Slovakia, officially the Slovak Republic, is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, Austria to the southwest, and the Czech Republic to the northwest.
Slovakia is a developed country with an advanced high-income economy, ranking very high in the Human Development Index. It also performs favourably in measurements of civil liberties, press freedom, internet freedom, democratic governance, and peacefulness. The country maintains a combination of a market economy with a comprehensive social security system, providing citizens with a universal health care, free education, and one of the longest paid parental leaves in the OECD.Slovakia is a member of the European Union, the Eurozone, the Schengen Area, the United Nations, NATO, CERN, the OECD, the WTO, the Council of Europe, the Visegrád Group, and the OSCE. Slovakia is also home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The world’s largest per-capita car producer, Slovakia manufactured a total of 1.1 million cars in 2019, representing 43% of its total industrial output.
Slovakia features natural landscapes, mountains, caves, medieval castles and towns, folk architecture, spas and ski resorts. More than 5,4 million tourists visited Slovakia in 2017. The most attractive destinations are the capital of Bratislava and the High Tatras. Most visitors come from the Czech Republic (about 26%), Poland (15%) and Germany (11%).
Slovakia contains many castles, most of which are in ruins. The best known castles include Bojnice Castle (often used as a filming location), Spiš Castle, (on the UNESCO list), Orava Castle, Bratislava Castle, and the ruins of Devín Castle. Čachtice Castle was once the home of the world’s most prolific female serial killer, the ‘Bloody Lady’, Elizabeth Báthory.
As of 1994, there were estimated to be 55 million people worldwide who engaged in alpine skiing. The estimated number of skiers, who practised alpine, cross-country skiing, and related snow sports, amounted to 30 million in Europe, 20 million in North America, and 14 million in Japan. As of 1996, there were reportedly 4,500 ski areas, operating 26,000 ski lifts and enjoying skier visits. The predominant region for downhill skiing was Europe, followed by Japan and the US.
Modern alpine skis are shaped to enable carve turning, and have evolved significantly since the 1980s, with variants including powder skis, freestyle skis, all-mountain skis, and children’s skis. Powder skis are usually used when there is a large amount of fresh snow; the shape of a powder ski is wide, allowing the ski to float on top of the snow, compared to a normal downhill ski which would most likely sink into the snow. Freestyle skis are used by skiers who ski terrain parks. These skis are meant to help a skier who skis jumps, rails, and other features placed throughout the terrain park. Freestyle skis are usually fully symmetric, meaning they are the same dimensions from the tip of the ski to the backside (tail) of the ski. All-mountain skis are the most common type of ski, and tend to be used as a typical alpine ski. All-mountain skis are built to do a little bit of everything; they can be used in fresh snow (powder) or used when skiing groomed runs. Slalom race skis, usually referred to as race skis, are short, narrow skis, which tend to be stiffer because they are meant for those who want to go fast as well as make quick sharp turns.
Open air is “the unconfined atmosphere…outside buildings…” In the loosest sense, an open-air museum is any institution that includes one or more buildings in its collections, including farm museums, historic house museums, and archaeological open-air museums. Mostly, ‘open-air museum is applied to a museum that specializes in the collection and re-erection of multiple old buildings at large outdoor sites, usually in settings of recreated landscapes of the past, and often include living history. They may, therefore, be described as building museums. European open-air museums tended to be sited originally in regions where wooden architecture prevailed, as wooden structures may be translocated without substantial loss of authenticity.
Common to all open-air museums, including the earliest ones of the 19th century, is the teaching of the history of everyday living by people from all segments of society.
The idea of the open-air museum dates to the 1790s. The first proponent of the idea was the Swiss thinker Charles de Bonstetten, and was based on a visit to an exhibit of sculptures of Norwegian peasants in native costumes in the park of Fredensborg Palace in Denmark,”Valley of the Norsemen”. He believed that traditional peasant houses should be preserved against modernity, but failed to attract support for the idea.
The first protected reserve in the area of the Slovak Paradise was founded in 1890. The first protected plant was the edelweiss in 1936.
The name Slovenský raj first appeared in 1921 in the Krásy Slovenska magazine and replaced many names used until that period. On 21 August 1964 the first protected landscape area in Slovakia was established in the Slovak Paradise. The area was recategorized into a national park on 18 January 1988. In 2000 Dobšiná Ice Cave became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Parts of the park also belong to the Natura 2000 network since 2004.
The best known tourist centres and resorts are Čingov and Podlesok in the north, Dedinky in the south and the only tourist centre located inside the National Park, Kláštorisko, with ruins of the Carthusian monastery. The most visited places in the park are Dobšiná Ice Cave and the Suchá Belá Gorge.
The park offers about 300 km of hiking trails and several bike trails. One of the most visited routes is “Prielom Hornádu”. In the northern part of the Slovak Paradise two main tourist centres of this region are situated: Čingov and Podlesok. They are connected by a 15 km long marked route, leading through the canyon along the Hornád river.
Bardejov is a town in North-Eastern Slovakia. It is situated in the Šariš region on a floodplain terrace of the Topľa River, in the hills of the Beskyd Mountains. It exhibits numerous cultural monuments in its completely intact medieval town center.
Bardejov is dominated by the monumental Church of St. Aegidius (Giles), mentioned for the first time in 1247. A three nave basilica with multiple chapels was completed in 1464.Bardejov It hosts eleven precious Gothic winged altars with panel paintings. The central square (Slovak: Radničné námestie), which used to be the town’s medieval marketplace, is surrounded by well-preserved Gothic and Renaissance burghers’ houses as well as the basilica.
One of the most interesting buildings is the town hall, built in 1505. The lower part was built in the Gothic style, while the upper part was finished in the Renaissance style. This was the headquarters of the city council and also the center of the town’s economic, social, and cultural life.Bardejov In 1903, the town hall was adapted to serve as Šariš County Museum (Sárosi múzeum), now known as the Šariš Museum Bardejov, one of the oldest and the biggest museums in Slovakia.
Košice is a city in eastern Slovakia, close to the Hungarian border. Its origins go back to the medieval period, and the central Lower Gate archaeological complex preserves fortifications from the 13th century. Hlavné námestie, the main square, is home to 2 Gothic churches: the huge St. Elisabeth Cathedral and the 14th-century St. Michael Chapel. Nearby, St. Urban’s Tower contains a museum of wax figurines.
The city has a preserved historical centre which is the largest among Slovak towns. There are heritage protected buildings in Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Art Nouveau styles with Slovakia’s largest church: the St. Elisabeth Cathedral. The long main street, rimmed with aristocratic palaces, Catholic churches, and townsfolk’s houses, is a thriving pedestrian zone with boutiques, cafés, and restaurants. The city is known as the first settlement in Europe to be granted its own coat-of-arms.
The city was made of two independent settlements: Lower Kassa and Upper Kassa, amalgamated in the 13th century around the long lens-formed ring, of today’s Main Street. The first known town privileges come from 1290. The city proliferated because of its strategic location on an international trade route from agriculturally rich central Hungary to central Poland, itself along a greater route connecting the Balkans and the Adriatic and Aegean seas to the Baltic Sea. The privileges given by the king were helpful in developing crafts, business, increasing importance (seat of the royal chamber for Upper Hungary), and for building its strong fortifications.In 1307, the first guild regulations were registered here and were the oldest in the Kingdom of Hungary.
Levoča is a town in the Prešov Region of eastern Slovakia with a population of 14,700. The town has a historic center with a well preserved town wall, a Gothic church with the highest wooden altar in the world, carved by Master Pavol of Levoča, and many other Renaissance buildings.
Levoča is located in the historical region of Spiš, which was inhabited as early as the Stone Age. In the 11th century, this region was conquered and, subsequently, became part of the Kingdom of Hungary and remained such until 1918. After the Mongol invasions of 1241/1242, the area was also settled by Germans. The town became the capital of the Association of Spiš Germans, with a form of self-rule within the Kingdom of Hungary. The oldest written reference to the city of Levoča dates back to 1249. In 1317, Levoča (at that time generally known by the German name of Leutschau – see Chronology below for lists of changing names) received the status of a royal town. In 1321 a wide storing right was granted enticing merchants, craftsmen and mine owners to settle in this town.
In the 15th century the town, located on an intersection of trade routes between Poland and Hungary, became a rich center of commerce. It exported iron, copper, furs, leather, corn, and wine. At the same time the town became an important cultural centre. The English humanist Leonard Cox taught around 1520 in a school in Levoča. The bookseller Brewer from Wittenberg transformed his bookstore in a prolific printing plant, that lasted for 150 years. Finally, one of the best-known medieval woodcarvers Master Pavol of Levoča settled here.
The town kept this cultural and economic status until the end of 16th century, in spite of two damaging fires : the first in 1550 destroyed nearly all of the Gothic architecture and another in 1599. In this period of prosperity several churches were built and the town had a school, library, pharmacy, and physicians. There was a printing press as early as 1624. Levoča was a center of the Protestant Reformation. The town started to decline during the anti-Habsburg uprisings in the 17th century.
Vlkolínec, an isolated mountain village, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with folk architecture dating from the 14th century. Surrounded by pastures and fields and crossed by a cycling route, it’s home to unaltered log house homesteads, in addition to a school decorated with murals and a 1770 wooden bell tower. The 1875 Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary is designed in the Baroque-Classical style.
One of the only remaining folk villages in the whole of Central Europe, Vlkolínec is full of impressive architecture, with traditional log houses lying next to a beautiful Baroque chapel and an antiquated old bell tower. A very quaint and charming place to visit, the tiny village is set in an idyllic spot amidst forest-clad hills and fields, with mountains seen in the distance.
As such, there are many great hikes you can do in the surrounding area. Besides that, there is not all that much to do other than take in the peaceful, laidback atmosphere and marvel at the fine folk architecture.
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