Courier August/September Courier - Page 52

COMPASS Eastern Europe COMPILED BY GABE WEBB See Slovakia from tajch to bottom “Slovakia is a small country in the heart of Europe,” says Marcela Lauková, managing direc- tor of Discover Slovakia Tours. “And short travel distances allow you to see a lot in a short time.” Many Discover Slovakia itineraries have an agritourism focus, including the long-time NTA member’s most popular trip, Explore Eastern Europe. Over the course of 13 days, travelers will see the region’s major cities such as Prague, Krakow, Bratislava and Budapest. They will also visit rural farms and learn about raising livestock Clockwise from top: Bratislava Castle, Cold Creek Waterfalls in the High Tatras mountains, Spiš Castle, choir in Hronsek 50 August/September 2017 and go to historical breweries, as well as explore the beauty of the High Tatras mountains. Lauková says the company is deepening its agricultural tours. “We can now provide a very technical agriculture program in the Balkans: Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro. We also offer a new program connected to a Danube river cruise, where we offer agricultural day trips instead of the regular cultural visits.” In addition to featuring eastern Europe’s agricultural output, Discover Slovakia’s tours showcase its home country’s UNESCO-listed sites. “There are five cultural and two natu- ral UNESCO sites located in the small area of Slovakia,” says Lauková. The town of Banská Štiavnica and its nearby mines and reservoirs (tajchs) have been recog- nized for their historical value. The city thrived as a mining center during the Renaissance, and the flourishing economy led to the construction of beautiful palaces, churches and castles. The surviving mineshafts and tunnels are recognized for their technical achievement for their era. “Nowadays, the city is described as the Soho of Slovakia,” says Lauková, “with a rich concen- tration of arts and more than 60 tajchs.” For 2018, Discover Slovakia plans to expand its specialty group tour themes. Lauková says the company has seen increased interest from groups looking for performance opportunities, historical sites and active travel. “Our very first bike group from the U.S. will arrive in the autumn and will have a six-day biking program in Slovakia and the Czech Republic,” she says. To learn more, contact Lauková at mlaukova@ or go to discover