Profilo 4: Nia intervjuo kun Laura Brazzabeni

Ni parolis kun Laura Brazzabeni sur la tria tago de la Itala Kongreso. Laura estas organizanto de la (tre bona!) kongreso, kaj ŝi havis kelkajn interesajn ideojn pri la organizado de kongresoj kaj Esperanto en Italio.

Laura studis fremdajn lingvojn kiam ŝi studis en universitato en Verona, kie ŝi lernis la anglan, germanan, hispanan, francan, kaj Esperanto. Ŝi ŝatas fremdajn lingvojn, kaj nun ŝi instruas la anglan lingvon en Italio. Ŝi diris ke kelkfoje, homoj pensas ke ĝi estas stranga, ke Esperantisto instruas la anglan, sed ŝi pensas ke Esperanto povas helpi eĉ se la angla estas la plej populara internacia lingvo, ĉar laŭ Laura, Esperanto estas la lingvo nenies, kaj ĉies.

Laura longtempe laboras kiel estraro de la FEI (Federazione Esperanta Italiana).  Ŝi estis sekretario, kaj post 2008, ŝi komencis organizi la Italan Kongreson. En 2008, ŝi grave ŝanĝis la kongreson kiam ŝi decidis inviti eksterlandanoj. Antau tio tempo, la kongreso estis tre malgranda, kaj tre mallonga, nur 2-3 tagoj. Laura havis kelkajn Esperantajn amikojn en Pollando, kaj ŝi invitis ilin al la kongreso. Baldaŭ, buso plenplena de poloj alvenis, kaj la kongreso en tio jaro estis tre bona kaj vigla. Laŭ Laura, havi eksterlandanoj estas bona pro naciaj kongresoj, ĉar ĝi instigas la lokaj partoprenantaj ne krokodili, kaj kongreso kun multajn diversajn kongresantojn estas simple plej interesa kaj vigla. Post 2008, ŝi decidis inviti eksterlandanoj ĉiu-jare, kaj fari pli longajn kongresojn. La kongreso hodiaŭ estas plena semajno, kaj estas preskaŭ pli da eksterlandanoj ol italoj. 

En Italio Esperanto estas forta: estas kluboj ne en ĉiu urbo, sed en la plej parto de regionoj, speciale en norda kaj centra Italio. Bedaŭrinde, Laura diris ke en la sudo, Esperanto preskaŭ mortis. Tie ne estas multaj grandaj urboj, kaj ne estas bonaj universitatoj, do krei viglan klubon tie estas malfacile. Kaj en la sudo estas preskaŭ neniuj junaj Esperantistoj, ĉar ĉiuj deziras lasi la regiono por studi aŭ loĝi en la nordo aŭ eksterlande.

La ĉefo espero de Laura por la Esperanto-movado estas ke estos klubo en preskaŭ ĉiu urbo en la mondo, do homoj ĉie, kiuj deziras, povas lerni Esperanton kaj paroli kune. En Italio, ŝi esperas ke estos pli da paco en la venontaj jaroj. Laura diris, ke la politikoj en Esperantaj organizoj en Italio, ke eble en ĉiuj italaj organizoj, en Italio estas malpaco, kaj homoj ofte batalas. Ŝi pensas ke pli da paco inter la Esperantaj organizoj en Italio tre plibonigus la Esperanto-movado en Italio.


Greetings from Frascati


Yesterday we arrived in Frascati, a pretty little town situated in the hills a few miles outside of Rome. We’ll be in Frascati for the week during the Itala Kongreso, the national congress of Italian Esperantists. It’s very beautiful here, from the old buildings and fountains in the town to the panoramic views of Rome and the countryside visible from the congress center, which is located in an old monastery.

This congress is fairly unique, as most of the participants are Italian. There are a good number of international Esperantists as well, but the majority are from Italy. It has been a fun and lively congress so far, with lots of interesting presentations and workshops, and we have been having some great conversations with the other attendees. Because it’s a national congress, and most people speak Italian as their first language, there has been a lot more “crocodiling” here (speaking your native language during an Esperanto event, one of the few Esperanto faux pas), but it has given Angelica some opportunities to practice her Italian skills.

Today we attended the inauguration of the congress, which featured Humphrey Tonkin, a well known American Esperantist, as the keynote speaker. His talk was very interesting, and started this congress off on a tone that contrasted to the previous events we attended. He called out Esperantists’ preoccupation with language politics, while acknowledging that these goals are serious and valid, and called on Esperantists to take on the world’s “big problems.” Specifically, he discussed the UN’s millenium goals, and encouraged listeners to consider how Esperantists could help to address the world’s problems like poverty, hunger, and the need for civil society.

After the inauguration, we spent a few hours exploring the Frascati’s city center. It’s truly a beautiful city, and the center is full of old buildings and interesting shops and restaurants. We had been looking forward to trying the local cuisine, and our first lunch was excellent. Bri tried gnocchi with tomato and calamari, and Angelica had paccheri al la amatriciana, both of which were great. On Wednesday we are planning to spend the day exploring Rome, and we are excited to find even more beautiful streets and delicious food.

An Esperantist Tour of Zagreb

One of the cool things about Esperanto is the way it helps you make friends and connections around the world. This weekend we had the opportunity to stay with an Esperantist from Zagreb, while he and another of his Esperantist friends showed us around the city. While we were only there for one full day, we managed to see and learn a lot. Zagreb is a really interesting place, with delicious food, unusual architecture, beautiful parks and monuments, and plenty of history.

We started off our day with a walk through the city center and a visit to the Zagreb Cathedral. The cathedral was first built in the 13th century, and has been destroyed and repaired several times in its history–in fact, it has been under renovation for the past few years (a dispute between the city and the church over funding has delayed the latest project). It’s the tallest building in Croatia, and one of the few Gothic cathedrals southeast of the Alps.

Inside, the cathedral is lined with ornate altars in baroque and renaissance styles. The interior is lit by patterned stain glass windows, a dim, soft light. At the front of the church lies the sarcophagus of a Croatian priest.

We had lunch at a traditional Croatian restaurant, where we tried food prepared in a distinctly Croatian style–cooked under a giant terracotta “bell.” Embers are placed on top of the bell, bringing the temperature to a high heat, resulting in tender and delicious meat and potatoes.

After lunch, we walked around a little more before visiting the Museum of Broken Relationships. It seemed like a fairly interesting, and a little funny, stop, but it turned out to be a well curated and emotionally moving exhibition, delivering a glimpse into the deeply personal and vulnerable aspects of human relationships.

After an afternoon ice cream break, we visited the Museum of Illusions. A small, but pretty fun, attraction, the Museum of Illusions featured a hall of holograms, a tilted room, countless optical illusions, and a fairly frustrating array of wooden puzzles.

We ended our night with some late night burek (a flaky Turkish pastry filled with meat) and live music on a patio on a hill overlooking the city. It was a pleasant way to end a great day.

Plitvice Lakes

If you spend much time reading travel blogs, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Plitvice Lakes. A Croatian National Park, the 16 tiered lakes are known for their clear turquoise water and cascading waterfalls. When we decided to come to inland Croatia, we made a visit to the lakes a priority, and we are certainly glad we did.


We spent a few hours exploring the boardwalks and forest trails that surround the lake system. It’s really a beautiful park, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. The water is an intensely bright turquoise, clear all the way down to the bottom in most places. You can see hundreds of good sized fish with gold-flecked scales drifting lazily near the shore (fishing, and really any contact with the lakes, is banned in the park, so it seems they have gotten used to the good life). The boardwalk system is very cool, taking you across small ponds and over waterfalls, with rushing water just a few inches below your feet. It feels like a bit of a liability, but the experience is infinitely more exciting for it.


The lakes are fed by mountain and subterranean streams and are home to a tufa ecosystem. The lakes and falls in Plitvice were created when large deposits of tufa dammed areas of the streams.


Profile 3: József

Welcome to the third post in our series of Esperantist profiles. This will be our first profile from the Universala Kongreso, with more coming soon. (Note: all quotes translated by us from the Esperanto.)

Today we had the pleasure of meeting with József Eszényi, an Esperanto teacher from the town of Szolnok, in Hungary. This is Jozsef’s third Universala Kongreso, and he will be off to ILEI, an international conference for Esperanto teachers, afterwards.

As an Esperanto instructor in Hungary, József has an unique perspective on both the Esperanto movement and language learning in general. Earlier in our research we noticed that Hungary seemed to have an unusually strong presence in the Esperanto movement. József explained that this is due, in part, to Hungary’s foreign language education requirements. In order to graduate, students must pass an exam in an approved foreign language. Esperanto is on the list of approved choices, an act of official approval that has helped the language’s legitimacy in Hungary and contributed a steady flow of young learners. While many students don’t continue with Esperanto after they pass the exam, a good number still decide to stay involved, a trend to which József credits the strength of the Hungarian clubs and associations. Even with these highly active young students, József said that the ratio of young to old Esperantists is the most difficult challenge. “The Esperanto community is getting old,” he says. In his opinion, the best way to create an active and enthusiastic club is to make sure that young people have an opportunity to participate.

This isn’t to say that József considers himself to be an Esperanto evangelist. On the contrary, he stated that those who push aggressively for the universal adoption of Esperanto are likely doing more harm than good. Similarly, József noted that while he had no hard feelings towards the English language (in fact, he has studied English through Duolingo), he doesn’t appreciate the aggressive way English is promoted around the world. He told us that “Many Esperantists are enemies of the English language, but not me. I’m not upset about English, I’m upset about English being forced on people.” Instead, József proposes an alternative language philosophy, centered on the importance of choice and freedom. “Everyone has the right to learn what they want to learn.” József’s primary hope for the Esperanto movement is that it will continue to grow, and while he doubts that Esperanto will ever become the official international language, he also hopes that it will one day become a viable and acceptable choice, in addition to the current dominant national languages, such as English, Chinese, and French. Official recognition and sponsorship, while obviously beneficial, aren’t the most important goals. For József, the key factor is the language learner’s ability to decide for him or herself, so he hopes that one day Esperanto will be able to hold its own and stand alongside English.

József is a very active Esperantist, who considers Esperanto to be his number one pastime. Hardly a day goes by where he doesn’t find a chance to speak Esperanto with someone, whether with his students, or with an international Esperantist via Skype or one of the many online communities of which he is a member. József thinks that technology is playing a crucial role in the Esperanto movement today (he also holds a tech-focused position on the board of the Hungarian Esperanto Association). While many people initially feared for the language at the advent of the Internet as English emerged as the language of the web, József says that the Internet has helped to revitalize the Esperanto movement, allowing people to organize activities, spread information, and simply meet and converse with Esperantists all over the world. While some Esperantist activity seems to have moved from the physical world to the digital (József attributes some of the decline in conference attendance to the increase in online participation), overall the Internet has allowed a much greater number of people to engage with the global Esperanto community.


Lazy Days in Karlovac

We’ve finished up our first round of congresses, so our posts will be a little more travel oriented, rather than Esperanto, for a few weeks until the Itala Kongreso (Italian Congress). In the mean time, we will be writing about our travels and posting a few more Esperantist profiles.

Due to a change of plans, we’ve spent the past few days in Karlovac, Croatia. It’s a quiet little town in the inland countryside, about an hour outside of Zagreb by train. The town is known for its beautiful rivers and its old town area, which was once a star-shaped renaissance fortress.

Another claim to fame is that Nikola Tesla studied here. The school he attended just turned 250 years old, and the school is very quite proud to claim Tesla as a student–a plaque has recently been attached to the front of the building commemorating his attendance. The owner of the hostel we are staying at took us on a little tour of the town, and also showed us the two places Tesla lived while in Karlovac.

The first house belonged to his aunt and uncle and is located next door to the school. It’s a little run down, but still standing.

The second hasn’t been quite so lucky. A few blocks down the road, a bus stop now stands on the location of Telsa’s former residence. It’s an okay bus stop; perhaps the city will give it a plaque one of these days.


We made one more stop on the walking tour, Karlovac’s unofficial “Plastic Zoo.” This immeasurably quirky spot is the personal collection of the owner of the local printing press. Apparently seeing no better use for his money, he began to collect and display giant plastic animals at a restaurant near the river. Our guide said he even built a brand new stable at his home for his fleet of plastic horses. Not something you see every day!


Greetings from Zagreb

After a few hours worth of delays, we have survived our train journey from Nitra, Slovakia to Zagreb, Croatia. We started out early this morning, traveling to Hungary for a brief stopover in Budapest for a delicious lunch and a little sightseeing around the train station, then we were off to Zagreb.

It’s a little after midnight local time, so we’ll keep this post brief. This weekend we are staying with an Esperantist from the local organization, and we’ll spend tomorrow touring the city with him and another local Esperantist. This will likely be our last post for a while, because from the 31st through the 5th, we will be totally off the grid during the boatado (river trip). Don’t worry about the radio silence, we are enjoying the Croatian wilderness and having a great time getting to know the Karlovac Esperanto Society.

We will resume posting once we make it to Prague, the longest stay during our trip. During the two weeks we’re there, we’ll be catching up on our Esperantist profile posts and adding city guides for Wroclaw, Nitra, and Prague, so be sure to check back in with us mid August!

Gxis la revido (bye!),

Bri and Angelica