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NATURE AND CULTURE MEET IN THE FOREST AREA OF HORSKÝ PARK

Refuge from the city

EVERY DAY, activist Kamil Procházka has to ascend 242 steps to get to his office in what he calls "Bratislava's Central Park" - the hilly Horský park, one of the few forested areas in the Slovak capital.
Procházka, 67, is one of the lucky people who have managed to make a profession of their passion. He is the head of the Horský park (Forest Park) foundation and the mastermind behind all its cultural activities. He runs the park's gallery, arranges open-air concerts and activities for children. Each of these efforts serve the overall goal - increasing support for preserving the park among visitors and the general public.
"People's primary motive in visiting us is to relax. Once they are relaxed they are open to new ideas, such as the environmental and ethical questions we try to present," Procházka says.


REPAIRING the Horský Park gallery.
photo: TASR

EVERY DAY, activist Kamil Procházka has to ascend 242 steps to get to his office in what he calls "Bratislava's Central Park" - the hilly Horský park, one of the few forested areas in the Slovak capital.

Procházka, 67, is one of the lucky people who have managed to make a profession of their passion. He is the head of the Horský park (Forest Park) foundation and the mastermind behind all its cultural activities. He runs the park's gallery, arranges open-air concerts and activities for children. Each of these efforts serve the overall goal - increasing support for preserving the park among visitors and the general public.

"People's primary motive in visiting us is to relax. Once they are relaxed they are open to new ideas, such as the environmental and ethical questions we try to present," Procházka says.

The Horský park foundation, which uses volunteers and raises its money from grants and sponsors, is dedicated to the protection of the park and its surroundings. The foundation holds drives to plant trees, re-route traffic and clean up the forest.

For Procházka, the preservation of Horský park from real estate developers has been a matter of the heart. He says he has nightmares about "the park being sold to private investors for construction lots, and the guest house being turned into a pub with slot machines". He and his wife have fought such bad dreams by making the park a cultural and spiritual meeting place for locals.

Horský park has become a popular destination for families with children. Besides a playground, a pony and a goat, which attract the attention of the youngest visitors, whole families can participate in other events.


KAMIL Procházka and Laura.
photo: TASR

Regular programmes on Saturdays include a flea market selling antiques, musical instruments and clothes. Men can flex their muscles at a 'Gentlemen's club', where wood is chopped for the needs of the park administration, or in cleaning up the park area. The last Saturday of every month is reserved for fathers with children to create their own crafts from wood. During weekends, promising young artists hold exhibitions, while on Sundays, musicians perform on the terrace of the cafe.

Established as a city forest park in the 1870's, the area is today virtually the only green oasis remaining in the capital. The atmosphere is that of a family business - the horáreň (forester's lodge), which serves as a café and is run by Procházka's wife, is also the foundation's office, where Procházka spends his days.

Nature protection has always been a major concern for the couple. During the late 1980's they became involved in the movement 'Bratislava nahlas' (Bratislava Aloud), which fought the indifference of the communist regime to environmental issues.

But since 1994, when the Horský park foundation was founded, caring for nature has become the couple's full time job. Although they live in the neighbourhood of the park, one gets the impression the horáreň is their first rather than second home.

The horáreň in Horský park is at Lesná Street, close to the Slavín monument area. The gallery and garden are open from 9:00 to 21:00 daily, the café from 11:00 to 21:00 Sun, 14:00 to 21:00 Wed-Sat. For further information visit www.horaren.sk, or call 02/5478-9050.

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