Slo­vakia: Land of Cas­tles on the Danube

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS -

With the blue Danube River flow­ing peace­fully through its lands, Slo­vakia, a land­locked coun­try in Cen­tral Eu­rope, is blessed with beau­ti­ful scenery and a pleas­ant cli­mate. The coun­try also has one of the high­est quan­ti­ties of cas­tles any­where in the world, which range from ru­ins to well­p­re­served struc­tures.

Slo­vakia is bor­dered by the Czech Repub­lic to the north­west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hun­gary to the south and Aus­tria to the south­west. Most of the coun­try's ter­ri­tory is sit­u­ated in the west­ern Carpathian Moun­tains and its south­west and south­east are cov­ered by open plains. About one third of the coun­try is forested. The main rivers in Slo­vakia are the Danube, Mo­rava, Váh, Hron and Hornád, which are part of the Danube River basin. The to­tal length of the coun­try's dense river net­work is 367 km.

Bratislava is the cap­i­tal of Slo­vakia and sits on the banks of the Danube at the foot of the Lit­tle Carpathi­ans. It is the coun­try's most im­por­tant river port as well as its po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and cul­tural cen­tre. The city is home to the Slo­vak Academy of Sciences, sev­eral uni­ver­si­ties and many cul­tural or­gan­i­sa­tions. It in­cludes both an old town and a mod­ern area. The old town is filled with his­toric sites such as Bratislava Cas­tle, which is the cap­i­tal's most im­por­tant land­mark and orig­i­nally the site of a Ro­man fort.

The High Ta­tras are a par­adise for moun­tain climbers and hik­ers and are known as “Na­ture's Bless­ing in Slo­vakia.” Ta­tra Na­tional Park cov­ers the area and is Slo­vakia's most fa­mous na­tional park. Slo­vakia also has the largest area of karst to­pog­ra­phy any­where in Cen­tral Eu­rope, mak­ing it a favourite spot for any­one who en­joys spelunk­ing. The Ochtina Cave is one of only three arag­o­nite caves in the world, and the Dob­sin­ska Ice Cave was in­cluded on the UN­ESCO World Her­itage List along with the Slo­vak Karst. Slo­vakia also fea­tures about 180 cas­tles and other pro­tected sites, as well as about 1,200 manor houses and tall build­ings.

As a coun­try with rich his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural her­itage, Slo­vakia brought won­der­ful per­for­mances fea­tur­ing folk songs played on tra­di­tional, na­tional in­stru­ments to this year's “Colour­ful World” event.

Dressed in black hat and coat with white wool trousers, a vet­eran per­former be­gan by play­ing the tra­di­tional Slo­vakian fu­jara. This long, bam­boo-shaped in­stru­ment orig­i­nated in Cen­tral Slo­vakia among sheep­herders who would per­form at tra­di­tional fes­ti­vals, cre­at­ing a uniquely melan­cholic sound. The fu­jara can be up to two me­tres long and was in­scribed on the UN­ESCO list of Mas­ter­pieces of the Oral and In­tan­gi­ble Her­itage of Hu­man­ity in 2005.

Next came a tra­di­tional flute per­for­mance that ac­com­pa­nied a folk song about the Slo­vakian grass­lands. As the third in­stru­ment that was in­volved was re­vealed, au­di­ence mem­bers were again drawn to its un­usual shape. It looked like the han­dle of an um­brella at one end and a flute at the other with the two parts be­ing con­nected by a sheep­skin pouch. Th­ese were the Slo­vakian bag­pipes. The au­di­ence was then pre­sented with a folk song de­scrib­ing the life of a shep­herd and ex­tolling the virtues of phys­i­cal labour.

China has es­tab­lished an op­por­tu­nity to co­op­er­ate eco­nom­i­cally with Slo­vakia via the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive. Slo­vakian in­fra­struc­ture projects can take ad­van­tage of the ini­tia­tive and boost the coun­try's trans­port in the north-south and east-west direc­tions. In 2017, Slo­vakia passed a bill to de­velop eco­nomic re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries from 2017–2020. Fu­ture co­op­er­a­tion will mostly fo­cus on in­vest­ment, trade, trans­porta­tion, tourism and sci­en­tific in­no­va­tion.

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