Slovakia, not high on most travelers to do lists, the nation known as the ‘Little Big Country’ will surprise you in more ways the one.  From cute little old towns, to magnificent castles, to snow capped peaks, it is hard not to leave this country with a ‘little big’ smile across your face.

For budget travelers, the country is a welcoming sight after traversing through Western and Central Europe.  Euros go much further in Slovakia, allowing you to kick back and not worry as much about all those coins and bills your spending each day.

Without further explanation, here are the twenty five photographs that defined Claire and I’s journey through the country.

Bratislava

The capital and heart of the country.  Bratislava is the Slovakia of the future.  With so much of the country seemingly stuck in time, Bratislava is pushing forward at break neck speed.  The city is quickly becoming a business hub of the region and keeps growing each year.  Visitors come here to enjoy the quaint old town and enjoy the views along the Danube river that runs by town.  Still not convinced?  Read our post on Bratislava to find out why you should add this city to your travel list.

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Climbing up the hill to Bratislava Castle offers superb views of the city where you can see the old slowly turn into the new.  Bratislava is a sign of hope and progress for the fairly new country.

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Much of old town has been left waiting to be restored.  Venturing into these streets is atmospheric and a photographer magnet.

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The most famous statue in Bratislava.  Some say he is taking a break from work while others say he is a peeping tom looking up women’s skirts.  Whatever your take is, he is certainly a delight and is good at taking photographs.

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The old but not so old Bratislava Castle.  Left to rot after a terrible fire in the 1800s, the castle had began undergoing restoration in the 1950s.  While not a very exciting castle for European standards, it’s worth a look and the views on top of the hill are superb.

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Stari Most is one of the finer examples of architecture in Bratislava from the Communist era.  If Men and Black took place here rather than New York, the alien’s ship would have had to been on top of this bridge.

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The old town is small but just big enough to wander aimlessly and still feel like you are a little lost.

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High Tatras

For such a small country, Slovakia has quite the diverse geography.  The High Tatras are, you guessed it, Slovakia’s highest patches of land.  These mountains rise sharply from the valley floor creating some dramatic scenery for the pint sized country.  The mountain range itself is quite small but don’t let that deter you.  There is plenty of hiking in the region and different locations offer views worthy of a spot in a National Geographic magazine.  Once here, you will probably end up wanting to spend more time than you intended to.  To make the most out of the winter months in the High Tatras, read our post about it here.

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The High Tatras offer dramatic scenery no matter where you choose to hike.  In the winter, summiting is not possible.

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Camping is not allowed in the National Park but that doesn’t mean you can’t stay up in the mountains overnight.  Several Chatas are located up in the high mountain valleys offering beds for the intrepid and a nice warm meal and drink for those climbing up for the day.

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The High Tatras rise rather dramatically from the valley floor below

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Everywhere you go, views like this surround you.

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Enjoying our time in the High Tatras

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Mountain views near lake Papradske Pleso

Vysoka

Eastern Slovakia seems to have been trapped in a time capsule for a hundred years.  Village life is the norm in the region, as small settlements are interconnected by a web of small roads winding there way through the hills and valleys that dominate the region.

Vysoka is perhaps the most picturesque of the villages to be found in the region.  Many of the buildings from the turn of the 20th century buildings are still standing albeit in a deteriorated state.  The town is also where my Great Grandmother was born.  She left the village for the United States with her family when she was just nine years old.  For more information on Eastern Slovakia and other villages, check out our post on the region.

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Much of the village of Vyoska contains buildings from the turn of the 20th century

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View of Vysoka from above

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Farming is a way of life for most in Eastern Slovakia.  Villages are surrounded by farmland.

Levoca

Levoca is an old fortress town in the middle of Slovakia.  While the town itself can be easily explored in a morning or afternoon, you will want to stay overnight here in order to visit nearby Spis Castle.  Much of Levoca is still surrounded by the old city walls that once defended the city from invaders.  Once inside, the central square opens up to a lovely array of neo classical buildings painted brightly as they are in many towns of Slovakia.  While in town be sure to hike up the hill beyond the town to Mariánska hora, one of Slovakia’s biggest Catholic pilgrimage sights.  The church contains a statue of the Virgin Mary dating back to the 15th century.  As no one was there when I visited I had to be content with peaking through the window to catch sight of the statue.  Perhaps I wasn’t alone in the land of my ancestors as I heard footsteps in the snow rather clearly behind me as I peered in.  I turned around thinking someone had come to open up the church, only to find no one behind me or on the entire hill for that matter.  Being rather spooked I called and talked to Claire on my phone in order to distract me during my long decent down the hill as the sun went down.IMG_1736.JPG

Outside of Levoca’s old city walls as the sun begins to set in the region.

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Levoca’s old town is lined with colorful neo classical buildings that are characteristic of many of the towns in the country.

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Enjoying the homeland of my ancestors was the highlight of my journey through Slovakia

Lutina

Another small village among the many to be found while traveling through Eastern Slovakia.  The town is lacking in original structures, but the surrounding scenery is quite picturesque.

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Lutina is a cute little town nestled into a small valley, with its basilica serving as the center of life in the village.  The hillside next to the church has models of all the wooden churches scattered across Slovakia.

Spis Castle

Located a bus ride away from Levoca, this is one of the largest castle complexes in Europe.  Buses leave from Levoca’s bus station and takes under thirty minutes to reach Spišské Podhradie, the town where Spis Castle towers over.  From the bus station its a twenty minute walk up the hill to the castle.  After checking out the castle, walk back the way you came and then up the hill to the old church complex.  After mulling around the area for a bit, you can wait for a bus back to Levoca from the bus stop located just outside the church.

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Spis Castle looms large over the small town of Spišské Podhradie. Spišské Podhradie is a beautiful town to walk around for a bit.  Spis Castle is Slovakia’s most famous castle,

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Spišské Podhradie is a lovely village that is worth a stroll after taking a look at the castle.

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Spis Castle is huge

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Time slows down in Eastern Slovakia, and Spišské Podhradie is no exception.

Slovakia: A Look into a Europe of the Past

Village life lives on in most of Slovakia on a continent that is becoming ever more crowded.  For those looking for a peak into a Europe of the past, there are few countries that can take you back like Slovakia.  While the country lacks the big sights that many of its neighbors boast, Slovakia will find a place close in your heart with all of the little sights and experiences a journey here brings.

 

 

 

Let us and others know what you think!