My dad is an avid hiker and a climber, in his fifty years he hiked more than several thousand miles altogether, bringing me along since I was just three years old. Since then I had the pleasure to explore the riches and beauties of my country, looking down on the plush land from one of the highest peaks of Tatra Mountains. Tatras, as they are called, are the tallest mountains in the Carpathian mountain range, creating the natural border between Slovakia and Poland in the north.
Slovakia also has one of the coolest national parks in the world named the Slovak Paradise, with endless ladders to climb, ropes to pull and shallow creeks to walk through. I am mentioning the nature first and forth most, because that’s what Slovakia is, long and green, with numerous long rivers twisting and turning through the country, most famous of them Danube.
And what Slovakia lacks in numbers, as it has only about five and half million people, it makes up in the number of medieval castles, caves, hot springs, gothic cathedrals and of course its capital city – Bratislava. Bratislava is the city I was born in. Since then it changed tremendously, it is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe. Once upon a time it used to be a crowning town for the Emperors of the Hungaro-Austrian Empire, the last one was Maria Theresa, who had sixteen children, phew.
Now every summer Bratislava hosts a culture summer festival, featuring street performers, dancers, local theaters, folk concerts, open air theater and many more. The highlight of the entire summer is an open air Shakespeare festival that is played under the stars in the center courtyard of the Bratislava castle. All together it is a pretty fancy schmancy feast for the eyes, soul and belly alike.
Talking about belly, the most traditional food you can ask for in Slovakia, is a dish called sheep cheese dumplings. The dumplings are made from potatoes and flour, and then cooked. Sheep cheese is a soft, crumbling cheese, made out of, obviously sheep milk and it’s about the same consistency as feta. When the dumplings are cooked, they get served on a plate with a big scoop of sheep cheese on the top and fried bits of bacon. It is usually served with a glass of cold milk. It is not in any shape or form light, or healthy food that you would normally eat. This dish was designed for the sheep herders hundreds of years ago, when they needed energy and strength to roam the beautiful and tall mountains. It still is one of my favorites however, and I order it every time I go home.
I get to visit my family every year, mostly in the fall or winter. For me, Slovakia is most beautiful during the fall, when the leaves start to change its colors from dark green, to bright yellow, fiery red, all away to auburn brown. The air changes, especially around the river Danube. On a bright and crispy day, while walking down the riverbank, you can small the earthiness and salt from the distant land and sea.
When I was a child, I use to daydream about boarding a boat that would take me away, sailing me onto many adventures. Since then I grew up and got to travel around the world, fortunate to experience amazing things on the way. But every time I have the chance to travel, I never miss at least a week or two to spend in my country, with my family that I got to cherish more, since I am halfway across the world from them the rest of the year.
If you will ever have the chance to visit Vienna, don’t forget that Bratislava is just around the corner, literally only an hour away by a car, or a boat. You will certainly be amazed how unexpectedly cool Slovakia is. And remember that a young Mozart use to concert there, when he was just a prodigy and not yet the genius composer. So if you wander into an old, small courtyard in the historical center of the town, close your eyes for a second, and listen to the thick, stone walls, that will surely sound with his music.
About the Author: My name is Stanislava Dobnak, I am thirty years old, living in the sunny Honolulu. My passion is writing, movies and dark chocolate. Read more about me on my blog, StanislavaDobnak