© Magdalena Urbankova

  • MU

remember, get onto your horse from the left

Updated: Feb 9

For the longest time I wondered why some countries drove on the left-hand side. Yes, yes, I know, it is the British! But, I knew that Czechs also drove on the left till 1938, and there was no British influence there. So why? What was the reasoning behind it?

An interesting theory of Roman legions moving across the continent, a need to mount a horse from the left and people expecting an enemy behind every bush were some of the rationale of the left-hand rule. Paradoxically, the "peaceful" rule of the right hand was implemented by Napoleon, of all people. He and his army spread this rule to the countries they conquered. Hence the left-hand rule persisted in enclaves in the middle of Europe where Napoleon did not reign.

Driving on the left was my biggest worry. I was looking forward to city life and hopefully not needing to drive a car on a daily basis, but I still had to come to terms with the fact that I would need to drive sometime. Sooner or later. Sooner, better then later, I decided. I started on small Devonport roads. Talking to myself, verbally commenting every thing I was about to do. That helped a lot. No worries about what the other passengers in the car thought about it. What was surprisingly no problem at all: the signals, staying in the correct lane and not going into the opposing traffic and one big surprise - parking. All that was fine as long as nobody spoke to me while I drove. What was confusing and mildly amusing was searching for the stick shift. What was and still is a struggle: looking into the rearview mirror. Somehow the wires in my brain get crossed while doing that and result in immediate feelings of nausea and disorientation. Better keep the eyes on the road ahead of me.

Here is the photo of my first parallel parking attempt; I am very proud of myself: no need to fiddle back and forth, and just the right distance from the curb.

While on the theme of cars, Filip finds the American oldies irresistible. There are many sightings of vintage wheels around Auckland. Weather is favorable to them here. So these are for you, Hal.

An interesting observation from a country with the left-hand rule is that it is not only the road that is different. While going to shop, you realize that all that you would instinctively look for on the right-hand side is on the left. It is rather confusing. The escalators are reversed and the entryways are on the opposite side from where you would expect them. A good exercise for my brain.