Made in heaven. Coffee and the Internet, the ultimate match available through the new phenomenon, the Internet café.
A cybercafé, or internet café, is a place where one can drop in for a cup of coffee, perhaps a good smoke, then deal with business or private e-mail correspondence, and just before taking off for home, surf the web for fun or chat with people halfway across the planet.
Over the past few years, cybercafés have become hot spots in most western cities. Slovakia has not lagged behind in this development. The first Internet café opened up in Košice [WHEN?], and was quickly followed up in the capital.
Bratislava, by last count, is home to three such cafés. Only one of them can be found downtown (in the Narodné Múzeum): the other two are in Dúbravka (on the second floor of the Dom Kultúry) and Petržalka (in the Technopol building). Because of the diverse locations it looks like competition is not really an issue yet.
Of the three, the Dúbravka venue comes closest to Western standards. This Internet Café allows consumption of beverages at the computer terminals. The coffee is good and relatively inexpensive, and smoking is allowed. Five Pentium 100 computers with sound share the 33.6 Kbps Internet connection as well as a color printer for hard copies at 5 Sk a page for black and white and 20 Sk per page for color.
The hours are convenient (11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day) and rates are reasonable. A 20 Sk fee plus 1 Sk per minute of use translates into 80 Sk per hour on the Internet - not a bad deal, especially for a Sunday afternoon. Friendly instruction is also provided for those unfamiliar with the Internet.
The Dúbravka location just celebrated its first anniversary and plans to be around for a while. "We're making a profit" said Janette Doležalová, the café's general manager. "People are making it a habit to come here."
In contrast to Dúbravka's harmonious mélange of ingredients, the Technopol cybercafé cocktail contains more cyber and less café. Here, six Pentium machines are connected via an optic fiber cable to the 512 Kbps Internet pipeline of EUNet Slovakia, a Technopol resident. For lightning-fast access, this is the place to go. "We'd like to utilize this speed by possibly introducing Internet telephones in the near future" said Ján Fuzia, the café supervisor.
Rates are in line with the competition, at 20 Sk fee plus 1 Sk per minute. Students, however, have a 50 percent discount and pay only 0.50 crown per minute. Be aware that personal floppy disks are a no-no, as virus paranoia runs rampant here. You may, however, purchase a floppy disk for 22 Sk. Operation hours are Monday to Friday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Consumption of beverages and tobacco is restricted to the tastefully decorated lounge area. But computer terminals' layouts provide privacy for those who require it. Just be sure to bring a valid piece of I.D., or else prepare to spend 15 minutes debating the topic of I.D. requirement with the supervisor.
The downtown location is the most accessible of the three and can be found adjoining the Múzeum Café by the Narodné Múzeum. This café was recently reopened after the Narodné Múzeum closed it down in the summer. The new ownership is the same as that of the Dúbravka café, and like its Dúbravka cousin, this "cyber" museum is open every day, but only from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The rates are the same as in Dúbravka and the set-up is similar - 20 Sk plus 1 Sk per minute. Five computers (486s and Pentiums) murmur here, hooked up to a 64 Kbps Internet connection. A printer is in the works as are five additional terminals. A nice touch is the availability of CD-ROM titles for use at the café, where one can test-drive a variety of games and applications before making a purchase.
Café Internet, Dom Kultury, Dúbravka, Tel. 764-588
Gastropol Internet Café, Technopol, Petržalka Tel. 839-883
Múzeum Internet Café, Staré Mesto, Tel. 534-9196
18. Dec 1997 at 0:00 | Peter Floyd