Prague sword-swallower meets mixed reactions from tourists

Emil Ondracek

If you've ever been in Prague in the summer, it's extremely likely that you will have seen a man swallowing swords and banging six-inch nails into his nostrils, near the bottom of Wenceslas Square. His name is Emil Ondracek, and - incredibly - he swallows the swords over half a metre into his body. Mr Ondracek, who usually wears a t-shirt of the heavy metal band Metallica, calls himself a Czech fakir. He told Radio Prague how he had first got into his unusual profession.

"I saw this number being performed before I learned to do it myself. I thought if somebody else can swallow swords I can do it too. And I'm an invalid, and I needed to make some money - that was at the time of the political changes in 1989. I trained hard for a month, using a plastic pipe, which I had sort of adapted myself. Of course there was some injury when I was training, but that healed up a long time ago.

As for the tourists who watch me, the Germans laugh, the Chinese like it but the Japanese run away when they see me swallowing swords. Most likely they're afraid I'd attack them or something. The Scots...the Scots clap, they take photos and film me, but really, a Scot who would actually throw me some money is a real rarity. The Poles are the most suspicious - they always want to check my swords, to see if they're real.

After the floods, and with the metro system out of order, it's not just restaurants and bars that are hit, it's services like me too - my business is down around 70 percent. Why do I wear a Metallica t-shirt? Well, I bought it more for the picture, not because I'm a fan."