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Slovakia

Kosice, Slovakia

Bratislava

October 27, 2004
Peaceful Capital

We got into Bratislava late and got off at the wrong station. We noticed in time to watch our train pull away from the station, so we were stuck. Fortunately we met a young Slovakian girl who spoke good English and she just happened to be going to the main train station so helped us get there. She was very nice and seemed very excited to meet Americans, but she was perhaps more excited to learn the Polish phrases that we taught her. She showed us the way to the hotel then we departed ways.

The hotel was expensive for a couple college students and we paid more than we did in Prague, but it was our best option this late and a fairly nice place.

October 28, 2004

Breakfast was included in our room cost so we ate, left our bags in the hotel and went to the train station around the corner. We realized that there are only day trains to Krakow so we booked one at 3:00pm. This gave us only a few hours in Bratislava so we took off to see as much as we could. The city is very nice, but small and easily manageable.

We saw the president's palace as the military was outside doing some routines. We also saw the castle, which provided great views. The town itself is nice, the streets and buildings are great, but there's very little to see and much of the city is more communist, architecturally, than Slovakian outside the historic downtown.

The couple hours we had were good enough to see the highlights and when 3:00 came around we were ready to go.

*    *    *

Kosice

August 26, 2005
Central Europe's Hidden Gem

I took off this morning from Krakow to Košice. The trip started off pretty slow on the osobowy train into Źilina, Slovakia. It felt slow until I reached the Tatras, peaking in their beauty on the Polish side around Ziwiec. The trip was even slower here and at the border we had to get on a bus to the Slovakian side at which point we got on another train which continued on to Źilina.

In Źilina I transferred to a third train and almost immediately realized that Slovakia got the better side of the mountains in this deal. The intercity train from Źilina to Košice was spectacular, running across the northern part of the country. Everywhere there seemed to be tiny villages in mountain valleys with a catholic church rising above the rest of the buildings. Each church was slightly different; however each seemed to be white with a green copper steeple or a darker surface standing like a painting on the canvas of a mountainous background. The scene became almost identical everywhere and by the end of the trip the scenery was predictable, however this fact failed to tarnish the beauty as each town seemed just as perfect as the last. The landscape grew more incredible with each passing town and soon I arrived in Košice, the capital of the east.

Upon arrival I quickly found Gruber (my friend in the Peace Corps in Ukraine) and his girlfriend, Yanna who is half Ukrainian and half Slovakian. After attempting to find some non-carbonated water, an unsuccessful attempt mind you, we headed through the park to check into our hotel. The hotel is nice and a private room for $12 is a pretty good value. After this we headed into town to grab some food and see the city since we would only be here for a day.

Yanna seemed more than eager to show me the city as if it were her own. She told me of the architecture and its beauty. Gruber is convinced it is a hidden gem and it perhaps is. If this city were further west or more accessible it would be more touristy, however it has one "flaw," it has no night life and the city shuts down by 10 or 11. This is not a problem for us, however those looking for a "lads' weekend" will never go; in a way, this is perhaps the greatest attribute the city has.

It was a very pleasant day and after walking the streets for a couple hours we grabbed dinner. I had a dish Yanna said is very traditionally Slovakian so I got it, not quite sure what I was getting myself into. It was great though, an almost pasta-type thing, but more doughy, small and round covered in a light sauce. This sauce was dominated by the sour cream and salo, or pig fat; translated as bacon on the menu it really is almost the same as bacon fat. The food was great and extremely filling.

After this we headed across the street to watch the water fountain show to music. At one point I just started laughing. The show was nothing more than music and lights as the water pressure rose and fell to vaguely represent the music. What I laughed at though was the people; they were so involved in the show and everyone who walked past couldn't help but stop. Yanna also seemed to enjoy it so I covered my laughter and just shook my head.

August 27, 2005

We got up way too early today to hit up the grocery store, see the church tower and head to Uzhgorod, Ukraine. Yanna is very impressed with the grocery stores in the area and Tesco just amazes her. I guess it would amaze me too if I had never seen anything like it; the first time I saw Sam's Club I was amazed. We went shopping for food since items like peanut butter are a priority for my Peace Corps friend, Gruber. This grocery store had a great selection and soon we were waiting for Yanna, who didn't want to leave.

After this we grabbed ice cream and soon Yanna was shopping again, this time for shampoo. As she was shopping, Gruber and I just caught up and relaxed on the steps of the theater. Upon Yanna's return she almost immediately needed to buy something from Tesco so disappeared again.

Once she returned we headed to the top of the church tower. The climb was great and the views spectacular. Yanna kept talking about the communist bloc apartment buildings and how the population grew so much during the time of communism. It struck me as odd how her and I take notice of different things at first glance, but she makes a very interesting point I never considered; there was a great urban migration under communist times as industrialization became a priority.

Looking at the more immediate scenery, the church's roof is in colored tiles, much like a large number of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire including Buda's castle church, a few buildings in Pest along with works in northern Romania, Bratislava, and northern Serbia.

After enjoying the views we headed to the bus station, where Gruber got us tickets while Yanna and I headed to the train station so she could translate for me: from Slovak to Russian. After getting my return train ticket to Krakow, we made it to the bus station next door with plenty of time to spare.

Continue the above trip to: Ukraine

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