Netherlands and a location in Sheffield, between which the stock will be transported back and forth. They already have one or two shuttle journeys behind them. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class, with which they were initially travelling, became too small for this at some point. “So, we switched to a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter,” reports Paul. “The vehicle is great for us. It drives fast, smoothly and reliably. It’s also comfortable and above all spacious.” As much as Paul appreciates the quality of his company’s scissors, he also attaches great importance to the quality of the means of transport. “We didn’t have to make any modifications to our Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. The eight-hour journey goes by in a flash.”
From stainless or carbon steel to hand-made Ernest-Wright scissors – this is how the classic cutter is produced step by step:
The rough shape of a scissor blade is forged from steel in a die. It includes a drill mark for easy and accurate alignment of the two halves.
An over 50-year-old machine removes the first layer of the material. Then the further refinement takes place by hand. This is where the blades get their first shape towards the cutting edge. A belt grinding machine is guided through the handle of the blade to grind the inside.
3. Hardening and vibrating
Now the steel blades are hardened. Depending on the model, this is done either by salt hardening or vacuum hardening. Both methods produce the same result: A rock-hard blade that remains sharp for a long time. The hardened halves are then treated overnight in a deburring and polishing machine, the vibrator. This removes the grinding marks and gives the blades a smooth appearance.
The blades are now ready for assembly. It’s a delicate task where the perfect curve has to be made on every blade. It is a highly qualified job that takes years to learn and makes the difference between a scissor made in mass production and one made by hand.
5. Edging and sealing
After the scissors have been assembled, they are finally given their sharp edges. With a quick movement, both blades are closed for the first time.
6. Polishing, quality control and engraving
After high gloss polishing, the quality control manager checks all finished scissors. The name “Ernest Wright” is not engraved until the performance and finish have been approved.
Paul Jacobs predicts a long future for Ernest Wright’s scissors. He sees a trend especially among the younger generation: “The throwaway society is going out of fashion. People today are more concerned about their environment and the sustainability of the products they use. They ask themselves the question: Do I want to buy a product over and over again or would I rather buy a handmade product that lasts a lifetime? You don’t have to be rich to do that.” What is actually lacking, however, are young people to follow in the footsteps of scissors making. Paul explains this by the possible assumption that the work in a scissors factory is still regarded as badly paid and hard. “But that’s not the case. We are not mass production. Our products are of high quality and accordingly more expensive, which is also what the salary of the employees is based on. Paul has clear goals for Ernest Wright: Expansion of the company, a scissors museum in Sheffield City – and more young people enjoying the art of making scissors.
A white Vito turns onto a wooded property. Between the trees there are over a dozen bee hives arranged in small groups. Falk Meyer gets out and fetches metal buckets with a chisel, broom and a protective jacket with a veil from the Vito. While the bees are humming rhythmically, Falk puts on his protective clothing and brings his smoker to fume and soothe them with the smoke. The hives are already busy: Bees buzz around and launching from the flight hole towards the flowers. The industrious animals constantly land fully loaded with yellow pollen on the approach boards and seek their way inside the hive. Falk carefully pulls a honeycomb, covered with bees, out of the hive and looks at it carefully. The passionate beekeeper knows very well why his heart has always belonged to the honey bee.
“It is a very uplifting feeling every time you harvest your own honey. When the extractor has that fragrant aroma, then you try the honey for the first time, it’s phenomenal.”
Falk Meyer has been a beekeeper ever since he was twelve years old. He started beekeeping 20 years ago quite by chance: In an over grown garden, he found a bunch of old, strange boxes that aroused his interest. At an info-event in his village he met an experienced beekeeper called Willi Arbeiter, who taught him the basics of beekeeping and actively supported him. “In the beginning you make mistakes which the bees partly offset. But the mistakes always lead to you gaining even more knowledge and then you do it right the next time.” What looks like a full-time job is in fact a hobby for the committed beekeeper. Beekeeping is the perfect counterbalance to a full-time job in a bank. “However, it is a hobby that requires a great deal of specialist knowledge and time. Putting a colony of bees in the garden and leaving the bees to themselves does not work.”
Bees, along with cattle and pigs, are among the most important domestic animals on our planet. Falk’s bee colonies pollinate several million flowers over the course of a year, making an important contribution to the conservation of trees and other plants. The philosophy of apiculture Meyer: “It is important to me that bee colonies are kept according to their nature. This means the beekeeper’s actions must be in harmony with the development of the bee colony and that he disturbs his bees as little as he possibly can. It is also important for him to treat his honey with care.” In Germany there is of course a purity law for beer, but there is also one for honey – the honey regulation. This says that beekeepers may not add or remove substances to honey. Just as the bee stores the honey in the honeycomb, it later lands in the honey glass. “You simply cannot produce food more naturally. ” And you can taste that, says Falk: “Depending on the location, you can tell the between different regions.”
Meanwhile Falk takes care of 50 bee colonies at five locations. He has an online shop and delivers his own harvested honey to numerous traders in his area. “At the beginning, I just gave the honey away to relatives or friends, that was still all manageable. But with more than 20 colonies you can no longer consume the honey alone. So, my clientele base has built up over the years.” In addition, Falk devotes his attention to the breeding of the Buckfast bee, a breed that comes from the English monastery Buckfast. “Breeding the queen is probably the ultimate discipline in beekeeping. It combines all the skills a beekeeper needs to master in order to maintain good and efficient bee colonies and ultimately to succeed.” Additionally, the beekeeper is involved in a program that aims to tackle the fatal mite infestation of bees, which is a major cause of bees dying. After his work is done, Falk climbs into his Vito and drives home with a good feeling – his bee colonies are already busy producing honey, which he can harvest in the summer.
The bee’s year is varied and depends on the annual rhythm of the bees. His Mercedes-Benz Vito helps Falk with the necessary work.
Katie Larsen grew up with the typical idea of life: School, full-time job, marriage and then a house with children. Very early on, however, the American realized that this way of life was not for her. “After graduating from University in Oregon, I worked in an office where I constantly worked overtime, was stuck in traffic jams for two to three hours a day, and only got five days off a year,” she remembers. Weekend camping trips were the only escape from the daily grind. Then the tide turned: “When I found myself in a situation where I was unhappy with my job, needed a new car and had to move, my partner at the time came up with a crazy idea.” She didn’t know what she was getting into at the time, but she relied on her intuition: Because they both decided to live in a van.
It took a good six months until her home on wheels was completely finished – longer than expected, but with full-time jobs and little experience, it wasn’t surprising. Katie’s tip: “Two pairs of eyes really help. Assistance from others not only saves you time, but also avoids potential mistakes. And nothing beats good Internet research. There is so much helpful information on the web.” The efforts and research have paid off. The 2016 Sprinter with high roof and short wheelbase is Katie’s pride and joy. And now she lives and travels solo throughout the world in her Sprinter.
There were several reasons why the choice of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter turned out to be so ideal, especially since Katie was on her own. “The fact that we bought a newer model was good, because I am not so technically inclined and can always rely on the vehicle,” she says. She also benefited from being actively involved in the conversion, which gave her a feel for the materials and fundamental confidence in the vehicle’s drivability. “Choosing the right van is very personal and different for everyone,” says Katie. Comfort, for example, plays an essential role for her. The high roof of the van creates a spacious ambience. Just as she had imagined, like a real home.
Katie has been travelling in her van since June 2016. She doesn’t need a companion – quite the opposite. Since travelling alone, she has felt happier than ever before: “At last, I can focus all my attention on my well-being because I’ve eliminated many unnecessary things from my life,” says Katie. But what is it like to travel alone as a woman? Do you have to be more careful than men? She responds calmly to worries about her safety, especially on the part of her friends and family. “The same worries already existed in my life before the van. Unfortunately, we women grow up always having to be careful, not walking around at night, locking car doors as soon as we get in,” Katie regrets. Her personal recommendation: Trust your own instinct. “I always keep an eye on my surroundings and try not to act recklessly.”
In addition to the concerns of her relatives, Katie has also had to deal with the standard cliché questions. Don’t you ever get lonely? Don’t you want a strong partner by your side to protect you? Don’t you live in constant anxiety? Katie’s answer is a clear statement: “I’m not here by chance or because circumstances have forced me into it. I have decided to travel alone as a woman. And if I get scared, then I look that fear in the eye and overcome it.” The American enjoys the time by herself and has never found anything as enriching as her solo trips in the van. Would she recommend her lifestyle to other women? Absolutely!
Intuition is Katie’s closest partner. If something doesn’t feel right, she leaves. If one campsite seems unsafe to her, she looks for another. In addition to her intuition, she shares other tips for safe travel as a woman:
Not only has Katie amassed a few miles on her solo trips, but also some lessons in life. At the beginning she found it difficult to deal with the silence and the many times she was forced to deal with herself. “I didn’t even know whether I would like traveling alone. I was anything but independent, which was a rather sobering thought. But I stayed with it and faced my fears, admitted my weaknesses and learned more and more every day.” One of the most important aspects is the community that has formed around Katie. She can network with other travellers, learn and grow with them. Today she cannot imagine another life. “Travelling in my van has transformed my life. I’m no longer looking for someone to show me adventure – I’m looking for it myself.”
The shown conversions were carried out by independent third parties. The suppliers and conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. In this respect, these illustrations do not represent an assessment of the supplier and/or conversions by Mercedes-Benz.
How do you become an alpaca farmer? Tim Hey grew up on a small farm on the Australian island of Tasmania. When he was 16, his parents bought their first alpacas. For Tim it was love at first sight. After school he studied natural sciences with a focus on agriculture. At the same time, the local alpaca farm and interest in the gentle animals grew throughout Australia. In addition, Tim lived with a couple who had long been regarded as the pioneers of alpaca breeding in Australia. He learned a lot from them about breeding the rare black alpacas they called “Inca Alpacas”. A job offer in Great Britain finally got the ball rolling. Tim then decided to set up his own farm there. To follow in the footsteps of his mentors and to continue alpaca breeding under the same name was an important concern for the animal lover. Today the expert also works as a judge for the British Alpaca Society and judges alpacas at shows all over the world.
Tim’s alpaca farm is located in West Dorset where, according to the expert, ideal conditions for alpacas prevail thanks to fertile, dry land. His business model includes the breeding of alpacas, the sale of alpaca wool as well as shows to have these tested and evaluated by a jury. Tim also offers a program for prospective breeders to help them build their own herd. “At Inca Alpaca, we are committed to the long-term success of the British alpaca industry. We have been breeding alpacas for over 20 years and have helped many new owners to start and develop their own business.” The Peruvian Incas focused on breeding white alpacas. Black alpacas are rare and have only been bred for 25 to 30 years. “So, in a way we are pioneers in this field.”
“The Sprinter is an important part of our business and we use it all the time. Whether it’s transporting food for our alpacas, transporting hay from A to B or our wool.”
Alpacas originate from South America and live predominantly in the Andes region. They are perfectly adapted to the climate in the cold altitudes and are mainly bred in Peru, Bolivia and Chile. This makes them very efficient feed converters, i.e. they absorb as many nutrients as possible from their feed. “It is helpful that we have far better grazing areas in Great Britain than in South America, because the alpacas grow much faster here.” What makes the animals with the long neck so interesting for Tim? “They are very individual and all have their own personality. Some are very trusting and seek human contact, others are more reserved.”
The animals are known above all for their warm and soft wool, which, along with silk and cashmere, is one of the highest quality fibres in the world and is referred to in South America as the “fleece of the gods.” What is so special about wool? “It is available in 22 natural colours, ranging from pure white and cream to brown, grey and pure black. And it’s the only black fiber that doesn’t have to be dyed.” The be-all and end-all for beautiful alpaca wool is the optimal state of health of the animals. After shearing, the fibres are divided into different groups: From ultra-fine to extra-strong. These are the internationally recognised categories for alpaca wool. When the wool leaves the farm, it goes directly to a factory in Manchester, where it is processed into yarn. Some of it is woven into fabric for suits and other garments. The rest is spun into knitting yarn.
1. Alpacas are herd animals: To feel good, they need other alpacas around them. Therefore, they should never be kept alone.
2. Alpacas usually keep their distance: Even among themselves, contact is rare. They rather clean themselves and rather keep their distance.
3. Alpacas do not have any high demands regarding food: They feed mainly on fresh grass and in winter on hay. One alpaca needs 2.5 to 3.5 kilograms of fodder per day.
4. The life expectancy of alpacas is about 20 to 25 years.
5. 80 percent of alpacas live in Peru.
6. A fully-grown alpaca can grow up to one meter (back height) and weigh up to 75 kilograms, stallions even up to 80 kilograms. Compared to llamas, the animals are much smaller and lighter.
7. If an alpaca feels threatened or if the ranking has to be clarified, it begins to spit.
Across dusty deserts or tropical rain forests or over craggy cliff tops: With its four climate zones, Australia provides numerous opportunities for discovery. There is hardly a more suitable country for camper tours than Australia. But it is precisely this versality that makes the Australian continent extremely demanding for the travelling companion on four wheels. Robust, reliable and versatile – these are the qualities that a camper van must have to be able to compete in Australia. A company that has established itself as an expert in this area is Trakka. The Jabiru model, which is based on the Sprinter, has proven its worth both on and off the roads of the red continent for more than 20 years. First introduced on MYVAN in 2016, the converted Sprinter is equipped with a living and dining area, a kitchenette, a bathroom as well as a sleeping area, thus offering everything you need for an extensive road trip.
The Trakka camping enthusiasts developed the first generation of the Jabiru – named after a city in the Kakadu National Park – in the late 90s. The development was achieved in close cooperation with Mercedes-Benz. The second generation of this model has been one of the most successful motor homes of the Australian company for more than a decade now. But instead of resting on their laurels, Trakka’s developers in 2018 once again asked themselves the question: “How can we turn a very good motorhome into an even better one?”
The project started with extensive research into the latest materials and equipment trends. At the same time, there were discussions on how the second generation of the successful model could be improved even further. Michael Lord, Trakka’s design and development manager, comments: “Mercedes-Benz made the CAD data of the vehicle available to us. This meant our design department was able to work with 3D models. The software enabled us to do the complete conversion virtually before we had even seen the vehicle for the first time.” Only one year later, the third generation of the Jabiru could be presented to the public. The camper van is available as a two- or four-seater. It is based on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with a long wheelbase which is powered by a 140 kW V6 diesel engine. Optionally, the van is also available with four-wheel drive.
The highlights of the Jabiru include a refrigerator that can be opened both from the inside and the outside, a toilet that automatically disappears below the sink if it is not needed, and a power supply system which can be operated via an app or a touch screen. An outdoor sink with practical storage surfaces, an outdoor shower and dimmable LED lighting are integrated as well. And Alex Berry, the oldest daughter of company founder Dave Berry, has already announced new plans: “We are looking forward to the future electrification of our fleet. We have steadily developed and redefined our camper vans and motorhomes. And we want to go on doing it.”
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with a long wheelbase
2S (two seats), 4S (four seats)
seven-speed automatic transmission/ rear- or four-wheel drive
Front swivel seats; cooktop, two refrigerators; bathroom (shower, sink, retractable toilet); an additional outdoor sink and outdoor shower; two single beds (convertible into a double bed); dimmable LED strip lighting; solar panels on the roof; energy from diesel for hot water, cooktop and space heating; 18 mm insulation.
The couple Eamon and Bec have been living permanently in the Sprinter for two years now. “After such a long time, we view the whole thing in a more realistic way”, says Eamon. “There is the issue of cleaning, for example. In the beginning, you do not realize how much cleaning is required”, Bec adds. As most vanlifers tend to spend a lot of time outdoors, tons of sand, earth and salt residues are carried into the interior of the van. The confined space there can quickly become a nightmare. “The floor should be wiped at least once a day, otherwise the sand will crunch under your feet at every step”, reveals Bec. Washing up requires lots of discipline as well. For reasons of space, the dishes should be washed several times a day, and this task simply cannot be put off till the next day. Note that the rinsing water is always cold. “In the van, the motto ‘energy first’ applies. Where electricity is not really needed, it must be saved. Using warm tap water is simply unnecessary”, explains Eamon.
If you put two and two together, you will quickly understand that in terms of personal hygiene in the van you will have to make certain concessions. In other words, the conveniences of modern civilization are basically a thing of the past. The reality is that on most days we do not take a shower”, says Bec. A quick sponge bath has proven to be a good alternative. More and more vanlifers also decide to buy a solar shower. “For us, taking showers is extremely important, too. We have purchased a solar shower, but when necessary, we also become creative”, says Eamon. Being creative means walking through vanlife with open eyes. Maybe there is a friend with a permanent residence living close by? Or maybe, signing up for a membership in a nationwide gym could be your chance to take a shower whenever you feel like it?
Either way – living in a van is not for people who dislike socializing. Those who do not like to interact with other people, should look again whether vanlife is really suitable for them. For even people who travel alone are usually heavily dependent on other individuals. This close cooperation is a key to success. “There have been many situations in which we had to rely on the help of third parties. Be it technical issues or bottlenecks in supply “, says Bec. But often, other people need our help, too. “Some vans simply cannot cope with extremely high or low temperatures“, explains Eamon. Good networking can be an advantage in a situation like that. “We are lucky in that our Sprinter is state-of-the-art. Thanks to the parking heater, optimal insulation and the fully functional air conditioning system, we have been able to offer shelter to quite a few friends.
The willingness to leave one’s own home in case of an emergency belongs to vanlife. But it is not only in critical situations that life “on the road” requires tremendous flexibility. “Being flexible – that is part of life in the van. Actually, there are no more daily routines in our lives. We adapt to different situations as soon as they arrive”, says Bec. Thus, Eamon and Bec have long come to terms with the fact that they will quite simply have to do without certain things. You need to be pragmatic. “We have a very simple rule now: no glass, no explosive substances and no sharp objects in the Sprinter”, explains Eamon with a smile.
Is your enthusiasm for vanlife dampened now? If not, there is nothing more to prevent you from living a sustainable and happy life in the van. For even if all the points listed here are real, this is a price lots of vanlifers are very willing to pay. Many of them over a period of many years. Those who are prepared to do so, are rewarded with an independent life. A life full of freedom. “Sure, sometimes it is not easy. But what kind of life is easy? We love laughing, crying, growing in our Sprinter! And let us be honest – for us, it is really extremely difficult to list even ten negative aspects”, relates Bec. However, if you had overly romantic ideas about vanlife, maybe this article has helped you to become more realistic. If your desire for a home on four wheels still persists after reading this article, then the motto is: “Get a van and set off!”
The shown conversions were carried out by independent third parties. The suppliers and conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. In this respect, these illustrations do not represent an assessment of the supplier and/or conversions by Mercedes-Benz.
Monika Linton first discovered Spain and its flair through the travel stories of her father. In den 1950s, her dad drove from coast to coast on his motorcycle and slept in haylofts in the countryside – an idyllic picture that left a strong impression. Monika wanted to learn the language, immerse herself in the culture and enjoy Spanish food. Today, decades later, she is the founder and owner of two successful companies which are precisely based on this passion: Brindisa Ltd. imports and distributes Spanish delicatessen, Brindisa Kitchens is the name of a small series of tapas bars in London. What is the story behind this passion which evolved into a business that has been successful for 30 years now?
After having earned her university degree in Spanish in 1980, Monika decided to move to Catalonia to work as a teacher. She wanted to learn more about the locals and above all, about the food – as this was something she felt particularly attracted to. “Before my apprenticeship in Spain, I worked in a wonderful Spanish restaurant throughout the summer months. That was when I fell in love with the flavours, aromas and colours of the Mediterranean cuisine”, Monika raves. But above all, she admired people’s close connection with food and the culinary traditions of the Spanish people. This fascination became the basis for her future life story.
The brilliant idea for the foundation of the Brindisa company occurred to Monika after her return to London. Still under the impression of her time in Spain, Monika organized a dinner party for which her brother Mark brought along a box of Spanish cheese. This box increased Monika’s curiosity about the products and goods of Spanish manufacturers and about how they could be transported to England. That very evening she took a decision and proposed a toast at the table – she made known that she wanted to start her own enterprise. “Brindisa is inspired by the Spanish word ‘brindar’ or ‘hacer un brindis’, which means something like ‘to propose a toast’. Brindis S.A. became Brindisa”, Monika explains. The first Spanish products sold by her were select wines which her brother shipped from Spain to Great Britain. The dream to sell Spanish food in London began to take shape.
The wines were followed by a selection of foodstuffs from the peninsula and the Spanish Islands. Gradually, sausages, ham, cheese, canned fish, olives, olive oil and many more things were added. It did not take long until the best foods that Spain had to offer were shipped to London in the Sprinter. In 1988, Spain was not yet a Member of the EU. Monika became a pioneer in the importation of Spanish foods. “This, in turn, enabled us to work as a rather unconventional business which was a good approach”, Monika thinks. Since in the beginning she did not have any experience in company management, it makes her really happy that she has been running a successful business for 30 years now.
We hope that we can bring about changes by cooperating with small rural producers and selecting foodstuffs which are healthy, ethical and integral.
As early as 1998, Brindisa catered for chefs, merchants and curious foodies – the time had come to go one step further. With a lot of energy and resources, London’s first traditional tapas bar was created, soon to be followed by one in another location. A variety of Spanish Tapas, as well as a selection of main dishes, has been offered there to this day. Twice a week, products from Spain arrive in London – in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. “The brand is known for its reliability, sturdiness and workmanship, and these qualities are also essential for the daily deliveries across London”, says Monika. In addition, the vehicles are equipped with refrigerators. Besides, the refrigeration compartment can be subdivided to create a deep-freeze area.
Of course, the company is affected by the Brexit. “The uncertainty, the resulting fluctuations of the British pound and the risk that we may be restricted in our freedom of movement make things very difficult for us”, says Monika. In order to counteract these problems and the costs involved, certain measures were taken. These included the creation of small internal teams for project management, an external consultant in the executive board and the performance of selected services that enrich life. The intention was to focus on the core of the business and a healthy growth. Brindisa started off as a pioneer and did not have any competitors at the time. However, times are changing. “Our current goal is to make sure that we will continue to be the market leader in Great Britain for top-quality Spanish foods, product innovations and the best customer service.”
Sascha Reisch has no fear of heights. Which is good because the Baumbua (English: tree boys) generally work high up in Munich’s treetops. For the nature lover, tree care is not simply work but a true passion. The professional and gentle care of the trees and nature is an integral part of his company philosophy. “We maintain that which maintains us. This means: the trees keep us alive. And we try to keep the trees for as long as possible.” The dual rope climbing technique also contributes to this. The two ropes reduce the weight and also the physical strain during the day’s work. “Communication and teamwork are immensely important while climbing because a good climber is only as good as the man on the ground – and the reverse”, explains Sascha. A further advantage: “A good climber cuts less off the tree because he can climb far up into the branches.”
The native of Munich discovered his love of tree climbing using the largely unknown rope climbing technique during his apprenticeship as a landscape gardener. After completing his apprenticeship, he joined a company specialising in tree care. He continued his training in the various rope climbing techniques and in tree management. “I realised that this was exactly my thing and stayed with it.” In 2004, he took the next step and became an independent contractor. In addition to the professional and safe work on the tree, Baumbua tree care is also about communicating a better understanding of trees and nature. “As an independent contractor, you are constantly facing new challenges – both interpersonal and financial – and, above all, what to do and what not to do. This gives rise to one’s own philosophy.”
Sascha sees his work as the link between people and nature. He often has to be the voice of reason. Some customers simply want to chop down perfectly healthy trees. The others want to keep trees which are a danger to their environment, no matter the cost. No easy job. What makes a good tree carer? “That you cannot see that the tree has been cut back.” During their daily work, the Baumbua employees always try to engage people in conversation and explain to them what they are doing and why. “My goal is to raise people’s awareness of trees. Especially in urban areas because it is especially important to maintain the trees there for as long as possible.”
The tree can live without people. But people cannot live without the tree.
The vehicle fleet from Baumbua consists of Citan, X-Class and the Sprinter as a twin cab with a flatbed. “As an urban tree care company, we need compact vehicles and all-wheel drive for felling in winter.” The Citan serves as transport to local appointments in order to visually inspect the trees. “The Citan is a small, compact vehicle which enables us to easily reach the sites and also handle the city traffic, especially when it comes to finding a place to park.” The Baumbua team uses the X-Class to tow heavy machines such as shredders. In addition, the all-wheel drive helps keep the arborists mobile during winter and off-road. “The Sprinter is the classic tradesman’s vehicle. We use it to transport personnel and tools to the work site. Thanks to its flatbed, we can transport branches, wood chippings and machines.” A sustainable cycle is also an important issue for the sustainability-oriented company. Cut branches are shredded on location. The wood chips are then transported to a biomass plant where they are used to provide district heating or generate electricity.
Samuel Marie imagined a very different future. The industrial climber worked on acrobatic jobs day in and day out. In addition, he also earned extra money as a skiing teacher. After suffering a six meter fall, Sam suddenly no longer knew whether he would ever be able to live an independent life again. The diagnosis: paraplegia. For four years he suffered through numerous operations and gruelling rehabilitation until he was finally able to live at home again. Yet Sam refused to lose hope. The South African extreme athlete, Mike Horn, eventually opened his eyes with his book “Latitude zero: around the world on the equator”. Sam ultimately realised that he had to pursue his dreams no matter the obstacles life put in his way.
“My life is anything but normal”, admits Sam openly. “But I have succeeded in achieving a little independence once again.” Before his accident, Sam travelled throughout the world – but this was anything but a matter of course in a wheelchair. In Bali, he realised that most foreign hotels were anything but barrier free. This often made things difficult for him. But his routes are not determined by barrier freedom but rather exclusively by his own wishes and ideas about travelling. When searching for an opportunity to travel independently, Sam discovered the Sprinter 4×4.
It was ahead of its time and the Sprinter 4×4 was the only van on the market which offered both an automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. A number of adaptations were required to enable Sam to drive the Sprinter himself. Firstly, the vehicle needed to be made accessible for wheelchair users. A lifting platform, an electric bed and a special shower were installed. But this did not solve the driving problem. Because he could not climb out of his wheelchair and into the seat for every journey, the driver’s seat had to be removed and anchoring for the wheelchair installed. Thanks to the V6 engine, Sam can now reach locations that once would have been a distant dream for wheelchair users. He is also especially happy with the customised tank with a capacity of 180 litres. “This makes me independent.”
His case has become well-known among many rehabilitation centres and research facilities. This also made him more renowned and more and more organisations, schools, students and companies began to support him. The fruit of this collaboration is the project “Sam fait rouler”, a wordplay from “Ça me fait rouler” (“This moves me forward”). In the scope of the project, Sam travels the world in the Sprinter 4×4 and reports on methods and opportunities for people with disabilities. Sam has travelled through North America, Europe and Asia where he has met many people to share his story and learn from the fates of others with disabilities. Above all else, his goal is to show that despite the restrictions of disabilities, anything in life is possible.
I want to show that you can achieve a lot if you truly work on making your dreams come true.
On his travels, many doors have opened to Sam that once seemed closed: “The Sprinter 4×4 has given me a lot of freedom and independence.” The story of “Sam fait rouler” has even reached the French President, Emmanuel Macron. The president asked him to accompany him on his state visit to the USA. However, his greatest highlight was crossing through Mongolia, which gave him a feeling of absolute freedom. Many places are extremely difficult to reach in a wheelchair. That is why Sam’s Sprinter is the only means of meeting people. Behind the wheel, his disability disappears and he can easily search for the encounters, he explains. If he were to give other people with disabilities one piece of advice, it would be this: “The disability gives us the chance to decide whether we accept it or not.”
Even though Sam has travelled a lot and has seen so much of the world, he would like to continue travelling in future. At the end of the year, he will finally commence his plan to tour South America. Sam’s life is not without challenges but he remains focused on the future. His motto: Even if some cities are not optimally designed for paraplegics, as a person with disabilities you should not hide, but show that you exist and set out on new adventures.
To enable people with physical disabilities to enjoy automotive freedom and individual mobility, Mercedes-Benz offers not only comprehensive driver assistance systems, but also a wide range of ex-factory driving aids for various handicaps:
In addition to ex-factory driving aids, certified Mercedes-Benz Vans partners can also provide information on tailor-made body solutions: