It may only have two decades of independent statehood under its belt, but in that short amount of time Slovakia has grown into a young, multifaceted voice in the center of Europe. Ethnically diverse and topographically dramatic, it also boasts a remarkable concentration of iconic European architecture.
Most are unaware that this tiny country’s many gothic churches, storybook medieval towns, and cliff-side fairytale castles surprisingly surpass those of their Czech neighbors in both grandeur and number. While you might not know them by name, the turrets, thatched roofs, and bell-towers will undoubtedly call up a childhood fantasies, and the shared lore of the Western world.
In Bratislava, visit the city’s namesake castle for insight into the political systems that shaped Central Europe, and the changing role of castles throughout the region’s history. In Banská Štiavnica, a UNESCO World Heritage site, you can walk the well-preserved old town, and even swim in popular reservoirs that were once silver mines, the economic driver that made Banská Štiavnica a thriving Renaissance center for innovation, with affluence to match.
Between the cities, ample opportunity awaits to explore the towering Carpathian Mountains, countryside vineyards, and bucolic floodplains. These prove to be some of Europe’s most wild and untouched landscapes, a beautifully apt setting the well-preserved villages. Many a legend has come out of this country, and visitors are likely to encounter vignettes they thought to only exist in fairytales.
Unique among its neighbors, Slovakia prefers wine over beer, which compliments the café culture of quirky, pastel-colored Bratislava, the capital city. Add to it a sense of incredible folk culture, the likes of which most of the rest of Europe has lost touch with, and Slovakia becomes more than historical. It becomes magical. Slovakia, though subtle and unassuming, is one of those mystical, storybook countries that comes to life anew with every journey.