Striking about travelling through Slovakia, especially after coming over the border from the Ukraine, are the historic buildings. Many of these buildings were constructed during the 18th and 19th centuries when Slovakia was a part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. Some of them, especially in Kosice, date from the Medieval era. It is thanks to its geography that Slovakia – and also, neighbouring Czech republic – were spared the devastation of the Second World War. When the German army invaded Russia, it went through Poland. That was logical. Most of Poland – and the Ukraine – is flat. The Germans moved en masse through these regions – and when the tide of war turned, they were pursued across the same ground by the Red Army.
Slovakia, being mountainous, was spared, along with its historic buildings.
Today, it is subject to a different kind of invasion: modernity. Rising living standards and prosperity, despite their obvious advantages, are steadily neutering the country and its culture. The finest examples of Slovakia’s historic buildings are in the east. In the west, the old city centres have been dwarfed by high-rise towers and new factories. Big corporations have moved en masse to western Slovakia because of the low wages and high education levels of the locals. Naturally, whilst taking full advantage of low wage Slovakia, these same corporations expect unrestricted access to the lucrative markets in western Europe – where wages are much higher and people have a greater purchasing power.
These images are of Kosice and nearby Levoca – a smaller, walled town where Anya and I stayed whilst walking in the nearby hills/mountains.
A synagogue hailing from pre-war times when a third of Kosice’s population were Jews. It is no longer used.
A plaque on this synagogue designed by a local artist to remember the Holocaust -and very graphic: a hand scraping down the page of the Tora