Half communist-era throwback, half European café culture, Bratislava is a city on the verge of a new identify.
Some Westerners may still view the former USSR with a bit of apprehension, but with the Cold War long over, the former Soviet Union has emerged as an exciting destination. Slovakia, once married to the Czech Republic as part of Czechoslovakia, is now part of the European Union, and it’s a fantastic travel destination for those looking to explore what was once a forbidden fruit. Whether you are lounging on the beautiful café patios of Bratislava or skiing the Vratna Valley, you’ll find that Slovakia has awoken, and with it, a world of new adventures.
Government: Parliamentary Republic
DID YOU KNOW?
- Slovak food and recipes vary from one region to the next, so travellers can always expect something new while exploring the different regions at dinner time. Slovak dishes frequently use pork, poultry, cabbage, wheat and potato flour, cheese from cows and sheep, potatoes, onions and garlic.
- Fasiangy is a traditional celebration that runs from the end of the Christmas season to the beginning of Lent, 40 days before Easter. During Fasiangy, cities, towns, villages, schools and other institutions hold masquerade balls.
- Slovaks are very proud of their traditions and they pass their folk songs, music and dance from generation to generation. In the past, each district not only had its own typical folk costumes, but also its own dialect and customs. Slovak folk songs are ideal for dancing as they are rhythmical and swift.
- There are more than 100 castles and at least double this number of manor houses in Slovakia, all built in different historical eras. In the past, they were the protagonists of history, as their owners controlled the life of the country and its people.
Slovakia’s climate is continental, with mild summer and winter temperatures. Although Slovakia is not a large country, the weather can be quite different in the mountainous northern region and in the plains of the south. Bratislava and southern Slovakia are the warmest regions. In summer, the temperatures may rise up to 35°C, with evening temperatures above 20°C.
The winter in Bratislava is mild. Between November and February it may snow, but it usually does not last for more than a few days. The daily temperatures average in the range of -5°C up to 10°C, while night temperatures are usually not below -10°C. Winters are more severe in mountains, where the snow lasts until March or April and the night temperatures go down to -20°C.
Present-day Slovakia was settled by Slavic Slovaks around the 6th century. They were politically united in the Moravian empire in the 9th century. In 907, the Germans and the Magyars conquered the Moravian state, and the Slovaks fell under Hungarian control from the 10th century up until 1918.
Following World War I, the Slovaks joined the Czech lands of Bohemia, Moravia and part of Silesia to form the new joint state of Czechoslovakia. In March 1939, Germany occupied Czechoslovakia, established a German “protectorate,” and created a puppet state out of Slovakia with Monsignor Josef Tiso as prime minister. The country was liberated from the Germans by the Soviet army in the spring of 1945, and Slovakia was restored to its prewar status and rejoined to a new Czechoslovakian state.
Nearly 42 years of Communist rule for Slovakia ended when Vaclav Havel became president of Czechoslovakia in 1989 and democratic political reform began. However, with the demise of Communist power, a strong Slovak nationalist movement resurfaced, and the rival relationship between the two states increased. By the end of 1991, discussions between Slovak and Czech political leaders turned to whether the Czech and Slovak republics should continue to coexist within the federal structure or be divided into two independent states.
DANUBIANA MEULENSTEEN ART MUSEUM
The Danubiana Museum is situated on a small “island” on the river Danube. Ships travel from Bratislava several times a day and you can enjoy a nice boat trip there and back that includes a ticket for the museum. The architectural design of the museum is unique—it resembles a big ship. The museum’s garden is also full of art pieces and it is a perfect place to sit and enjoy the view. There is a cafe and a souvenir shop.
AUTHENTIC SLOVAKIA TOURS
For many, a trip to old Europe is about seeing the sites as they are for those who actually live there, so here is a great idea: Authentic Slovakia is an independent travel agency offering minivan and retro Škoda car tours in Bratislava and surrounding areas. Choose from one to two-day trips and hikes, to one to two-hour walking tours through the back alleys of Bratislava.
THE TATRAS MOUNTAINS
The largest mountain range of Slovakia and the most significant travel center is the High Tatras. There are approximately 35 valleys, 110 lakes and many mountain peaks, out of which 10 are above 2,600 meters high. The silence of the valleys, the cauldrons, the tarns, the silky sheen of the waterfalls and the monumental touches with the heights of the peaks—all of that is the magical world of the National Park, High Tatras. The difficulty level of the trails varies, so there is more than enough fun for hikers and trekkers of all skill levels.
ORAVSKY HRAD CASTLE
Nicknamed “The Eagles Nest,” Oravsky Castle is built on a high rock overlooking the surrounding countryside. It is one of the most attractive castles in Slovakia, with three entry gates and a network of underground corridors. Spooky night sightseeing and various theatre performances are very popular. There is also Oravské museum in the castle with archeological, naturalistic, ethnographic and historical expositions.
Our brave rallier Pamela MacNaughtan plays hostess to a drunken stranger, takes a wrong turn out of the Czech Republic and discovers that anything really can happen on the Mongol Rally.
The Mongol Rally will chew you up, spit you out and expect you to keep going as if nothing happened, says Pamela MacNaughtan. Follow her as she braves the world’s most outrageous road trip—and takes Travel+Escape along for the ride!