The usual souvenirs, such as magnets, book markers, postcards and calendars with images of Slovakia’s beautiful sights, can be found in many souvenir shops and tourist information offices across the country.
But if you are looking for a somewhat less common souvenir to carry home from Slovakia for your family and friends – or yourself – to provide a lasting memory of your trip to central Europe, several possibilities are at hand.
Dolls wearing traditional folk costumes are among many tourists’ favourites, as well as various carved-wood objects, such as musical instruments (perhaps a small shepherds’ pipe or a rattle), decorative objects to hang on the wall or several kinds of household tools for daily use (a honey container, decorated wooden spoons, wooden egg-holders or milk glasses).
Embroidered or crocheted table cloths and similar products are traditional for Slovakia as well.
Dolls made of maize leaves, usually depicting traditional Slovak crafts related to village life and work in the fields, such as a woman brace-wheeling, people raking straw or a woman singing a lullaby to a baby in a cradle, are common.
Traditional Slovak pottery, majolika or keramika in Slovak, can be interesting for tourists as well. Several different kinds of traditional pottery are still hand-made in Slovakia: Modra majolica has various traditional patterns hand-painted onto a white coating, traditionally in greens, blues and yellows (www.majolika.sk) while Trstená keramika brings a combination of a brown glaze with white designs (www.trstenskakeramika.sk).
Decorated Easter eggs, called kraslice in Slovak, make a rather fragile but lovely souvenir from Slovakia too. There is no need to worry about the longevity of this gift as the eggs are just shells with their contents blown out through small holes on either side of the egg. A wide variety of techniques are used to decorate the eggs, among them hot-wax painting, straw ornaments glued to the eggshells, embroidered eggs, or so-called ‘scratched eggs’.
Many kinds of traditional souvenirs can be purchased in shops branded as ÚĽUV – The Centre for Folk Art Production (www.uluv.sk).
If you prefer bringing back some of the tastes of the country rather than its decorative objects, here’s a list of Slovak-made products that could be slipped into your luggage before your return trip:
The favourite soft drinks available in Slovakia are Vinea (a wine-flavoured, carbona-ted drink, available in white, red, and even rose versions) and Kofola (a caffeinated cola-like drink with its own characteristic taste). You can purchase both soft drinks in plastic bottles and Kofola is also available in cans.
Slovak-made spirits that will be a hit in your home country could be Demänovka, an herbal liqueur in two flavours – bitter (red label) and sweet (green label) – as well as slivovica (plum brandy) and hruškovica (pear brandy).
If beer is your preferred option, traditionally-excellent Slovak beers are Zlatý Bažant, Šariš, and Smädný Mních.
For wine lovers, the following wineries offer choice Slovak wines: Víno Mrva & Stanko; J. & J. Ostrožovič; Tokaj & Co; Elesko; Chateau Belá; Víno Masaryk; Víno Matyšák; Martin Pomfy – Mavín, Vinosady; and VPS - Vinohradníctvo Pavelka-Sobolič.
Chocolates and sweets
If you are searching for Slovak-made chocolates and sweets in a supermarket, look for the Figaro brand for various chocolate bars and boxed chocolates, the Deva brand for chocolate bars, boxed chocolates and jelly boxes and the Sedita brand for various biscuits and wafers, including the very popular peanut-cream filled wafers called Horalky or Mila and Kakaové rezy.
Protected traditio-nal Slovak food products
The European Union seeks to protect the reputation of regional foods through its Protected Geographical Status (PGS) framework, designed to eliminate unfair competition or deception of consumers through the marketing of non-genuine products of inferior quality or taste. Under this EU scheme, certain regional food products receive official protection in certain categories: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG). Slovakia has taken advantage of the EU framework and has received protection for several of its traditional products.
Slovakia now has a total of 13 products with a final ‘registered’ status and the number more than doubled in 2011.
Registered traditional Slovak products
Skalický trdelník – A bakery product of a hollow, cylindrical shape originating from the town of Skalica. Trdelník was Slovakia’s first registered product in 2007 and holds a PGI.
Slovenská parenica – A steamed, lightly-smoked cheese wound into two rolls connected in an ‘S’ shape. It has a delicate taste, the odour of sheep’s milk and a smoky smell. It is known for its characteristically-pronounced fibrous structure of the curd. It received its PGI in July 2008.
Slovenská bryndza – A natural, white, mature, spreadable cheese in granular form, manufactured by milling a lump of matured sheep’s cheese or by milling a mixture of lump sheep’s cheese and lump cow’s cheese. It has a delicate odour and taste and has a pleasantly sour sheep’s cheese taste that is slightly spicy and salty. It contains a broad range of naturally occurring micro-organisms. It received its PGI in July 2008.
Slovenský oštiepok – A half-fat, semi-hard cheese which may be steamed or not steamed and smoked or not smoked. It is characterised by its special shape, that of a large egg, pine cone or ellipsoid with decoration. It received its PGI in September 2008.
Ovčí salašnícky údený syr – The first Slovak product receiving the TSG label. This cheese is produced from fresh sheep’s milk, processed in shepherd’s huts, smoked and often formed into specific shapes (hearts, cockerels or other animals, or hemispheres). It received its TSG status in October 2010.
Ovčí hrudkový syr-salašnícky – The second Slovak cheese with a TSG label. It is produced from fresh sheep’s milk and derives its characteristic taste as a result of the traditional technology used during its fermentation and also from being shaped by hand into a lump. It received its TSG status in November 2010.
Liptovská saláma / Liptovský salám – A meat product with a delicate taste and an aroma imparted by the spices used and the smoking process. It received its TSG status in February 2011.
Lovecký salám / Lovecká saláma – A long-life fermented meat product that was added to Slovakia’s list of TSG-protected products in February 2011.
Spišské párky – A wurst-like product, typically pinkish-red in colour due to its paprika seasoning, with a slightly piquant taste. It received its TSG status in February 2011.
Špekáčky / Špekačky – In the past a barbeque in Slovakia was unimaginable without a plump, wurst-like, heat-processed meat product that is golden-brown in colour. It is also used to make utopenec, found in pubs and served with beer. It received its TSG status in February 2011.
Tekovský salámový syr – A natural semi-hard, ripened full-fat cheese, smoked or not smoked, in the shape of a cylinder. It received its PGI status in March 2011.
Zázrivský korbáčik – A steamed cheese product, smoked or not smoked, in the shape of a little whip (korbáčik in Slovak), originating from Zázrivá, a village in the Orava region. It received its PGI status in March 2011.
Oravský korbáčik – A steamed cheese product, smoked or not smoked, in the shape of a little whip, originating from the Orava region. It received its PGI status in March 2011 as well.
23. May 2012 at 0:00 | Compiled by Spectator staff