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panorama picture of Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia (click to enlarge)

Avenarius’ Home Page

visit Avenarius' Book of Quotations
Home Pages Last Updated On: 20 May 2006
This Page Last Updated On: 21 September 2001

There’s no such thing as a webpage that is not “currently under construction”, and this applies in an even stronger measure to these homepages of mine: while I do my best to be regularly updating my main site, the Book of Quotations, most of the links to the planned Home subpages aren’t available yet.
You may send a blank email to home@avenarius.sk to subscribe for receiving notifications of future updates of these homepages.

The additions to the homepages I’m working on right now include an exhaustive list of movies in my private VHS video library; and dozens of pictures (recent and old) of my city of Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital, my family and myself. Besides that I’m planning to make available a HTML browsable version of my diploma thesis on the German adventure novelist Karl May, which currently is only available in zipped format (MS Word for Windows documents). Another priority is finishing a special webpage that will list all of my intended projects for the future. Among such projects is completing the FAQ section dealing with reply templates used in The Bat! email software (English and German versions still remain to be done); and an overview on how to convert Slovak, Czech, and Russian letters from the Windows encoding into the (outside Windows) more widely accessible ISO-8859-2 and koi8-r encodings.

Feel free to leave your comments or greetings in these homepages’ own Guestbook. (It is a different guestbook from the one used for Avenarius’ Book of Quotations.) Also, don’t hesitate to write me an email: I used to be one of this world’s avowed emailoholics, though later I made it a rule not to devote myself to writing emails before 7 in the evening, and not for longer than an hour or so daily: emails are so fascinating they can ruin your lifestyle.

Check out my main website – Avenarius’ Book of Quotations! It’s only a click away right here.

Clicking on any of the pictures on this page will enlarge them.

in the middle of the night, at work in US Peace Corps Slovakia's Slovak language office (click to enlarge) Summer of 1998, US Peace Corps Slovakia’s language office in Stará Turá (NW Slovakia).

Avenarius’s boss took a snapshot of him at 1 a.m. at night; from 1998 to 2001 he worked as Slovak language teacher for US volunteers.

The man looking over his shoulder is Jan Amos Komenský aka John Amos Comenius (1592–1670), a Moravian philosopher, educational and religious reformer – one of Avenarius’s idols.

Comenius is officially revered by Slovak and Czech educational authorities and has always (even during Communist times) been considered the patron saint of Slovak and Czech educational institutions. In practice, though, his precepts have been neglected, at times violated; conspicuously so (as the webmaster experienced) at the university that bears his name, Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia – the largest and oldest Slovak university. Instead of fulfilling Comenius’s vision of “schola ludus” (school as playground), the Slovak school system in the 20th century fell foul of Comenius’s ideals, favouring Bolshevik or medieval methods of instruction. Memorizing is all; understanding is secondary. It is difficult to decide who suffers most under the system, schoolkids or college undergraduates – it adversely affects everyone. Things are beginning to change, slowly; an admirable educational reform called Milénium has been proposed but its outcome depends on which political party is going to win the next general election.
Lasica and Satinský and Čachtice (click to enlarge) The webmaster in August 2000 in the ruins of a Slovak medieval castle, at Čachtice, declaiming lines from famous Slovak absurdist dialogues by Milan Lasica and Július Satinský.

Picture by Jana Kossuthová

Chickens that fell victim to the Slovak-American friendship (click to enlarge) In Myjava (close to Stará Turá), summer of 1998: Avenarius (right) with one of his American students whom he taught Slovak in the three summer months. I had decorated the original drawing with the US and Slovak national flags; soon afterwards “the chicken’s beaks” proved unable to bear their weight. Both flags ended up behind the massive blackboard, irretrievable, so that we had to spend the rest of the summer without them.
Michalská ulica in Old Town Bratislava (click to enlarge) One of the best-known streets in Old Town Bratislava, Michalská. The left side of that street houses one of the crucial buildings in Bratislava for me: the historic University Library, Slovakia’s most sought-after library.

Picture by Cristy Ecton

Primaciálne Square in downtown Bratislava (click to enlarge) Bratislava’s Primaciálny Palace (left), a favourite place for weddings, next to the Old Town Hall (right), today the City Museum. Besides being a museum, it houses a fine alternative film club, showing movies that they won’t show you in your hypermarket multiplex.
nightly view from the Castle hill towards Petržalka (click to enlarge) A nightly view from the Castle hill across the river Danube to the southern shore of Bratislava, the district called Petržalka. Communists built a concrete jungle of apartment buildings there, so that Petržalka by itself, numbering over 100,000 in population, might count as Slovakia’s fourth largest city.
Moon Street, then called Osohu, in the late 1980s (click to enlarge) The apartment block on Moon Street (no kidding!), near the airport on Bratislava’s eastern edge, where I’ve been living since 1990; my windows and balcony are marked. I made the picture shortly before moving in; Czechoslovakia was ruled by communists back then. Hence the funny old cars – nearly all of the same Czech make, Škoda; today’s car parks are more diverse.
Uncredited pictures of Bratislava on this webpage are © Dagmar Veliká
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No copyright O 2000–2006 by Alexander Avenarius, Bratislava, Slovakia.
No rights reserved unless stated otherwise.

I was born on March 15, 1971, in Bratislava, Slovakia. That is East-Central Europe: Slovakia is sometimes spoken of as a “bridge” (in many aspects) between the European West and the European East, and the central location has at times had unfortunate historical consequences for the nation.
the location of Slovakia in the heart of Europe (click to enlarge)
In the map of Europe above, Slovakia is marked red; in the map below, it is nr. 23. (Clicking any of the maps or pictures on this webpage will enlarge them.)

From 1918 to 1992, Slovakia used to be part of Czechoslovakia along with today’s Czech Republic (nr. 24 in the map). Czechoslovakia quietly split into two separate republics on January 1, 1993; and this was the first time in peaceful history that Slovaks were able to declare their independence. (There was a puppet Nazi Slovak state inbetween 1939 and 1945 during World War II.)

Prior to 1918, both Slovakia and the Czech lands had belonged to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire that had extended over much of south-eastern Europe including the Balkans, all the way down to the northern border of the Turkish Empire (compare nr. 90 in the map). For many centuries, Slovaks were directly ruled by Hungarians, and Czechs by Austrians. The present shape of Austria (nr. 25) and Hungary (nr. 22) is a torso of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire’s former glory.
a map of Europe, with Slovakia as nr. 23 (click to enlarge)
I’ve always lived in Bratislava, in three different places. The city is quite large for Slovak standards, and is Slovakia’s largest city and its capital. Half a million people live here.

Bratislava must be the only capital city in the world directly bordering on three different countries: these are Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia, Bratislava being situated in a south-western niche of Slovakia. Click the map below for a better view and observe that Bratislava lies exactly at the spot where the state borders of Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia meet. If you live in Bratislava, any of the three countries is within walking distance.
a map of Slovakia, with the capital Bratislava in the south-west, directly bordering on Austria and Hungary (click to enlarge)
Another unique facet is that Bratislava lies at the foot of a mountain range, the Small Carpathians, whose foothills extend from the city’s north-west (until 1989, this used to be the view from my bedroom window; the building is my former elementary school):
foothills of the Small Carpathians as viewed from bedroom (click to enlarge)
all the way across to the city center (and the Castle hill):
Bratislava's Castle hill, with Dóm svätého Martina aka St. Martin's Cathedral in front (click to enlarge)
It is remarkable that the population of each of the three neighbouring states (Slovaks, Austrians, and Hungarians) belongs to a different ethnic group: one is a Slavonic nation; another, a Germanic nation; and the third is ethnically related to neither of the two. Yet the three nations have had to cope with each other for centuries now. This is especially true of Bratislava due to its location at the crossroads of the three states: Bratislava’s inhabitants had traditionally been an ethnic mix of Slovaks, Austrians, and Hungarians; most of them used to exercise command over all the three, so different, languages.

Today the situation is different, after Slovakia’s artificial isolation from Austria during the 41 years of Communist rule (1948–1989) that had been enforced onto Czechoslovakia by another former empire, the Soviet Union. A barbed wire used to mark the Slovak-Austrian frontier in those decades; and Slovaks were forbidden to travel to Austria – the country that had previously owned Bratislava for centuries. (Read more about the barbed wire here.) Prior to 1918, Bratislava was known under the German or Hungarian names Pressburg / Pozsony; Napoleon Bonaparte signed an important peace treaty here, and Maria Theresia was crowned in Bratislava’s St. Martin’s cathedral (the church whose tower you see in the picture above).

If there’s a root somewhere of my enthusiasm for the concept of world citizenship, it might be the spirit of cosmopolitan Bratislava. The spirit has prevailed until today: whereas during much of the 1990s Slovakia was ruled by nationalist governments (that mostly consisted of former Bolsheviks), Bratislava usually voted differently from the rest of the country, dooming nationalist parties to failure in the nation’s capital.