Have you ever heard of a country called Slovakia? No, not Slovenia. It is a completely different country. And no, not Czechoslovakia, at least not for the last 13 years. Slovakia, a country in the heart of Europe, which might sound like a cliché that a few other countries use to describe themselves, but the geographical middle of Europe is really in Slovakia.
Have you ever wondered what Slovakia is like? Does it have an ocean? Does it have nice mountains? What are the people like? Is it safe to travel there? Keep on reading and soon you will know more about the “Little Big Country” as the Slovak national tourism office has called it. I was born and grew up there so I will tell you more about it.
Something about Slovakia
Slovakia is a land locked country (unfortunately) but we do have some lakes which are pretty nice. If I should be honest, if we want to go for summer holidays, we usually go abroad. This being said, there are still heaps of nice places to visit.
We have beautiful mountains where people of all ages do sports, and it doesn’t matter what season it is. They are as enjoyable in the summer as they are in the winter. The most famous mountains are High Tatras. They are not a huge mountain range but they are pretty cool. And there is a nice view of all the mountains from the little towns below, such as this one from Poprad.
Besides the mountains there are a lot of castles, older, newer, ruins, with guides or without. I would like to mention Spiš castle which is the largest castle ruin in the central Europe. It is really nice to visit and especially people from the east of Slovakia consider is as kind of a symbol of our country.
Another fun and interesting activity is hiking in one of Slovakia’s national parks. Specifically I would mention two of them – Slovak Paradise (wondering why is it called this way and if it’s true?) and Pieniny. In Slovak Paradise you can find different hikes, passing waterfalls, climbing the wood or metal letters, above the canyon of the Hornad river. It is pretty exciting and fun. Definitely worth visiting. In the north-east of Slovakia there is the latter national park called Pieniny. There is not so much hiking involved, but you can either hike or bike or walk a path along the Pieniny river which divides Slovakia and Poland and then take a very typical wooden boat where the guide in a typical dress will tell you all about the mountains nearby and the beauty of the nature in that corner of the country. At the end you can also decide if you want to get off in Slovakia or in Poland.
We are not done with the nature here. There are plenty of caves in Slovakia, but only some of them are open to public. “Some” doesn’t mean that there is nothing to see. I would say the contrary. There are ice caves which look pretty cool and in summer they are very refreshing. Well, all of the caves are… There is also aragonit cave which is one of the 3 aragonit caves in the world that is opened to public.
OK, now let’s the nature be and let’s focus on something else. FOOD. I was once told by an American friend who was living in Slovakia for a year that we ate a lot of potatoes. It was then that I realized it was really true. We eat a lot of potatoes but always in a different form. Puree, fried, baked, big, small, but the best form is “halušky“ which is kind of like Italian gnocchi, or small potatoes-flour dumplings that we eat with typical sheep cheese called “bryndza“ and bacon on top. Woah, just writing this makes me want to eat them now. This is our national dish. Another one would be “pirohy“ filled with potato-bryndza filling. And there is one not so special soup, chicken noodle soup, that we eat every Sunday. I am not sure why but it is our Sunday soup. When it comes to drinks, i have to admit that we drink quite a lot. Beer, wine, but also stronger alcohol, such as brandy with different flavours. It could be “slivovica” made of plums, or “hruškovica” made of pears or “borovička” made of hmmm i am not sure, but it has something to do with the pine tree.
And what about the people? When I think about it now, it is quite hard for me to describe ourselves from the point of view of a tourist. But I would say, also from what I’ve heard my friends from abroad say about us, is that Slovaks are nice, honest, hospitable and friendly people. The language we speak is called Slovak, and it is similar to Czech, Polish, Croatian or Russian. But it doesn’t mean that everyone speaks Russian. And to be honest we don’t like it very much when someone compares us to Russians. Nah.
Useful information for travellers
When it comes to safety while travelling, I would say that Slovakia is a safe country to travel but of course you should be aware of what is going on. If you need something, people are generally willing to help you. And Slovakia is part of the European Union which makes travelling there quite easy once you are in Europe. We also have Euro as currency which might be an advantage for travellers.
Something nice at the end
Do you know what I like about travelling? When someone asks me where I am from, and I say Slovakia, they usually have no idea where it is (ok, depends where we meet and where the other person is from), and then I realize that the impression I leave on them will be what they think about Slovak people. It is quite a nice and scary feeling. Anyway, I hope that I inspired you at least a little bit to visit this country and here is just a small video from the Slovak national tourism office.
For more info you can visit the official website for tourism in Slovakia: http://slovakia.travel/en
Some more inspiration: