Driving In The Czech Republic: Calm Chaos With A Sprinkle Of Elefantenrennen

What I've come to understand when it comes to diving in any country is that each follows a set of unwritten rules. In Austria, this can be mostly applied to the Autobahn - which is officially restricted to 130 kph but since it is going to take you 3 years to overtake the snail who does 125 kph, you can do 140 kph as well. In Germany, the obligation to drive on the right (Rechtsfahrgebot) is much more honoured than in Austria. There you always move to the right when you are done blasting someone, in Austria you do such when you clearly block someone coming much faster your way, or can be bothered when alone.

And while I see the irony that my first post about my trip to Berlin in Germany is about the Czech Republic, it is pretty much impossible to go there staring from Austria without avoiding it. I am glad that I had not avoided it - not only for time reasons but because it had been An Event.

dálnice Czech Republic
From the overall distance I covered from Austria to Germany, the majority had been in the Czech Republic. I hadn't expected much of a difference to the unwritten rules that mark the Austrian driving style - that is relatively orderly until it turns slightly passive-aggressive - but as I passed the saddest looking border crossing in the EU, I was met with a slight surprise:

Here I was, happily driving along a B-road when I saw a sign that restricted the road to 70 kph because we were approaching a junction. No biggy, just take your foot of the pedal and don't meet the metal - in both senses of the word. Then you drive across it, no cars in sight who might have dramatic lapses in judgement, and be on your merry way ... just that ... it was never cancelled.

There was no big white sign with a black line diagonally across it. As far as I was concerned the 70 never ended but people started to speed up to 90 again. Obviously, I had to follow suit ... couldn't slow down the convoy because I might have missed a sign. Thus, the following junctions I paid even more attention to the signs ... only to find none that indicated that the 70 was over. I simply had to conclude that it was witchcraft ... at least until I explained this confusion to Silver - who explained slowly and clearly, that the junction itself serves as a cancel. After all, how was someone who would turn onto the main road know that they are in a 70 zone ...

My answer to that would have included explaining how those zones are marked in Austria - in which you can see that when you drive onto a main road - but I saved my breath because I realised that I had not seen a similar arrangement on the Czech Republic. "Oh," I muttered. Meanwhile, I had simply assumed that everyone was following according to their gut feeling.

However, this theory did not turn out to be so wrong. While there is a frame of law that organises the traffic, you mostly drive with your gut. It is a simple fact that your brain can not process all the input otherwise.

While I was on the dálnice (engl. motorway) I was never able to maintain the legal speed of 130 for more than 5 minutes, I drove through 10k of construction where one lane was diverted onto the hard shoulder but the line creates a constant droning sound - which is great when you are about to fall asleep on the wheel, not so when you have one wheel on it for most of the time. Pretty much the only vehicle that is respected are trucks, which is mostly due to the fact that they simply do whatever they want. Elefantenrennen are very common, and I am pretty sure that they originated in the Czech Republic as well. I have never seen a three lane wide motorway be completely blocked by trucks trying to overtake each other with a mere 2 kph difference in speed. However, it happens.

Elefantenrennen in the Czech Republic
Then you look down at your cars clock and realise that only 15 minutes had passed ....

My brain was fried trying to see any system and order in all of those situations. The only thing I knew was that you better be afraid of trucks, and construction works have a minimum length of 10 km ...

At the same time, I noticed that my car was among the faster ones. This was great ego boost, even though, it was not down to actually owning a fast car - 90 horses of Diesel -, and while I can hold my head high on the German Autobahn because I can drive my car fast, it is not a fast car ... unless you are on the dálnice. Apparently, it was a fast car because I had it easiest being able to accelerate from 100 to 130 without down shifting.

Since my brain is mostly Austrian wired, I tried to find some order in this chaos. At least until the Czech part of my brain decided to take over and point out that there is none. The order is no order. Instead you drive with gut feeling. And I have to hand it to them, as soon as I stopped trying to find some sort of pattern and did the same, the drive was more than relaxing.

Furthermore, the whole time I had been in the Czech Republic, I had not encountered a single car accident. Which is more than I can say from Austria and Germany - even France. Instead, an odd calmness settled in my brain, especially on the way back. I had stopped expecting that I would do 130 continuously, and sometimes an Elefantenrennen would happen. Did it really matter? I was in no hurry. And thus, driving in the Czech Republic turned from one of the most stressing into one of the calmest experiences I ever had in all of my road tripping.

Every time I drive in a different country, I take something away from it and implement it in my own driving style: from Germany this was the heightened respect for the obligation to drive on the right. From the Czech Republic it was the calmness of the mind that it is all going to work out somehow because it did.

The best example of this can be found when I was heading for a service area desperate for a wee. The sign said that it would be here in about 1000 meters. In Austria, I would have normally decided to already pull onto the very right lane, trundle behind a truck because someone might not might let me in, then I'll miss the exit and will have to pee inside my car.

This is a completely normal thought progress for anyone here. However, because I was in the Czech Republic and saw a convoy of slow moving trucks, I simply decided to drive left until roughly 300 meters before the exit road and then move right because if I simply believed that there would be a gap ... there would be a gap. And there was.

A few moments later I had been a good liter lighter. The best way to explain that the Czech Republic's way of driving is superior is quite simple: you can use their toilets for free. So whatever ill I had written, is forgotten. This is a great country, and I honestly enjoyed driving there. It had been an event indeed but had shown me a less frantic style of driving that I have come to adore.


  1. Such a great read and love the ending- everything is forgotten when the toilets are free!!
    Sarah x

    1. Thank you very much. Glad you enjoyed it :)


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