Off-the-beaten-path travels: Slovakia

by Ethan Merrifield
Stripes Europe

Europe is a historic land known all over the United States for its fairy-tale destinations such as Paris, London, Amsterdam, Athens and Munich. But there are many more places in Europe that do not have the same nominal recognition and are just as worth seeing. Slovakia is one such country that deserves a little more recognition. The capital city, Bratislava, is located close to Vienna and Budapest, which makes the city very accessible and it welcomes many tourists every year. As a mountainous region, Slovakia has many striking geographic features including the Tatras mountain range and geological caves protected as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Slovakia also offers an interesting history as the region has been populated since the Stone Age and has gone through a tumultuous history from the invading Huns, subjects under the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Monarchy, became half of Czechoslovakia, held under the Iron Curtain of the USSR and finally becoming an independent state in 1993. Slovakia may not have the fairy-tale recognition of other large destinations in Europe, but seeing cities and sights off-the beaten-tourist-path can be incredibly rewarding.

Check out the insane amount of castles
Slovakia is home to over two hundred and twenty castles and ruins. Paramount of the historical marvels is Devín Castle, which is located on the Danube, near the capital city of Bratislava, and has origins that can be traced back to 864 CE, making it the oldest castle in Slovakia. Spiš Castle is one of the largest castles in the world and is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Castle of Čachtice served as the residence of a famous Hungarian Countess, Elizabeth Báthory, known to history as the Blood Countess for her heinous murders. This castle is where she lived and where she was imprisoned until her death.


Mazarna Cave | Slovakia | Photo by Milan Gonda 

Visit the gorgeous caves
There are over seven thousand caves in Slovakia that are spread throughout the country’s mountainous region. Most notable among these caves is an Aragonite Cave. Aragonite is a common formation of Calcium Carbonate, but the way that it has formed in the Ochtinská Aragonite Cave is found in only four caves in the world. The Ochtinská is also one of the seven hundred Caves of Aggtelek and Slovak Karst, another UNESCO World Heritage Site for the vast amount of caves in such a concentrated area.

Stand at the heart of the European continent
In Kremnické Bane, a small village in Slovakia, you will find a small monument marking the geographic center of the European continent.

Ski the slopes or enjoy a hike
As Slovakia is quite mountainous, downhill ski resorts can be found all over the country. Skiing has been popular in the region since the tail end of the 19th century. During the warmer seasons, mountains shed their snow and become perfect spaces for hiking. A mountainous country has much to offer the outdoor enthusiast!


Traditional Slovak dish Bryndzove halusky | Photo by woyzzeck

Enjoy the gastronomy
The mountainous country has a variety of unique dishes including the national dish, bryndzové halušky. This simple dish consisting of halušky, potato dumplings similar to gnocchi, and "bryndza," a soft sheep cheese. Many potato, cheese, and cabbage dishes form the bulk of Slovakian gastronomy, but every country needs wine and Slovak wine of the Tokaj region is praises internationally.

Slovakia is a lesser-known country with beautiful geography and a lot of culture to be discovered by tourists and people in search of a new adventure. Hopefully, you feel inspired to take a look at a little country off-the-beaten-tourist-path that has so many curiosities to discover! For more information, see slovakia.travel/en.

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