The Alternative Guide to… Slovakia

06 Jun 2016

Slovakia at a Glance

Capital city: Bratislava
Population: 5.5 million
Local currency: euro (£1 = 1.31€)
Famous face: Stefan Banic, who patented the parachute in 1913

5 things you never knew about Slovakia

In Slovak, yes is "ano" - confusingly pronounced "ah-no"! 

With similar names and flags, Slovakia is often confused with Slovenia. Both Silvio Berlusconi and George W Bush have mixed up the two countries at official functions, and it's said that the embassies in one country in Europe meet every month to exchange wrongly addressed mail.

Slovaks do like their football, but their favourite sport is arguably ice hockey. The men's national team is ranked eighth best in the world by the International Ice Hockey Federation, and the World Championships were held in Slovakia in 2011.

Active geysers aren't unique to Iceland; Slovakia has one too. It's in a park in Herľany, near Košice in the east of the country, and erupts every 32-34 hours, spouting water up to 20 metres into the air.

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Ladies: think twice about visiting Slovakia over Easter Monday. On this day it is customary for men to douse women with water and whip their legs with willow sticks - supposedly to guarantee they'll stay healthy and pretty for the coming year. In return for the rough treatment, the ladies treat the blokes to fruit, money and painted Easter eggs. Who said crime doesn't pay?!

National dish

Spending Christmas in Slovakia? Forget about turkey, pigs in blankets and roast potatoes! Their traditional festive dish is carp, which is eaten as the main event on Christmas Eve. It's often sliced into horseshoe-shaped fillets for good luck, and is accompanied by cabbage soup and potato salad.

If you see one thing in Slovakia, make sure it’s…

... one of the country's many castles. In fact, Slovakia reckons to have more per capita than anywhere else in the world, with 180 castles and 425 "chateaux". Belgium might have something to say about that. Don't miss the UNESCO-listed Spišský hrad (Spis Castle), a 12th-century edifice in the east of the country, near Poprad. It's one of the largest castle complexes in Central Europe and is a popular filming location.

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