Two German children, aged 6 and 8, try to run away to Ireland

The boy and girl packed food, a torch, an alarm clock and a book for 1,600km journey

Two German children, a girl aged eight and a six year-old boy, are back at home after their plan to run away to Ireland ended after four hours.

The children are from Ansbach in Frankonia, northern Bavaria and news of their plan has made it into the regional and national press, causing amusement but also understanding from Germans – drawn for decades to what they lovingly call the Grüne Insel or green isle.

The two young adventurers put their escape plan into action last Friday, packing a rucksack with food, a torch, an alarm clock and a book to help them on their 1,600km journey.

First they headed off out of town and made it down to the nearest motorway, the A6.


“They wanted to go to the Autobahn because that’s where the trucks travel to Ireland,” said a police spokesman.

When their parents noticed their children were missing and began a search, motorists on A6 spotted the unaccompanied children trying to thumb a lift and contacted the police around 7.30pm.

A patrol car headed out and found the children waiting at a deer fence near Bernhardswinden, 5km from home.

They collected the children and returned them to the police station in Ansbach, where their parents were waiting for them.

The police were unwilling to speculate on the children's motivation for their trip. Some in Ansbach have suggested the inspiration came from the beloved children's book, Oh Wie Schön ist Panama (The Trip to Panama), in which a tiger and a bear embark on a trip to Panama in a soap box before learning that there's no place like home.

Or perhaps the children heard about Ireland through its link to Frankonia through Cillian, a Cavan-born monk who arrived in the region in 689 AD. After baptising the Duke of Würzburg, Cillian told him he was violating God’s law being married to his brother’s widow. When the duke’s wife caught wind of this, she sent her troops out to behead Cillian and two companions, Colmán and Totnan. Their heads are on display in Würzburg cathedral and the Irishman Cillian is the local patron saint.

For older Germans, the two young adventurers' trip comes as no surprise. For decades Ireland has been a source of Fernweh, or wanderlust, for post-war generations who grew up with Heinrich Böll's Irish Journal. That their longing for the island is alive and well in the youngest generation will be welcome news for Tourism Ireland.

After the Ansbach Two’s 17-hour road-trip to Ireland ended after four hours, Ireland will have to wait for another day.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin