Slovakia is just south of Poland and measures about twice the size of New Hampshire. Formerly a member of the dual nation Czechoslovakia, which formed after World War I at the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Slovakia is now an independent republic. Since the peaceful parting from the Czech Republic in January 1993, Slovakia has made significant reforms to its economic structure, has joined the EU and has adopted the Euro. This nation’s rich history, paired with the majestic beauty of its mountainous landscape, has made Slovakia one of Europe’s fastest growing travel destinations.
Eighty-five percent of the population in Slovakia is Slovak; other minority ethnicities include Hungarians, Roma, Czechs, Ukrainians, and Poles. The Slovak constitution proudly guarantees freedom of religion, but over half of the population chooses to practice Roman Catholicism. Smaller percentages of the population are Protestant and Greek Catholic. The official language of Slovakia is Slovak, it is an Indo-European language belonging to the West Slavic languages group (Czech, Polish and Sorbian are also included). The Slovak language uses the Latin alphabet, with the additional usage of diacritics, small punctuation marks placed above certain characters (ˇ, ´, ¨, ^;); there are four basic groups of different dialects spoken throughout the country.
Due to its location in Central Europe, Slovak culture has been influenced by its surrounding Austrian, German and Hungarian neighbors. Folk traditions rich in arts and crafts have been developed throughout Slovakia's history, and have been a direct result of successful archaeological findings discovered in its natural territory. Most commonly found in rural areas, popular crafts include wood carving, fabric weaving and glass painting. Throughout the country, Slovaks enjoy the view of unique wooden churches built with careful craftsmanship, and brightly painted houses which light up neighborhoods. Historically, music has been an integral part of Slovak culture.
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Made from the milk of a lamb, Oštiepok cheese is first made into a sweet, smoked cheese, and its hand molded form is left to harden. Once it has a firm exterior, the cheese is submerged in warm salt water to absorb a savory flavor.