What is Novohradská, you may be wondering. You probably never heard that word, and have no idea what it means.
That's because, strictly speaking, it is not really a "word," it is a name. More specifically, it is the name of a street in Bratislava. Though, actually, if can be roughly translated as Newcastle Street, if you want to go that far.
Must be pretty, perhaps a tourist attraction, you may be thinking now.
Well, there certainly are a lot of pretty places in Bratislava, a city certainly well worth visiting, But Novohradská is not exactly a tourist attraction. It is just an ordinary-looking street, way out of the historical center of the city.
What makes Novohradská special is not its looks. Novohradská is the home of the best High School in all of Slovakia, perhaps one of the best in the world, officially called Gymnázium Jura Hronca, i.e., Jur Hronec High School.
Jur Hronec was a famous Slovak mathematician. The school carries his name because of its emphasis on mathematics. Nevertheless, the school is best known by the street it lies on, Novohradská.
It happens to be the High School I was graduated from back in 1968. It had many students, so it had many classrooms for each school year, simply called A, B, C, D, etc.
You didn't go to Novohradská because it was the closest High School to wherever you lived. Nor did you go there because your parents were rich or snobby. You went there because you wanted the best education a High School can offer. And to be accepted, you had to go through a battery of tests. The tests were tough. And if you aimed for the A class, well they were tougher than university admission exams.
That's because the A class specialized in computer programming. And back when I went to Novohradská (and, yes, I was in the A class), there was no such thing as a personal computer. Computers were rare and extremely expensive. Even the school did not own one. We did a lot of theory at school, and had to go to the industry for hands-on training.
But what theory that was. For one, we had at least two periods of mathematics every single day for all those years. Plus, we had additional courses, such as numerical analysis, and other mathematical specialties. Of course, we had other science classes, as well as Slovak language and literature, English (mandatory for class A), history, philosophy, psychology, social studies, etc. Even the dreaded P.E. (which I hated, and managed to convince the school doctor to get me out of).
We had a lot of homework. It was not unusual for me to study all afternoon and do my homework till 11pm, then go straight to bed, just to wake up in the morning and catch the bus to go to school. We did not have school buses. I had to use public transportation.
Yet I'm not singing Novohradská's praises simply because I went to it. For all I know, a lot could have changed in thirty years.
But, some three years ago, a high school student from Rhinelander, WI, the town I currently live in contacted me. He was about to become a foreign exchange student. Of all the places in the world, he chose to go to Bratislava for a year. And he wanted some pointers about the life in Slovakia.
When he came back, he was a changed man. He was very happy with his choice. He loved Bratislava, Slovakia, its people. He said the school he went to was Novohradská. And he was singing its praises, too. He said it still was the best High School in Slovakia. In fact, he said, anybody who is somebody in Slovakia was a Novohradská graduate. It did not matter what college they went to, what degree they got, or in what field, all that mattered was they went to Novohradská first.
So, here's to the High School that made it possible for this graduate to go on and graduate not only from Komensky University in Bratislava, but from the Gregorian University in Rome, then move on to America, visit and live in many exciting places, doing many, many interesting things.
You did a good job, Novohradská. And I am proud to hear you still do!