Home emerges through routines. As I wrote in the introduction to the “What is home?” series, “Do something enough times—navigate the apartment in the middle of the night, go to the same coffeeshop, take the same bus—and it becomes familiar and safe.”

On this last visit to my hometown, Košice, eighteen years since moving away and two years since the last visit, I found many details and memories gone from my mental map of the place. I couldn’t recall names of major streets or picture where they are when reminded, for example (true, many things had changed during my absences: busses changed routes; new bars, cafes, art spaces, or stores cropped up; and buildings sprouted graffiti). When you visit a place, you are just a visitor, even if it’s your hometown and you’re staying with your parents.

So in the spirit of toothbrushism, i.e. making a home anywhere, I established three routines that helped me make Košice into a home again. The fun part: all three were completely new to me.

What is home? Swimming at the Municipal Pool

Following my third-grade compulsory swimming course, I helped teach newbies how to swim. Since the third year of high school, when I thought I’d drown in a pond during an English-language summer camp, I hated swimming, or even entering any large bodies of water. So when Lindsay suggested we take up swimming as our exercise on the trip, naturally I said yes.

Home routines

The interior of the Municipal Pool in Košice, Slovakia.

On the first visit to the Municipal Pool, I was petrified. Lindsay helped me establish an exercise routine and gave me tips for improving my swimming skills. We went to the pool together several times, on most days we were in town. It became a routine after three or four times. I even went by myself when Lindsay was studying Slovak in Bratislava.

Swimming at Košice’s Municipal Pool helped me reconnect with my hometown, the way any exploration of new places does (I had never even set foot at the Pool before July 2013). It helped me feel more at home there: repetition breeds familiarity, which, in turn, generates the sense of being at home in a place. Finally, swimming was not only great exercise, it forced me to overcome my fear of water.

What is home? Sitting at the Kávy sveta café

Whenever I found myself in Košice’s historic downtown, including after taking a swim at the Municipal Pool, I stopped at the Kávy sveta/A Világ Kávei/Coffee World cafe. Great coffee (including a selection of specialty brews), cold beer, and Lindsay’s and my favorite white wine, Cserszegi Fűszeres. A prime people-watching location on the historic Main Street and live music on Friday nights made for a wonderful place to make myself at home. I went there so often the staff started recognizing me after only a few weeks.

One of the best ways to feel at home anywhere is to frequent a favorite coffee shop (bar, pub, restaurant). Being recognized as a regular; becoming familiar with a long menu; and simply going to the same place again and again creates the right kind of comfortability with a place.

What is home? Reading the local newspaper

Home routines

A portion of my walk to get the papers led through this underpass at Čordákova Street. A local artist took photographs of the Košice Government Program Housing Development residents, captioning each with a skill the resident said s/he was good at. The newsstand is at the top of the stairs.

Though I tend to get my news online, whenever I’m in Slovakia I enjoy reading newspapers and magazines in print. Staying with my parents, I often walked to the newsstand up the street to get my SME daily, Korzár thrice-weekly, and Týždeň weekly papers. Thanks to my regular readership, I even got a couple of my pieces published in the weekly.

Home routines

The cover of Týždeň No. 33/2013 with my article.

Once again, the routine of walking to the newsstand, of reading the physical publications, and of daily learning of the news gets you closer to the place, makes you more rooted there.

What routines have you established to make yourself at home someplace?

Read the rest of the Home Is series

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