It’s a Well Done World – Meet this European Treaure

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Well Done World, stories and features concerning the modern man from around the globe.

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This week on Well Done World, Renata Macháčková takes us on a tour of Zdeno Chara’s homeland.

SLOVAKIA, often called The Heart of Europe, is a magnificent little country is located in Central Europe. The small size is one of it‘s biggest attractions and the diversity of the countryside makes exploring the nation a good introduction to Central European culture. It is also hockey country and the homeland of Bruin´s captain Big Zee, Zdeno Chara. I could bet that the majority of you don‘t know where Slovakia lies. You’ve probably heard of it, but you kind of mix it with Slovenia, Russia or still live before the year 1993 and connect it to Czechoslovakia.

Slovakia boarders Austria, the Czech Repbulic, Poland, Ukraine, and Hungary. The capital and largest city is Bratislava. The official language is Slovak, a member of the Slavic language family. Slovakia became an independent state on January 1st, 1993 after the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia. Slovakia is a high-income advanced economy with one of the fastest growth rates in the European Union. The country joined the European Union in 2004 and the Eurozone on in 2009. Slovakia is also a member of the Schengen Area, NATO, the United Nations, the OECD and the WTO.

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Bojnice Castle

Slovakia is a country of surprising contrasts, which blow your mind!  Slovakia has the world’s highest number of castles and chateaux per capita. This is one of the most interesting facts about Slovakia that may surprises travellers who have never visited. Just imagine an incredible number of 180 castles and 425 chateaux in a country with an entire population far smaller than the city of New York! The most popular castles such as Bratislava castle, Orava castle or Bojnice castle draw thousands of visitors every year. The real highlight amongst Slovak castles is undoubtedly medieval Spiš Castle, one of the largest castles in the Central Europe and was included in the UNESCO List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

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Bratislava Castle

Not only are the castles big attractions, but also caves. There are more than 6000 caves!  Yes, it’s true. More than six thousand caves have been discovered in Slovakia so far! Most spectacular caves can be found in the national parks of Low Tatras, Slovak Paradise and Slovak Karst. Many of them represent unique natural wonders. Ochtinska Aragonite Cave is the only one aragonite cave located in Europe and a huge 34m high sinter column in Krasnohorska cave is listed in the Guinness Book of Records.

Castles, caves, but that’s still not everything from this remarkably beautiful and diverse nature.  Slovakia with its 9 national parks and 14 protected landscape areas is literally a paradise for tourists. No trip to Slovakia would be complete without a visit to the wonderful mountains of High Tatras with peaks over 2500m and glacier lakes that have been formed thousands of years ago. Other spectacular places are undoubtedly Slovak Paradise with its wild canyons, Low Tatras with lush alpine meadows and beautiful valleys in Little Fatra and Pieniny.cave1

Magical shot of the Tatras mountain range
Hiking anybody?!  Slovak Paradise is a magical forested piece of land in the east of Slovakia, full of ravines, gorges, chasms, meadows and waterfalls. Devoted local hikers enjoy refreshing walks through the narrow canyons and up the waterfalls, often with the help of wooden bridges, high ladders and iron chains. The elevations are not high, but the adventure factor is. But no worries, the walks are very enjoyable and not that demanding as it may seem!

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Morning mist creeping over the Tatras Mountains on the border between Slovakia and Poland.

Sucha Bela gorge makes for one of the most fascinating karst marked paths through the Paradise. Waterfalls, rock windows, cascades, ladders, natural jacuzzis and even an ancient carthusian monastery await you on your way. The tour start in Podlesok. You’ll get there from Hrabusice. Park your car in the guarded parking lot. The main walk is one-way up the stream. Make sure you have good water-resistant hiking boots on, you will walk through the gorge, often with the stream below your feet. Refresh with a cabbage soup, Kofola or langoš in Klastorisko cottage. From there leads a quick return way to Podlesok. The tour is semi-demanding, 4 hours total. We wish you a heavenly journey!

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Magical shot of the Tatras mountain range

Slovakia has incredible sources of mineral water and healing thermal springs. Most of them are actively used for therapeutic and recreation purposes within 21 spa resorts. While, for example, the US thermal springs are mostly viewed as the luxury and they are generally expensive, Slovakia’s spa resorts and aquaparks are affordable thanks to their long-lasting traditions. Romans, Celts and also famous Ludwig van Beethoven visited spa town of Piešťany to enjoy the healing effects of town’s thermal water.

As you can see the nature plays very important role in tourism of Slovakia. As to the tourism the capital city Bratislava is definitely one of the most important places where to go when you visit Slovakia. The only capital in the world bordering two countries. It lies on the borders with Austria and Hungary. That makes the city the only one capital in the world that borders two independent countries. Moreover, Austrian capital Vienna is only 60 km away! Both cities are stretched on the banks of Danube river and the boat cruise from Vienna to Bratislava takes only 90 minutes.

waterfallYou cannot visit Slovakia without visiting its capital city and if you are a Bruin’s fan then you cannot visit Slovakia without visiting the hometown of Big Zee/Zdeno Chara which is Trenčín. But it is not only big Zee who makes Slovakia the proud country. There are more hockey players who make Slovakia the proud hockey country. Among them Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik or Tomas Tatar. In Slovakia hockey is the number one sport. People love hockey over there and it is said that in Slovakia there is also one of the best atmosphere atmospheres. I have met a lot of people even from United Stated or Canada who have loved the atmosphere over here in Slovakia and this is something you should definitely experience in Slovakia.

Together with cultural attractions and historical monuments, visitors of Slovakia should taste the typical Slovak food & drinks. Menus are usually enriched by the Austrian, Czech and Hungarian cuisine. Slovak food is hearty, typical of a country with strong rural roots. It is heavy on meat (especially pork), potatoes, dumplings, thick sauces and cheeses. If you’re looking for vegetables – there’s always cabbage, often in the form of sauerkraut. National Slovak food is called ‘Halušky‘, similar to Gnocchi, it is the most famous dish of Slovakia and part of Slovakia’s culture. These gnocchi are served with sheep cheese which gives a unique flavour to the meal by itself and it is even more tasty with small pieces of bacon greaves and chives or dill. It is usually served with a glass of sour milk called žinčica.

capbuildingnightThe Slovak people have a few best-loved drinks including (naturally) beer, wine and traditional Slovak slivovica. Beer is hugely popular amongst old and young alike. There is a huge range to choose from and each region produces its own variety. Wine is a very popular drink in Slovakia. The grapes from which the wine is made grow in the southern areas of the country. Tokaj is probably the best-known label. Slivovica (made from plums) and Borovicka (made from juniper berries) are traditional alcoholic drinks always popular in Slovakia and for the foreign people these are really strong drinks, so when you will decide to try it be careful how much of it you will drink.

Slovakia is a small country with a huge heritage and very hospitable people. Definitley worth the visit the next time you come to Europe.

Renata Macháčková

Renata Macháčková

Renata Macháčková is an NHL reporter and model originally from the Slovakia

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