Thursday, 6 May 2010

A Czech Mystery

RH drive car

Some years ago, we went to Prague for a few days and visited the Národní technické muzeum v Praze (National Technical Museum in Prague). Among the displays were some beautifully restored classical cars.

But something was wrong. The Czech Republic is a landlocked country situated in the middle of Europe but these cars had right hand steering wheels. They were designed for driving on the left hand side of the road.

Sherlock and Doctor Watson immediately investigated. Little grey cells went into overdrive, Kojak sucked a lollipop – sorry, I got carried away there.

We asked a museum attendant. This was more difficult than it sounds.  Our Czech was limited to the few phrases needed to get around. His English was nearly as non-existent. It took some time, a little German, some pointing at our phrase book, and a lot of gesticulation to get the answer. 

According to him, after the Nazis invaded in 1939, Hitler decreed that Czechoslovakia should drive on the right – NOW!  That made sense and we knew that the same thing had happened in Austria.

There the matter rested till last Saturday when The Guardian published a review of a book about China. To illustrate the book, a picture of the Caiyunba Bridge over the Yangtze was shown, with one, lonely car in view – definitely driving on the left, though China drives on the right. Closer examination (and a flurry of googling) showed that the car was on a slip road and the photo was probably taken in 2007 when the bridge was opened.

That led us back to the Czech issue of changing the flow of traffic from left to right. We discovered an article on Wikipedia which claimed that the Czech government had planned to change to driving on the right‘within a reasonable time’ as early as 1925 and had just not got around to it.  H’mm!  No sources given. In fact the article had a header saying that citations were needed.

More searches revealed quotes from the Wikipedia article, often lifted verbatim (plagiarism is rife on the web) and nothing with authoritative sources.

Short of contacting the Czech Embassy, who may not know as the Czech Republic was part of Czechoslovakia in the period we are talking about, it remains one of the many little niggling mysteries which constantly plague our inquisitive minds.

Unless you know the answer?


  1. Are you just looking to confirm what the museum attendant said?

  2. More that they were planning to do it anyway and pointing out how much is on the web which is not sourced (at least) and just regurgitation (at worst). I'm sure he was right but it wasn't the whole story.

  3. Did you come across this guy's blog:

    Would be interesting to contact him - see if he actually found a source for the licensing exemption law he talks about.

  4. Thanks. The exemption law exists in other countries as well. I've bookmarked the site anyway as it is interesting and Prague is one of the places we would like to get back to, possibly next year with the caravan. expat sites are really useful for local info.


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