We passed though Slovakia for our 2nd time. We were here last October briefly, visiting Bratislava for 1 day only. Thankfully we had more time and better weather this visit. Here are some of the things I found interesting…
- Slovakia is a narrow, landlocked country in Central Europe. It is surrounded by the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, Ukraine, and Hungary.
- For almost 1000 years, the region that became Slovakia was part of Hungary or the Austro-Hungarian empire. Slovakia then became part of Czechoslovakia, a union which took place after the World War I.
- During World War II Slovakia separated again and was a fascist puppet state led by Jozef Tiso and controlled by the Nazis. The pre–World War II population of the country included an estimated 90,000 Jews. After the genocide only about 2,300 Jews remained. Tiso was the only European leader to pay the Nazi authorities to deport his country’s Jews.
- After World War II, Czechoslovakia was reconstituted and was under the control of the Soviets. Jozef Tiso was hanged in 1947 for collaboration with the Nazis. As part of the many population transfers agreed to by the Allies, more than 80,000 Hungarians and 32,000 Germans were forced to leave Slovakia.
- In 1989 the Velvet Revolution brought about the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia. Slovak nationalism was rekindled leading to the peaceful separation of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on January 1, 1993 (known as the Velvet Divorce).
- Slovakia has a varied geography with a lot of mountains. 20% of the land is protected in parks. The beautiful High Tatras, in the North of the country near Poland, are the smallest of the high mountain ranges in Europe.
- We visited the capital city Bratislava last October. It was cold and drizzly and a Sunday, so everything was closed. The castle above the town was a recent reconstruction. I didn’t enjoy it much. It gets praise from many others though, so I’d like to give it another try some day.
- Bratislava is only 60 kilometers from Vienna, the capital of Austria.
- Like its former partner the Czech Republic, Slovakia plays pretty good ice hockey at the international level. Slovakians are fanatical about it, which sounds like some other people I know…