The inventors of the art of living (2/7): Bertha Benz, road-trip pioneer


” A witch ! “ On its passage, the dumbfounded peasants stop their work for that day in August 1888. Some cross themselves, others kneel. “Was ist das? ! “ A little girl runs to warn the village priest. Quickly, quickly, the man in the robe leaves the sacristy to save his flock. The evil creature just enters Wieloch. The villagers then discover a woman and two teenagers sitting on a backfiring machine which advances by itself. Everyone understands, including the parish priest, that the afterlife is not involved in the affair. A witch ? No, a pioneer.

Bertha Benz holds the steering crank (the invention of the steering wheel, it will be for 1894) of a motor tricycle, a three-wheeled carriage that moves without horses. In the countryside along the Rhine, we’ve never seen that. Nowhere else either. It’s a world first! With her sons Eugen, 15, and Richard, 14, Bertha made the very first long drive in automotive history. One hundred kilometers! Until then, the operators of such machines have only made short loops, under the watchful eye of the mechanics.

This time, no technical team. Bertha prepared her move in secret. Her two sons are in the know but not Karl, her dear husband. She doesn’t want to scare him. So on the morning of the big departure, she got up at dawn on tiptoe, with her sons she pushed the tricycle far enough not to make a noise. His daughters Clara, 11,

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