eastward

The things in my office seem to be sticky like glue. It’s always the same, whenever I enter the office, and even if it is just for fetching something, not wanting to spend more than one or two minutes there, I end up doing something there for some hours. That’s why I take off late—way too late. I had decided to travel the 600 plus km from Munich to Brno, Czech Republic—where the Cyberspace 2005 conference takes place—by car. Germany is one of those countries [or the only one?] where on the Autobahn [Highway] you are allowed to drive as fast as you can—until your vehicle breaks apart. Completely derestricted by default. Though empirical reality renders this non-rule irrelevant. It doesn’t matter at what time of day or night you hit the Autobahn, there are always way too many cars. You guess it, as soon as I hit the Autobahn there is traffic jam. Since quite some years traffic jam is the 24/7 status of normality here. When the endless knot of tin finally starts to loosen up, fog comes up. Then the fog clears up, but I already have lost another hour or more. About 30 km in front of the border the Autobahn suddenly ends and gives way to a romantic and curvy overland road. Nice, but not exactly suited for getting ahead fast. Trucks in front of me, trucks behind me.
 

No problems at all at the border crossing—basically I just drive through, letting my passport flash for a fraction of a millisecond, or two. Inside the Czech Republic it is compulsory to pay for driving on the highway. Right behind the border there are booths where you can pay the according price—in my case for being allowed to use the highways for 15 days, which is the cheapest option available—and get a nice sticker for your windscreen in return. Nothing else to see at the border. Little wonder, as it’s dark night meanwhile. Sticker prominently on windscreen I drive onto the Czech highway. The street is well suited for driving fast. But then there’s a sign reading “130 km/h” accompanied by some commentary in Czech language. My interpretation goes like this: You are allowed to drive 130 km/h max. speed here. And still more than 300km to go—I defintely should have taken the plane to Prague. But then: I do not understand a word of Czech. Maybe the sign said: Compulsory min. speed is 130 km/h! I will enquire about the matter at the next filling station. By the way, fuel is hilariously cheap here, compared to the insane prices in Germany. For the time being I am careful and do not go faster than 140 km/h. After a while a dozen or so cars overtake me, going way faster than me. Czech licence plates. Hell, they should know what they are doing, them locals. I sense a chance to arrive at Brno at a sensible time. My first interpretation of the 130 km/h sign must have been wrong. The street’s condition is perfect, there’s not much traffic at all, my licence-plate reads 1337, I hit the accelerator, and till Prague no one overtakes me again. I am careening through the former Eastern Bloc, head first through pitch black night at 200 km/h. My vintage 1987 Audi quattro, lacquered in a blazing red [well, at least it was blazing back in ’87] developes a sound like it was powered by some kind of turbine. It may just be the passenger cabin’s ventilation, but it’s a nice illusion, perfect spaceship ambience. Filling station. I pump fuel into my red mean machine until it’s filled to the brim. And I forget to ask about the speed limit. Anyway.
 

Prague. Originally I intended to have a coffee here, but Brno still is 200 km away. So I decide to not get lost in the city—which seems to be quite huge—and to find my way directly through it, and onto the highway to Brno as quickly as possible. A perfect sequence of direction signs leads me safely through Prague. Hitting the accelerator. Rain, but not for long. What strikes me the most is the uncanny density of McDonalds franchises. Every ten kilometres or so there they are, the big golden American tits, looming high up in the nightsky. Bright yellow neon-hieroglyphs, seemingly preaching: this is all one world! Creepy. Again some fog, some rain, but then clear star-speckled sky and a free highway. The distance-meter on the dashboard bravely counts up, simultaneously the fuel-meter’s needle slowly but continuously [and visibly!] creeps to the left. Sign says: Brno, 10 km to go. Right after the sign there’s a filling station. Now there’s no need any more to ask about the speed limit. It’s close to midnight now.

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