According to me, Slovakia is the most underrated tourist destination. So much so that there own Travel Slogan is ‘Little Big Country’- Confused Eh? Even the visa officer in New Delhi was very nonplus about our decision to visit the country and confirmed twice with us if we were at the right embassy. But, it not being on the touristy map is no reflection of the beauty of the place.
Slovakia is a slow paced country that will put the population of a colony in Delhi to shame. Slovakia has been rocked by several revolutions: the fall of the Iron Curtain, the NATO-Serbia war on Kosovo, the Velvet Revolution which saw the fall of Communism and the country became an independent republic only as recently as in the year 1993, which explains its teething problem as a young country. For all these reasons also, Slovaks don’t like being called Eastern Europeans and proudly carry the badge of being Central European. So don’t make the mistake of calling them Eastern! .
Usually on the mention of Slovakia, one only thinks of Bratislava. But Slovakia is so much more than just a pit-stop layover country. It has heritage, culture, mountains, rivers, caves and so much of pristine, untouched beauty. Abundant in abundance!
The only trouble with Slovakia is the language. As you enter the smaller towns and mountain ranges, English becomes more obscure and sign language more evident. Slovaks are shy people and often will try to avoid meeting the eye for the fear of being asked a question in English. We were often mistaken as Spaniards here and we’re greeted with Como Estas? Yet, people do have the small town goodness.
The two local radio stations, Express and Europa, are however completely oblivious to the language problem and play the top charts all round. This made me wonder if people really didn’t know the language or were just not confident enough in expressing themselves! Either ways, great music on the go!
Although bus and train routes are easily accessible, it’s the easiest to drive around for two reasons. First, information on websites is usually in Slovak and second connectivity between cities takes way longer with multiple stops. All car rental options are available but it’s best to book in advance or on weekdays as most of the rental places are shut on weekends.
If you think Indians are lazy, try Slovaks. They take there siesta very seriously. Smaller towns get very sleepy after 8 PM, with the exception of, of course, Bratislava.
The country is very clean and well kept. All the public facilities are spotless, even in the most obscure of the places. Food options usually include a garlic soup, goulash, sausage with mustard and gnocchi stuffed with sheep cheese and pork. There are some fine liquors and beers that the country can boast of. Larger towns have more food options than just Slovak.
Slovakia is a heaven for adventure seekers and should be on their Must-Do list. The High Tatras and the Slovensky Raj National Park is pristine and thrilling and I can’t recommend this place enough. Despite the language problem, all trails are very well traced out and maps and information are easily available at the booking counters or the TIs.
An ideal itinerary for adventure seekers visiting Slovakia could include:
Day one: Kosice
Day two: Spis castle and stay at Levoca
Day three-four: Drive to Slovensky national park, Hike
Day five-seven: Drive to High Tatras, Hike
Day eight: Drive to Banska stiavnca, stay
Day nine- ten: Bratislava
Slovakia, the land of the gushing waterfall, mystic gorge and the mighty mountains, is rightly called the roof of Central Europe! Go Climb it!