Slovakia is situated in the heart of Europe (Central Europe) surrounded by Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria and Ukraine. The shortest border is with Ukraine and the longest with Hungary. The Slovak Republic belongs with its total area 49,0039 sq km to middle-sized European country. It is rather mountainous country, 80% of its teritory is 750m above the sea level. There are High Tatras in the north, where the highest peak of Slovakia called Gerlach Peak with height of 2655m is also located. The most famous places of the High Tatras are Gerlach Peak, Kriváň Peak or Lomnický Peak. A few kilometres southern there are the Low Tatras that are not as high as the High Tatras. The most popular peaks are here Ďumbier, Chopok and Kráľová Hoľa. There are also other mountains in the country, but they are not as popular as the Tatras. In the west there is Big Fatra, Small Fatra and White Carpathian Mountains, Small Carpathian Mountains. Slovak territory is rich in fauna and most animal species live in the mountainous woodland. You can find some interesting species of butterflies, lizards, the brown bear, the lynx or bats. The largest and the most important lowland for agriculture is Podunajska Plain, which is situated in the southwest of the country. In the west there is Zahorska Plain and in the southeast there is located another large lowland called Eastern Slovakia Plain, with the lowest place of Slovakia called Streda nad Bodrogom (94 m). Overall, lowlands occupy 11% of the territory of Slovakia. Most of the rivers rise and disappear in the Slovak territory. The biggest rivers are Danube, Vah, Hron, Ipel, Hornad and Nitra. The most important river is Danube, because it is the only river used for river transport. The longest river is The Vah (378km). There are many lakes and reservoirs in Slovakia but they are not very large. The most famous lakes are in the High Tatras, where they are called tarns. Well-known are Popradske tarn, Strbske tarn and Veľké Hincovo tarn. The largest reservoir is Zemplinska Sirava, which is also called The Slovak Sea. The climate is the mixture of continental and ocean climates with four seasons. July is the hottest month everywhere, January the coldest. Lowlands are the driest and warmest areas with an average temperature of 10.4 °C. The coldest places are peaks with the average temperature of -4 °C.
The population of Slovakia is 5.38 million inhabitants, so it belongs to smaller countries in Europe. The majority of the population is represented by the Slovak nationality (85.8 %). The largest minority is Hungarians (9.7 %) living mostly in the southern part of the country. Romany (1.7%) live dispersed on whole territory. Ukrainians and Ruthenians live in the east. Other minorities are: Czechs, Germans, Poles, Bulgarian, Jewish and Croatians. National minorities of the Slovaks live in the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, the USA, Canada, Australia and Hungary. Population density is 109 inhabitants per sq km. The average age of the inhabitants is 36 years and the average life expectancy for men is 70 and 78 years for woman. The official language is Slovak but there are various dialects in regions. There are 15 registered churches in Slovakia. 69% of inhabitants of Slovak Republic profess Roman-Catholic, 6.9% Evangelist of the Ausburg Confession and 4.1% Greek-Catholic. 14% of the inhabitants are without denomination.
HISTORY AND POLITICS
The Slavs came to the territory of Slovakia in the 5th century AD. The first state was called Samo’s empire in the 7th century. In the 9th century Great Moravia Empire came to existence. It’s centre was in Nitra. In 863 Prince Rastislav invited two Byzantine brothers – Cyril and Methodius who founded the oldest Slavonic alphabet and brought Christian religion to this region. After the disintegration of Great Moravia Empire in the 10th century it became a part of the early feudal Hungarian state (after Hun invasion). In 1843 Ľudovít Štúr codified the literary Slovak language. Hungarian dominated until 1918 when the Czechs and Slovaks create the independent state the Czechoslovak Republic. This first republic lasted until World War II. Then, Slovakia became a separate republic that was tightly controlled by Nazi Germany. After World War II, Czechoslovakia was reassembled and came under the influence of the Soviet Union. The end of communist rule in Czechoslovakia was in 1989 during the peaceful Velvet Revolution. On January 1st 1993, ČSR split into two independent states: the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. Slovakia became a democratic republic with a parliamentary system. The executive power is in the hands of the President and Government. The head of the republic is the President (Ivan Gašparovič), who is elected by people for a five-year period. The Government consists of the Prime Minister (Mikuláš Dzurinda), the Vice-Prime Ministers and Ministers. The National Council (the head is Pavol Hrušovský) has the legislative power in the country. It has 150 members and their office period is 4 years. The judicial power is represented by courts at various levels, starting with the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court and going down to regional courts. The state's symbols are The National Emblem, the Flag, the Seal and the Anthem. Slovakia is the member of EU, NATO and OECD. Since 1996, the Slovak Republic has been divided into eight regions, which are divided in to 79 districts. Region seats are at the biggest Slovak towns which are: Bratislava, Košice, Prešov, Nitra, Žilina, Banská Bystrica, Trnava and Trenčín. Bratislava is the capital city. With almost 0.5 million inhabitants it is the largest city in Slovakia. This town is situated on the south-west, near Austrian border and it is Danube port. It is the seat of Slovak President, Government, National Council and cultural (the Slovak National Theatre, the Slovak National Gallery) economical, educational and scientific institutions. Bratislava is famous for their cultural monuments, museums and galleries. In comparison with the rest of Slovakia is Bratislava completely different. It is a state within a state. There is a lot of large modern shopping centres, cinemas, theatres, pubs – simply - you will never get bored here, but too much cars, industry and peoples have made a huge pollution, unfresh air, awful stink. Everything has its pros and cons…
Slovakia has a market economy. The currency is the Slovak crown and it is divided into 100 hellers. Nearly 50% of land is arable and it is used for growing wheat, corn, sugar, beet, hops, sunflower, potatoes and tobacco. In animal production is widen sheep-, pig-, cattle- and poultry-farming. Slovakia is not abundant in natural resources, but there are some resources of ironstone, brown coal, antimony, gas and petroleum. Nowadays the popular industries are engineering, metallurgy, food, textile and chemical industry. The well-known firms are VW Bratislava (engineering), U.S.Steel Košice (metallurgy), Nestlé Prievidza (food industry), Ozeta Trenčín (textile industry) and Slovnaft Bratislava (petrochemical industry).
INTERESTS AND RARITIES
Slovakia is a beautiful country with many interests and rarities situated on the relatively small place. And that’s the reason why is Slovakia interesting for many foreign tourists. According to my opinion the most interesting places in Slovakia are:
• The High Tatras
Mountain with 30 valleys, almost 100 lakes, 600 km of hiking paths, many streams and this all surrounded by high peaks. It is ideal for spending some time in summer there. There are a lot of hotels and cableways with ski-runs which can be used for a perfect winter vacation.
In Slovakia you may visit hundreds of castles, mansions and ruins from time of Roman Empire to 19th century. The most popular are the Bratislava Castle, Devín Castle, Čachtice castle with its bloody history or one of the largest in Central Europe - Spiš Castle.
• Vlkolínec, Čičmany
The villages represent preserved original folk architecture.
Capital city of Slovakia with many famous sights like for example Bratislava castle with well-known four towers, Old Town Hall (this building belongs to the oldest buildings in Slovakia), Cathedral of St. Martin (place where Maria Theresa was crowned) and many many more.
There are 4300 caves in Slovakia. Dobšinská ice cave belongs to the biggest caves in Europe. The longest cave in the country is Demänová stalactite cave in the Low Tatras with length of 33 km.
• Mineral and thermal springs
There are more than 1,300 such springs in Slovakia. Many of them were basis for establishing spa towns like for example is Piešťany or Bardejov.
CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS
Every country has something special, something what own only it. As well as Slovak natural beauties here belongs typical food as well. The Slovak national dish is bryndzové halušky. It consists of the Slovak traditional sheep cheese – bryndza and of gnocchi, which are made of potatoes and flour. Other typical food is potato pancakes - haruľa, legume soup, mutton and lokše. Growing wine has also long been a tradition. The best areas for wine growing are south-eastern slopes of the Small Carpathians and Tokay region on the east of Slovakia. Another typical drink is liquor from juniper berries called borovička. Drinking hard spirits or plum brandy is also a tradition.
Slovak people have a lot of festivities which have roots in their history. One of the oldest is fašiangy festival held at the end of February or the beginning of March. People walk down the street dressed in funny costumes, sing and dance to celebrate the end of winter and welcome the coming spring. Another festival is Easter. People go to church to commemorate Jesus Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday. On Easter Monday boys go from house to house and splash girls with whips and wash them with water so they will be healthy and strong all the next year. The boys are given coloured eggs as a reward. But the nicest festival of the year is Chistmas, especially Christmas Eve (24th December) and Christmas Day (25th December). On 24th December people decorate house and Christmas tree and prepare a special Christmas dinner which is served in the evening. It consists of waffles with honey, then cabbage soup with mushrooms is served. On 25th December people visits each other.
Slovaks like traditional music and dancing. Stringed instrumental (violin, cymbalo) and pipes (shepherd pipe, fujara) are typical in Slovak folk music. The most popular Slovak folkloric group is Lúčnica. Famous folkloric festivals are in Detva, Východná and Terchová.
The most popular sport is football. Every twentieth person plays football professionally. Ice hockey is popular too and especially after the obtaining gold medal from World Championship in 2002. Among other favourite sports are cycling, skating, swimming, volleyball and basketball as well.
Many foreign tourists can experience culture shock in Slovakia because of another culture, different attitudes and a different way of life. There are a few topics in which you should be attentive:
Clothes are socially important, especially in large cities. If you are not well-dressed, be prepared for stares. Your shoes should be polished and when you enter someone’s house, you are expected to leave your shoes at the door. Your host will offer you a pair of slippers.
If you have a date, bring flowers, but always give an odd number (even numbered bouquets are reserved for funerals). Also if the flowers are wrapped in paper take them out before you present them.
Men should go first when entering the bar in case that there is a fight. You have to protect a woman.
When you are offered a drink, you are expected to clink glasses and to make eye contact. And don’t forget that Slovaks are quite passionate drinker.
Drivers are impatient and do not respect speed limits. It is rare to see a driver who goes prescribed speed (40 km/h) in a village.
It is said that Slovak people are hardworking, very friendly, hospitable, although they are not very rich. But one thing what really drives me mad is a discrimination. As I already have mentioned, the biggest minority group in Slovakia is Hungarian. They have their own political party, which is widely supported also by non-Hungarians, and has its place in coalition.
However, in real life, there are different relations between Hungarian and non-Hungarian people. In minds of Slovaks is deeply engraved, that we had to live under pressure of Hungarian reign for many years. And so people behave. Generally unfriendly. Best is this fact proved by the statements of the president of Slovak National Party politician Jan Slota. His maybe best known statement concerning Hungarians is: “We’ll get into tanks and set out to Budapest!” Same discrimination is against Roma inhabitants. Example can be the fact that every employer rather employees a guy with a good social hinterland, and whom he can trust. And that’s the reason why majority of Romans doesn’t have a job. It means no nice income, what reflects in bad home and social hinterland. This is a very simple view, but we can call it magic circle.
SLOVAK’S PLACE IN THE EUROPEAN UNION
Slovak republic joined EU on the 1st May in the year 2004, but I don’t think that we are a full member of this union. We can’t go working into the European states because they made a 7-year working moratorium against the 10 joining countries. The reason of this behaviour is that they afraid of cheap working forces. We aren’t a member of Schengen so it means that we still must use identity card or passport when we want to go to another state of EU. Despite of these limits I think that in soon time it will be all right and Slovakia will be equal to another members of EU.
We all know that Slovakia is not big, wealthy country or we don’t have huge amount of mineral resources. So then, in what things we could be useful for the EU? Slovakia has brought up many clever people like for example constructor of parachute Štefan Banič or a constructor of helicopter Ján Bahýľ, Slovak origin have people like Eugen Cernan (the second American cosmonaut who stepped on a moon), Paul Newman (actor), Martina Hingis (famous tennis player) or Andy Warhol (painter and major figure in the pop art movement) and many many more. So I think that Slovakia could bring more sacks to the mill with people which could make this world better for living…
Referaty - www.referaty.sk
Nová maturita z angličtiny (Aktuell-2003) - www.martinus.sk/shop/index.php?uItem=13530
Wikipedia - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slovakia