These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.

Central Slovakia

 photo: Ján Svrček

Central Slovakia is the true heart of the country, the cradle of national folklore and identity.

The Slovak language was first codified here, in 1848 in Martin, where locals still like to say they speak the purest Slovak in the country. Juraj Jánošík, the Slovak Robin Hood, roamed these forests for years, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. The Slovak National Uprising (SNP), a partisan movement of anti-fascists in World War II, originated here as well.

In a country known for its stunning mountains, this area is home to three of its four major mountain ranges: the Malá Fatra, Veľká Fatra and Low Tatras.

In the middle of it all is Banská Bystrica, which appropriately has the country’s grandest SNP Square, plus the SNP museum. In the surrounding hills are several charming towns and villages: the world’s first university devoted to chemistry, physics and minerology was founded in Banská Štiavnica, in 1762; Kremnica was the royal minting town of the Hungarian Kingdom, producing the valuable Kremnica ducats it grew rich on; Špania Dolina, in the Low Tatras, first thrived on mining, then switched fields of expertise to bobbin-lace making.

Moving north, visitors find Vlkolínec, a tiny village in the Veľká Fatra mountains where time appears to have stopped hundreds of years ago. Then there is Čičmany, a village where locals - for reasons unknown - used to decorate the exteriors of their wooden homes with unique designs.

Žilina is run by the controversial Ján Slota, an unsavoury figure who has nevertheless overseen the dramatic transformation of his city from a dour post-communist industrial centre to one of the more fetching cities in the country.

The majestic Orava castle and a friendly, folksy tourism industry welcome visitors to the far northern reaches of the country in the Orava region. Slovakia’s largest wooden church - built without a single nail - is found in the Liptov region.

And, naturally, there’s the hiking. Virtually all cities, towns and villages are connected by an elaborate spider’s-web network of trails which take you through highland pastures thick with grazing sheep, and up towering mountains offering some of the best views in the country.

This is where visitors go to get the most authentic slice of Slovak life. This is where a few days simply do not suffice, where travellers start entertaining fantasies of relocating, of getting closer to nature and a simpler way of life.

This is truly a treat.

Welcome to Central Slovakia.

- Chris Togneri

These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2002.

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