Czeching Out at the Festival of Slow
The Mongol Rally is about camaraderie, pushing yourself as hard as you can, and maybe losing your mind in the process—that is, if you haven’t already lost it at the wild and wacky Czechout party and Festival of Slow!
MONGOL RALLY STOP #1: Prague, Czech Republic
Starting Point: Klenova Castle, Czech Republic
Kilometres to go: 12,000
The Mongol Rally is about camaraderie. It’s about a group of strangers who are crazy, fun, adventurous—and maybe a bit insane. It’s about doing something wacky, and having the time of your life while you’re doing it. It’s about pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone—and then pushing yourself even further.
I just had no idea I would be experiencing all these things so soon!
I thought the adventure would start on the road, not on the day we were set to arrive at Klenova Castle for the Festival of Slow and Czechout.
Driving from Prague (on the same day we got a ticket for going the wrong way on a one-way street) to Klenova Castle (90 minutes from Prague) wasn’t as stressful as driving in the city of Prague itself, but there was definitely a sense of frustration in the car. It was our first day driving stick in Europe, and Charlie and I were still trying to get to know one another. At times you could have cut the tension in the car with a knife. It set my teeth on edge, and I found myself being snappy and defensive.
We arrived in the early afternoon, parked the car, and pitched our tent facing the rolling green hills of the Czech countryside. As Charlie and I unpacked the car and organized our sponsor stickers, we chatted about our day, our challenges and our feelings. It was something that needed to happen, and I’m grateful that Charlie broached the topic, as I tend to internalize things when I’m frustrated. Things were looking up.
And then the rain started.
I wasn’t ready for a weekend of cold and rain, and that night I felt frozen and ended up sleeping in the car to escape the wind. So much for our good start.
But by the following morning, the cold and the tension were behind us. It was time for our the big Mongol Rally kick-off and our reason for being at Klenova Castle: the Festival of Slow and Czechout.
The Festival of Slow is an event based on the ridiculous. Teams dress-up up in crazy outfits, watch traditional Mongolian dancing and wrestling, and listen to traditional Mongolian music. Ralliers laugh at the hilarious opinions of Buddy (Jonathan Hunt, the emcee for the festival), as he embarrasses teams for being too prepared or having odd car accessories, and picks on the teams that are severely unprepared for the rally.
The Mongol Rally is about doing something wacky, and having the time of your life while you’re doing it.
Once the program is complete, it’s Go Time. The teams get in their cars and make their way to the stage for a team photo. Sounds easy, right? But the stage is on a hill, and there is a parade of approximately 100 cars (or more), which means the drivers have to park and start on a hill several times. Over and over again. I deferred to Charlie.
As each team drove onto the stage, Buddy introduced them, a photo was taken, and then they drove off as the next team drove on. The procession was slow (hence the name, Festival of Slow), and our car stalled and rolled backwards several times as we waited for our turn on stage. Thankfully, we made it (after almost rolling back into the fire truck behind us), and soon we were able to park the car and watch the rest of the teams introduce themselves.
It hit me. This is it. It’s real. I am actually doing the Mongol Rally. (And I have the t-shirt and stickers to prove it!)
The Festival of Slow was fun, and I was pumped to present our car, but the best part of the day happened that night, at Czechout. Czechout is the Mongol Rally party to end all parties. Held in a 13th century castle, in the Czech Republic countryside, Czechout is a night of themed insanity. This year’s theme? Carnival of the Macabre.
Although many teams didn’t dress up, the ones who did definitely made up for it. My eyes are still sore from watching a guy walk around in a black wig, a black leather corset, black panties (which were way too small for him), thigh-high stockings, and six-inch heels. That was, until I saw a Scottish guy walking around in nothing but a leopard print g-string.
It didn’t take long for ralliers to get drunk and crazy. The beer was cheap and flowing, the music was playing and the air was filled with excitement—and the ground was filled with drunk people.
I kept myself sober—we had to walk downhill, in the pitch black of night, to get back to our tents—and enjoyed watching people become more inebriated as the night wore on. Later that night, as I slowly walked back down the hill, I felt happy and content. Czechout was over, and the following morning we would be heading out on an amazing adventure.
Little did I know, my adventure would start much earlier than I expected!