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TOP PICK - NITRA HOLDS THE SEVENTH ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL BONSAI EXHIBITION, BONSAI SLOVAKIA, FROM APRIL 22 TO 25

Cultivating relaxation in a hurried nation

DOZENS of bonsai trees, demonstrations by world masters, and the taste of professionally prepared tea are attracting a growing number of professionals and laymen to the town of Nitra each spring.
"We have noticed an increased interest - I would even say a boom - in bonsai art in Slovakia over the past year, with many new exhibitions opening on this theme," said Alena Ondejčíková, from the Nitra Bonsai Centre, the country's first professional bonsai centre.


BONSAI has been growing faster than ever in Slovakia.
photo: Vladimír Ondejčík

DOZENS of bonsai trees, demonstrations by world masters, and the taste of professionally prepared tea are attracting a growing number of professionals and laymen to the town of Nitra each spring.

"We have noticed an increased interest - I would even say a boom - in bonsai art in Slovakia over the past year, with many new exhibitions opening on this theme," said Alena Ondejčíková, from the Nitra Bonsai Centre, the country's first professional bonsai centre. Founded in 1990, the centre is a co-organisor of Bonsai Slovakia.

The increased attention to this horticultural art form has given birth to a new Slovak magazine on the topic, Bonsai and Tea. Through articles written by world-renowned bonsai masters, it offers inspiration in the field, and promotes the relaxation found in a cup of good tea.

Introduced at international bonsai exhibitions held recently in Belgium and Germany, the magazine has spread the word about bonsai art in Slovakia.

"The magazine is proof that Slovakia is open to bonsai culture, which, I think, benefits the local region," Ondejčíková said.

A correspondent in its first issue, Albek Morten from Denmark, is one of several international participants in the festival and will demonstrate the art of bonsai shaping on April 23 at 14:00.


INTERNATIONAL bonsai artists will share their techniques and relax with guests.
photo: Vladimír Ondejčík

The day after Morten's presentation, popular European bonsai master Marc Noelanders will demonstrate his skills at 13:30. Similar demonstrations, workshops, and lectures given in English and translated into Slovak will accompany the whole exhibition, which will run from April 22 to 25 from 9:00 to 18:00 at the Agrokomplex Nitra exhibition hall.

In addition to bonsai demonstrations, visitors to Bonsai Slovakia 2004 can also appreciate the beauty of suiseki - the ancient Japanese art of arranging natural stones within a wooden base. The highlight will be a selection from the largest suiseki collection in Europe, which belongs to the president of the European association of suiseki, Willy Benco. Or, one can relax by tasting various kinds of tea while observing fish swimming in a huge tank.

"The primary aim of the Bonsai Slovakia exhibition is to allow people to absorb at least a bit of the beauty of bonsai, but also to teach them to relax, which is the main effect of bonsai planting," Ondejčíková said.

She compared the relaxation achieved while planting and taking care of bonsai trees to the philosophy developed by Japanese samurai, in the sense that "when taking care of bonsai, you don't care only about yourself.

"It means that, even in this hurried time, a man can forget about himself and, if he stops to relax, he thinks just of simple physical treasures. Bonsai teaches him about the need to think of somebody or something else. A bonsai tree is beautiful and can live hundreds of years, but a man must water it daily, which forces him to steal a minute out of his routine and direct it at nature, which offers relaxation."

Bonsai Slovakia - part of Nitra's Gardenia event, which focuses on nature activities - runs from April 22 to 25 at the Agrokomplex international exhibition centre at Výstavná 4, in Nitra. Tel: 037/6572-111 (-2, -3). For more information on the daily schedule of presentations, lectures, and demonstrations visit www.e-bonsai.sk.

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