It was all my fault.
Three weeks earlier Deb and I had sat down and discussed this folly of a road trip to the Czech Republic that we had concocted. At that stage Deb advised that a flight to Lisbon or Barcelona or Switzerland might be a sound, relaxing alternative to this potentially high stress journey. I had already been grinding my teeth at night about it, but I had accidentally paid 100 euro up-front for one of our hotel rooms. So, instead of agreeing with Deb’s sensible flight idea, I threw down four irresistible reasons why we should take our road trip: Czech’s famous amber jewellery, Czech’s famous antiques, Czech’s famous WW2 history, and Czech’s famous hot chocolate. With amber sparkles blinding Deb’s good sense we soon found ourselves only two days from departure.
Now, I had done some preliminary research on the rules of the road in the Czech Republic. I had heard of the zero tolerance drinking and driving. I knew about the stamp required to drive on the highways and the large fines you would enjoy without it. What I had missed, however, was the fact that those of us with citizenship in North America also required an International Drivers License. Worse, I couldn’t find any mention of the penalty. Jail time? Fines? Expulsion from the Czech Republic? Lashings? This little miss I found out 12 hours before we were to embark.
After four hours of discussion, debates, heated debates, blame, panic, frustration, anger, and a nap we convinced ourselves it was do or die. We soon found ourselves on the autobahn, jaws clenched, backs tensed, heading to the Czech border.
We were advised to get our highway stamp from any gas station around 50 km’s from the border. I wasn’t at all concerned: I knew there would be plenty of options to choose from. Also, the GPS and I were on good terms since we had left Berlin flawlessly. It had helped me through some difficult detours outside of Dresden and I felt confident we would be advised when the border was getting near. At what appeared to be about 50 km from the border we decided to turn into the next gas station. At what appeared to be 40 km from the border we spied a toilet stop with a dubious looking wooden shack, which we decided to ignore. At what appeared to be 30 km from the border we sailed into the Czech Republic. As I was roaring accusations of betrayal at my GPS we zoomed past a Czech police car on the other side of the highway. I told Deb I loved her and would write everyday from my dark, Czech prison cell. To my surprise, Deb did not promise she would wait, nor did she burst in to tears. Instead she suggested that we might want to take the turn off up ahead and get a stamp from one of the towns indicated on the road sign. That worked. I concede that her advice was better than mine, but not nearly as romantic.
Well that was bracing! Next is Prague, police and more panic!