» View our vacations to Slovakia
Slovakia became an independent nation in 1993—and its development is still in progress. Since independence, major privatizations of the industrial and financial areas are almost complete and foreign investment has increased, and it has turned into an economic engine for the region. Economically, Slovakia is quite progressive, earning qualification to adopt the Euro in early 2009. Due to the worldwide economic problems of late 2009, however, its overall growth and prosperity has slowed from the highs it experienced in the early 21st century.
As with the many other local countries, the history of Slovakia is complex, with earlier ethnic and cultural difficulties continuing today. Celts, Romans, Barbarian tribes, Huns, Slavs, Hungarians, and eventually Germans and the Soviet Union—as part of the Warsaw Pact in 1948—ruled the region at one point or another. The population today reflects that diversity, and it continues to struggle to find a common national identity. The majority of the population is ethnic Slovak, but there is still a large contingent of Hungarians living along the Hungarian border; and the country has a community of Gypsies, or Roma, as a significant segment of the population, while smaller ethnic enclaves are spotted throughout the country.
Bratislava reinvigorated its Old Town, which today feels both youthful and vibrant. The smudge of communist architecture has often been replaced with modern, Western style buildings. The emerging city is a far cry from its late 20th century composition. Outside the city, Slovakia is still quite rural and rustic—which means accommodations, dining, and culture in general can be less than progressive.
A notable historical highlight can be found at the impressive mid-European castle of Spissky Hrad. As if grown out of the rock base of the small hilltop it perches on, the sprawling remains are reminiscent of the Incan stronghold at Machu Picchu. While these ruins overlook a placid countryside—as opposed to the dramatic Andes—the sense of an organic, intricate, and perhaps even lovingly built structure is apparent.