In April, it’s going to be 12 years since I left Slovakia and came to live in the UK. Wow, it seems like yesterday when my mum said her goodbyes to me at the airport. I’ve settled in the UK, but my home is always going to be a very special place for me. That place is called Vysoke Tatry (High Tatras).
I’d like to share with you the things I love about my home town and Slovakia.
Nature and beautiful views
Vysoke Tatry is a town, but Tatra National Park was founded here as well, so there is no shortage of green open spaces. I love the fact that you have things such as caves, mountain lakes, mountain trails, or waterfalls right at your doorstep.
Even if you just fancy a quiet walk outside, you won’t be disappointed. The scenery is magnificent wherever you are.
There isn’t much of a view when you live in a city like I do here in the UK. Back home, though, anytime I go to a balcony, I have this gorgeous view of the second highest peak in Slovakia. I consider myself to be very lucky growing up in this beautiful part of Slovakia.
I love the feel of fresh air, which I never really appreciated when I lived there. You only notice these things when you aren’t exposed to them on a daily basis. Every time I visit my home, it hits me right in the face, and it’s such a massive difference when you are coming from a city where the main smells are those of car exhausts, smog and dust.
Although I love the Italian and Indian cuisine, and even learned to accept British food (I do quite fancy the occasional Fish and Chips these days), Slovak food is still my favourite. Our traditional dishes are Halusky (potato dumplings with sheep’s milk cheese) and Pirohy (cheese filled dumplings), and I can eat them every day. That’s why I usually put some weight on when visiting Slovakia. Nothing beats my mum’s cooking, and because I only visit a couple of times a year, she always cooks only my favourite foods. Talking about being spoilt.
I also love typical Slovak restaurants. They all have a distinctive wooden design and architecture. They bring all traditional Slovak dishes under one roof. When I’m at home, we usually treat ourselves to a meal at one of the traditional Slovak restaurants.
The area is home to a wide range of wild and some unique animals, including bears, deers, foxes, wolves, Tatra chamois, or lynx. I have some great memories about feeding does, especially in winter months when the grass is covered in snow. We always used to keep potato peels or some old bread for them. And they aren’t shy to come right to your doorstep, literally. It’s not unusual to see them from our balcony during the day, what not to love about it.
On the other hand, we also have some unwanted visitors, and if you encounter them, it may become quite scary experience. I’m talking about bears here. I’ve not encountered one, but my mum has while walking our dog. The bear didn’t take much notice of my mum, but the encounter left her frightened to death.
In the mating season, you can also hear deers grunting, especially if you are out at night time.
I love a proper winter with lots of snow. That’s very rare in the UK, unless maybe in Scotland. And I also love the sunshine. Yeah, you won’t get much of that in the UK either. Ok, so that’s no snow and no sunshine, what the heck then do you get in the UK? Well, you can definitely count on lots of cloudy and rainy days.
In Slovakia, we usually get cold, dry and crisp winters with lots of snow. White Christmas is something I also took for granted before my move to the UK.
The weather in summer months is sometimes similar to a Mediterranean climate. Ok, we don’t have a sea, but we have some beautiful lakes and outdoor water parks.
Each country has its own unique traditions and customs. Some special days aren’t celebrated in the UK at all. Others are celebrated in an entirely different way.
Let’s just mention few here:
6th December – Saint Nicolaus Day (a much loved day for all children)
The night before, children put their shoes on the windowsill. If they were good all year, they wake up in the morning with a surprise presents from Saint Nicolaus next to the shoe. Of course, good or bad, you still got them. It was usually sweets, chocolates, nuts and some fruit. That day we used to take some of the sweets and chocolates to school and just compare what everyone else got.
Easter Monday (a much loved day for boys, but much hated for girls)
Yeah, my daughter will be one day grateful that she spends Easter in the UK and not in Slovakia.
Only kidding, it’s not that bad. So, what actually happens on Easter Monday?
Boys go round their friends’ and neighbours’ houses if there are any girls and beat the girls on their legs with whips. They also carry some bottles or buckets of water and chase the girls to throw water all over them. Yes, it really is as ridiculous as it sounds. And on top of that, girls then have to give boys some Easter eggs and money, or alcohol for older boys and men.
It used to be much worse for girls of my mum’s generation. Forget about bottle or bucket of water. They used to throw them straight in the river or pond.
Nowadays, it’s quite a low key affair. You don’t have to change your clothes five times a day anymore.
There are much more different traditions, but we would be here all day if I were to mention all of them.
What do you love about your home town or country? I’d love to hear about it.