SPECTACULAR SLOVAKIA WEEKLY

Roundup: The best of 2020 travel and culture stories about Slovakia

Read and listen back to the most popular stories and podcasts from this year in the last roundup of 2020.

In 2020, NASA opted to publish on its website several pictures from Slovakia. A photo from the Poloniny National Park, taken by Tomáš Slovinský, appeared on the website in April. A few months later, in August, Petr Horálek’s photo of the Perseid meteor shower was chosen. It was not the first time NASA picked a Horálek photo. In January of this year, it had chosen his picture of a meteor shower, above, taken in Oravská Lesná. In 2020, NASA opted to publish on its website several pictures from Slovakia. A photo from the Poloniny National Park, taken by Tomáš Slovinský, appeared on the website in April. A few months later, in August, Petr Horálek’s photo of the Perseid meteor shower was chosen. It was not the first time NASA picked a Horálek photo. In January of this year, it had chosen his picture of a meteor shower, above, taken in Oravská Lesná. (Source: Courtesy of Petr Horálek)

In the very last roundup of 2020, we are looking back at the most popular culture and travel stories published throughout the past twelve months, including archaeology discoveries and our flagship Spectacular Slovakia podcast.

Travel

Traditionally, people have wanted to know why Slovakia is dotted with hundreds of castles and ruins and dozens of wooden churches, which can be mostly found in the east of the country. Through the stories, they have also been keen to explore the history of Jewish culture in Slovakia, folk architecture and traditions, caves, and UNESCO sites, as well as gothic works of art.

In these times of the pandemic when we are not able to travel around the world safely, many rediscovered the beauty of the Slovak mountains in the summer, ending up waiting in queues in the Tatras, while Bratislava lacked tourists.

Hiking stories are indeed popular with The Slovak Spectator readers. In 2020, a tip for a hike to Vysoká peak near Bratislava was one of the most read travel stories, hand in hand with the story featuring hiking trail ‘marker’ Stanislav Kučera and the five tips for lesser-known outings in Bratislava.

In addition, an unusual bee hotel near picturesque Banská Štiavnica, the opening of the cycling route between Trenčín and Nemšová, which runs up to Moravia in the Czech Republic, and the Tatra Ice Cathedral in the High Tatras, inspired by a church in St Petersburg, were among the most read travel news.

More information about travelling in Slovakia
Please see our Spectacular Slovakia travel guide.

Bratislava

This year, we also learned about an effort to make Železná studnička, a well-liked green area in Bratislava, more attractive by giving it a facelift. Visualisations have also been published.

Similar projects are to take place in the capital in the near future. The neglected park surrounding the Rusovce manor house will get a new look from the first half of the 20th century. The revitalisation of another park, Sad Janka Kráľa, will be completed in 2021. The old Istropolis culture and congress centre will be replaced by a new one in five years time, and the green area opposite the Eurovea shopping mall, known as the Lido for being the once popular river beach with pools, is to be turned into a new city district.

Let's not forget about other ongoing real estate projects, including Eurovea II, Sky Park, Bory, Slnečnice, and Stanica Nivy.

While the projects above are still in the pipeline, the iconic ancient Salvator pharmacy near St Martin’s Cathedral has been renovated. It even hosted its first exhibition. In summer, a temporary observation wheel also sprung up by the Danube in the Old Town, but not everyone found the project refreshing.

Nonetheless, it was the story about a forgotten Bratislava delicacy that sparked the strongest interest among readers, followed by interviews with Bratislava-based foreigners Illah van Oijen and Divya Thakur.

For those who have not made up their mind as to whether they should love or hate Bratislava, Chris Togneri’s popular story may guide you on the way to making a final decision.

If not, how about the story on a gastronomic map of Bratislava? Through food, it may be easier to fall in love with Bratislava, especially if the map is all about foreign cuisine.

Culture

In 2020, the coronavirus has affected all aspects of culture. Although many institutions, including theatres and cinemas, remain closed, and festivals and other events cannot be held, artists and cultural institutions have reinvented themselves.

The festivals One World and Pohoda, as well as Radio_Head Awards, for example, were held online. The well-known cinema Lumière runs online film screenings, and the Slovak National Theatre, along with other theatres and opera houses, streams performances online too. Many others do the same.

Still, artists and other workers in the creative industries are continuing to face financial struggles similar to the ones during the first coronavirus wave.

On a more positive note and in no particular order, here are some of the best throwback culture stories from this year:

  • There is a word Slovaks can teach the world,
  • Jurko the Outlaw’: Slovakia’s first animated feature,
  • A bistro owner taught people in Martin to eat real Vietnamese food,
  • Ová and out: Slovak women dropping female suffix from surnames,
  • Ethnomusicologist: Folklore is commonly exploited by politics in Slovakia,
  • Slovak writers struggle to find path to Anglophone readers,
  • How Bratislava’s Winter Port has changed overtime,
  • Slovakia’s ‘rare’ fascist monuments escape wave of statue removals,
  • In a sleepy Slovak region, the legacy of Andy Warhol lives on,
  • The famous history of Coburg Ironworks to be dusted off.

Archaeological discoveries

The most read culture story in 2020 was published in early December and concerns the discovery of the Celtic Bronze statue of a naked man found in one of the villages near Poprad. Archaeologist Mária Hudáková has even called it the biggest finding in Slovakia.

“It's definitely unique in Slovakia and Central Europe, perhaps all of Europe. Such statutes have been found in other European sites, but they are not as elaborate and do not have golden eyes,” she said.

Plenty of other archaeological findings have been, nonetheless, presented to the Slovak public in the past months.

In Trnava, archaeologists discovered decorated ceramics fragments and antler tools older than 6,000 years. Near Košice, the foundations of an old church were uncovered, followed by the discovery of a treasure trove of 500 coins from the 18th century. Even older coins were found by tourists under an uprooted tree near Piešťany and in Spišské Vlachy.

Podcast

Before we go, let’s talk about the Spectacular Slovakia podcast and some of its best episodes.

The most listened to episode features Ingeborg from Norway and Sergei from Russia. The Slovak Spectator met them in Slovakia’s city of tolerance – Košice – at the start of this year to share their views of Košice.

Other popular episodes involve a grandma explaining how to make Slovak doughnuts, a Briton talking about how to cycle around Europe, the story behind a unique bank of love in Banská Štiavnica, the Šíp peak and the Rača hills, as well as a podcast quiz on Slovakia.

In the second half of 2020, the podcast took a closer look at Bratislava through the eyes of ambassadors stationed in Slovakia’s capital. Diplomats from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Japan, the Netherlands, and Israel, as well as from several English-speaking countries, appeared on the podcast.

The Spectacular Slovakia podcast recorded nearly 44,000 plays this year, for which a big thank you goes out to every listener.

That’s it from us at The Slovak Spectator for 2020. See you in 2021!

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