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.

Author's note

When I first agreed to take on the project of writing the 2003 Spectacular Slovakia in December of last year, I knew precisely two things about the country: 1) that it had once been part of Czechoslovakia; and 2) that at some point after the 1989 Velvet Revolution, it had split off from the Czech Republic, although without any of the violence that marked Yugoslavia's splintering.

In early February, I left New York for Bratislava with a half-read copy Stanislav J. Kirschbaum's A History of Slovakia: The Struggle for Survival and an intense curiosity. Now, in June, I have lived in the country for nearly five months. In that brief time I have crisscrossed Slovakia three times, twice by car and once by public transportation; listened to its winemakers, brew masters, bee keepers, glass blowers, farmers, and chefs; studied - and written an extended piece on - its history; seen its most famous castles, churches, mountain ranges, and caves; heard its folk music; experienced the Easter ceremonies of its Ruthenian minority in the east; and spent a weekend in the home of a glass blower's family in the south. What you have in your hands is the result of this immersion course in Slovakia, its history, its customs, its cuisine, its viniculture, its beer, and its tourist attractions.

This year's Spectacular represents a break from previous editions. In the past, Spectacular mimicked the structure of a conventional guidebook; it was oriented regionally, moving from west to east. This year, we've arranged it by topic. We open with Bratislava, gateway to the country from the west, and then move into detailed discussions of such topics as wine, beer, food, history and architecture (among others) - all of which are designed to help visitors dig as deeply as possible into Slovakia's unique qualities as they travel across the country. In a nod to convention, we've added a regional section towards the end. This section contains detailed descriptions of Slovakia's towns and cities, and tips about getting from one place to another.

For brevity's sake, some articles that I wrote have the initials TP appended to the bottom. Likewise, the names of other contributors have been abbreviated to their initials in places.

I hope this Spectacular Slovakia, with its new, topical approach, will be as fun and interesting to read as it was to write.

Tom Philpott

These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2003.

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