MONEY doesn't only make the world go around (peniaze vládnu svetom) in Slovakia, it makes everything else go around as well (peniazom sa každý klania - everybody bows to money), and we shouldn't forget that it also opens all doors (otvárajú všetky dvere), so it seems about time that we had a look at the subject.
Slovaks get a little religious when it comes to money. After all, you can buy anything for money, heaven and hell (za peniaze kúpiš všetko, nebo aj peklo) and what may cost you an arm and a leg in English costs an un-Christian amount in Slovak (stojí to nekresťanské peniaze). And someone with too much money has as much money as the devil has husks (má peniaze ako čert pliev). Don't ask me why husks. You could also say that they are drowning in it (topí sa v peniazoch).
Of course if you don't have a pile of money (kopec peňazí), then you'll probably want to try to save (šetriť) a little instead. But be careful, after all you only get what you pay for, or as the Slovaks say za málo peňazí, málo muziky (for a little money, a little music).
When it comes to málo peňazí here, you can't get smaller than a 10-halier coin, worth about a quarter of a eurocent. Its silver colour flashes in sunlight to send you scrabbling after it between a strangers' legs before discovering what denomination it is. Of course, everyone else will notice too, and then you'll feel like a right miser (skupáň), or as the Slovaks would have it, a Scot (lakomý ako Škót - miserly as a Scot).
Still it is a pretty enough coin. On the one side, like all Slovak coins, it has the state emblem with the words Slovenská republika (Slovak Republic), the date of issue, the MK mintmark of the National Mint in Kremnica in central Slovakia, and a Z below representing the designer, Drahomír Zobek. You need either perfect eyesight (dokonalý zrak), or a good magnifying glass (lupa) to see either of those properly.
On the other side it has a 19th-century wooden church tower. You can see the original in the Museum of Eastern Slovakia in Košice.
We go outdoors for the motif on the 20-halier coin, Mount Kriváň in centre of the High Tatras. The 50-halier coin comes in two flavours. The original, dating back from the first issue of coins in 1993, is larger and made from aluminium alloy. The later coin is copper-plated and marginally smaller than the 20-halier coin. Both have the same design, the tower from Devín Castle overlooking the Danube, just to the west of Bratislava.
One hundred haliers are equivalent to Sk1 (€0.02), and almost enough to buy you a basic bread roll (rožok) with no filling whatsoever. The one-crown coin shows a 15th-century gothic wooden statue of the Madonna and child from Kremnica.
The two-crown coin dips far back into Slovak prehistory to come up with an early Stone Age clay sculpture found in Nitrianský Hrádok in western Slovakia. The slightly larger but easily confused five-crown coin bears an impression of a coin found in Bratislava and believed to have been minted there between 80 and 60 BC. It is stamped with the name of the Celtic ruler based in Bratislava at the time, Biatec.
The coin collection finishes with the much heavier and far more useful 10-crown coin (you can actually buy a doughnut, šiška, for this much). The intricate design on this coin is a 10th-century bronze cross from the very beginnings of Christianity in Slovakia.
The Slovak bank notes provide a quick tour of Slovakia and its historical figures, starting with the Sk20 (€0.50) note showing Prince Pribina, the first Slovak ruler, and Nitra where he reigned until 833 AD.
We do not move far either geographically or historically for the Sk50 note, which shows the first Slovak missionaries Sts. Cyril and Methodius. A medieval church on Dražovce Hill near Nitra is pictured on the reverse of the note, together with hands holding the first seven letters of the Slavic alphabet that the saints introduced.
Levoča is the featured town on the Sk100 note (also known as a kilo), with the face of Master Pavol's early 16th-century wooden sculpture of the Madonna from the same town on the other side. By the Sk200 note we have reached the 18th century with Anton Bernolák, a priest and nationalist who first created the first standard Slovak language based on the Trnava dialect. The town is shown on the reverse.
Bernolák's version of the Slovak language was soon superseded by Ľudovít Štúr's version. He appears on the Sk500 note, with views of Bratislava on the reverse.
We enter the 20th century with Andrej Hlinka, a controversial figure who supported the Nazi-backed division of Czech and Slovakia but committed suicide just before the creation of the first Slovak state in 1938. He appears on the Sk1,000 note (or liter) together with his native Ružomberok.
Almost as an apology for the Sk1,000 note, we step back in time for the Sk5,000 note, to Milan Štefánik, one of the founders of the first Czechoslovak state in 1918. The impressive monument on the other side of the bill is his grave on Bradlo Hill, near the Czech border.
The Sk5,000 note (worth approximately €122) is the equivalent of almost half the average monthly wage in Slovakia. Trying to use one to buy a šiška or rožok is not recommended!
5. May 2003 at 0:00 | Conrad Toft