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Our Countries: Slovakia

Historians usually trace Slovakia’s roots to the Great Moravian Empire, founded in the early ninth century. The territory of Great Moravia included all of present western and central Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and parts of neighboring Poland, Hungary, and Germany. 

 Saints Cyril and Methodius, known for the creation of a Cyrillic alphabet, came to Great Moravia as missionaries upon the invitation of the king in the early 10th century to spread Christianity. The empire collapsed after only 80 years as a result of the political intrigues and external pressures from invading forces. Slovaks then became part of the Hungarian Kingdom, where they remained for the next 1,000 years. Bratislava was the Hungarian capital for nearly two and a half centuries after the Turks occupied the territory of present-day Hungary in the early 16th century.

Formerly a part of Austria-Hungary, the Slovaks joined with the closely related regions of Bohemia and neighboring Moravia to form Czechoslovakia in 1918. In the chaos of World War II Slovakia became a separate republic in 1938, tightly controlled by Germany. Post World War II in 1945 with the Warsaw Pact Czechoslovakia has become a communist state within a Soviet-ruled Eastern Europe. With the collapse of the Soviet influence in 1989 Czechoslovakia became a sovereign state. The separation of Czechoslovakia into its constituent parts – the Czech and Slovak Republics – on 1 January 1993 was one of the rare occasions in history that two nations have accomplished this peacefully. It also marked the emergence of an independent and sovereign Slovak nation for the first time.

Slovakia is blessed with glorious alpine scenery, cliff-top castles and well-preserved architecture, offering an enticing combination of outdoor adventure and medieval charm.

What to visit 

Spiš Castle - Photo: archive

Spiš castle
Construction of the medieval castle on a travertine hill dates back to the beginning of the 12th century. Spiš (www.spisskyhrad.sk) is the largest castle in Slovakia, and one of the biggest in Central Europe. Standing proud on a 200m- (656ft-) high dolomite hill, it‘s as impressive for its setting as it for its medieval architecture. It was once one of the most important Gothic castles in Europe and was owned by the Royal Family. In 1993 it was listed as a UNESCO world cultural heritage site. 

 

Děvín Castle - Photo: archive

Děvín Castle
Situated on a cliff 696 feet (212m) above the confluence of the Morava and Danube Rivers, Děvín Castle is one of the most important archaeological sites in Slovakia. The oldest traces of settlement date back to 5,000 BC, and for centuries the mighty fortress citadel was impenetrable until the arrival of Napoleon‘s troops who blew the castle up in 1809

 

What to eat?

The traditional basic components of the Slovak diet have always been and still are milk, potatoes and cabbage. Tasty meals typical for Slovak cousine such as cabbage dumplings etc. can be prepared by combining these ingredients. Halušky, similar to Gnocchi, is the most famous dish of Slovakia and part of Slovakia’s culture The most popular halušky is traditional bryndzové halušky (sheep cheese gnocchi). Sheep cheese gives a unique flavor to the meal on itself, but it is even tastier with small pieces of bacon greaves and chives or dill. Usually served with a glass of sour milk called žinčica.

Kapustnica (cabbage soup) is a Slovak thick soup traditionally prepared at the end of the year – for Christmas and New Years Eve.

Kapustnica can be prepared in a lot of ways (ingredients, length of cooking, etc.), it differs from region to region. In some regions, Kapustnica may contain smoked meat, sausages and mushrooms, in some regions it is much simpler soup.

Popular drinks include Slovak beer, wine and mineral waters. Wine from the Tokaj region and sparkling wine from the Bratislava region are particular specialties.

  

Easter in Slovakia
Easter Monday is associated with boys pouring water over girls in Slovakia, and in Western Slovakia the tradition also includes the boys whipping the girls with thin willow branches. The tradition was that if the girls wanted to be beautiful, healthy and full of life, they must not try and avoid the water soaking or the whippings.

Easter Customs - Photo: archive

As well as getting to cane the girls and throw water over them, the boys would also, in return for their endeavors, receive special treats from each of the girls. Treats would include painted eggs, which symbolized fertility, sweets, cakes and glasses of local spirits, such as Borovicka. The boys would collect the gifts and then have a party in the evening, to which the girls were also invited, of course.  

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