For a country occupying the geographical heart of Europe, Slovakia has managed to sneak under many a tourist’s radar. Flanked by the meandering Danube River, Slovakia is carpeted by the unspoilt beauty of the Western Carpathian Mountains. A vast wealth of pristine national parks, magical underground caves, healing thermal springs and historic castles remain relatively undiscovered. In Bratislava, one of the European Union's most rapidly-expanding capitals, business is booming. Who would have thought for a country newly born as an independent nation-state in 1993? This was when Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved, with the Slovakian and Czech republics choosing to go their separate ways.
These three capitals, lush with magnificent cathedrals, imperial palaces and majestic castles, stand at the geographical heart of mainland Europe. Their history and culture are majestically intertwined by the powerful Habsburg dynasty.
Delve behind the former ‘Iron Curtain’ to explore these stunning cities of the east. Flourishes from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and a mélange of medieval charm are juxtaposed against more sombre reminders of WWII.
Slovakia offers a wealth of discovery at every corner, from the landmark four-towered castle overlooking the capital, to the simple wooden churches in the country’s villages. Check out the cobbled squares and labyrinthine streets of Bratislava’s Old Town, surrounded by opulent Baroque palaces, old churches and medieval fortifications. Make your way down the grand promenade Hviezdoslavovo Namestie from the Slovak National Theatre, past gushing fountains and trendy cafés to soothe your soul by the Danube. Nearby stands the imposing Gothic St. Martin’s Cathedral, where Hungarian King and Queens were crowned.
There is a wealth of museums to broaden your mind, including the late 19th century Slovak National Museum in Bratislava, featuring various history, archaeology and musicology exhibits. Several folk festivals take place in throughout the year – a melange of musicians and dancers kitted out in colourful costumes, while the winter months offer good quality skiing.
Follow the series of paved golden crowns marking the royal coronation route through Bratislava Old Town, from St. Martin´s Cathedral to Michael´s Gate. While you’re out, meet Bratislava’s quirky life-sized street statues. A paparazzo clicks away, a Napoleonic soldier leans on a bench and a curious guy named Cumil, permanently peers at passer-by’s ankles from his manhole position!
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