Languages and foreigners
English and German are the most popular foreign languages in Slovakia. Since the fall of Communism in 1989, English language has become a compulsory school subject at primary school. The younger generations are good at English, followed by German. The older generation studied Russian and may seem unfriendly when expected to speak English or German, but it is probably just them feeling ashamed at not being able to speak it.
Symbols of Slovak identity
Slovak culture often developed under government by other nations, so the symbols for Slovakians are around family, nature, folk art, poetry, songs, language and legends, not palaces or grand monuments. Important examples are the Carpathian Wooden Churches, many built without a single nail, the fujara (wooden flute over a meter long) and the traditional wooden houses whose walls are decorated with white geometrical patterns in the village of Čičmany.
Ice hockey is the most popular sport in Slovakia. Great ice hockey players include Zdeno Chara, Marian Gaborik, Miroslav Satan. There are many famous Slovak ice hockey players who play in the USA and Slovaks view them as national heroes.
Slovak celebrities you should know
- Peter Sagan, cyclist.
- Dominika Cibulkova, tennis player.
- Veronika Velez Zuzolova: skier.
- Pavol Demitra: ice hockey player.
- Adriana Sklenaříková: fashion model.
- Edita Gruberová: coloratura soprano.
- Jozef Murgaš: inventor, architect, botanist and painter who developed mobile communications.
- Alexander Dubček: reformist under communism and the Prague Spring 1968.
- Ondrej Nepela, figure skater.
- Ľudovít Štúr, founder of literary language.
- Eugeň Suchoň: 20th Century composer of the opera „Krutňava“.
- Milan Rastislav Štefánik: astronomer, scientist and as politician initiated the establishment of Czechoslovakia.
- Štefan Banič, inventor who prototyped the parachute in 1913.
- Matthias Bell: 17th Century astronomer measured the distance to the Sun.
Food taboos and favourites
Slovak cuisine features products grown in Slovakia such as potatoes and cabbage. “Halušky”, the Slovak national meal is potato dumplings with sheep cheese (bryndza) and roasted bacon. Other popular meals: Zemiakové placky (potato pancakes fried in oil with garlic and flour), fried cheese (cheese fried in bread crumbs) and lokse (potato pancake). Sweet dishes: pancakes, dolky (smaller and thicker variety of pancake), ryžovy nákyp (sweet baked rise cake), žemlovka (white bread baked with fruit and eggs), parene buchty (steamed dumplings filled with jam with sweet toping) and perky (jam-filled pasta with a sweet topping). There are many meals which have their origin outside Slovakia such as goulash.
Landmarks and places of cultural significance
Slovakia has over 180 castles and 425 chateaux. The most famous are Bojnice castle, Betliar castle and Spišský castle. Levoča town is a tourists’ favourite. Slovak Paradise National Park has 2000 species of butterflies. Caves are everywhere. The most spectacular are in the Low Tatras, Slovak Paradise and Slovak Karst national parks. In Herľany, there is an active geyser that spouts water to a height of 15 meters. It erupts a few times per week. Similar geysers are located only in Iceland.