Homeless tours show visitors "dark side" of Prague

Fri Dec 14, 2012 11:15am EST
 
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By Jason Hovet and Petr Josek

PRAGUE (Reuters) - With his gravelly voice, bushy hair, an old suitcase in one hand and a pinched cigarette butt in the other, Honza Badalec is not your typical tour guide.

On his walks through Prague, Badalec steers clear of the picturesque ancient castle. Nor does he stop on the centuries-old Charles Bridge, a bustling attraction for the average visitor.

Instead, the 55-year-old veers off the well-worn cobblestones and into the rougher edges of the Czech capital, a side of one of Europe's most visited cities that many would rather avoid.

"I didn't choose to be homeless," he said after completing an evening tour.

"But I'm trying to do the best I can. I don't steal, I don't cheat people, I don't abuse welfare benefits. The tours are great. They are a chance for me to explain myself better."

Since August, about 430 people have paid 200 crowns ($10.31) to visit the places where some of Prague's homeless gather.

Half of the proceeds go to the guide and the rest to student-run agency Pragulic, set up after it won a 1,500-euro social entrepreneurship award.

SAFETY NET DISAPPEARING   Continued...

 
55-year-old homeless Honza B. smokes a used cigarette butt as he escorts his tour group in Prague October 26, 2012. Honza B. works for a student-run tour agency Pragulic as a tour guide that shows tourists the sides of Prague that sightseers would normally avoid. REUTERS/Petr Josek