Destination Istanbul: Czech hitchhiking championships kick-off this Saturday
This Saturday will see the start of the annual Czech Hitchhiking Championships (Mistrovství ČR v autostopu). Contestants will have to travel from Prague to Istanbul and back, only being able to travel by riding in strangers’ cars. Several checkpoints and accompanying challenges are also waiting for them on their journey. The competition was set up eight years ago and regularly attracts a diverse set of participants.
Drivers in Czechia may come across some peculiar destination requests this weekend, as the annual Czech Hitchhiking Championships get underway this Saturday at 9am on Prague’s Střelecký Ostrov.
Co-organiser Emil Patta says that the history of the competition stretches back to 2014 and includes both a summer as well winter race.
“The summer race always includes a foreign destination that is about 4,000 to 5,000km away. It’s a round trip, meaning that the contestants also have to get back to their original starting point.
“They also must undertake a 24-hour-long stay in the foreign destination. We include this rule so that they also have a chance to have a rest and perhaps look around the sites a bit too. Then the second phase begins, which is the return journey.”
The contest is not just limited to hitch-hiking, but also requires the contestants to pass through specified checkpoints and fulfil challenges, says Emil Patta.
“The aim of these challenges is not just to spice up the competition and make it fun, but also to create situations where the contestants have to interact a bit with the locals.
“If I were to give an example, one mission was that the contestants had to cook fried cheese at someone’s home. It may seem like a really difficult thing to do, but actually, if you are hitchhiking in someone’s car, you have already broken a certain wall of privacy, so the people driving the car often let the contestants do it at their home.”
Other challenges can include cleaning up trash by the road, riding in a carriage, or even milking animals.
A total of 12 teams are taking part in this year’s race, with contestants ranging from students, to policemen and psychologists. The teams first have to pass through a qualifying round and always have to be made up of two contestants – either two men or a man and woman. Emil Patta explains why teams of two women are not allowed.
“It’s not that we would want to discriminate. It’s actually the drivers who discriminate (laughs). Female-only teams have it much easier when hitchhiking and this can, in turn, demotivate the other teams.
“We allowed all-women teams in the first year of the competition and both the first and second teams to finish were just made up of women.”
One of those to win the competition in the past is Eva Radilová, who hitchhiked with her friend Tom in 2019. She says it was one the most amazing experiences in her life.
“We had to hitchhike through Scandinavia, stopping off in Tallinn, Estonia. A lot of the challenges that we had were connected to communicating with people. For example, we had to clean someone’s home.
“I thought that was great, because it allowed us to form new contacts. Both I and my teammate Tom ran into a lot of great people this way.”
The Czech Hitch-Hicking Championships are open to contestants over the age of 18, although younger people can also take part as long as their parents allow it. Foreign nationals are also welcome, for example this year will see a Hungarian and a Slovak take part too.
More information about the race and how to register can be found on the website of the competition: https://www.mcrautostop.cz/