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ZagrebSabine Moreau, a 67-year-old Belgian retiree, crept out of her bed in the sleepy Belgian town of Erquelinnes just before 5am last Saturday. Her mission? To drive the 43 miles which separated her from the railway station in Brussels, where she was to pick up a friend. Before leaving she entered the coordinates of the station into her car’s GPS system as she was not very familiar with the route. And it was at the precise second that she pressed ‘enter’ that her problems began. Unaware of any problems however, she set off into the early morning light and towards her destination…….

Some hours later, her son learned that she had never reached Brussels station and that the person she was supposed to pick up had gone home by other means. He phoned his mother. There was no reply, but that wasn’t alarming in itself as she rarely answered the phone.

Then, after a few more hours with no news dragged out into a long and worrying wait, he phoned the police. They arrived and said there was no trace of a plan to kill herself or anything else suspicious in the house. Later, and just as the police were about to launch an alert and distribute her photo to the public, a detective localised her thanks to credit card records which showed that she was in…..Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.

In other words, Sabine was exactly 869 miles from where she had begun what she thought would be a short hop to Brussels, just 43 miles away.

How did she get there? Here’s her story.

“Everything was going well”, she says, and although she had had a couple of problems with the GPS things seemed to have sorted themselves out, so she pressed doggedly onwards.

Then, she says, “I began to see road signs in French, and then in German. I didn’t think much of it and I continued to follow the road.” Besides, “I had money in my credit card account so no worries.” And she continued upon her merry way, out of the other side of Germany and beyond…….

“It was when I’d gone past Zagreb that I said to myself that I’d better turn round and go back” she says, and so she punched in the coordinates of her home town into the GPS and finally got home many hours later.

Okay, it’s a bit of a wacky-but-true story, but still, there is a major upside to it, as the results of my Google route search from Brussels to Zagreb – shown in the photo above – demonstrate. After all, she had visited French-speaking parts of Belgium she had never seen before and gone on to drive, like a latter-day motorised Columbus, through four other countries; Germany, with its magnificent forests and plains, Austria and its dramatic scenery, Slovenia and its mountains, and Croatia, with its many magnificent inland lakes and islands.

She had, if she took anything like the Google route, driven by or though Cologne, Frankfurt and Nuremberg, Graz, Maribor and several other historical cities, looking as she went at their skylines and other features.

In a word, she had just gone for an 869-mile drive through some of the most beautiful regions of Europe. And she had surely spoken to some people in garages or cafes or somewhere who spoke foreign tongues and, although perplexed, shrugged her shoulders and kept on truckin’ on, faithful to the mission.

I am glad that the lady got home safely and I just hope that she remembers enough of what she saw during her trip to enable her to look back upon it not with regret at having been rather less than attentive that day, but with the fondest memory of the kind of drive through the heart of Europe that even the most hardened tourist would never forget.

Ah, the things people do…