Wally's Recommended Route
Slovakia may only be a little country, but it packs a big punch. Traveling north/south, we would recommend leaving Budapest for Bratislava. Like a mini, even cheaper Prague, you'll find it good for cobbled streets, cheap beer and a good night out. From here, catch the train heading East to Poprad. The old style cabin trains make more picturesque window gazing. If you have time, stopping off around Zilina to see the 'little tatras' is worth it, but if not continue on to Poprad and then take a bus up into the little village of Zdiar. Protected by the breathtaking 'Vysoky Tatry' mountains, both the summer and winter provide endless opportunity for exploration: the summer bringing such treats as hikes in Slovensky Raj (Slovak paradise), paintball, horseriding and sky diving, and the winter bringing exceptionally cheap snowboarding and skiing, with a variety of runs to suit most levels (plus snowman building, obviously). Watching Poprad's local hockey team destroy their opposition with a pint in hand for just five euros is also a good way to pass a night, as is an evening in the Aquacity thermal baths complex.
From Zdiar, it's just a hop, skip and a jump across the Polish border to Krakow, with relatively easy transport links.
Bryndsova Halusky is the country's national dish: think gnocchi with melted sheep's cheese and lots of lots of bacon - a dish that typifies a country where the food in general is hearty and filling and light on the salad. Zemiakové placky is a potato pancake filled with a Goulash-type stew, Cesnakova Polievka is an unbeatable garlic soup, try and find it in a bread bowl if you can (and warn your dorm mates before bedtime!), and korbaciky is the original cheese string that makes a fantastic hiking snack. For sweet treats, there's trdlnik - a hollow pipe of sugary, cinammony dough, and plentiful pancakes.
To drink, Kofola is the uniquely Czechoslovakian version of Coke that actually outsells its more famous counterpart in both countries. Beer - brands too numerous to list - is cheaper than water and generally excellent quality. And if you're feeling brave and want to put some hairs on your chest, try the traditional Slivovica (a kind of plum schnapps) and its other brothers and sisters - Hruskovica (pear) and Borovicka (like Gin, but more ginny). Our top pick though is Tatra Tea - which comes in sexy metalic bottles of different colours to represent the different strengths and flavours: from 17% to 72%.
The Geeky Bit
Capital City: Bratislava
Time zone: Central European
Driving Side: Right
Calling code: +421
Population: Roughly 5 million
Inequality status (GINI): Low
Development Status (HDI): Very High
Wally's Community Content
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Transport: www.cp.sk - a quite frankly genius integrated hub for pretty much every transport link in Slovakia
Winter Sports: www.vt.sk and www.bachledka.sk for opening dates and times, snow conditions, rentals and lift prices.