Slovakia my country
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Slovakia my country
The Slovak Republic is a new state which came into existence on 1st January 1993 when former Czechoslovakia was divided and two sovereign states were formed: The Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
The Slovak Republic is a small country situated in the heart of Europe, the geographical centre of Europe being on the hill Krahule, near Kremnica. Slovakia borders with the Czech Republic to the West, Austria to the Southwest, Hungary to the Southeast, Poland to the North and the Ukraine to the East.
About 5 million inhabitants live in an area of about 44 000 sq.km. The inhabitants are mostly Slovak, the southern part is inhabited by Hungarians, and there are some other national minorities, such as Ukrainians and Poles. The density is 106 inhabitants per sq. km. The official language is Slovak. The majority of the population is Roman Catholic.
The National symbols of Slovakia are the National anthem (Nad Tatrou sa blýska by Janko Matuška), the National seal, the National flag which consists of three horizontal stripes: white, blue and red. The left half of the flag bears the state emblem of the Slovak Republic – a double cross on top of three mountains in the background. The capital of the Slovak Republic is Bratislava – the largest city, the centre of political, governmental, economic, educational and research institutions.
Slovakia is a parliamentary democracy. The government system is divided into three branches: the legislative branch represented by the National Council of the Slovak Republic, the executive branch represented by the Government (the Prime Minister and his cabinet) and the President, and the judicial branch. The National Council of the Slovak Republic is the law making body, it consists of 150 members elected every four years. The President is elected every five years. The Slovak Government consists of the Prime Minister, vice-prime minister and ministers. The judicial power is represented by courts at various levels, starting with the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court and going down to the courts at all levels of regional and district government.
Slovakia is a small country but it has a long and rich history. The territory of the Slovak Republic has been settled since the 5th century when the first Slavic tribes came to this part of Europe. In the 9th century our country was a part of the strong Great Moravian Empire, which disintegrated in the 10th century. There have been several milestones in Slovak history that are worth mentioning:
833 - The Great Moravian Empire was founded.
863 - Byzantine brothers Constantine and Methodius headed on a mission to Great Moravia, created the oldest Slavic alphabet and translated the liturgical books into old Church Slavonic which they codified.
907 - The Great Moravian Empire disintegrated and Slovakia became a part of the nearly feudal Hungarian state.
19th century - The time of national revival
1843 - Ľudovít Štúr codified the literary Slovak language.
1861 - The Memorandum of the Slovak nation was published.
Oct 28, 1918 - The Czechoslovak Republic was founded.
March 14, 1939 - The Declaration of the Slovak Republic – a puppet state of Nazi Germany
Aug 29, 1944 - The Slovak National Uprising against the Nazi Germany started.
1968 - Prague Spring – led by Alexander Dubček
Aug 21, 1968 - Invasion of the Warsaw Pact troops into Czechoslovakia.
Nov 17, 1989 - The Velvet Revolution, restoration of democracy.
Jan 1, 1993 - The Independence of the Slovak Republic was declared.
The climate of our country is continental, rather mild. Slovakia is a mountainous country, especially the north of it. The largest mountain ranges are the Tatras with the highest peak Gerlach (2654m), the Low Tatras, the Slovenské Rudohorie, the Malá and Veľká Fatra etc. The south and east of the country is rather flat, the Danube Lowland and the East-Slovak Lowland can be found there.
The longest Slovak river is the Váh. This river together with the Nitra, the Hron and some others join the Danube in the south. The most important rivers in the eastern part are the Hornád, Torysa, Ondava, Uh and Latorica.
There are not many lakes in Slovakia, but we do have several beautiful mountain lakes, such as Štrbské pleso, Hincovo and Vrbické pleso. The largest dams are Liptovská Mara, Gabčíkovo, Zemplínska Šírava and Orava Dam.
Slovakia is not very rich in natural resources. There are brown-coal mines (Handlová, Nováky) and bright-metal mines in central Slovakia (Slovenské Rudohorie – copper, gold, silver), we also have some oil (Gbely), natural gas and building materials. Unfortunately, we have to import most of raw materials.
The main industrial branches are the iron and steel industry (Košice), car industry, electronics industry, light and heavy engineering, chemical industry (Bratislava, Šaľa, Hlohovec), including the production of man-made fibres (Humenné) and oil refineries. Clothing (Trenčín, Púchov, Topoľčany) and food-processing industries are also of great importance.
As for agriculture, the main areas of arable land are in the southern and eastern lowlands. Corn, beetroot, sugar beet, rapeseed, sunflower, wheat, barley and potatoes are the main crops, but vegetables, fruits, hops and vines are grown too. But from when we started produce food only for profit, not for covering our country’s consumption, the quantity of imported food grew rapidly, and the quality of the food decreased. Slovakia’s got really quality food producers. Everyone’s really proud of it and many people are promoting it. The meat production focuses on raising cattle, pigs, poultry and sheep. Arable land and the whole agricultural production is still mostly in the ownership of co-operative farms.
Although Slovakia is a small country, we have a lot of places worth seeing, and we hope they will be discovered by foreign visitors soon. Our spas in Piešťany, Trenčianske Teplice and Bardejov have a good reputation not only in our country. Tourists also like to see the Tatras with their resort areas, and while touring in the country, visitors, especially hikers, are attracted by many mansions, castles and fortresses, like Devín, Trenčín, Spišský hrad or Krásna Hôrka. The famous caves are worth seeing too, such as Demänovská ľadová jaskyňa, Dobšinská jaskyňa, as well as an ice-cave Domica.
Carpathian Wine Trail - The first town on the route is Svätý Jur. 700 years ago, the town was the military hub of a dynasty of counts who ruled the region from the castle Biely Kameň. Over the next three centuries, Svätý Jur grew as an economic power as well, taking in money from wine and crafts until 1663, when the town was burnt down by the invading Turks. The town centre remains picturesque and pure. Most houses still have wine cellars in their basements, and many local residents still produce their own wine.
Trnava is Slovakia‘s oldest town dating back to 1238. In the 16th century it became a coronation site, it took over as the Hungarian Empire‘s spiritual and cultural centre. The town hit its peak a century later when the Jesuits established the first Hungarian university in 1635. Trnava with its 14 churches is called „the Slovak Rome“. The oldest church is the in 1325 built Church of St Helen.
Čičmany – Deep in the mountains of north-western Slovakia, there is a village of beautiful wooden houses, each hand-painted with special designs. The village is Čičmany, a place hard to find on a map but truly worth seeing. Čičmany‘s name and its special attraction are the direct products of its turbulent history: in the late 13th century, as the Tartars cut across Slovakia, villagers – including the Čič family – fled into the mountains. There isolated from other parts of the country, they developed their own traditions. The men farmed and herded sheep and cows; the women wove rich embroidery and clothes. Eventually, the villagers took the embroidered designs and applied them to their homes. A fire early in this century prompted the authorities to declare this village a national monument.
Banská Bystrica was the centre of the Slovak National Uprising in 1944. The Slovak National Uprising Museum is the most famous one in the city. It houses a collection of over 17.000 uniforms, maps, and other artefacts from both World Wars.
Kremnica is famed as a medieval centre of gold mining, which made it one of the richest towns in Hungary. There is a decent museum of coins and medals located on the main square.
Terchová is the birthplace of the Slovak folk hero Juraj Jánošík, often described to English speakers as the “Slovak Robin Hood”.
The Liptov region lies in the strip of land between the towering peaks of the High Tatras and the tree-covered hills of the Low Tatras. Liptov is known because of some of the best preserved folk architecture and villages in Slovakia - after all, they say this is where halušky comes from – as well as one of the country’s nicest lakes, its longest caves, and the highest peak in the Low Tatras. Liptovská Mara, a massive artificial lake, sits in the centre of Liptov. In the summertime, the Mara itself becomes an oasis for Slovak vacationers, filled with boaters, windsurfers, and fishermen. For a truly idyllic picture of Slovak village life, visit Pribylina, the tiny hamlet that, with its well-preserved cottages, its tall white church, and imposing manor house. In fact, the whole town is the Museum of the Liptov Village: the church, houses, and outbuildings were all rescued from 11 villages that were flooded when Liptovská Mara was built in 1975. It is a typical “skansen”, or outdoor museum.
Bojnice – The castle has been the star of Bojnice since the 11th century, when a wooden building stood in its place. It was converted to stone in the 13th century and underwent numerous facelifts until 1888, when Pálffy began major reconstruction. He also furnished the castle with antiques he bought across Europe. Perhaps the most impressive room in the castle is the Golden Hall, which has a carved and plated ceiling and has long been the setting for wedding ceremonies. The castle sits atop a rocky mound that contains a deep cavern with a mineral spring in its centre. The spring was converted into a 27-meter-deep well, which visitors can see at close hand by descending into the cave, which is 20 meters wide and 6 meters high. Back outside, Bojnice also has got a spa and Slovakia´s oldest and largest zoo.
The Spiš Region – Slovakia offers lots of attractions that are worth seeing. Within several hours a visitor coming to Slovakia can get to natural reservations and picturesque countryside along the Danube, fertile lowlands, hunting grounds, vineyards and quiet valleys where medieval castles used to protect historical trade routes. One unique sight in Slovakia is Spiš Castle. Spiš Castle dates back to the time before the 13th century and is known as one of the most extensive Gothic castles in Europe. The main body of the castle was a fortified by stone outer walls in the first half of the 13th century, enabling the castle to resist Tatar raids in 1241. A Romanesque palace and a tower were built in the castle at this time. The castle was extended by the addition of a central courtyard with entry gate watchtower in the 14th century. The extensive lower courtyard was built in the middle of the 15th century. During a fire in 1780, the castle suffered extensive damage and was not rebuilt afterwards. Extensive research and conservation had been done before the castle was opened to the public. In 1993, Spiš Castle including Spišské Podhradie, Spišská Kapitula and the church in the Žehra were listed as significant cultural and natural sites among some 300 of the most important monuments in the world.
The capital, Bratislava, is situated in the south-west of Slovakia, on the banks of the Danube. It is the political, administrative, economic and cultural centre of the country, and more than 400 000 inhabitants live there. Bratislava has become the centre for engineering, electrical engineering, the chemical industry, glass, printing and textiles. The city is dominated by the castle, which was home to the Slovak Parliament until 1993. Now, the castle houses the National Museum. Other historical buildings worth seeing include St Martin’s Cathedral, the Holy Saviour Church, St. Catherine´s Chapel the Slovak National Theatre, the Primatial and Grassalkovich Palaces. The Grassalkovich Palace is used by the president as his residence. The National Gallery chronicles Slovak art history. Visitors may be interested in seeing modern buildings, such as the seat of the parliament – the Slovak National Council near the castle, the Slovak Radio building or the new National Theatre. Besides these, there are a lot of theatres (Hviezdoslav Theatre, the New Scene, the Small Scene) museums, hotels, restaurants, schools, universities and hospitals in Bratislava. Bratislava is a city of young people, several thousands of students study at the Comenius University, the Slovak Technical University, the Pharmaceutical Faculty, the Faculty of Arts, and the College of Economics. We are not very proud of some housing estates with thousands of flats, situated on the outskirts, which remind us the era of the socialist architecture.
Slovak people are very friendly and hospitable but they are not very rich. They like traditional music and dancing and therefore there are many folk festivals in Slovakia every year – for example in Detva, Východná... At these festivals you can hear folk music and see many beautiful folk costumes and folk dances. These festivals are also visited by foreign tourists. We also have typical food. Our national dish is “Bryndzové halušky“ which is a meal made of potatoes and cheese called bryndza. Slovak national hero is Juraj Jánošík.
Slovak people are Christians and because of this the most important holidays are Christmas and Easter. For Christmas and Easter the Slovak families usually get together – they visit each other, bake cakes and cook traditional meals.
Beyond language the Slovak standard is politeness, also you may not realize it from the attitude of many in the service industries. Outside of the cities particularly, be prepared to meet friendly and generous people. They are never tired of saying "Ďakujem","Prosím", "Prepáčte".
Remember that there is a difference between a formal “vy” and informal “ty” form and it is used in different situations.
In Britain, people do not shake hands so often, they just say "Hello" without touching. But in our country when people meet together they always shake their hands, especially men. Kissing is not common as a form of greeting unless know someone well. People usually kiss on both cheeks.
In Slovakia, in shops and at bus stops you have to go to the back of the queue and wait. If you “jump the queue”, other people will angrily tell you to wait your turn.
When you are invited to somebody’s home you don’t have to take present but you can. For example: If you go there for the first time or you haven’t been there for a long time the hostess will be pleased when she get a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers. When the host is a man a present suitable for him would be a bottle of wine or alcohol. It’s good to be punctual. At the table you have to behave according to social principles. You shouldn’t start eating before other people have been served and leave the table immediately after dinner. It’s good to thank the host and leave half or an hour after the coffee. It’s considered rude to eat and drink noisily, to wipe the plate with bread, to pick at food with hands, to read at the table, to rest your elbows at the table, to reach across the table in front of people. When you need something you have to ask another person to give it us. Also you have to ask permission if you want to smoke between courses or anywhere in other people’s home.
At the formal dinner the cutlery is placed in the order in which it will be used. The fork is laid on the left side of the plate with points up. On the right side of the plate are laid knife and spoon. The knife is first and with blade to the plate and then the spoon. The dessert spoon and fork are laid on the top of the place setting. The glass should be on the right and the bowl for stewed fruit on the left side above the fork. When you finish eating the knife and fork should be laid side by side in the middle of your plate and plate can be removed. If you leave them apart, it will show that you have not yet finished eating. You’re supposed to thank for the meal but it’s not so expected as in Britain. During the conversation, it’s not polite to ask people how much money they earn or how much did anything cost unless you know someone well.
When we are invited to dinner to a good restaurant or to home it is suitable for men to wear suit, jackets and ties and women should smartly dressed. If the woman is student and the man is working, the man should pay her share of the bill, but when they are not working, I think they should pay for each share by themselves. Remember that Slovak people like singing in the pubs and drinking alcohol.
In 2004 Slovakia became a part of a larger community – the European Union. There are some pros and cons of being a member of the EU:
- People can travel to different countries to study or work (some countries opened their labour market), it promises better future for young people – they can learn different languages, discover new cultures, there's a better chance for creating more job opportunities
- Improving economic situation in Europe, faster social and economic development
- A guarantee of peace in Europe
- We can use the same currency – it makes it easier to travel, price comparison, business
- Nowadays there are many study programs – students can live and study in a culturally different countries in host families
- + they provide individual countries with funds for different activities, job possibilities can grow
- a lot of bureaucracy, a waste of time and money, a risk of losing cultural identity, sovereignty
- instability of the system, lots of restrictions, orders
- some countries closed their labour markets for foreigners – you can’t work there
- EU recognizes only some degrees required for some professions
- risks of economic crises (Greece, Portugal)
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