New Prague tourist trail spotlights graft and sleaze

Fri Feb 24, 2012 12:49pm EST
 
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By Jan Lopatka

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Prague has long been a favored destination for its medieval looks and cheap beer, but one travel agency has freshened up the offering with a new type of tourism experience which spotlights graft and sleaze.

Corrupt Tour has made a hit out of "The Best of the Worst" trips showing places tied to scandals that have plagued the country's political life.

The project has caught the zeitgeist in a country of 10.5 million people, where public debate has been dominated by revelations of dodgy deals in everything from multi-billion dollar army contracts to a scheme suspected of skimming nearly a cent from every city transport ticket.

"Our target is to get Czech corruption on a UNESCO list of the world's cultural heritage," said Pavel Kotyza, one of the Corrupt tour organizers.

"We are sold out for a week ahead. We are adding German and English tours and thinking about Russian, Italian and even Japanese."

The Czech Republic, like neighboring Slovakia and other formerly communist countries, has undergone a profound economic and political transformation over the last two decades. But many of the country's institutions have struggled with graft and a system where prosecutions are rare and convictions even more so.

The new agency offers a range of tours. One popular tour, called Safari, takes tourists around the villas and walled-in estates of businessman linked to big state orders.

On a tour this week, a group of about 20 Czechs of various ages and professional backgrounds was taken to the Prague city hall. A guide - with accessories in orange and blue, the colors of the two biggest political parties - gave lectures on anonymously owned trusts, bearer shares and dodgy tenders.   Continued...

 
A visitor walks down the stairs at the National Memorial at Vitkov in Prague February 24, 2012.   REUTERS/Petr Josek