Enjoying Life’s Simple Pleasures
Christmas is over. The time for merry making has passed. A new year has begun and reality sets in. You are now given a chance to change what must have been changed—a time to create new rules for a new and better you.
Find your fresh start in Slovakia, a flourishing country situated in Central Europe. It’s surrounded by five affluent nations (Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, Ukraine, and Hungary) and takes pride of its capital, Bratislava. The country is known for its involvement in the Velvet Revolution of 1989, which resulted in the split of Czechoslovakia into two separate states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The event is also known as the Velvet Divorce.
Interested in Slovakia’s story? Book your tickets now before all seats are taken. Believe it or not, there’s more to learn and discover.
Always a central point of every tourist’s itinerary, Bratislava was once called by its German name Pressburg until Philologist Pavel Jozef Šafárik misinterpreted the term Braslav as Bratislav. Only in 1919 did the term Bratislava become the city’s official name.
Its tourist attractions are mainly seen in the old downtown where the former town hall is found. Records say that aside from serving as the town hall, the edifice was used from the 15th century through 19th century as a prison, mint, arsenal warehouse, and venue for celebrations. But in 1868, the structure was renovated to serve as a city museum containing all documents and artefacts regarding the city’s history.
Displays inside the museum include a table with markings of how high the water level reached during the Danube flood of February 1850, as well as the ancient cannon ball used to defend the city against the attack of Napoleonic troops in 1890. One can find a diverse range of exhibits, from torture devices to ancient records. Moreover, a view of the city from different points can be seen at the top of the tower.
Outside the museum, tourists won’t miss the well-known Roland Fountain where the statue of Maximilian II proudly stands. The very king initiated the construction of the fountain for the purpose of providing water supply to the public.
Another favorite stop for travellers is the Grassalkovich Palace. It was built for Count Antal Grassalkovich, a Hungarian dignitary and head of the Hungarian Chamber. Also known as the Presidential Palace, the structure features both Rococo and Baroque architecture with French gardens, frescoed rooms, and a chapel. Since the Count had a strong love for music, the building was once known as the center of Bratislava’s music scene before it was turned into a residential place for the country’s leader.
Although guided tours inside the palace are limited, visitors can still enjoy strolling around the area, especially in the vast gardens which have been turned into public parks.
With Bratislava’s many tourist attractions, walking might not always be the best choice. But worry not as the red train is here for the rescue. Capable of seating 56 people per train, the vehicles take its passengers around the city with stops near the famous landmarks. Among the many are the Bratislava Castle and the Michael’s Gate.
Considered as the lone remnant of the city’s medieval gates, Michaels’s Gate was among the four heavily guarded fortifications during the 13th century. The Baroque structure was named after the St. Michael Church that stood in front of it. The edifice stands tall with over 51 meters, consisting of seven floors and topped by a statue it take its name from.
Today, however, Michael’s Gate serves as a museum that showcases ancient weaponry as well as an observation deck overlooking the city views. Outside, tourists can see luxury shops and restaurants where they can buy foreign and local products as well as enjoy various delicacies.
One of Slovakia’s most prominent landmarks is the Bratislava Castle. Located near the Danube, it sits on a hill that has long served as a home to ancient cultures since 2800 BC. Its most dominating features are the towers standing up on each the castle’s four corners. Through the years, the castle has witnessed the addition of four entrances, namely Leopold Gate, the Sigismund Gate (15th century), the Nicholas Gate (16th century), and the Vienna Gate (1721). The structure houses a large courtyard as well as four treasure chambers displaying a series of essential archaeological artefacts.
Also a must-see—and probably its pièce de résistance—is the statue of Venus of Moravany, a prehistoric carved female figure found in Slovakia in the early 20th century. Tourist will likewise marvel at Hungary’s crown jewels, which are displayed on one of the towers. The castle is best seen from the Nový Most while crossing over the Danube. Known as the longest cable-stayed bridge, the structure is also one of Slovakia’s famous attractions.
Apart from the impressive buildings, Bratislava is home to little treasures that can surprise you as you stroll along its old downtown streets. The Cumil does exactly that, being a bronze sculpture of a man with half his body emerging from an open sewer.
From Town to Town
While in the country, take time to explore other towns and visit their famous buildings, like Košice’s State Theater, Trenčín’s Trenčín Castle, as well as Bardejov’s and Komárno’s town halls.
The second largest city in Slovakia, Košice boasts of a State Theater situated at the city center and inspired by Neo-baroque architecture. Here, travelers can enjoy world class performances of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies like Othello, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Other attractions worth visiting are the town halls of Bardejov and Komárno. According to the locals, the town of Bardejov got its name from the Hungarian terms bard (meaning chopper) and fa (meaning tree). Its most distinct feature is the town hall that was built in the year 1505. This building takes after different style influences—Gothic on the first floor and Renaissance on the second. It was mainly used as a city council, but was renovated in 1903 to serve as home to the Šariš Župa Museum.
While others town halls have been turned into museums, Komárno’s is still used as a municipal office. Built originally in 1718, the building has undergone many renovations before the official two-storey building we see today was constructed in 1875. In front is the General Klapka Square where visitors can see a statue of György Klapka, a general who led Komárno’s defence command against the Austrian army.
You’ll further witness Slovakia’s rich history when you explore the majestic Trenčín Castle. Overlooking the town of Trenčín, the castle is said to date back to the time of the Roman Empire, proven by the inscription found on a rock below the fortress. Once called by the Roman Legion as Laugaricio or Laugarito, the edifice displays various furniture, weaponry, artefacts as well as an archaeological collection. The most well-loved spots among tourists are the Well of Love (an 80-meter deep well), the summer tower, and the dungeons.
For the Love of Nature
Slovakia is also renowned for its many national parks and lakes that allow travelers to experience nature away from the city kerfuffle. Among the famous and well-visited ones are the Tatra National Park and the Muránska planina National Park.
There are nine protected and preserved national parks in Slovakia, but Tatra is probably the most popular for being the oldest and for housing Tatra mountain range’s highest peak. Adventure-lovers will enjoy trekking in the forest trails, spelunking in the Belianska Cave, and swimming in the pristine lakes found in the area.
The Muránska planina National Park, on the other hand, is one of the newest national parks of Slovakia. It offers spelunking into over 150 notable caves as well as mountain hikes through two educational trails.
A Fresh Start
Learning how to enjoy life’s simple pleasures is not only possible—it is easily attainable. This is not about what is happening around us, but what is happening within us. What matters most is that you value every moment and treasure every second.
The key is happiness. Finding true joy in everything you do creates a deep sense of contentment and a positive feeling that plasters a smile in your face. And maybe that is what the New Year wants everyone to realize: we will always have that chance to begin again and restart our lives in a different way if only we can find real happiness in all the little things. So find that fresh start now and enjoy life’s simple pleasures in Slovakia.
Happy New Year!