A little big country full of natural wonders. Zuzana Milanová, Head of GSS Slovakia, throws the spotlight on her home country.
Only a few foreigners I’ve ever met knew about Slovakia, or have heard of it. Most people associate it with Czechoslovakia or Slovenia. Allegedly, the staff of Slovak and Slovenian embassies meet once a month to exchange wrongly-addressed mail.
While a small country in size and a still undiscovered tourist destination in the heart of Europe, you will be surprised by several elements – its splendid natural scenery, the richness of its underground beauty displayed by more than six thousand caves, the unique healing power of its thermal and mineral springs, the varied historical monuments, its traditional folklore culture and the hospitable people.
Clean air and rare animals
One can't go on without mentioning the High Tatras, a matter of pride for every Slovak. Natural wonders are hardly in short supply in the Tatra Mountains, the highest mountain range within the Carpathians with 25 peaks over 2500 meters above sea level. The reason that not everyone in the world is as deeply in love with the High Tatras as us is probably because most people have never heard of them.
These mountains with a special charm, have an endless number of trails, breathtaking mountain lakes, waterfalls, unique plants, rare animals like chamois, exceptionally clean air and an environment great for healing respiratory conditions. It is literally a paradise for tourists.
The greatest danger in the High Tatras? It’s the sudden change of weather: a significant fall in temperature in the middle of a hot day often followed by a storm or hail. You never know if you’ll manage to descend into the valley. If you prefer skiing, head to the Low Tatras and prove your skiing skills in Jasna on an ungroomed Spravodliva piste (its name "just" speaks for itself).
Slovak mineral springs and spas provide a fantastic opportunity to unwind after a day in the mountains. Slovakia is literally overflowing with hot springs, mineral water sources, spas and even a geyser. There are more than 1,600 officially registered springs, many of them used as a source of mineral drinking water whereas the thermal springs are part of relaxing spas. Besides pampering and relaxation, spas have long been used to treat medical conditions. A world rarity are the hot springs in Podhájska – the water is said to have more beneficial effects than that of the famous Dead Sea.
Water and spirits
Water is present everywhere and you can drink it anywhere. Slovakia has some of the best quality tap water in the world. A number of studies have suggested that the tap water in the Bratislava region is among the cleanest in the world.
You do not need to limit yourself to water. Slovaks are very inventive in distilling spirits, using almost every plant – plums, pears, raspberries, blueberries, apricots, herbs, juniper berries. The most important thing to know when it comes to drinking in Slovakia is that some locally brewed spirits may be stronger than what you are used to. The most famous is Borovička – a white beverage made from juniper berries with the minimum alcohol amount required by law being 37,5%. A traditional sign of Slovak hospitality is a shot of Borovička at the beginning of a meal. Women usually can refuse politely but men are expected to drink. Don't forget to toast before you start and be prepared to drink at least two shots, one for each leg.
How about visiting the capital city of Bratislava? Located just an hour away from Vienna, it offers an amazing nightlife, especially in summer. But before the evening starts, have a walk in the Janko Kral Orchard, the oldest public park in Europe, followed by a drink in one of the restaurants located on the Danube river bank. Or take a boat from the city centre to the Danubiana Meulensteein Museum, one of the most romantic museums of modern art in Europe, founded by an enlightened art collector of Dutch origin, it’s located on the edge of a peninsula where the mighty Danube flows.
By the way, did you know that the Slovak town Kremnica houses a mint, which is one of the world’s oldest continuously operating factories? It started production in 1328. Come and get your own coin.
Slovakia is waiting for you!
Head of Global Securities Services Slovakia