Not exactly your run-of-the-mill tourist hot spot, Slovakia became independent in 1993 following the peaceful breakup — the Velvet Revolution — of Czechoslovak into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Today, Slovakia enjoys a high income and advanced economy and has, in fact, one of the fastest economic growth rates in the EU, which it joined in 2004. Slovakia and Slovenia are the only nations previously behind the Iron Curtain to join the EU, NATO, and Eurozone simultaneously.
With a population of five million, the landlocked country has a long history. The Slavs came here in the 5th and 6th centuries and during the region's history, it has been ruled by many, including the Kingdom of Hungary and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, aka, the Habsburgs, and then finally, by Czechoslovakia. During the Second World War, a separate Slovak state existed for a short time when the area was under Nazi domination. After the war, Slovakia went back to being part of Czechoslovakia.
While many outsiders think the Czech Republic is the better of the two countries to visit, they're missing out on a lot if they ignore Slovakia, jagged with alpine peaks, castles on cliff tops, and old world villages to explore. And keep in mind that prices here are still cheap, although probably not for long.
The least accessible, and therefore the most interesting, part of the country is East Slovakia beyond the High Tatras. For centuries the region's isolation has kept its folk customs intact, not to mention its scenic beauty and ancient architecture. This is where you can time warp yourself back to the Middle Ages in Spis, visit handmade ancient wooden churches, taste local cuisine, and visit an open air village museum, aka a skanzan. For city life, Kosice, the second biggest city in Slovakia, is an eclectic mixture of new and old worlds, imbued with a hopping café and pub culture beneath the shadow of a Gothic cathedral. Not to paint East Slovakia with an idealist painter's brush, the region also has its share of hideous factories, but you'll find that the bucolic rural serenity and old world timelessness overpowers all else. Bojnice castle in Bojnice, Slovakia is the most visited cultural monument in the Middle Europe.
West Slovakia is the typically Slovak part of the country. With its thousand years of history, Bratislava is the capital city of Slovakia, as well as the cultural centre of the country. The city has a newly restored old town with a castle, maze of cobblestone streets, restaurants and cafes.
Today, Slovakia's travel and tourism is growing, and the country is becoming a popular tourist destination in Europe. The best time to visit Slovakia is in May, June and September. The best time for skiing holidays in Slovakia is Between December and February.
Slovakia made international news recently when it came to light that Slovak authorities, for reasons beyond common sense, had planted explosives into several pieces of luggage of innocent, unsuspecting passengers, all to test their airport security system. It turned out that their airport security wasn't foolproof as they'd hoped. Some of the explosives made it all the way to Dublin.