My Sentimental Reminiscence

by Kristina Cakova

Where can you return home? Where is the sanctuary you can fall back onto when everything falls apart? Is it the Netherlands? Or Slovakia? I was asked this question during a recent conversation I had with one of my teachers. Admittedly, the conversation has left me overwhelmed as I have never thought about it this way before, most probably assuming it would never come to such point. Having thought about it more, I realised that indeed I did slightly take against Slovakia in the past few months while living in the Netherlands. Suddenly, after this discussion, I felt an urgent need to redeem myself from such approach. How can one come to dislike the country that gave their life basis, that taught them to speak, explore and has given them free education to build upon? Even though my mindset may have changed over the past year in various directions, one should definitely not forget where they come from. That’s why I decided to write about Slovakia in the first place, to awaken and acknowledge the good parts of being Slovak. Therefore, without any further ado, let me reminisce about some of the features that make Slovakia unique and which I hope never to forget.

The first aspect, and probably the one I miss the most about Slovakia, is its mesmerising nature, those beautiful fields, meadows and forests. In the home that I grew up, it took just a few steps to get lost in the dark forest of calm and peace. Leaving my home surroundings, and moving many kilometers north, High Tatras boasts their beautiful peaks, the majesties of Slovak nature, attracting tourists from all around the world. And how can one blame them? From my own experience I wish everyone could climb upto those peaks, feel the rush that the sight of a world below gave me when I was lucky to be on top of those mountains. The greenery, the lakes and clouds feel almost in your own palm. There, on top of those beautiful mountains, I have felt the most powerful, as if, were I able to get there now, I would be able do to anything I set my mind to.

Of course, it’s not only the mountains that make Slovak nature so special. Truly, Slovakia is proudly crowned as the Queen of mineral springs, in Europe. Not only do these springs look breath-taking, but their healing power also has people fully mesmerized. I believe coming to Slovakia offers both breath-taking scenery as well as the opportunity to heal one’s body, both mentally and physically, while being fully absorbed by mother nature.

It doesn’t matter if you visit Slovakia during winter, summer, spring or even autumn, in every season you have the chance to experience traditional rituals in many Slovak villages. I have deliberately mentioned villages rather than the cities because traditions in villages managed to survive over many decades. This is thanks to our passionate grandparents and great grandparents and their determination to pass previous wisdom and heritage onto the new generation. One of these traditions is the beautiful display of folklore clothes, decorated with playful ornaments and colourful ribbons. Despite the fact that these clothes differ from West to the East, the spirit of our ancestors lives in all of them. Over the many years living in the village, I have come to like one tradition in particular which I would like to share with you, today. At the beginning of every year, right before Christian Fasting, the Shrovetide is celebrated in a village which I used to call home for so many years. The celebrations of Shrovetide last for 3 days, starting on Sunday and finishing on a so-called Ash Wednesday. The whole tradition is composed of performing traditional dance, dressed in folklore clothes that are typical for our village. If you ever happen to be in Slovakia, I strongly encourage you to visit the countryside as well, to experience the cultural adventure with your own eyes.

After my heartfelt effusion towards Slovak traditions let’s move to another important aspect of Slovak culture, the architecture. Slovak architecture is closely connected to an effort to free itself from stereotypes and old-fashioned thinking, as if to progress in more contemporary, advanced reflection. Growing up in Slovakia I hadn’t particularly acknowledged the architecture, or any history behind it, but the more I encountered foreigners, and heard their opinion about Slovakia, the more I realised that the strangers indeed still saw my homeland as part of Eastern European block, full of communist architecture and underdevelopment. This got me thinking, is Slovakia really still so stereotyped? Of course, there are many buildings screaming they were built during the communist regime. However, the new architectural masterpieces growing in the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava, give fresh breath of evolution and reflect the ambition of showing that Slovakia is no longer lagging behind. One could say that through the architecture Slovak culture is aiming to indicate that the country won’t be sleeping any longer and is ready to use its full potential with the young generation on its shoulders.

This brings me to an end of my sentimental reminiscence. Being away from my home country and the people I love has both challenged and encouraged me to feel the connection to my homeland, even from far away. Luckily, this connection has now deepened even further as I began to write about Slovakia, the things which make it so authentic and, after all, a beautiful country to live in. Hopefully, this article brings you at least a fraction of what Slovakia represents to me, maybe even leaving you eager to learn more, or to pay it a visit one day. There’s no doubt Slovakia is on its own journey to prove that a great potential has been cultivated here over many years, and I can’t wait to see it bloom.