Which way now?


OK, so some of the jokes about women having a poor sense of direction may be grounded. At least in my case. When I'm sitting next to the driver with a map on my lap you can be fairly certain that I will miss pointing out a vital turning or point it out a few kilometres further down the road. So the news that the world's leading cartographers were meeting in the town of Cesky Krumlov last weekend to debate whether the days of the printed map are numbered gave me a glimmer of hope that I would soon be replaced by a superior satellite navigation system.

Sales statistics all point in that direction - in the past year demand for satellite navigation systems has been up by 65 percent while the sale of printed maps down by 12 percent. However the worlds leading cartographers came to the conclusion that printed maps would remain part of our lives, just as much as printed newspapers have in the internet era. The classical map we've used for centuries remains vital to tourist agencies, hotels, institutions and real estate agents, among others. Moreover it could come in useful if your navigation system should break down. If you are travelling around the Czech Republic getting a nice map is no problem at all. There are just two things you need to be careful about. One is that you don't get an outdated map. And the other is that you don't get a "futuristic" map -which features all the projected stretches of highway that are in the pipeline or in the process of being constructed.

Using either of those could lead you to a dead end. Unbelievable as it sounds you can buy these futuristic maps in the Czech Republic. When the respective authors were challenged about it recently - they argued that if they did not include the projected roads then the maps would be outdated within a few months. As to why they are being sold - that's because some bookstores and gas stations have run out of the old ones, and if you are desperate a futuristic map is better than no map at all. Having said that, I do have some good news for you - the Czech Republic has the densest network of road and tourist-track signs in Europe so if you should get lost -just follow the signs. The downside is that some of them are made of copper and occasionally get stolen. But I can assure you that the Czech Republic is a beautiful country and the extra time spent here will not be wasted.