There are many countries that are considered to be in the heart of the continent of Europe and Slovakia is most certainly among them. Though landlocked and populated by no more than 5.4 million people, it is one of the most desirable European destinations due to a few points that we are going to reveal below. So, without further ado, let us explore the ups and downs of the parent country of the capital city of Bratislava!
1. A natural preserve:
The above words are some of the most adequate when it comes to describing the natural grandeur of Slovakia. Being located in the centre of Europe has a few perks in terms of landscape. In fact, Slovakia has a staggering total of 9 national parks (quite a feat for a country of its size) and an additional 14 protected zones. If you are up for some camping, be sure to check out the High Tatras, for they are simply fabulous (as are most of the Slovakian areas above 2,500 metres). Get yourself a tent and hesitate not, for the natural mysteries of Central Europe await!
We know that by this time, it is absolutely impossible to wash away the stereotypical image that the film “Eurotrip” has granted Slovakia. What’s interesting about it is that, though a bit exaggerated, the film did allude to the fact that Slovakia is cheap – and yes, it is cheap. It is so inexpensive that it has made it on most top lists concerning the cheapest countries to travel to. Budget-savvy travellers are going to have a good time on a relatively thin budget and we especially recommend that you check out the fine restaurants of Bratislava. Though a bit more pricy, they still cannot reach close to the standards of First World countries. Oh, and did we mention that taxi fares and housing are also perfectly affordable (wink)?
If you thought that Slovakia cannot get any cheaper, think again, for the only reason why some people tip there is because international standards sometimes make it through the borders. Yes, it is only the foreign tourists who are accustomed to tipping and thus it is not expected. Of course, the more touristy locations are a bit different, so always mind where you are. If you know that you are in a place where tourists outnumber the locals, chances are that the restaurant workers in the vicinity expect tips. In that case, the extra that you may leave varies between 10-20%.s
4. Castle heaven:
Did you known that Slovakia is the most castle-filled country in the world if we consider the number of such edifices per capita? The exact numbers are the following: within the bounds of its total area of 49,035 square kilometres, Slovakia harbours 425 majestic chateaus and 180 unmissable castles. Some of them, such as Spiš Castle (one of the largest ones in Europe), are even on UNESCO’s List of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites. If you are an architecture-buff, you must absolutely go castle-hopping (wink)!
5. Language barriers:
If you’ve never been to Slovakia, the first thing that will stick out to you right away is that almost everyone speaks English there. The teenager population combined with the group of the locals in their 20s and 30s might even beat you at English grammar and even some of the older folks can make themselves understood with their hands and feet. Of course, this latter group is much more adept at either Russian or German (though proficiency is more likely in the former language). The tourist-filled areas are all full of English speakers, so you are not likely to get lost while exploring. Visiting rural Slovakia might reveal more people without English knowledge but they are so friendly that you’ll understand them by their benevolent body-language.
Quite a queer subtitle, isn’t it? Well, it appears that Slovakia is not only a natural preserve on its own but also one of the top vanguards of biodiversity. Over 4,000 species of fungi decorate its inner bounds and, of these, over 1,500 are lichen-forming specimens. What’s lamentable, however, is that more than 40% of these grandiose life-forms are endangered in some shape or form. If you are a biology-buff, you are bound to have great deal of fun trying in vain to document all your findings. We say “in vain”, because we know that their sheer numbers are going to outrun your multitasking capabilities (wink).
Did you enjoy our list? What experiences have you had in Slovakia and how have they shaped your overall impression of Central Europe? Share your thoughts below in the comment section and be sure to check back from time to time for some exciting updates! Safe travels and lichen-hunting (wink)!