Where to go 2013: Slovakia

 

Lonely Planet

Why go in 2013? Country of culture

Happy 20th birthday, Slovakia. Two decades on from the nation's separation from its Czech neighbour, it has been galvanised into one of the Continent's fastest-growing economies, has joined the EU and ranks right up there in Google searches for bargain ski packages and stag weekends. Signs of capitalist success? Maybe. But Slovakia's economic boom has hampered visitor numbers (it's now too pricey for many of the Eastern Europeans who once visited) and Slovakia's tourist industry is keen to distance the nation from the "cheap pistes and piss-ups" tag as well as playing down the communist past.

This overdue image overhaul is coming in time for the inevitable anniversary party in 2013. Slovakia has come a long way, but the message now is that visitors should go a lot further into it. Slovakia's ski centres are looking spruced up, but snow-sports are merely the gateway to a host of high-altitude activities in this mountainous land, such as tracking some of Europe's last major wolf populations.

Similarly, Bratislava beer-bingeing can be traded for tasting Slovak wines in villages that resound to ancient Romany or folk music. In the lower lands, Kosice shares with Marseille the title of 2013 European Capital of Culture, with a programme of film, folk and music, as well as art and craft festivals across atmospheric locations such as its castle and restored amphitheatre.

Cruising along (or staying on) the Danube is getting bigger and more luxurious. It's on the banks of this illustrious river that you'll find one of Eastern Europe's most magnificent waterside projects: the Danubiana Meulensteen art museum, undoubtedly one of the region's greatest for contemporary art. Sorry, that should be Central Europe as Slovakians prefer. "Eastern" is so Eighties.

Life-changing experiences

Strangely, for a country at the hub of Europe, Slovakia's commonly known parts are so sparse that travelling virtually anywhere is an adventure: as befits a nation more dominated by mountains or forests than almost any other on the Continent. After sampling Bratislava's medieval old town and quirky communist architecture, head for the Tatras mountains. Classic skiing at a fraction of Alpine prices awaits at resorts such as Jasna, but hiking is first class too: taking to the trails of national parks such as Poloniny with its ancient beech forests or Slovensky raj with its precarious cliff-scaling paths, is as remote as Europe gets and nigh-on primordial. Secreted here is Slovakia's greatest draw: its wonderfully preserved folk culture, the colourful roots of which are interlinked with the Romany heritage hereabouts. Roll back the centuries by stepping into one of eastern Slovakia's wooden churches or tapping into a folk festival at a scenic venue such as Vychodna.

The former Czechoslovakia was Europe's most castellated region and Slovakia's share comprises some phenomenal forts: from moody Devin overlooking the Danube to Spis, one of the Continent's largest.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride