Europe has so many beautiful countries, in different ways, with different people, cultures and languages. And some are well known, and some are less well known. In 2017 5.4 million people visited Slovakia, a record number up to that point. In contrast, it’s neighbour and ex-partner in the country formerly known as Czechoslovakia, received over 10 million (2018 figure). Considering my experiences in both countries, I must admit I was surprised that it was as close as that!
Perhaps that’s mostly because Prague sees so much tourism, but the further east you go in the Czech Republic, the less visitors you find. Slovakia’s capital is Bratislava, and it doesn’t touch the numbers of the Czech capital, but then it’s not as big and doesn’t boast as many attractions.
And Slovakia is further east as well, although Bratislava is almost a stone’s throw from Vienna and no doubt sees some of its numbers come through there. It would probably work as a good day-trip from the Austrian capital.
My memories of it was it being a really nice city to visit. There’s a big castle at the top of the hill looking over Bratislava, it’s name is, very surprisingly, ‘Bratislava Castle’. From there you get a bit of Bratislava on most sides, a great view from an exceeding pleasant city.
It’s cooler than your Llubljanas, for sure. It’s higher and further north, but that’s quite pleasant in the middle of summer. It’s not as ‘hip’ as so many European cities seem to be these days, and with an estimated population of less than half a million, it’s not crazy busy either.
It’s main feature, as far as I was concerned, was its old town with its alleyways, cobblestones, and its medieval architecture. It feels quite cosy and you are not always encountering hoards of (other) tourists at every turn. Down the river a bit you’ll find Devin Castle, or the ruins of it, which make for a half-day trip if you’re so inclined. Archaeologists may find it more interesting than your standard tourist.
But Slovakia is a snow destination, and on its northern border near Poland you’ll find the amazing Tatra Mountains. Climbing/hiking is great in the summer, although you can still find you’re walking in the clouds at times and when I was there we weren’t short on rain either. They are stunning mountains though and I enjoyed the hiking. Many of the ski lifts operate in summer too to get you over the first part of the climbs. I can’t be 100% but I think the mountain I climbed was Gerlachovsky Stit, which is 2655 metres high and Slovakia’s highest mountain.
I stayed in quaint/beautiful little Stary Smokevic, which seemed to have buildings reminiscent of the 1980s, or more modern German-style ones with loads of pine fixtures. Plenty of restaurants and so forth – and getting there via the railway, featuring a number of switchbacks and a train that looks like a tram, was half the fun.
All in all, Slovakia is easy on the eye as a country, a relatively cheap destination compared to Western Europe, and a place I heartedly recommend visiting. Thanks for reading – May the Journey Never End!!