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Slovenian Culture

Slovenian cuisine

Slovenian cuisine builds on local ingredients. Herbs and spices grown in the garden, from a farmer or the nearest meadow. Mushrooms and forest fruits from the surrounding forests and dairy products from the Alps. Slovenian people swear by traditional recipes and local specialities.

Slovenia is at the epicentre of culinary worlds from different parts of Europe. Mediterranean, Alpine, Pannonian and Balkan cuisine come together here. Despite this, each dish is imbued with a touch of local tradition and regional character.

The 5 typical dishes in Slovenia

1.Krainer Sausage

Probably the best-known dish from Slovenia. It is a thin, coarse and smoked variety of boiled sausage. Sauerkraut or sour beets are often served as a side dish. It can also be eaten cold.

2.Potica

A rolled cake made from yeast dough with various fillings. It is the traditional festive pastry in Slovenia. There are over 80 different fillings, of which the most familiar are walnut, poppy seed and tarragon. It is an integral part of Christmas celebrations.

3.Štruklji

A dough roll with a variety of fillings, served on its own or as a side dish. The dough can be prepared in both sweet and savoury varieties. It can also be baked or boiled. The best-known variations are tarragon, curd, walnut, apple or poppy seed.

4.Karster Prosciutto

Air-dried ham has a centuries-old tradition. It is left to dry in the harsh bora wind of the Slovenian Karst, the coastal region. It is said to taste particularly delicious with a glass of the Karst red wine Teran.

5.Idrijski Slikrofi

These are traditional Slovenian dumplings. They are filled with potatoes, fresh herbs and sometimes with meat. Sauces often accompany the dish, for instance tomato or mushroom.

What are the best drinks to sample in Slovenia?

Slovenia is increasingly becoming an attractive destination for beer enthusiasts. In recent years, more and more craft breweries have opened in the shadow of the major brands Lasko and Union. There are now said to be around 100 breweries in Slovenia. Visitors to the capital city can take part in a guided craft beer tasting tour.

But nothing can beat the wine in Slovenia. Cultivated regionally, visitors are certain to find particularly fine varieties.

The most famous harvest takes place when the grapes are gathered from the world’s oldest vine, the Sara trta. There is also a festival dedicated to the national treasure that takes place during Lent in Maribor, around the time of the harvest.

St. Martin’s Day in November is another important festival for Slovenians that has a lot to do with wine. The event is also known as Martinovanje. People celebrate the name day of St. Martin and also the date on which the ‘must’ or young wine traditionally turns into wine.

Festivals and celebrations in Slovenia

Carnival

Carnival is a major event everywhere in Slovenia. Traditionally called ‘Pust’, it has been celebrated for many centuries. The costumes are largely ethnographic: the main figure in the festival is Kurento (with feathers and horns), who is said to banish evil and herald the arrival of spring, which is also reflected in the devils and peasant clothing symbolising spring. Carnival builds a bridge between winter and spring. Traditional customs, balls, parades and also delicious food all come together during carnival. It has been held since 1960 and is one of the oldest in the country.

Jazz festival

The capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, has been hosting a major jazz festival since 1860, which is considered one of the oldest in Europe. The best jazz musicians from all over the world come to the festival, accompanied by up-and-coming artists looking to make a mark.

Lent festival

With more than 20 years of tradition, the Lent festival in Maribor is considered one of the most important in Slovenia and among the largest in Europe. Events and activities include classical music and traditional jazz, theatre, puppet shows, workshops for children, exhibitions and sporting events.

Arts and festivals are a great and certainly enjoyable way to learn more about Slovenia’s rich and diverse culture. It is definitely worth taking part if you visit the country during one of the festivals.

Sporting activities

The Slovenians have sport in their genes, so to speak. The list of medals and strong performances – as well as the disciplines in which they were achieved – gets longer every year. Ljubljana is known for its marathon. Thousands of visitors flock to the start each year. But there are plenty of other sporting opportunities both inside and outside the capital. Visitors can climb the hill called Roznik in Ljubljana or walk the 32.5km Trail of Remembrance and Comradeship (Pot ob zici) around the city. There is also a broad selection of organised sporting activities. Slovenia even celebrates a national holiday that is entirely dedicated to sport. Many Slovenians are keen winter sports enthusiasts due to the close proximity to the Alps.

Markets

As usual, the marketplace is often at the centre of a town. Visitors can join the hustle and bustle and select from numerous local delicacies. Markets are held throughout Slovenia. The largest and most diverse market is located in Ljubljana. Healthy and local produce is also available in the numerous organic food shops, which are found in many Slovenian towns.

What can you bring back from Slovenia?

A small keepsake for home or a nice souvenir is an integral part of any holiday. Many visitors choose the very popular spirit called Slivovitz Pelinkovac as a good example of the culinary style in Slovenia. Honey is also highly recommended, although it is usually cheaper, tastier and more natural when purchased directly from the producer. Morska Sol – sea salt – is another frequent keepsake. It is available directly at the salt works or in supermarkets and souvenir shops. Wine, ham and cheese are other good ways to remember a holiday in Slovenia.

Slovenia has plenty of exciting events, in addition to the delicious food and outstanding wine. Visitors can party to great music and also enjoy the beautiful markets, art and culture.

Have you been bitten by the travel bug and are you itching to experience a new culture? Click here to book the right digital vignette for your trip to Slovenia. Click here if you have any questions about the regulations.

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Slovakian Culture

Customs and traditions

Slovakian culture is deeply rooted in the customs and traditions that have shaped the lives of people in the country for centuries, if not millennia. They are mainly embedded in a fear of the unknown and the inability to explain natural phenomena. The hope that customs and traditions would protect health and increase prosperity was equally integral to this early culture.

People inhabiting the region of modern-day Slovakia lived in close connection with nature, so many customs are deeply entwined with the natural world. New religious festivals and pagan customs became intermingled with the advent of Christianity.

The fact that customs and traditions have always exhibited and preserved a regional character is a particular feature of Slovak culture. “One village – own customs” is therefore a common saying in Slovakia.

Many regional festivals still exist in addition to the ones they share with us – for instance the carol singers, Easter and Christmas or the celebration of New Year’s Eve.

Taking out Morena is one example. Young girls carry a straw doll dressed in women’s clothing down to a stream, where her clothes are removed. The straw doll is then set on fire and tossed into the stream. What might be an odd custom for us actually symbolises the end of winter and the general longing for the cold months to pass and the warm sun to return.

Another common holiday in Slovakia is on 13 December – Lucia’s Day. According to popular belief, she was a witch who is mainly associated with love prophecies. Young women write down the names of men on twelve scraps of paper on this day, leaving a thirteenth one blank. The scraps of paper are folded, and one is then burned on each of the following days. The penultimate scrap is burned on Christmas Eve, leaving just one. It is then unfolded in the evening. The superstition is that the woman will marry the man whose name appears on this last scrap of paper. But the woman will not marry in the year ahead if the paper is blank.

Culinary specialities

Hungry visitors to Slovakia can look forward to a varied and high-quality cuisine for reasonable prices. Slovak cuisine is very diverse and has been shaped considerably by the historical ties to the neighbouring states of Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic.

Those who enjoy cheese and dairy products will get their money’s worth, especially in the lofty mountain valleys. The lower-lying regions are best known for spicier dishes such as cabbage specialities or roast goose. The main ingredients in Slovak cuisine are milk, potatoes and sauerkraut, which are used to produce delicious dishes such as Strapačky – spaetzle noodles with sauerkraut.

But the Slovakian national dish is spaetzle noodles with brimsen – a salty sheep’s cheese – and bacon. The spaetzle are made from potato dough, mixed with the brimsen and then garnished with fried bacon. Buttermilk or sour butter is traditionally drunk with this dish.

Anyone looking to experience Slovak cuisine in all its glory should definitely sample one of the numerous soups and stews for lunch. The varieties range from vegetable broth to extravagant meat hotpots. There are many cookery schools where tourists can learn how to prepare traditional dishes in a one-day course, especially in the larger cities – such as the capital Bratislava. But it is worth booking well in advance, as they are very well-attended.

The country’s typical cuisine has become increasingly mixed with European-style dishes over recent decades, and international cuisine – such as Chinese food – is becoming more and more popular in Slovakia as well.

What do you drink in Slovakia?

Aside from traditional dishes, Slovakia also boasts a wide variety of extremely tasty beverages. They include alcoholic drinks such as juniper schnapps or hriatô – a mixed drink with alcohol, fried bacon and honey. Wines from Slovakia also have a long tradition dating back to Roman times. The Franconian variety – Račianska frankovka – is highly recommended.

But Slovakia is not merely known for its highly alcoholic drinks. Beer is also a very popular beverage. The countless microbreweries are definitely worth a visit, in addition to the country’s larger brands. Guests will experience the fine art of brewing beer at first hand and naturally have the chance to sample the wares. A brief detour is definitely worth the journey!

Nice-to-know: It is common to give 5–10% as a tip. But that depends on the subjective quality of service.

Slovakia is a holiday destination with plenty to offer. It is a country with beautiful nature and a rich culture. Visitors should definitely sample the varied cuisine.

Have you been bitten by the travel bug and are you itching to experience a new culture?

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Bulgarian culture is so diverse

Bulgarian culture is steeped in tradition and is shaped by various cultural influences such as Thracian, Slavonic and Byzantine culture. Bulgaria is a country with a rich culture. For centuries, Bulgarians have eaten traditional dishes which have been passed down from one generation to the next. The Bulgarian people are proud of their national cuisine and are proud to cook it for their guests. Bulgarian culture is varied and fascinating and it is well worth learning more about it.

Bulgarian cuisine

The national dishes reflect the diverse cultural influences, ranging from Turkish and Ottoman to German, Slavonic and Russian influences.

Starters

The Bulgarians love their salads and as a consequence they are always an important, almost indispensable, component of Bulgarian cuisine.

Shopska salad (Шопска салата)

Shopska salad is a traditional cold salad which is one of Bulgaria’s national dishes. The salad is often served in the summer and consists of chopped tomatoes, cucumber, onions, roasted or raw peppers and Bulgarian sirene cheese.

The salad was originally created in the 1950s to attract more tourists to the country.

Tarator (Tаратор)

Tarator is a popular cold cucumber soup in Bulgaria. It is mainly eaten and enjoyed on hot summer’s days. The soup is very simple to make yourself. You only need cucumber, yogurt, garlic and dill.

Main courses

Kebapche (кебапче)

Kebapche is a popular Bulgarian dish and translates to “small kebab”. The popular meat dish consists of spicy mince, which is often pork, beef or a combination of beef and pork. The mince is shaped into small sausages and grilled.

According to historians, the dish was brought to Bulgaria in the 14th century by the Ottomans and it has established itself as one of Bulgaria’s many national dishes.

Guvech (гювеч)

This traditional stew is typical of Balkan cuisine and is named after the earthenware pot in which it is prepared. Bulgarian guvech is derived from the Turkish word güveç (earthenware pot) and reflects the speciality’s Turkish roots.

The stew is usually made with seasonal vegetables, meat and spices which are braised for hours. Vegetables and meat which are typically used in guvech are potatoes, aubergines, peppers, tomatoes, onions, carrots, peas, beef, pork, chicken or lamb. In Bulgaria, the stew is served steaming hot and enjoyed with a salad or bread.

Drinks

Rakia

Rakia is a traditional fruit brandy and is the national drink par excellence, which is made from various types of fruits including plums, peaches and apricots. It is produced in most parts of the country. The drink is made through the distillation of must from grapes or peaches. The alcoholic drink has a long history in Bulgaria, since it was consumed around 2,000 years ago by the Romans.

Wine

Bulgaria is the ideal place to find some of the world’s best wines. The climate, the soil and the local spirits create a unique wine culture which encourages many large winegrowers to come to Bulgaria to work in the Bulgarian vineyards. The region on the Black Sea coast is particularly popular with winegrowers and tourists.

In Bulgaria, production is dominated by red wine, but white wine and dessert wines are also produced. The most common grape variety in Bulgaria comes from the Plovdiv region and is the Pamid. The red wine variety is light red and has a fresh flavour.

Traditional festivals and customs

In Bulgaria, festivals and customs have played an important role in the country for centuries. For this reason, Bulgarians attach considerable value to them and celebrate them lavishly.

Kukeri Festival

When? On the first Sunday in March

The Kukeri Festival is a festival which bids farewell to the cold, dark winter months and welcomes the spring with dancing, and is similar to pre-Lent Carnival celebrations. The festival always begins on the first Sunday in March. During the festivities, men from the town or district dress up as menacing animal figures. The typical kukeri costume consists of fur masks and colourful clothing decorated with cowbells. There are no hard and fast rules about how the costume should look, so the men can let their creative streak run riot. The typical costume which is known all over the world is a wild menacing animal which is made predominantly from hairy goatskin.

The idea behind the festival is to drive away evil and create room for something new and beautiful. The evil is said to be driven away by the sound of the cowbells and garlic, peppers and beans.

Prior to the dancing, the kukeri go from house to house wishing all the residents of the town or village health, wellbeing and a good forthcoming harvest. The festival begins early in the morning and continues late into the night.

Martenitsa

When? Throughout the month of March

Martenitsa is a white and red braided pendant which is given as a gift and distributed on 1 March to appease Baba Marta. Baba Marta, which translates to “Grandma March”, symbolises the month of March which is known to be a very varied month. Legend has it that Baba Marta is furious with her brothers January and February, Big and Little “Sechko”. The reason is that her brothers have rummaged around in her bag and drunk all of her wine. Whenever Baba Marta remembers what her brothers did, the weather becomes cold, foul and unpleasant. Nevertheless, she loves them both and repeatedly forgives them, which is reflected in the returning sun and its warm rays.

The colours of the braided pendant represent Baba Marta’s red cheeks and white hair. The colour red symbolises health and the colour white represents the advanced age of Baba Marta.

Bulgaria is a beautiful country which has a great deal to offer tourists. The food is a pleasure in itself and is an indispensable part of Balkan cuisine. The wine is unique due to the vineyards and conditions on the Black Sea coast. The examples listed above merely give a taste of what Bulgaria has to offer for tourists and travellers.

Are you curious and keen to discover an impressive country?

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Favourite three Czech cities

The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is famous for its castles, its remarkable art and its beer. It’s full of unspoiled nature and fabulous landscapes for you to explore. The Czech Republic is the perfect holiday destination for travellers looking for beautiful scenery, historic cities and old castles with breathtaking architecture. With around 10.7 million inhabitants, the Czech Republic is one of the ten biggest countries in Europe. The currency in the Czech Republic is the Czech koruna.

This article provides a brief summary of our favourite three Czech cities that are certain to delight all travellers.

Good to know

  • Gregor Mendel and Sigmund Freud were both Austrians, but were born in what’s now the Czech Republic.
  • Despite the country’s love of beer, the legal alcohol limit for drivers on the roads is 0.0 percent.
  • The local etiquette requires a man to enter a restaurant before his female companion. But if they’re entering a different building, he must let her go first.
  • The national passion of the Czechs is foraging for mushrooms. Every year, on St. Václav’s Day, thousands of Czechs come together to swarm into the forest and gather fungi.
  • Official language: Czech
  • No Czech Christmas dinner would be complete without a carp
  • According to statistics, the Czech Republic is in the top ten safest countries in the world

Top 3 cities

Prague

Prague: you’re sure to know at least one person who celebrated their stag night or hen do there. But the capital offers much more than just alcohol-fuelled young men and women. It has extraordinary architecture and an unforgettable art scene. Prague also presents a colourful picture to the world and entices up to 100,000 visitors every day to the “Golden City”. This name, still in widespread use today, originates from the Middle Ages and refers to the city’s gilded roofs.

A distinctive cityscape, lively cultural scene, historic old city, a range of shopping options, numerous parks, friendly locals and, don’t forget, the affordable beer – for many it’s the perfect combination for a city break.

Prague is a timeless and stylish city, which is a major reason why it often plays host to fashion weeks and design events. In addition, the city is highly popular among musicians all over the world, so don’t be surprised if when strolling through the city or its parks you stumble on a little music festival or concert.

The city streets positively exude serenity and take you to one of the city’s most important landmarks: the Charles Bridge. It’s ornamented with numerous baroque figures, foremost among them the statue of Saint John of Nepomuk, which is cast from pure bronze. According to legend, this statue grants wishes, which is why each day hundreds of passers-by touch it with their hands, keeping its lustre alive.

The bridge connects the “Lesser Town” of Prague with its Old City, leading you directly along Charles Street into the Old City Ring, an urban square on which the Old Town Hall with its astronomical clock attracts crowds of onlookers every hour.

Another MUST on any visit to Prague is Hradčany Castle, which can be seen from far and wide. It comprises the largest self-contained castle site in the world – the front alone stretches half a kilometre. Its stunning silhouette is graced by the three spires of the mighty St Vitus Cathedral.

You can experience a different side of this history-steeped city in the Old Jewish Cemetery. At first glance a chaotic jumble of unsymmetrically erected gravestones, stacked one on top of another because of the lack of space. But behind the disordered appearance are many tragic stories. If you let this site speak to you, you’ll feel the horror of the past seep into your bones.

This wonderful city is so full of attractions and curiosities that it’s not possible for us to describe it in such a short text. But there’s one place you should definitely seek out: the River Vltava. Whether you’re travelling with your family, your partner, with your friends or alone, a cruise on the Vltava will create lasting memories. You can experience it on a ferry or, more adventurously, on a pedalo. Either way, an essential activity.

Summary: Prague is an incredible city! Full of moving stories combined with modern, vibrant urban life.

Brno

After Prague, Brno is the Czech Republic’s second-biggest city. It’s in the south-west of the country on the Austrian border. Brno is home to all the higher institutions of the Czech legal system, such as the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic and the Supreme Administrative Court.

One of the most famous and popular attractions in Brno is Špilberk Castle. Situated on the Špilberk hill, it’s a gentle stroll away from the city centre. The castle was built in the 13th century to defend the city and was converted into a massive citadel, later becoming notorious as one of the most feared prisons in the Austrian Monarchy. In the 1960s, the fortification because a World Heritage Site and thus one of the city’s main attractions.

Besides Špilberk Castle, the other great Brno landmark is the imposing Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, which is also the city’s most important church. It was built in the 13th century on the Petrov hill and was one of the first churches in the Romanesque style. Over the years the church was altered many times, including in the baroque style. The last reconstruction was in the late 19th century by a Viennese architect. Thanks to its hilltop location, the highlight of the church is its wonderful view over the city of Brno.

The Old Town Hall is the oldest and most famous building in the old city of Brno. It’s famous thanks to the legend of the Brno Dragon, a creature that put the city into a state of fear and terror and ate the peasants’ livestock. Inside the Old Town Hall you can inspect the Brno Dragon, which in fact was a crocodile. The heart of the Town Hall is the 63-metre-high tower that offers you a perfect view of the Brno old city.

Summary: Brno is a fascinating city that spoils tourists and travellers with its cosy charm. Brno is the perfect destination for a relaxed weekend full of culture and history.

Karlovy Vary

Karlovy Vary, or Karlsbad, is one of the world’s most famous and tradition-steeped spa towns, situated on the southern edge of the Ore Mountains by the Teplá river. The city’s glamour comes from its numerous spas and their twelve mineral-rich healing springs, some of which reach a temperature of over 60° Celsius.

Since 2021 Karlovy Vary and ten other important European spa towns have been declared UNESCO World Heritage. It’s not just the hot springs that are worth a visit but the beautiful promenade Stará Louka, which, after the spas, is the city’s quintessential sight. Splendid art nouveau buildings grace the street and its many little cafes and restaurants. With the wooded hill behind, it’s perfect for photos.

The Hot Spring Colonnade, in the spa centre on the Teplá river, is the most famous of the twelve healing springs. Since the 16th century a fountain of hot water has shot up into the air here, reaching heights of up to twelve metres and temperatures of 72° Celsius. The Hot Spring Colonnade is chiefly famous for its medicinal waters, which are supposed to help with digestive problems and diabetes. If you want to drink some of the waters, you should use one of the Karlovy Vary drinking cups. But watch out! The water sounds and looks more delicious than it actually is.

The “13th healing spring” in Karlovy Vary is Becherovka, a famous and much-loved green-yellow herbal liqueur from the Czech Republic. You can have a look at the Jan Becher Museum and learn everything about the production and history of alcoholic drinks. The museum is housed in an old Becherovka factory and the former Becherovka pharmacy. An interesting piece of trivia: The famous herbal liqueur was originally produced as a medicine rather than an alcoholic drink.

Summary: Karlovy Vary is a popular destination for travellers from all over the world and a place for them to look after their wellbeing and health.

Conclusion

The Czech Republic has something to offer everyone. Whether you’re old or young, the Czech Republic ticks boxes with it impressive architecture and modern city centres.

Are you curious and keen to experience an impressive new culture?

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New Year’s Eve in Prague, Czech Republic

The year is drawing to a close and, just like every year, we ask ourselves: What shall we do this year on New Year’s Eve? How about a trip to Prague? Prague is always worth visiting, but on New Year’s Eve the city is particularly magical.

Whether you go out for a meal in one of the countless restaurants, toast the New Year in a bar or simply admire the city’s beautiful firework display together with the other revellers – we have summed up our tips and some important advice for you.

Prague is the capital and the most populous city of the Czech Republic. Situated on the Vltava River in former Bohemia, the city enchants with countless spires, some of them golden, and an old town largely spared from the destruction of the Second World War, with buildings dating from the Romanesque to the Gothic periods. The town hall and its astronomical clock are of particular renown.

The Charles Bridge (Karluv most) spans the Vltava River and connects Prague’s Old Town with the Lesser Town (Malá Strana). It dates back to the 14th century and is considered to be the oldest bridge still standing across the Vltava River. It was given its present name, Kalsbrücke or Karluv most, in 1870, in honour of Emperor Charles IV.

A walk across the bridge is highly recommended, as you will have a beautiful view of Prague’s Old Town. But watch out for your valuables in the crowds. Since the bridge is regarded as THE place of interest, it is visited not only by numerous tourists and sellers of small souvenirs, but also by the odd pickpocket. Of course, you will also have a beautiful view of the fireworks from the bridge, but it is advisable to either make your way to the bridge early or find a nice spot on the banks of the Vltava.

Many shipping companies also offer trips with a cosy dinner over New Year’s Eve. Should you be interested, it would be a good idea to book a seat or table at an early stage.

You will also have a lovely view of the fireworks and of course of the city below you from Prague Castle (Pražský hrad). The castle area is considered to be the second biggest in the world. The complex dates back to the 9th century and has been inhabited by various emperors from different eras for generations. A pleasant footpath uphill takes you to the imposing site. You could however save your energy and take the metro or tram there, alighting at one of the nearby stations. We do recommend the footpath, though, because you can just enjoy the fantastic view on the way up and/or down and can explore the little shops.

Anyone who would prefer to spend New Year’s Eve dancing can visit one of the innumerable clubs. At some of the clubs you can watch the fireworks outside the door, or you can just dance into the New Year. Again, it is advisable to book early as most clubs will have special events on, for which you will need a ticket.

Our tip: Whatever you would like to do in Prague on New Year’s Eve, book early.  Find out about prices first and don’t let yourself be hoodwinked. And above all: have a fabulous turn of the year!

Our conclusion: Prague is always worth a visit, but especially on New Year’s Eve, as there is something for everyone and the beautiful city is particularly magical then.

We wish you a Happy New Year, and may you have a wonderful time in Prague.

► Click HERE to book the right digital vignette for your trip to the Czech Republic. Click HERE if you have any questions about the e-vignette regulations.

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Adventures in Slovakia

Sport and active holidays

Visitors to Slovakia will find endless opportunities for active holidays in the stunning natural environment. Active holidaymakers can enjoy mountaineering and get to know Slovakia in adrenaline-fuelled adventures on land, in the air or on water and on high mountain hikes.

Slovakia can be explored along the 14,000 km of official hiking trails or the more than 10,000 km of cycling trails. There are breath-taking gorges, waterfalls and gorges to marvel at to the left and right of the trails, and visitors are always invited to take a detour along one of the innumerable side paths. Friends of more lofty adventures can venture to one of the 25 peaks in the Tatras that crack the 2500 metre mark.

And the best thing about active holidays in Slovakia? The country is not overrun by tourists. This means you can enjoy the beauty of the country like a real globetrotter, far from the madding crowds of visitors.

Cycling

Cycling has become an increasingly popular activity in Slovakia over recent years. This is largely due to the vigorous expansion of cycle paths. They offer a perfect opportunity to explore the many interesting corners of the country, along with historical buildings and beautiful natural settings.

Please bear in mind that it is compulsory to wear a suitable helmet outside of Slovakian towns.

Hiking

You can also explore Slovakia on foot thanks thanks to the extensive network of marked hiking trails. Whether you take one of the numerous mountain hiking trails or prefer to wander through the innumerable valleys – it’s entirely up to you. There is definitely something for every hiker – whether they are beginners or seasoned veterans.

Winter sports

Winter sports are among the mots popular athletic activities in Slovakia. Skiers will definitely get their money’s worth. The ski areas have 36 modern ski centres with 350 km of downhill and 600 km of cross-country ski trails, providing a wonderful skiing experience for all levels of proficiency.

Besides skiing, Slovakia has a few other sports that are worth mentioning. They include ice skating, which has a long tradition and is among the most popular sports in the country. Tourists in particular can enjoy lots of opportunities in the many roofed winter stadia and public ice rinks.

Dog sledding is undoubtedly one of the most unusual sports. But the sport can look back on a long tradition in Slovakia, so it is hardly surprising that the country regularly hosts several international competitions. You should not miss the opportunity to give it a go.

Water sports

Slovakia’s landscape is criss-crossed by rivers and lakes. But they are not only there to look pretty and are the perfect places for recreational pursuits or adrenaline-fuelled explorations.

A raft trip along the Dunajec is absolutely recommended for those who prefer a more leisurely pace. The trips wind through magnificent sceneries that promise an unforgettable experience of nature.

Alternatively, tourists can hire motorboats or jet skis from the countless boat rental points and explore the Slovakian water world under their own steam.

Friends of action-packed adventure will get their money’s worth on rafting tours along Slovakia’s numerous turbulent rivers. Rafting means the descent of white-water rapids in an inflatable rubber boat. It promises unbeatable fun for adventurous families. The most popular venues for this activity are the Dunajec and Bela rivers, as well as the water sports areas in Čunovo and Liptovský Mikuláš.

The supreme discipline of water sports – water skiing – is also very popular in Slovakia. The country has lots to offer here as well and attracts visitors with an immense range of activities. The water ski centres are located near Košice on Jazero (from May to October) and Sĺňava near Piešťany (from July to August). These centres offer a wide range of opportunities for every level of proficiency – from beginners to experts and everyone in-between!

Slovakia boasts endless exciting activities. Solo travellers, friends and families will all get their money’s worth. The adventures in the fascinating natural setting and associated activities are as spectacular as the country’s architecture. There is no shortage of things to discover.

Have you been bitten by the travel bug and are you itching for fresh adventures?

Click here to book the right digital vignette for your trip to Slovakia. Click here if you have any questions about the regulations.

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The E-Vignette

If you’ve done a lot of driving on holiday, you’re sure to know the terms toll and vignette. But if you’ve never heard the words toll and vignette, we’ll explain them for you here. We’ll also tell you what you should keep in mind when buying an E-Vignette from us.

What is the E-Vignette?

The E-Vignette is a badge that enables you to drive legally on motorways and toll roads in a particular country for a particular period. In terms of validity or function, the E-Vignette is no different from the conventional vignette sticker that most people are familiar with. The only difference is that you have to buy vignette stickers from filling stations or motorway services and stick them onto your windscreen. With the E-Vignette, you pay the fees online, specifying only your vehicle registration number, the country of the vignette and the duration.

What do I need a vignette for?

You must buy the vignette before you drive on motorways and toll roads for which they are compulsory. Countries charge this fee to help them maintain and renovate their motorways and toll roads. Please note that you can’t buy vignettes at all border crossings and toll roads. It’s advisable, therefore, to register the vignette with vintrica before you travel.

What’s the difference between a vignette and a toll?

Toll means the fee paid for use of a road. This toll is calculated according to the distance travelled. The toll is primarily charged for use of tunnels or bridges and must always be paid on-site if you want to drive through these facilities.

What is the county vignette in Hungary?

E-Vignettes are valid throughout Hungary. But if you’re sure you only want to use toll roads in one region, you can also buy an annual vignette that’s only valid in a particular Hungarian county (an administrative district similar to a Land in Austria or Germany). The advantage of these vignettes is that they’re cheaper. The disadvantage of having an annual county vignette is that you can never use a toll road outside your chosen region.

What are the advantages of an E-Vignette?

The advantages of the E-Vignette are very simple. You can register your E-Vignette online with vintrica from anywhere in the world in just a few minutes, and you save yourself the inconvenience of sticking the vignette on your windscreen, which also helps the environment. And you don’t have to wait at border crossings, because the vignette is checked by camera on the motorway and your registration number is compared with the one stored in the database. More and more countries, such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia, are choosing to introduce electronic vignettes. Slovakia, for example, now only accepts digital vignettes because they have a successful track record dating back years.

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Traffic accidents abroad

We all know that traffic accidents happen every day, but what happens if you’re involved in one yourself? You need to pay attention to a particularly wide range of factors at the same time, especially on roads that you’ve seldom or never driven on before. This is a particularly common situation on holiday. We explain what you should do after an accident.

What first steps can I personally take after a traffic accident?

The first things to do after an accident, wherever you are, are: stop, put on your reflective vest when leaving the car and secure the accident site so you can be clearly seen by other road-users who didn’t see the accident itself happen.

What emergency numbers are there in Europe?

If something serious has happened, you might need to provide first aid and call the emergency services. If there are injured people or serious damage to property, you also need to inform the police.

If you’re in shock and don’t know the number of the local emergency services, you can use the universal EU-wide emergency number 112 and will be connected with the local control centre.

Emergency numbers in Hungary

  • Police: 107
  • Fire brigade: 105
  • Ambulance: 112

Emergency numbers in Slovakia

  • Police: 158
  • Fire brigade: 150
  • Ambulance: 112

Emergency numbers in Bulgaria

  • Police: 166
  • Fire brigade: 160
  • Ambulance: 150

Emergency numbers in the Czech Republic

  • Police: 158
  • Fire brigade: 150
  • Ambulance: 155

Emergency numbers in Slovenia

  • Police: 113
  • Fire brigade: 112
  • Ambulance: 112

European Accident Statement in the event of traffic accident

enable the emergency services to follow up effectively on an accident, it’s also advisable to complete an Accident Statement. If you’re abroad, you’re best off with a European Accident Statement because of its cross-border validity

When doing so, you should include the following details:

  • Names of the people involved in the accident
  • Addresses of the people involved in the accident
  • Registration number
  • Insurance details

If witnesses are present, it’s also a good idea to note down their contact details so they can make a statement later. As a general rule, you should bring your green insurance card with you to speed up the process of dealing with these kinds of problems. In order to secure further evidence, you should make a sketch of the accident and photograph any major damage.

If you’re travelling in a hire car, you should first inform the car hire company. Afterwards you need to discuss the next steps with them. If this doesn’t happen, additional costs may accrue that won’t be covered without prior agreement. Most car rental providers stipulate in their hire contracts that you must always phone the police immediately in the event of an accident.

If your own car is too heavily damaged to continue driving, you may be able to order a hire car. But please note that you need a credit card to rent a car. This is required by most providers and you should consider it in advance. So it would be advisable to take a credit card with you on your next holiday. Depending on where you’re insured, the accident usually needs to be reported to the insurer within a week. Also ensure that whatever happens, you don’t make or sign any false statements. In addition, it’s important not to sign any documents that you don’t fully understand. If you do so, you run the risk of facing an unavoidable and unwanted legal dispute.

As a general rule, an accident victim who is resident in another EU member state can deal with the damages claim via a claims representative in their country of residence.

Important notes in the event of traffic accidents

  • Wear a reflective vest
  • Provide aid and call the emergency services
  • Carry your insurance card with you and inform your insurer
  • Make a report and sketch of the accident
  • Note down details of the witnesses (if applicable)
  • If you’re driving a rented vehicle, inform the car hire company
  • Carry your credit card with you
  • Don’t make any false statements
  • Don’t sign any documents you don’t understand

How can I avoid being in an accident abroad?

  • Don’t use alcohol or a mobile phone at the wheel
  • Don’t be distracted by your passengers
  • Don’t drive if you’re tired or under severe stress
  • Keep to the speed limit
  • Test the safety of your vehicle before driving (tyre pressure, oil, cooling system, lights, battery)

Background information for traffic accidents in Hungary

As of 2014 there were 4.5 million registered vehicles on Hungarian roads, of which 3.1 million were cars. In 2014 there were around 15,850 accidents involving personal injuries in Hungary. Sadly, these included 626 deaths. In addition, 5,330 people were injured. This incredibly high accident rate should be another reason for you to stay alert on the road and pay attention to other road-users.

Damages claims in the event of liability lapse five years after the damage event. For absolute liability, the time limit is even lower: three years. As a rule, there’s no remuneration of out-of-court and procedural legal fees in Hungary, which you should bear in mind during negotiations. It’s also important to have an expert opinion drafted in agreement with your insurer. On top of that, there’s no flat-rate compensation for loss of use.

The accident costs for a hire car are only refunded if it’s required for professional use or some other important need.

In the event of minor injuries, out-of-court agreements are often made. In this case you have an entitlement to compensation of up to 500 euros. Any relatives who were also travelling in your car can also claim compensation. Any arising repair costs can be reimbursed on presentation of a receipted invoice. The medical and care costs are generally also refunded unless they have already been covered by your health insurance. Please note that compensation is relatively low in Hungary.

Background information for traffic accidents in Slovakia

There were 2.7 million registered vehicles in Slovakia in 2014, of which around 1.9 million were cars. In total there were around 13,300 traffic accidents, in which 554 people died. In addition, 6,600 people were seriously injured. Considering the number of registered vehicles, these figures are high.

Damages claims generally expire two years after the damage event here. But there are exceptions in Slovakia for informing the police. The rule here is that if the damages incurred are estimated at more than 4,000 euros, the police can be called free of charge. Otherwise, police calls in the event of minor damages to property cost 170 euros. Even so, it’s easier to deal with the damages claim via the police. If an expert opinion has to be commissioned, there is no reimbursement of VAT in the settlement. Moreover, depreciation, hire car costs and loss of use are highly limited.

Here too, the assessed compensation generally ends up lower than in other EU countries. The specific assessment of the compensation is carried out on the basis of a range of factors in order to estimate the severity of your level of injury. For damages to property, the minimum insurance amount is 1 million euros per damage event and for personal injury the sum is 5 million euros.

Background information for traffic accidents in Bulgaria

There’s a disproportionate concentration of traffic accidents in Bulgaria. In 2014, 655 people died here. This is due to road conditions and to the cars, which are often in a very poor state. In the event of an accident, all foreign road users are required to stay at the accident site until the traffic police have arrived. Legally, it’s always essential to inform the police here. Afterwards, you should be given a confirmation of accident so that you can later present all important documents retroactively. A police protocol is also drafted.

If the accident happens outside built-up areas, you must wear a reflective vest on leaving the vehicle. If you are caught failing to comply, you will be fined around 25 euros.

Background information for traffic accidents in the Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic too, there are many car accidents every year. In 2014, sadly, 631 people lost their lives on Czech roads. 2,723 people were seriously injured. Traffic accidents are particularly common during the holiday season and on long weekends. So you should be very careful when driving to the Czech Republic in these periods.

But if you do have an accident and someone is injured, you should immediate call the emergency services. If there are vehicle damages of around 4,000 euros, you should also inform the local police and exchange insurance details with the other party to the accident. If the other party doesn’t want to give their details, you can also approach third parties to solve the problem. In some cases, you might need to subsequently inform your lawyer. For this reason you should also take photos at the accident site, to help solve any later disputes and to claim repair costs.

Hire car costs are only reimbursed if the hire was essential. According to Czech law, this could be the case if, for example, you needed the vehicle for work-related reasons.

Background information for traffic accidents in Slovenia

In 2014 over 1.4 million vehicles were licensed to use Slovenian roads, of which 1.07 million were cars. Within a total of more than 18,000 traffic accidents in 2014, there were 8,220 injuries and, sadly, 108 deaths.

As a rule, compensation claims lapse here four years after the occurrence of the damage event. As in Slovakia, the assessed compensation generally ends up lower here than in other EU countries. The specific assessment of the compensation is carried out on the basis of a range of factors in order to estimate the severity of your level of injury. For damages to property, the minimum insurance amount is 1 million euros per damage event and for personal injury the sum is 5 million euros.

Published

Slovenia top 3 cities

Beaches by the sea, mountainous regions, stalactite caves and vineyards – they’re all things we associate with holidays. Slovenia is the only country in Europe which combines all of these things. There is so much to discover and experience, be it cycling tours through the vineyards, skiing in the Alps, hiking, relaxing on the coast, party at the après-ski…the list goes on. Slovenia is the perfect holiday destination for every season and has something to offer everyone. In addition to the beautiful countryside, the architecture, which is particularly impressive in the capital, should not be overlooked. With around 2.1 million residents, Slovenia is the fourth-smallest country in the European Union.

This article provides a brief summary of our Favourite 3 Slovenian Cities that are certain to delight all travellers.

Good to know

  • In built-up areas a speed limit of 50km/h applies, on country roads it is 90km/h, on dual carriageways 100km/h and on motorways 130km/h
  • In Slovenia, all vehicles must have their lights on during the day too
  • To say hello to someone, you say “Živijo
  • In Slovenia, people traditionally greet each other with a handshake and three kisses
  • Slovenia is one of the countries with the greatest degree of biodiversity, being rich in animal and plant species
  • Carniolan sausage from Slovenia is considered to be the national dish par excellence, and should definitely be sampled

Top 3 cities

Ljubljana

Slovenia’s capital city Ljubljana is also known as the City of Dragons. The dragon is not considered by the city to be a monster, but rather symbolises a protector of power, courage and wisdom. In winter, Ljubljana celebrates the so-called Dragon Carnival with impressive costumes, music and a parade – the ultimate party for everyone.

The animal isn’t just depicted on the coat of arms; the famous Dragon Bridge in the city centre was also named after it. The creator of the Dragon Bridge was no less than Slovenia’s greatest architect, Joze Plecnik. He had it built in 1902. The art nouveau bridge was the first reinforced concrete structure in Ljubljana, a technical masterpiece for the time. In addition to the Dragon Bridge, Joze Plecnik also created another of the city’s landmarks, the so-called Triple Bridge, a complex comprising three bridges that you can use to cross the river on foot. The location is a historical junction between Ljubljana’s central square, Prešeren Square, and the picturesque Old Town. Each of the three bridges exhibits architectural features such as the ornate streetlamps and the different balustrades.

The city, however, also has a lot more to offer, including beautiful green spaces such as the vast Tivoli Park. The university city also has a wide range of museums which include the National Museum of Slovenia with its historical exhibitions and the Museum of Modern Art.

On the banks of the Ljubljanica River, which separates the Old Town from the more modern commercial centre, you can find small cafes with outdoor terraces; a wonderful spot to enjoy the view of the river and take a relaxing stroll.

During a walk through the city you can discover the Slovenian treasure trove of buildings in the so-called art nouveau style dating from the beginning of the 20th century. Most of the buildings are situated close to the Triple Bridge and Prešeren Square. Amongst the most impressive are the narrow, painted Hauptmann House and the noble Urbanc House, which was the city’s first department store. Along the Miklošičeva ulica Street you can find other gems such as the Grand Hotel Union and the Cooperative Business Bank building. The latter is an extraordinary example of late art nouveau style and the work of Ivan and Helena Vurnik.

Summary: Ljubljana is a fascinating city which has plenty to offer, particularly in terms of architecture. The wide range of green spaces, art, culture and charm is what makes the city so special.

Maribor

Maribor is situated in the heart of Slovenia’s hilly wine region on the Drava River. The Drava is 750km long and is a scenically well-situated tributary of the Danube. The river is strongly associated with the development and life in Maribor. A whole host of activities are available on and along the river: along the bank there are numerous cycling and hiking routes. On the Drava, you can waterski, surf or take a raft or boat trip. According to an ancient legend, the roots of the Old Vine extend deep into the Drava which has been soaking them for centuries.

The house façades in the heart of Maribor’s Old Town are also particularly beautiful, and the fortified towers directly at the riverside are also sights not to be missed. The Jewish district on the banks of the Drava is also particularly impressive, with the synagogue and the Jewish Tower, and the Basilica of Our Mother of Mercy in the centre of the city.

For those on the lookout for treasure and bargain hunters, a flea market is held every Sunday on the former car park of the TAM factory. The meeting place for collectors and antique lovers is, however, also a fantastic opportunity to simply take a stroll and have a browse around.

The city boasts – at more than 400 years old – the world’s oldest grapevine, also known as the “Honourable Old Lady”. A trip into the vineyards, which is best negotiated by bike, is a real pleasure. As well as the fabulous views, there are also many opportunities for stops along the way, where you can enjoy the best of local hospitality. The Honourable Old Lady is the starting point for the three wine routes. In the autumn, the vineyards get a new lease of life and look forward to the new vintage. A range of cycling and hiking tours allow you to experience the magic of the grape harvest, which is also a wonderful social occasion.

Slovenia’s largest skiing area is located in Maribor and is a meeting place for keen snow enthusiasts. After the varied selection of all-day activities, there is also the opportunity to relax with wellness facilities and a range of different events. Or perhaps you would prefer to head to the slopes to sample the après-ski?

Summary: With a combination of nature, relaxation, active pursuits and partying at every time of the year, Maribor offers the full package as a travel destination. Whether you’re travelling alone or with others – everyone is sure to find something here.

Piran

Piran is the holiday resort on Slovenia’s Adriatic coast. It is known for its Venetian architecture and its long pier. A wonderful example of the town’s Venetian-Gothic architecture is the Venetian House in the centre of the town close to Tartini Square. The house was built in the first half of the 15th century.

Afterwards, take the opportunity to visit one of the lovely cafes in Tartini Square and enjoy the view. There used to be a fishing harbour where the square is today. It was filled in with sand in 1894 and now constitutes the centre of the town. Today, the square is covered with gleaming marble which reflects the light from the buildings and streetlamps in the evenings.

Piran became known for its olives and its salt. Fleur de sel was harvested nearby, which was very valuable at that time. Still to this day, the locals are very proud of their salt and salty products. These are something that you simply have to sample, not just in the food but also by taking a trip to the saltworks to learn about the history of salt harvesting. Afterwards, you are well advised to try the dishes made with locally-caught fish – and the local dark chocolate is also a must-try.

In Piran there are many lovely spots for swimming and sunbathing. But the hotels also boast some of the best spas in the country. Treatments are characterised by their use of salt and mud, which have a therapeutic effect.

The town’s main attraction is St. George’s Parish Church, whose tower you can enter, something that is recommended for its panoramic view alone.

Summary: Piran is a fantastic location in the summer. In addition to relaxation, there is also plenty to discover.

Conclusion

Slovenia has something for every conceivable type of holidaymaker! It is an exciting holiday destination at every time of the year, that you simply have to visit.

Are you curious and keen to experience an impressive new culture?

► Click HERE to book a digital vignette for your trip to Slovenia. Click HERE if you have any questions about the e-vignette regulations.

Published

Top 3 Slovakian cities

When you think of Slovakia, you perhaps don’t have a picture in your mind straight away of what this beautiful country has to offer. The landlocked country in the heart of Europe has been an unrestricted member of the European Union since 2009. The country enchants tourists from all over the world with its combination of historical city centres, modern nightlife and captivating nature.

Fans of historical architecture will delight in medieval city centres, magnificent baroque buildings and prefabricated buildings rooted in Communism. These things combine in a youthful city with a multitude of shopping streets, bars as well as galleries and museums.

Slovakia also has a lot to offer tourists outside of its cities. At least two thirds of the country is comprised of mountains, ravines and charming valleys.

In this article we present our personal Top 3 Slovakian cities – and the reasons why you must visit.

Good to know

  • As a citizen of an EU member state or a member of the Schengen Agreement, entering the country is usually possible without any problems. In a few isolated cases, however, checks may be carried out. Therefore, it is compulsory for every traveller to take a valid travel document with them
  • EU citizens that are staying in Slovakia for longer than 10 days must report to the local police. If you are staying in a hotel, the hotel will automatically register you
  • Official language: Slovak
  • Keep a close eye on your valuables and bags particularly at the larger tourist attractions, as many pickpockets operate in these areas
  • Slovakian police officers can personally impose fines of between €30 and €650 for traffic offences. In case of doubt, always obtain a receipt and make a note of the officer’s name – under nocircumstancesshould you agree tofavours
  • School children, students, pensioners and the disabled from EU member states are entitled to free transport with the national rail company ZSSK

Top 3 Cities

Bratislava

Bratislava is the capital city of Slovakia and it is not without reason that it is known by many as the Beauty on the Danube. Situated in the south-west of Slovakia, the city is divided by the Danube and lies at the foot of the Little Carpathians. Due to its excellent location on the Danube, Bratislava has been an area of high population density in the region since the 9th century. Nowadays, many historical buildings still bear witness to its historical significance.

Bratislava Castle in particular, which adorns the city’s coat of arms, and its walls which tower high above the city, is a sight that we would strongly recommend. The exhibition at the castle not only gives you a better understanding of the castle’s history; you also have a breathtaking view over the Old Town from there.

If you’re interested in learning about life in Bratislava, a visit to the Old Town is not to be missed. Don’t let the name deceive you here. That’s because this is the perfect place to experience the modern side of Slovakia. Although the historical city centre bears witness to the city’s rich history, there are a great deal of trendy establishments and shopping streets which do justice to its position as one of the most youthful capital cities in the world in terms of the average age of its inhabitants.

Bratislava therefore has the perfect combination of historical charm and a modern city atmosphere. That means there’s something for everyone!

Košice

Košice is the second-largest city in Slovakia and has, for centuries, been a melting pot of peoples and cultures. Its location on the Hornád River in particular stimulated commerce, trade, culture and education in the region. It is therefore not surprising that Košice has long been one of the most important cities in Slovakia and lives up to this reputation to this day.

If you want to enjoy Košice’s beauty, you only need to take a trip to the historical city centre and its main square. This constitutes the focal point of Košice and is surrounded by numerous historical buildings, which blend in perfectly with the bustling and modern pedestrian zone.

The city’s most impressive building is undoubtedly the Cathedral of St. Elizabeth. The monumental Gothic building dating back to the 14th century is the largest of its kind in Slovakia and is regarded as one of the country’s national cultural monuments along with the adjacent St. Michael’s Chapel and the Urban Tower.

Košice doesn’t just impress with its historical cityscape, however, but also offers a busy and modern urban lifestyle with numerous shops, trendy establishments and galleries. In the summer, the park between the theatre and the cathedral with its beautiful fountain invites you to linger for a while and enjoy your surroundings.

So there’s something for everyone in Košice!

Banská Štiavnica

For all those who like a slightly slower pace, the former mining town of Banská Štiavnica is the perfect place. On account of its location in the central part of the Štiavnica Mountains and the rich silver ore deposit, it isn’t without reason that the town has been known for centuries as the Silver Town.

The historical town centre, with its 360 listed buildings which fit in harmoniously with the mountainous surroundings, bears witness to renown and prosperity to this day.

Anyone who travels to Banská Štiavnica will firstly notice the two castles. The Old Castle dominates the town centre and is situated on a terrace to the west of Trinity Square. The castle houses the Slovak Mining Museum with a host of exhibits. On the hill opposite you will find the New Castle which has documented the battles against the Turks on Slovakian territory in the 15th century in a comprehensive exhibition at the mining museum. After visiting the exhibition you can enjoy the wonderful views over the city from there.

The area between the two squares, Trinity Square and Town Hall Square, clearly forms the centre of the town with its architectural sights. These include both St. Catherine’s Church and the historical town hall building with its slender clock tower. You can also find the magnificent Holy Trinity Column here and the Hellenbach House, which was previously the site of the Mining Court amongst other things. The building now houses an exhibition about the days of mining.

Those who are interested in learning about the history of mining in the region and enjoying breathtaking scenery should ensure that they don’t miss out on a visit to Banská Štiavnica. Particularly recommended – in addition to the numerous exhibitions – is above all the opportunity to go into a disused mine and to experience the history of the town at first hand.

Conclusion

Slovakia has something for every conceivable type of holidaymaker! The prices for visiting the country are truly enticing, but must be viewed with caution. The country in the heart of Europe allows for a refreshing change between a city break and a nature holiday.

Have you been bitten by the travel bug and are itching to experience a new culture?

► Click HERE to book a digital vignette for your trip to Slovakia. Click HERE if you have any questions about the e-vignette regulations.

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