My Life, My Car: I Like to Floor the Gas

My Life, My Car: I Like to Floor the Gas

Jana Reinišová, the Czech ambassador to the Netherlands, likes powerful cars. Even though she has a personal chauffeur, she loves to sit at the wheel herself whenever she has the chance.

17. 7. 2018 Lifestyle PEOPLE

If you ever need to visit the Czech embassy in the Netherlands, you will find it in The Hague a stone’s throw away from Noordeinde Palace, which is one of the three official palaces of the Dutch royal family. Our interview with ambassador Jana Reinišová was held in a conservatory overlooking a courtyard where a ŠKODA SUPERB was parked.

The chauffeur, Jan Stejskal, takes care of the car. He is also the embassy’s manager, caretaker, and chef. “He cooks as well as he drives,” laughs Jana Reinišová. While she tries to avoid being a backseat driver because she dislikes it herself, she does keep an eye on what is going on around her. She is well aware of the great risk posed in the Netherlands by scooter riders, who are allowed to use cycling lanes, but are much faster and more unpredictable than cyclists. So you’d better check your rear-view mirror three times before making a right turn.

Jana Reinišová
the Czech ambassador to the Netherlands


Whenever anyone comes for a visit, I never know whether to be more worried about those who want to drive or those who prefer to walk.


Reinišová finds Dutch drivers considerate. “The problem is the cyclists,” remarks the ambassador, adding that these road users “always” have right of way. A cyclist may suddenly ride out in front of you from the left or from a side road and you have to react fast. When a bike collides with a car, the blame is usually heaped on the driver. “Whenever anyone comes for a visit, I never know whether to be more worried about those who want to drive or those who prefer to walk. I mean, you’re virtually guaranteed that a car will stop for you when you nip over the road, even if you’re not on a pedestrian crossing, but cyclists will seldom show the same courtesy,” warns Reinišová.


Unless dictated otherwise by protocol, she sits in the front passenger seat. Even if she’s going to meet the king, she only switches to the back seat in a layby when they reach the outskirts of Amsterdam. “When I go by car, I’m usually the one at the wheel and that’s the way I like it to be,” Reinišová explains.

On journeys to meet the monarch at the royal palace in Amsterdam, a Czech flag adorns the limousine. The king holds a New Year’s Eve reception for all ambassadors and invites them to a gala dinner once a year. The flag is also required during other important events, such as the 20th-anniversary celebration of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Executive Council of which is currently chaired by Jana Reinišová. Even today, sharp braking brings back memories of her very first driving lesson. It was a freezing day in Prague, so the cobblestones in Karmelitská Street were very slippery. 

When I go by car, I’m usually the one at the wheel and that’s the way I like it to be.



Seeing the traffic lights turn from green to amber, she slammed on the brakes and the car instantly came to a standstill. Fortunately, the driver behind her managed to stop his car before it rear-ended her, but Reinišová can still hear her instructor saying: “Jana, I can intervene when you accelerate too fast or turn the steering wheel the wrong way, but there’s nothing I can do when you slam on the brakes.”



Her first car was a ŠKODA 1000 MB, which she remembers fondly to this day. After a while, she upgraded to a ŠKODA 125, which she had for four years until, one morning, she was confronted with an empty space where she had parked it. It had been stolen in the early hours.

The car was never found and, as getting your hands on a car in Czechoslovakia before the Velvet Revolution was never easy, Reinišová bought a used ŠKODA FAVORIT. To secure it, she used a steering wheel lock and a double power-off system. When she wanted to go somewhere, before being able to turn the key in the ignition she first had to open the engine, switch on the engine’s electricity, turn on the electricity in the car, and remove the mechanical lock. With her next car, she continued to remain loyal to ŠKODA, this time purchasing a FELICIA.



As she looks back on her early years as a driver, Reinišová says it was like another world, because at that time there were few women at the wheel. She found herself in countless situations where men couldn’t handle that fact that they were being overtaken by a woman and reacted by stepping on the accelerator rather than let her pass. “On the upside, though, when the police pulled you over you could talk your way out of it more easily if you were a woman,” Reinišová laughs.

However, she adds that she always did her best to obey traffic rules so as not to get stopped. This is all in the past for her now.




10 questions for Jana Reinišová, the Czech ambassador to the Netherlands

1. What is your ordinary working day like?
I spend most of the day either working in my office or attending meetings. My work also takes me outside The Hague and, includes, of course, organising and participating in various social, cultural, and economic events. I also attend meetings of the many international organisations based in The Hague, where we represent the Czech Republic. What has kept me busy lately is the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, where I chair the Executive Council. This is a very successful organisation as it has managed to destroy 96% of chemical weapons declared worldwide and has even been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Nevertheless, chemical attacks still occur, so the atmosphere can be rather bleak during meetings.

2. How did you become an ambassador?
I was involved in international scientific and technical cooperation. Following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, I moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. Initially, I did much the same work, but soon I switched to the European Communities Department and, in various positions, I participated in the whole negotiation process of the Czech Republic’s accession to the EU. After we joined the EU, I represented the Czech Republic in Brussels for five and a half years as the deputy of the Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the EU, and then I spent four years in Prague as the executive director of the Legal and Consular Section at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From there, I relocated to The Hague as the ambassador of the Czech Republic to the Netherlands.

3. What do you like about your job?
I am pleased that I can contribute to the Czech Republic’s good reputation in the Netherlands and, I dare say, in the European Union as well. It's a very complex job and you never stop learning. Talking of the EU, it clearly isn’t perfect (what is?), but we would do well to consider what would have happened had we not joined. Besides the security aspect (which goes hand in hand with our NATO membership), there are a number of other benefits. We have free movement of goods, persons, services and capital, and we have access to a large single market of 28 member states. By acting in concert with fellow members, it is easier to negotiate with other countries. People can now freely choose to study or work throughout the Union, and cross borders without even noticing it. Last but not least, take a look at our standard of living and the amount of money we receive from European funds. We are not doing badly at all - we are at 88% of the average EU gross national income, up from 60% when we joined the Union. Do you think we would have managed this without EU membership? I don’t. Despite our constant grumbling, sometimes justifiably, I still believe that the Union is a huge plus for us.



4. Have your dreams as a driver come true?
I’ve always wanted to drive a tank, but I haven’t had the opportunity yet. I have driven a tractor, though.

5. Do you remember the first time you drove anywhere in your own car?
No, I don’t, but I suppose I wouldn’t have strayed too far from home. My first car was a ŠKODA 1000 MB. It was a perfect car that I remember to this day. We had it for almost 20 years. Then we passed it on to our friend, who built a working car using parts from two inoperable vehicles.

6. What would you do if cars didn’t exist?
I would walk instead and use anything that was available. It’s just a fifteen-minute walk to the embassy so I usually enjoy a morning and evening walk.

My first car was a ŠKODA 1000 MB. It was a perfect car that I remember to this day.

7. What do you imagine the cars of the future will be like?
I am used to driving with what I have at my disposal. If I have a car, I just need it to work, to have four wheels, and to have a decent engine. So I am not very demanding about what cars of the future should be like. I assume there will be more electric cars and cars running on different types of fuel, such as hydrogen, and I think there will be more self-driving cars – but I am not sure if people will still get such enjoyment from a nice drive. .


8. What is your biggest fear when it comes to cars?
Reckless drivers. And is there anything I don’t like? Traffic jams, for instance - sometimes the journey from Prague to The Hague can take one or two hours more than usual. I hate getting lost. Before satellite navigation became commonplace, there was a big difference between the very clear traffic signs in Germany and the signs in other countries. On the other hand, I remember losing my way while on holiday here in the Netherlands in the early 1990s, but it was quite charming – I discovered a narrow lane below sea level and it was beautiful.

9. Do you have any funny car-related anecdotes?
Plenty. In Brussels, I had a ŠKODA OCTAVIA at my disposal, which I mainly drove around city streets. So when I went on an official trip to Luxembourg, it was an opportunity to drive on the open motorway. I went into an underground car park in Luxembourg and I was surprised to find out that, besides parking places for the disabled, there were spots designated for women drivers only. So, obviously, I drove the car a level lower and parked in a “normal” parking place.

I like to drive in Germany, where I can put the engine through its paces if the conditions are right.

10. What would be the perfect road trip for you?
I’ve driven through much of Europe and some of the United States, so I don’t feel I have any unfulfilled wishes. I like to drive in Germany, where I can put the engine through its paces if the conditions are right. When I can see that there is a lot of traffic, and especially when I can see lorries ahead of me switching lanes, I take my foot off the pedal. I like to drive fast, but safely.