With the KNAUS BOXSTAR CUV from Germany to Thailand

Driving across country from Germany to Southeast Asia in a CUV? Christina Denk and Dirk Stöcker show us that it’s possible. The two adoptive Hamburg residents with a passion for travelling set off on a journey of a lifetime in a KNAUS BOXSTAR 540 in 2019. An unforgettable adventure in a faraway place – which continues to this day!

"What? You want to drive all the way to Thailand in your CUV? That’s simply impossible!‟ We often got to hear these or similar comments before embarking on our trip. But we didn’t let them deter us. After months of preparation, the time had finally come in May 2019: we exchanged our secure jobs and flat for freedom and life in our BOXSTAR. Off we go!

We had initially planned to travel along the ancient Silk Road. From Europe via South and Central Asia to China, and from there to Southeast Asia and back to Germany via a long journey through Mongolia and Russia. We had planned 13 months for this trip. Was it going to turn out as we had planned? No. Were we going to have to break off our journey in Thailand due to COVID‐19? Yes. Did it still turn out to be the adventure of a lifetime? Absolutely!

We leave Europe behind us fairly quickly. We spend about four weeks here, driving through Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro and Albania all the way to Greece. On the way, we find gorgeous campsites right by the sea, explore UNESCO World Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites (including the Plitvice lakes in Croatia and the Meteora monasteries in Greece) and slowly but surely get used to full‐time life ’on the road’.

We are already filled with unspeakable happiness and a sense of freedom. Wishing that this feeling would never end, we would like to stay a little longer in all the countries mentioned before. As most of our journey still lies ahead of us, we leave our continent on a hot day in July and enter a country that embodies the transition between Europe and Asia like no other: Turkey.


We discover a country of which we had no idea just how beautiful and multifaceted it is. First, we spend several days in the multi‐million metropolis of Istanbul, exploring its impressive old town, take a ferry across the Bosporus and return each evening to our own four‐wheeled home, which we have parked just outside the city in the parking lot of a convention centre.

After a week, we leave the city to explore ancient ruins in the west of Turkey. In the south, we go swimming at beautiful beaches, while in the heart of the country, we get up early each morning to gaze at hundreds of hot‐air balloons soaring into the sky above the unique rock formations of Cappadocia. In eastern Turkey, we get to experience for the first time the seemingly endless expanse of steppe stretching out to the horizon.

On entering Georgia, we finally arrive in Asia Minor. Our BOXSTAR effortlessly masters the mountain roads leading to altitudes of up to 1,700 metres. Yet we wish to go even higher, and gradually begin to get into shape in the hiking destination of Mestia for our lengthy Himalayan hike in Nepal, planned for the end of the year.

After a short visit to the, in part, very futuristic Georgian capital Tbilisi, another excursion into the Caucasus Mountains and the crossing of Armenia, a very special part of our journey awaits us: a three‐week stay in Iran.


A glance at the world map shows that Iran is actually not that far away from Germany (if you want to, you can get there in a two days’ drive).  Yet Iran is the first country on our journey that really gives us the feeling of having travelled far eastward. Nevertheless, we feel right at home here from the start. The hospitality we receive here is truly incredible. Time and again, locals wave to us euphorically, approach us on the street with curiosity and inquire about our well‐being; we are given presents and invited to join them for tea and supper. In spite of the language barrier, we are blessed with loads of amazing experiences.

Not only the people impress us, but also the (cultural) buildings. The capital Tehran abounds with imposing buildings, palaces and museums. In Kashan, Isfahan and Shiraz we visit mosques of unparalleled beauty.

In between, we cross deserts where the temperature is well above 40°C (and are delighted that diesel here only costs the equivalent of about 5 cents per litre).  Iran, we’ll be back – but maybe not at the height of summer.


We only find out a few days before our planned arrival whether we will be allowed to travel to our next destination, Turkmenistan, or whether we will have to make a detour via Pakistan. Only then are we informed whether our visa application for Turkmenistan has been approved or – as is unfortunately so often the case in this extremely isolated country – whether it has been rejected for no obvious reason.

However, luck is on our side: we are allowed to enter the country! Although we are only allowed to stay in the country for five days, and we have to follow a pre‐defined route and carry a GPS tracker in the vehicle, we are very happy. Travelling through Turkmenistan is an extraordinary experience. The capital Ashgabat nearly overwhelms us with its countless imposing buildings of white marble.

Monumental buildings, glorious monuments and effigies of the president can be found on every corner. The city also boasts an Olympic stadium. However, not all that glitters is gold. Many buildings are merely empty facades, as an employee of the Vatican Embassy in Ashgabat, whom we meet by chance, explained to us.

We spend the night below the world’s largest indoor Ferris wheel, and the next day at the edge of the Darvaza gas crater, also known as the Gateway to Hell. In the 1980s when gas was being extracted there, the ground suddenly gave way in several places, forming several large craters. To get rid of the gas, people were thinking of simply burning it. Today, over 40 years later, it is still ablaze: a very bizarre sight – especially at night.

The next country on our journey also holds great fascination for us. If there is a country where the mosques and palaces are even bigger and more imposing than in Iran, it is probably Uzbekistan. The Registan Palace in the Uzbek city of Samarkand, itself an important hub of the ancient Silk Road, is particularly impressive. The cities of Xiva and Bukhara are also well worth a visit.

The Pamir Highway

Finally, the moment has arrived: we reach Tajikistan with its notorious Pamir Highway. The M41, as the Pamir Highway is officially called, is the second highest motorway in the world – only just behind the Karakorum Highway between China and Pakistan, which we will also encounter on our journey a few weeks later. Over a distance of 1,250 km, the Pamir Highway connects the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe, with Osh in Kyrgyzstan. On the way there, as you cross the Pamir Mountains, you can see as far as China, admire the high mountain peaks of Pakistan and wave to villagers in Afghanistan.

The Pamir Highway is a very challenging route – for both man and vehicle. Although it is referred to as a highway and is indeed one of the most important transport routes in Central Asia, over long stretches it is little more than a gravel road. Over hundreds of kilometres, you struggle to make your way over the bumpy ground, navigate around deep potholes and negotiate narrow passages past deep cliffs. You always have to hope that landslides don’t block the way in this remote region or that rainfalls haven’t swept away entire stretches of the road.

Finally, you have to master the ascents: three high mountain passes each reaching altitudes of more than 4,000 metres. The highest of them, the Ak‐Baital Pass, even boasts an impressive 4,655 metres. (For comparison: the highest point in Europe is the summit of Mont Blanc at 4,810 metres – as far as I know, you can’t really drive up there by car).  One thing is clear: the ascent will be steep and tough.

Yet, two weeks later, we know that our BOXSTAR can also master such roads! We are delighted – not only with our faithful CUV, which has always been a home to us and which has taken us to places that many people would have thought unreachable with such a vehicle, but also with the indescribable landscape of Tajikistan.

In this stunning country, we spent the night on an abandoned heliport next to a turquoise mountain lake, drove hundreds of kilometres along the Afghan border, went hiking in one of the highest mountains on Earth and crossed the world’s second‐highest navigable border (Tajikistan to Kyrgyzstan) on the Pamir Highway.