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Basic review of travel in Slovakia

These are the views of Michael Frontczak, a free-lance writer from the U.S. who has lived in Slovakia for seven years, and traveled throughout the country.

Czech Republic, Slovakia Perhaps it is wise to start with a list of things you WILL NOT FIND in Slovakia (many people assume that these are reasons not to travel here, and this must be put right):

- War, or armed conflict of any kind
Slovakia is not part of, nor does it border on, any region which has seen any large-scale hostilities, and in fact even individual Slovaks tend to be rather peaceful by temperament.

- Anti-foreigner aggression
Unfortunately, over the years, there have been three or four isolated cases of attacks on foreigners in Slovakia, so it's a good idea to ask locals about places to avoid. However, the vast majority of Slovaks actively welcomes contact with foreigners - negative incidents are more rare here than in western Europe.

- Large-scale visible pollution
Only adjacent to large factories (which are of course seldom in tourist areas) does one see any evidence of real ugliness.

Letís continue with what you may be pleasantly surprised to find:
- Beautiful countryside everywhere, with a rich collection of mountains, hills, valleys, rivers and forests
- Excellent infrastructure: well-maintained roads, a very reliable phone system, generally dependable water and exemplary electrical services, and extensive public transportation within and between cities and even villages
- Many nice hotels
- Very good (and by international standards very inexpensive) restaurants

To be fair, there is still much to improve in this new little country, open to the world in general for less than ten years -- but even as we look at what the demanding tourist might not find quite so pleasant, consider also the ideas on offer as to how to cope with these aspects:

- Customer service gets better with each season, but is not consistently on a western European level. This is why we have invite nomination for customer service awards, for those establishments which have earned special praise even by international standards.

- Architecture is dominated by ugly modern functionalist buildings from recent decades, and by older structures of exceptional beauty which have been neglected.
On the more positive side, refurbishment of many of these old masterpieces is constant, and in some exemplary cases whole town squares have been renewed. Anyone interested in the refurbishment process will certainly find some fascinating works in process.

- The general appearance of parks, main streets and other public spaces sometimes looks as though no one cared.  This is a deep problem, which will be improved only through generations of  strong public and private initiatives.
In any case, this aspect can be brought under control if you carefully plan the timing of your visit to Slovakia.

- Tourist attractions are not as heavily-visited in Slovakia as in better-known nearby tourist magnets, such as Prague, Budapest and Krakow, and therefore are not as problematic regarding pickpockets -- but they are here, especially where tourists and shoppers are known to visit. Common precautions like fastening shut pockets and handbags wherever possible are important.

- Bicycle theft, like auto theft, is perhaps slightly more common here than in the west. Again, making sure locks and other blocking devices are used, and making use of guarded car parks whenever there is a question of security, will prevent most cases.

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