Slovakia

Driving Directions Slovakia

SLOVAKIA is a small, landlocked central European republic that came into being like a newly independent nation in January 1993, following the dissolution of the 74-year-old Federal Republic of Czechoslovakia. It shares its borders with the Czech Republic to the northwest, Austria to the west, Hungary to the south, Poland to the north and Ukraine to the east.

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Slovakia is a mountainous country dominated by the Carpathian Mountains, which occupy most of the northern and central parts of the republic. There are several Carpathian ranges, the greatest of which are the High Tatry Mountains in which Slovakia’s highest mountain, Gerlachovsky Stit (2,655 meters or 8,711 feet), is located. The Bohemian Forest stretches across the whole length of the southwestern border and is a region of mountains, hills, and extensive woodlands.

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Flatter land mainly confined to the Danubian lowland basin in the southwest but also to a strip along the southern border and in the east between the mountains. Elsewhere, river valleys and the foothills of the mountains provide some lower-lying land suitable for farming.

The main river is the Danube (Dunaj), which flows eastwards into Slovakia from Vienna and for a distance of about 120 kilometers or 75 miles forms the border with Hungary. There are many other rivers and numerous freshwater lakes in the mountains. Over a third of Slovakia is forested with firs and coniferous species on the higher slopes and deciduous trees, such as the oak and birch, at lower levels.

Rare animals in the wilder mountain areas include bears and wolves, although neither commonly seen.

A continental type of climate prevails with cold, dry winters and hot, moist summers. Snow persists in the mountains for much of the year.

As a legacy of the inefficient industrialization of the old régime, Slovakia has many economic and environmental problems, in particular with atmospheric and water pollution. Nearly 60 percent of the people live in urban areas, particularly in and around the capital, Bratislava. In the early 1990s, unemployment increased, and inflation was high, resulting in a general lowering in people’s standard of living.

Cultivatable land is located mainly in the Danubian lowlands, in the south and west, and the river valleys. Crops grown include cereals (wheat, corn, and barley), sugar beet, vegetables, especially potatoes, grapes for wine, and some tobacco. Pigs, cattle, sheep, and poultry are among the animals reared.

Slovakia is heavily dependent upon imports of oil and gas to supply its energy needs and its petroleum industry. However, hydroelectric power schemes provide some of the country’s energy needs. Slovakia has reserves of iron ore, lead, copper, manganese, zinc, and lignite, all of which exploited although many mines have closed in recent years.

During the communist years, the country became a significant producer of heavy machinery and iron and steel, much of it for armaments. Military equipment and weapons still produced, although on a lesser scale. Other manufactured goods include processed foods, dairy products such as sheep’s cheese, textiles, ceramics, chemicals, and petroleum products and arts and crafts. There has been a slow change from state to private ownership of the old industries, many of which require substantial modernization. New, privately-owned service and technology companies have formed since the collapse of communism.

Tourism is a growing contributor to the economy. Visitors come to Slovakia for skiing and mountain pursuits as well as to enjoy the historical and cultural attractions of the towns and cities.

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