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.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Product Development

    £26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Product Development departm...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Estates Contracts & Leases Manager

    £30000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Estates Team of this group ...

    Day In a Page

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory