But Slovakia is deeply historical too. Thanks to its position at the heart of Europe, it has witnessed millennia of human activity, starting with a distant tribal past rooted in the Bronze Age. As an organised territory, however, present-day Slovakia roughly corresponds to the ancient Slavic Kingdom of Moravia, which reached its peak in the 9th century AD, before being incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian Empire for nearly 1000 years. Much of the wealth and opulence of this period is concentrated in the capital, Bratislava, a youthful and stylish place where you’ll find a castle and churches, mansions and palaces and a trove of urban architecture that spans gothic, renaissance and baroque styles.
Czechoslovakia, formed in the aftermath of the World War I, lasted most of the 20th century, surviving Nazi occupation and several decades of Communist governance. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Czech Republic and Slovakia broke from each other to become independent nations. Today, Slovakia appears to have successfully weathered the shift to a market-driven economy.
Eastern Slovakia is the country’s folkloric heartland, home to numerous wooden churches and traditional houses and places echoing with the legends of Slovakia’s most famous folk hero, Juro Janosik, a Carpathian highwayman who robbed the rich to give to the poor. Don’t miss a chance to stop at traditional taverns or rural guesthouses and enjoy some Slovak cuisine, hearty fare rich in pork, poultry, and game meat, all washed down with fine red wine. The best time to enjoy Slovakia’s folk traditions is the Vychodna, the most important folk event on the annual calendar and a time when you’ll be able to observe much singing, dancing and unrestrained merriment.