The writer for The Washington Post, Erica Rosenberg, describes not just the bright moments of a visit to Slovakia but also the shortcomings of the country, mostly connected –according to her – with lack of skills in tourism and promotion, but also with 40 years of communism.
She sees, however, the lower density of tourists and tourism-inspired activities as an advantage, offering a taste of the true and unfeigned Slovak life. Rosenberg also stresses that there are sites worth seeing outside the capital – as “Lonely Planet devotes more than half of the thin coverage in its six-year-old Czech/Slovak guidebook to Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava – and the majority of those who visit probably only stop in it en route to Vienna or Budapest”. She adds that only about 40,000 American tourists visit Slovakia each year, while its more illustrious neighbour and border-mate, the Czech Republic, draws hundreds of thousands, citing the travel writer Rick Steves who deemed Slovakia “the West Virginia of Europe”.
The eastern-Slovak metropolis, Košice, is what caught her attention, and she describes its centre, around the Hlavná Ulica / Main Street, “lined with dramatic monuments — including its Baroque Plague Column, erected in 1722 to offer thanks for the plague’s end — fountains, shops and buildings from the 13th to the 19th century”. She also notes “a tree-encircled musical fountain that played Yesterday and other familiar tunes; after sunset, coloured lights illuminated jets of water pulsing to the music....”; and the local St Elizabeth Cathedral.
Eastern Slovakia and more...
Apart from Košice, she also found to her liking the town of Levoča, founded in 1249, with its intact centre of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance structures painted in pastels, and monuments including the works of local artist Master Pavol. The sprawling ruins of one of central Europe’s largest fortresses, the UNESCO World Heritage site, Spiš Castle, also caught her attention, as did the nearby national parks with significant natural assets – Slovak Paradise National Park (aka Slovenský raj), the Alp-like mountains of Tatra National Park, and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (with a funicular railroad).
In central Slovakia, she mentions the medieval mining town of Banská Štiavnica “whose main street winds its way up to the cobblestoned town centre, Trinity Square, and whose charms, culture and food rival those of any Italian hill town” with “ two small-scale castles on either side — the 13th-century Old Castle and the 16th-century New Castle — both with panoramic views”.
“Medieval towns, natural beauty, cultural riches, magnificent castles, great food, a thriving cafe culture — all at affordable prices and with no tourist crowds… Maybe it’s time those guidebooks got an overhaul,” Rosenberg concludes.
20. Mar 2017 at 13:52 | Compiled by Spectator staff