Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Slovakia

How Slovakia has remained off the Mass Tourism radar for so long I don't know. This country is possibly one of the most strikingly beautiful in Europe. This central European country would not look out of place in a Tolkien story. The vast majority of visitors arrive into the capital and go no further, but the capital is only part of the charm. Getting outside of Bratislava, take a train across the country to see the low, rolling fields leading onto spectacular views of the imposing Tatras mountains. Type "Tatras" into Google and you will see for yourself.

Photo: tatraphotographyworkshop.com
In summer the landscape is a sea of green and yellow with a mix of lush meadows and acres of corn and sunflowers. You could spend an entire day laying out watching the scenery and soaking up rays of warm sunshine while sipping on local beer or wine. The many lakes of Slovakia provide a perfect way to cool off as the temperatures rise above Mediterranean levels. 

The lakes are like mirrors reflecting the beautiful surrounding countryside perfectly. The pure, clean water is ideal for you to take a dip. In winter time they freeze over in a thick layer of ice and snow. The fields turn into a postcard picture of white and blue and the mountainside turns into a hive of activity. The ski resorts of Slovakia are truly some of the most under rated in Europe. Travel to the east, to Kosice and Strbske Pleso where you can rent skis and snowboards at ridiculously low prices compared to their French and Italian counterparts. 
Photo: Lightharmony.com
Photo: niemanlab.org

Aside from the spectacular landscape, there is much to keep you entertained and educated should you wish. Slovakia has more than its fair share of medieval castles. The most beautiful of which is found in the town of Trencin. Sitting atop a rocky outcrop, Trencin castle is one of the most unique castles in Europe. It sits high above the bustling town below and plays host to various shows and demonstrations throughout the year. The walk up to the gates will sap your energy in the summer heat, but the tour is well worth the effort. Inside are some of the best maintained weapons, armor and furniture you will find in the world. The views from the castle tower are nothing short of breathtaking. 



Going back to the capital, Bratislava has some of the most amazing architecture you will find. The old buildings in the Old Town are perfectly maintained. Walk around the many winding streets and you will find many boutique clothes shops selling top quality products at excellent prices. The cafes serve some of the best tasting coffee I have ever tried. In terms of nightlife, Bratislava is a titan of niche nightclubs and bars, the beer is cheap and of terrific quality. If you can, go to the Sky Bar, their rooftop bar makes some of the best rum and vodka cocktails I have ever tried. 




Getting There: Ryanair fly to Bratislava from many European airports including Dublin and London Stansted.
Price: Book early and flights can be as cheap as €140 return.
Stay: Park Inn Bratislava
Do: Take a train across the country