THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Almost a reunion
Where are we?

Hitting Jack's road


I have checked the traffic regulations and the paraphernalia required to be carried onboard by the busybodies of  six European nations. I have everything apart from my Austrian motorway sticker and apparently I can pick that up at the border. Speranza is looking and sounding good. I am looking forward to being back on Kerouac's 'holy road'.

My hotel in Prague has responded to my enquiry about parking. We have agreed that she will stand out front under 24/7 supervision as their garage is down too steep a ramp for her road clearance. My hotel in Vienna has, surprisingly, not responded yet so my remaining task for tomorrow (apart from packing for 12 days on the road) is to chase that up.

In Berlin I will be staying at a friend's house on a road named after Ethel and Julius Rosenberg - two American traitors who spied for the Soviet Union. He tells me that the district is still mostly occupied by former aparatchiks of the East German Communist Party so there's no demand to change the name. His German Shepherd will guard Speranza and - as the Communist elites never stinted themselves - I am sure she will be in good automotive company too.

It's interesting that Germany isn't embarrassed about continuing to honour America's enemies in such a way. But then the USA doesn't seem very embarrassed about having listened in on Chancellor Merkel's phone calls! There are allies and then there are allies, I guess. But that's getting dangerously close to the political blogging I have forsworn so I shall say no more.

I am driving on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and hope to be in Vienna in time for the finish of the local marathon on Sunday. It's odd that they hold it on the same day as the London Marathon. It's also symbolic of my odd personal history that I have friends to cheer on in Vienna not London.


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I cannot dissent, but my oath against politics forbids me to join in :-)

Tim Newman

Yeah, to be fair most of the websites - such as the AA - seem to be just covering their arses: citing the law accurately, but not going so far as to tell you that de facto they are not required. From what I have read, there is a nice little business operating on the ferries and EuroTunnel scaring Brits into buying their devices which are several times what they used to be in France, back when pharmacies used to stock them (they were about 3 Euros each).

Having laws you don't enforce diminishes respect for law itself and puts you at the mercy of the men of power who throw the book at you when you tick them off.

This is true, but it is dependent on your second point, i.e."Few, only necessary laws - strictly enforced with widespread public support - is the right approach." In the absence of that I tend to feel freer in societies with lots of laws half of which are not enforced. I found this when I first moved to Kuwait, and then the UAE, and to some extent Russia - the police are prepared to overlook dozens of silly laws to the point that they are not enforced and they might as well not exist...and when you are caught in breach, a lot of the time you end up in a negotiation of some sort. It's not ideal, but IMO is infinitely preferable to the situation in the UK, where every minor infraction is treated with the utmost self-righteous seriousness by the police, which they genuinely seem to enjoy. There is no room for negotiation, and no law too petty to escape enforcement. Part of the problem is that the police in the UK used to be trusted, and the police abused that trust and continue to abuse what little is left. In France, Russia, and most other countries, the police were never trusted...they were always assumed to be the bad guys by the public, and so the onus is on the police to try to get the cooperation from the public by not being arseholes *all* the time. In the UK, the smug arseholes probably still believe they are liked and respected.

Anyway, enough politics - enjoy the motoring!


Interesting, thanks. I guess the AA keeps it simple, not least because it sells the damned things!

One reason I am a libertarian is that I like to comply with the law. Having laws you don't enforce diminishes respect for law itself and puts you at the mercy of the men of power who throw the book at you when you tick them off. 

Few, only necessary laws - strictly enforced with widespread public support - is the right approach. Fat chance these days. 

Tim Newman

Yes, but...again, it's France. A law came in saying they were needed, but was very controversial due to the links between the minister proposing them and the only factory in France making them. So as a face-saving measure they backed down choosing not to impose any sanctions for not having one (by postponing the introduction of the sanction indefinitely). As a result, in theory a Gendarme might cite the law saying you need one - but there is no associated sanction, so the effect is that one is not required. From what I can tell, half the laws in France are like this.


According to the AA they are still needed.

Tim Newman

The French insist the hi viz etc is in reach

Well, yes. But being France, you are not expected to comply with the laws completely, so everyone just sticks theirs in the boot. I don't even have one, haven't managed to find a shop selling them yet.

Tim Newman

Two breathalysers for France.

I don't think they're required any more. AFAIK the law got struck down.

Tim Worstall

I've not got your email addy. Mine is

Coordinate it through there.


That would be a particular delight. Please email your co-ordinates and I will aim to break my journey there. 

Tim Worstall

Hmm, this is interesting. You will be in Prague and then later in Berlin. And the road that goes between the two does (or at least can) go through Usti nad Labem en route to Dresden. Perhaps 100 km NW of Prague is Usti.

And also where I am currently working, will be here the rest of the month. Perhaps you might like to stop by for a coffee and a cream bun or something?


Thanks for the encouraging words, James. Live in such fear and we go nowhere!

james higham

We have agreed that she will stand out front under 24/7 supervision

Y-e-e-s-s-s, I had this in France with the Pilgrim. Next morning, front bumper was bent back double and damage was everywhere. Welcome to the continent. At least the soft top hadn't been slashed.


Not documents these days if you stay within the EU. Licence and insurance work EU-wide. Two breathalysers for France. Hi viz jackets for several places. Warning triangles. Spare bulbs and fuses. That kind of thing. Also stickers certifying your emissions level to enter certain restricted zones in German cities, which I shall stay away from; freely translating the relevant signs as "spend nothing here". 

The French insist the hi viz etc is in reach, cluttering my normally immaculate cockpit, so one can't even tuck it away. A gentleman's personal space should be his own, surely?


"I have checked the .......paraphernalia required to be carried onboard by the busybodies of six European nations. I have everything apart from my Austrian motorway sticker". Ahhhh, the freedom of the road EU-style. This nosey Canadian would actually like to see the list of documents required, or is that veering too close to political discussion?

Have a good trip, say hi to some good beer a strudel for me.

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