Who is Dezo Hoffman? And why he’s rolling home to Slovakia after nearly a century…

Dezo Hoffman is said to have taken the first professional photographs of The Beatles in the very early 1960s.

He was already 50 years old
and by talent and luck was catapulted into that
hallucinogenic hedonistic decade which few of us can actually remember
but none of us want to forget.

Sadly though, in so many ways
Dezo Hoffman has been left to buffet around in dimmer memories of the time when
a generation ‘turned on and tuned in’.

Yet, this former Czech soldier
documented so many of the ‘greats’ – The Rolling Stones, Dusty
Springfield, Charlie Chaplin, Sophia Loren, Laurence
Olivier, The Kinks, Tom Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Frank
Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Omar Sharif and Pink Floyd.

The list is endless.

And one of his pictures is
seen as one of the era’s most iconic … it shows ‘peace and love man’ hero
George Harrison sporting a black eye after getting into a full-blown fight  with a fan over the sacking of drummer Pete
Best, the man vaguely remembered as the Fifth Beatle.

Dezo’s celebrity career began
with a psychedelic spurt in 1962 and basically spluttered out in 1966.

But now Dezider Hoffmann is becoming
a bit of a celebrity himself. And finally he is coming home.

His childhood home in
Banská Štiavnica is becoming a shrine to his work.

The family’s 250-year-old single story house in the centre of the ancient town
in the Štiavnica Mountains  is being restored by brothers Šimon and Michal
Šafařík. They hope it will open to the public soon.

Michal said: “The house is of
craftsman origin. It was divided into two parts, there was a workshop in the
first part and a family lived in the second,.and we just wanted to preserve
this little bit of history.”

Their project was supported by
the Culture Ministry and now the businessmen are in the process of buying
Dezo’s original photos.

Dezo was born in this tiny
enclave of what is now Slovakia in 1912. After studying journalism in Prague,
he got a job at Twentieth Century Fox in Paris as a photojournalist.

His first major work was a
film of Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia and things really took off.  After returning from Africa he went to Spain
to film the 1936 People’s Olympiad – a protest against the official Olympic
games in Berlin.

But civil war broke out and
Dezo found himself on the barricades.

He was injured and moved to
Britain to recover. He lived comfortably in St Paul’s Road, Leicester, with his
wife and daughter Dolores.

But despite his war wounds,
Dezo’s sense of adventure took over and he
joined a  squadron of Czechoslovak
pilots flying with the RAF during World War II.

After the war he got a job on
the Record Mirror.

And that’s how he met the

Sadly, Dezo Hoffman has became
largely forgotten, although exhibitions of his work pop up in various places,
including Hungary in 2015.

But recently some pictures he
took in Leicester –  of a a street party
in 1953 to celebrate the Queen’s Coronation – were discovered in a box by his

His son-in-law, Christopher
Prevost, who lives in Kent, said: “When he was in London, his studio and office
were in Gerrard Street. We were sorting through a box full of photographs from
there, my wife and I recently came across these taken in Leicester..”

And so now his story has
come full circle… to begin again in the tiny Slovak home he spent his
childhood in, more than a century ago.


How a new generation of musicians will be heard from the hillsides of Wales to the mountains of Slovakia

A group of young musicians
are to scale the heights of their ambition against the backdrop of Slovakia’s
High Tatras Mountains.

The  youngsters
are part of a project involving world-famous conductor Simon Chalk who,
fittingly, comes from a small mining village in mountains of South Wales.

Simon has toured the world three times as a conductor
with the classic and modern performers, ll Divo but now he is involved in a
major UK and Slovak cultural project for young musicians.

Simon has also worked with the BBC Concert Orchestra,
the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and is currently the Guest Principal
Conductor for the Slovak Sinfonietta (Štátny Komorný Orchester Zilina –
state chamber orchestra of Slovakia

And last year Simon was awarded the Diploma of
Appreciation by the Slovak government in recognition of ‘extraordinary merits in
the development of friendly relationships with the Slovak Republic’.

The award focussed on his cultural work with young

Simon said: “For any musician performing for others is
the real pleasure and to know they are listening is one of the greatest

“And when one adds to this the prospect of being able
to travel to other countries and share the experience, then we have a whole new
set of wonderful things to add to the mix.

“So, when I was approached by Nigel Payne, the
honorary Slovak consul for Wales, through the Slovak Embassy in London, and
asked to join him in planning this project for young people I was delighted.

“We decided to arrange an exchange visit between
students from Cardiff and those in Slovakia, including an opportunity with the
Slovak State Chamber Orchestra, the Slovak Sinfonietta. I actually was the
former Chief Conductor.

“It will be a fabulous experience for the young
musicians of Corpus Christi as they travel across Europe to join their
compatriot young musicians in Slovakia and further afield.

“They will also have the chance to learn from some of
the best professional musicians I have had the honour of working with.”

Simon is supported by Mrs Natasha Evans, Head of Music
at Corpus Christi, Cardiff. She  said: “Opportunities
such as this, where our young people will get to play alongside professional
musicians, are rare. For some of our pupils this event has the potential to be

The pupils will stay at the award-winning eco-friendly resort Aquacity-Poprad,

AquaCity, in the sunny north east of Slovakia, is
famous for its geothermal spring water taken from a vast subterranean lake and
harnessed by heat exchangers,

The resort is powered by solar power and wind
turbines, heats the resort’s hotels, spa and water park, and supplies up to 80
per cent of its electricity.

By avoiding fossil fuels, the resort saves 27 tons of
carbon emissions per day.

Dr Jan Telensky, the
founder of AquaCity, said “I am
absolutely delighted to sponsor this group of young aspiring musicians. It’s
essential that we encourage our young people to reach their full potential in
all areas of the curriculum, including music. Providing situations where
students can experience and take part in music is infinitely more inspiring
than telling them about it.”

Cardiff and Vale music service (CAVMS), which exists
to develop young peoples’ musical talent in Wales, are involved with the
project. CAVMS delivers music tuition in over 80 schools, teaching over 2000
students every week.

John Murray, Director of CAVMS, said “The chance to
play alongside professional musicians will be an experience they will never
forget. It is a shame that we can’t do this for more young people”.

This project is being supported by a number of
organisations, including Jaguar Land Rover and Wizzair.

Nigel Payne, Honorary Consular Office of Slovakia to
Wales, said “This is a tremendous opportunity for the students to develop their
music skills and be given the broader educational experience of travel as well
as the experience of meeting fellow students from Slovakia with an interest in


There’s a little bit of Britain that will remain in Europe, come what May

A businessman has pledged that part of a remote European city will be forever England.

The Central European entrepreneur is
transforming part of the tiny city he
rescued from poverty into a monument to English-ness.

Poprad, at the foot of Central Europe’s
High Tatras mountains, had been devastated by decades of communism. Slovaks
were leaving the country in their droves looking for a better life. Many headed
to the UK.

Dr Jan Telensky was one of the first. He
fled in the 1960s after Russia led the Warsaw Pact countries in the bloody
invasion of his homeland, Czechoslovakia, now called Czech Republic.

As a teenager he’d fought the  invaders and ended up being sentenced in his
absence on his head. Dr Telensky was exiled for more than two decades.

Now half a century later the hotelier
and property developer who is credited with building the world’s greenest hotel
is seen as just the business in Slovakia.

And as Brexit looms, he is honouring the
country that gave him back his life.

Creating his living monument is a
dramatic endeavour for Dr Telensky. It takes him back to when he was a teenager,
camped in a graveyard in Dunstable. It also takes him back to  the awful night he tried to call his family,
2,000 miles away.

He lost the last of his money when he
accidentally pushed Button B instead of Button A in the old red telephone box
outside the cemetery gates.

But Dr Telensky recalls later saving
enough to send a Christmas parcel home and a letter to his parents, telling
them he was safe. He had built up a sandwich round at the local Vauxhall car
factory and was finally eking out a living.

first things he shipped back to Slovakia five years ago were a red
telephone box and an old pillar box which tourists now use to send letters and
postcards home.

It was these two items that began his
museum of memories in the mountains.

But it hasn’t stopped there and he has
had a 40 year old London black cab in pride of place outside his flagship
hotel, Aquacity.

But his ambitions kept growing and he
decided to turn a nearby decrepit fishing ‘hole’ into a duck pond based on
those you see in Britian’s leafy parks.

The next idea was to mark the game of
football too – many UK teams were already flying out to use AquaCity’s
facilities for training.

So, he festooned the walls of the hotel
with an amazing collection of signed football shirts.

Then in 2006 the Queen and Prince Philip
paid a whistle-stop tour to Central Europe and stopped off at AquaCity, by then
regularly voted the world’s greenest hotel. Dr Telensky says he was so proud
that he immediately commissioned a portrait of the Queen.

That now hangs proudly in reception.

But one of his most ambitious projects
was to help build the city’s new multi-million football stadium as a replica of
an English stadium.

Dr Telensky, who has office in Luton,
said: “Football fascinates me, it’s the will to win and the strategy you need
to make it happen. But I can’t always be there, so it made sense to build
Poprad’s disintegrating stadium in the image of footballing excellence.”

And for good measure, in each of his
five hotels he has installed a Victorian-style gentleman’s club where cigars
and brandy are the order of the day.

He also uses his 2,000 acre farm on the
outskirts of the city, to produce Cumberland sausages for traditional English
breakfast at his five luxury hotels.

He said: “England helped me realise my
dreams. Now I want it to remain in a small enclave of Europe forever, no matter
what happens with Brexit.”

And he is particularly fond of the
statement his red telephone box and post box make.

“They were just something else that I
learned to love and I want my guests from all over the world to experience them
too. People really like the idea of using the post box to send their cards and
letters home,” he smiled.

There were many times in the
life of Dr Telensky that he thought he might never be able to return home

He was born into a
family with a military background but wanted to be a concert violinist. The
thunder of invading tanks and troops however, forced him to go to ‘war’.

He said: “At 21 years
old I’d nearly gambled my life away over the freedom of my homeland. I fled to
Britain before they could shoot me and I learned to never be afraid of anything

However, for the next
20 years he was a true exile, not even allowed to return for his father’s

He said: “I slept in a graveyard, but the
opportunities were there and I could see them and. The UK helped me build a
life for myself, like it has for so many from my homeland. And I want to be
remembered no matter what happens with Brexit.”

Poprad is known as the gateway to the mysterious High
Tatras mountains.  But when Dr Telensky
arrived there all that time ago it was more like a creaking gate.

He met his wife, Alenka, in
Poprad and it was because of her family that he first saw his ecological vision
of the future. They had showed him the blow-hole of the  subterranean thermal lake which was about to
buoy up his future.

He was about to create one of
the most ecologically sound hotels in the world …

AquaCity powered by a
geothermal lake.

Dr Telensky  said: “When finally I could return I was
deeply disappointed by the consequences of 40 years of communism.
Something  had to be done and I  dedicated myself to the transformation of the
region and I am very proud to be part of her progress.

“I believe in the tremendous
potential of Slovakia and  its role in
the future of Europe.”

And now this tiny
corner of the High Tatras  will be forever England with all its memories,
charm and intrigue.


Slovakia moves to end worries of UK ex-pats living in the Little Big Country

As the United Kingdom claws its way through the rubble that Brexit is becoming, more and more countries across the European Union are telling British ex-pats that life will go on as normal.

The European Commission has asked – but not ordered – member states to grant temporary residence permits to British nationals to give them time to apply for long-term residency.

Germany and Italy complied at the end of last year.

But there is still a question over which former EU residence rights each country will extend.  Reciprocity is becoming key to all ex-pats’ fates, with Spanish authorities saying British expats will have the same rights in Spain post-Brexit if the UK extends residency rights to Spaniards in the UK.

Now Slovakia has published a comprehensive information sheet about residence in the territory of the Republic.

It is something those countries who are still dragging their feet over the lives of ex-pats should take a lead from:

If you, as a United Kingdom national, and your family members have a residence in the territory of the Slovak Republic of longer than 5 years on the date of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, you will automatically obtain a long-term residence according to Art. 52 of the Act No. 404/2011 Coll. on Residence of Foreigners and Amendment and Supplementation of Certain Acts.

This means that, you do not have to apply for this type of permanent residence. However, please see further guidance on residence cards below.

If you, as a United Kingdom national, and your family members have registered residence in the territory of the Slovak Republic of less than 5 years on the date of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, you will automatically obtain a permanent residence for five years in the interest of the Slovak Republic according to Art. 43 (1) e) of the Act on Residence of Foreigners.

This means that, you do not have to apply for this type of permanent residence. However, please see further guidance on residence cards below.

If you have been issued a Residence Card of EU Citizen by the date of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, this residence card will remain valid until December 31, 2020. This means that if you are a holder of a Residence Card of EU Citizen, its validity will expire on December 31, 2020. For this reason, you should apply for a new residence card by this date at the latest.

However, we recommend that you do not wait until the end of the validity of the Residence Card of EU Citizen and apply for a new residence card as soon as possible.

If the relevant Unit of the Foreigners Police has your postal address in the Slovak Republic, that unit will send to you by post a Temporary residence card and guidance on how to apply for your new residence card. You can use this temporary residence card until you have requested and received your new residence card.

If the relevant Unit of the Foreigners Police does not have your postal address in the Slovak Republic, you can collect your Temporary residence card from the office listed below.

You can use your Temporary residence card to travel to other EU Member States until you have requested and received your new residence card.

If your Residence Card of EU Citizen was originally issued by one of the following units:

  • The Units of Foreigners Police Bratislava,
  • he Units of Foreigners Police Trnava,
  • The Units of Foreigners Police Dunajská Streda,
  • The Units of Foreigners Police Nové Zámky,
  • The Units of Foreigners Police Nitra,

you can collect your Temporary residence card from the office of the Units of

Foreigners Police in Bratislava
Regrutska Street , 831 07 Bratislava
from 7.30 a. m. to 3.30 p. m.

If your Residence Card of EU Citizen was originally issued by one of the following units:

  • The Units of Foreigners Police Trenčín,
  • The Units of Foreigners Police Banská Bystrica,
  • The Units of Foreigners Police Rimavská Sobota,
  • The Units of Foreigners Police Žilina

you can collect your Temporary residence card from the office of the
Directorates of Border and Foreigners Police in Banská Bystrica
Sládkovičova Street 4343/25, 974 05 Banská Bystrica
from 7.30 a. m. to 3.30 p. m.

If your Residence Card of EU Citizen was originally issued by one of the following units:

  • The Units of Foreigners Police Košice,
  • The Units of Foreigners Police Michalovce,
  • The Units of Foreigners Police Prešov,

you can collect your Temporary residence card can from the office of the

Directorates of Border and Foreigners Police in Prešov
Jarkova Street 31, 080 10 Prešov
from 7.30 a. m.  to 3.30 p. m.
If you leave the territory of the Slovak Republic after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, and you do not plan to remain in the territory of the Slovak Republic, you are obliged to report this fact in writing or in person to the relevant units of the Foreigners Police.

United Kingdom nationals and their family members, who by the date of the United Kingdom´s withdrawal from the European Union will not have registered residence in the territory of the Slovak Republic, they may exit the Slovak Republic under the same conditions as they entered the Slovak Republic, no later than 90 days after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.

United Kingdom nationals who have not registered their residence in the territory of the Slovak Republic by the date of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, will be considered as third-country nationals after Brexit. If they wish to stay in the territory of the Slovak Republic, they may apply for a temporary residence or permanent residence as a third-country national.


How Poprad showed the makings of Slovakia again

It was an event which echoed through the glowering mountains, a street fair which went from one end of the booming little city of Poprad to the other.

Made in Slovakia had come home again and it had brought just about everything  with it –  food stalls, clothing, beer and wine, arts and crafts, musicians, street acts, chain-saw artists and of course a traditional pig roast.

And the noise of the madding crowds, the vendors making deals and the local bands on the temporary stage in the shadow of the Gothic Church of St Egidius could be heard way off in the incising sharks teeth of the High Tatras.

These were the echoes of the little big country’s history and future all emanating at once.

But the biggest crowd pleaser over the four-day event surely had to be classic cars which pulled into ‘town’, stayed for a few hours and then drove off into the sunset.

Automobiles have always been a major part of Slovakia’s history and it was fitting that they were there at this event.

The first vehicle made in Slovakia is said to have been built from scratch by a blacksmith  called Michal Majer. That was way back in 1913 and records say that he copied a car owned by the King of Bulgaria.

Volkswagen’s Beetle, the creation of Ferdinand Porsche,  was made first  in Bohemia.

And the first Škoda motorcycle  was revealed in 1899, six years before the company began manufacturing automobiles.

Since  2007 Slovakia has been one of the world’s largest producers of cars.

So, here the presents a round-up of images – many of them showing classic vehicles –  from the Made in Slovakia event at the heart of Poprad.


The winning ways of Dr Telensky and the Lion hearts of AquaCity

A world class centre in Poprad Slovakia produces players for WORLD CLASS teams.

Once little more than a rubbish tip, AquaCity has been transformed into a World Class centre solely due to the vision and Euro multi-million investment of environmental entrepreneur, Dr Jan Telensky.


Prior to AquaCity being born, Poprad had a run-down swimming pool and neglected saunas on the site that is now AquaCity. A handful of people were employed there with no long-term prospects. Today, the World class centre is proud to provide careers for hundreds of local citizens plus contracts for local companies and their employees, more long-term stability for the city.

AquaCity can boast many achievements – a major one being the State visit of Queen Elizabeth II. The origins of the state visit were put in place in AquaCity at a meeting with team members of the British Embassy. Dr Telensky was personally thanked for his input and support resulting in the State visit.

AquaCity has hosted national teams from around the world and now those who trained in Poprad have appeared on the World Stage.

Today AquaCity is basking in the glory of seeing those it helped trained playing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Dr Telensky’s AquaCity Boys are not just playing there, they in the spotlight of television and radio station around the world to billions tuned into the World Cup.

Dr Telensky said, “It is amazing how a small place in Slovakia can be turned into a training complex that produces world class players.

“I am so proud of those that have worked as a unique team to transform a one-time rubbish dump into an area every citizen of Poprad can be proud of.
“But the story isn’t over yet, we plan even more for Poprad as we continue to provide foreign tourists, via television, radio and the written word, even more information to encourage them to visit our great achievement”.

Three world class players have been singled out, a full list of Manchester United players is also included, to demonstrate that which can be achieved when a forward thinking group of people work in harmony to turn a town’s blight into the Flagship centre for the world to see.

Here are three players selected to play in Russia – Dr Telensky’s AquaCity Boys

Marcus Rashford is an English professional footballer who plays as a forward for Premier League club Manchester United. He was born in Wythenshawe, Manchester on 31 October 1997.

Marcus began playing football for Fletcher Moss Rangers at the age of five and joined the Manchester academy system at the age of seven. He was a star striker for the youth team and trained in AquaCity, Poprad, Slovakia in 2013 and 2014.

He was selected by Louis van Gaal for the first-team sub’s bench on 21 November 2015 for a Premier League match against Watford. On 25 February 2016, Marcus was a late addition to the Manchester United starting line-up for their UEFA Europa League round of 32, second leg tie against Midtjylland. He impressed on his first-team debut with two goals in the second half of a 5–1 win. His goals made him Manchester United’s youngest ever scorer in European competition, beating a record previously held by George Best. Marcus made his Premier League debut against Arsenal three days later, he again scored twice and provided the assist for the other goal in a 3–2 home victory, making him the third youngest scorer for United in Premier League history after Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck.aqc-logo

On 20 March 2016, he scored the only goal in the Manchester derby, his team’s first away league win over Manchester City since 2012. Aged just 18 years and 141 days, Marcus made his mark as the youngest ever scorer in a Manchester derby in the Premier League era.

He wrapped up the season with 8 goals in 18 appearances, despite only debuting in February, as well as winning the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award. On 30 May, Marcus signed a new contract with United, keeping him at the club until 2020, with an option to extend for a further year.

For the 2016 season, marking his place as part of the senior squad, Marcus was given the number 19 squad number by new manager José Mourinho.

His performances in his first senior season led to calls for him to represent England at UEFA Euro 2016. Manchester United academy coach Nicky Butt dismissed these calls, calling them premature and possibly harmful for the player’s development. However, on 16 May, Marcus was named in Roy Hodgson’s preliminary 26-man squad for the tournament. He became part of England’s Euro 2016 squad less than four months after making his Manchester United debut. On 27 May, he started in a warm-up match against Australia at the Stadium of Light, and scored the opening goal of a 2–1 win after three minutes, becoming the youngest Englishman to score on his international debut.

Marcus scored his first competitive goal for the senior team on 4 September 2017, with the winning goal in England’s 2–1 win over Slovakia in 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification.

He is a prolific goal scorer and a summary of his scoring record is as follows:

He scored twice in both his first-team debut in the UEFA Europa League (against Midtjylland) and in his first Premier League match in February 2016 (against Arsenal). He also scored in his first Manchester derby match, his first League Cup match and his first UEFA Champions League match. Furthermore, Marcus scored on his England debut in May 2016, becoming the youngest English player to score in his first senior international match.

Marcus is a member of the 23-man England national team squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Adnan Januzaj was born 5 February 1995 in Brussels. He is a Belgian professional footballer who now plays as a winger for Spanish club Real Sociedad and international football for Belgium.

Adnan began his football career with FC Brussels but joined Anderlecht as a 10-year-old in 2005.  He left Anderlecht for Manchester United at the age of 16 in March 2011. He trained with the Manchester United Youth Team in AquaCity, Poprad, Slovakia in 2011 and 2012.

Towards the end of the 2012/13 season, united manager Sir Alex Ferguson promoted Adnan to the first-team squad and he was registered with the number 44 squad number.

He broke into the Manchester United first-team under manager David Moyes during the 2013/14 season his debut, as a substitute, was against Wigan Athletic on 11 August 2013 in the Community Shield. He made his Premier League debut a month later, as a substitute, in a 2–0 home win over Crystal Palace. On 5 October 2013, in what was his first start for the club, Adnan scored twice as United came from behind to claim a 2–1 victory away to Sunderland.

To avert the interest from other clubs, who could have signed him for “minimal compensation” Manchester United signed Adnan on a new five-year contract on 19 October 2013. On 3 December 2013, he was nominated for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year, at the time of his nomination, he had played in just ten games for Manchester United. For the start of the 2014/15 season he was allocated the number 11 squad number shirt, previously worn by the recently retired Ryan Giggs.

Adnan struggled for opportunities under Moyes’ successors Louis van Gaal and José Mourinho, and had loan spells at Borussia Dortmund and Sunderland before joining Real Sociedad in July 2017.

Adnan made his full international debut in 2014 and later that year played for Belgium at the World Cup. He was also selected for the 2018 Belgium world cup team and scored a wonder goal against England in the group stages.


Jesse Ellis Lingard was born in Warrington on 15 December 1992. Jesse is an English professional footballer who plays as an attacking midfielder or as a winger for Premier League club Manchester United and the English national team.

He joined Manchester United’s youth academy at the age of seven and progressed through the age groups. Jesse was part of the Manchester United Youth Team squad who trained in AquaCity,Poprad, Slovakia in 2010. He was part of the Manchester United team that won the 2010/11 FA Youth Cup, before signing a professional contract in the summer of 2011.

Jesse was first included in a senior match day squad on 30 November 2011, in the Cup quarter-finals against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford, remaining unused as Sir Alex Ferguson’s team lost 2–1 after extra time He had his only other call-up that season on 4 January 2012, again unused in a 3–0 away Premier League loss to Newcastle United.

He made his senior debut while on loan at Championship side Leicester City in 2012, and also spent time on loan at Championship sides Birmingham City and Brighton & Hove Albion during the 2013/14 season. Jesse made his Manchester United first team debut against Swansea in 2014 before being loaned to Championship side Derby County in February 2015 for the remainder of the season.

He returned to Manchester United and scored his first premier league goal for his home club on 7 November 2015.

Jesse has represented England at under-17 and under-21 levels, before making his senior international debut in October 2016. He scored his first goal for England on 23 March 2018.

Jesie Lingard is a member of the 23-Man England national team squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Not just on the World Class stage but also in the World’s Top-Flight football league, the Premier League, here are more players who have trained in Slovakia, The Little Big Country Centre AquaCity.




Why Tina says, dance to the rhythm of your breath

Have you ever thought about the key to a fulfilling life? Is it happiness, health, peace of mind? Or is it something else? Let me reveal the miracle of life, the key to every door to life’s enrichment.

You should live the life you always dreamed of.

Change your life to the best it can be, with your breathing! I really believe you can change your life with your breath. You might be thinking right now … Is she for real?

Does she really think we can change anything in our lives by changing our breathing?

I am going to share with you the story of my early experience of the importance of healthy breathing, it shows what breathing does to our body and mind… and I will share with you the first and the most important breathing technique of all.

I was only seven and my breath and my heartbeat had become very weak. I was diagnosed with asthma. I was given drugs to control it.

At the age of 18 I made my very first adult decision. I stopped taking drugs to help my illness. I started on my own healing journey and research – I drank more water, did more exercise, meditated and I ended up watching my breath all the time.

Years went by and I felt really good. I forgot about asthma. Because of all breathing exercises, I could do anything without drugs. Then my first yoga teacher came along and taught me basic asanas and how to breathe through them. That helped me even more.

After just few months of doing yoga, I had a medical examination and the doctor was amazed at the improvement in my lung capacity. My lung capacity at the time was 8 litres, the lung capacity of an average man is 6 litres. That was the moment when my journey of breathing really took off. My wake-up call!

I have studied breathing even more since then. I started to teach yoga and especially breathing and meditation classes. I shared my own experiences with people of different ages, different backgrounds, different health or emotional issues.

And the result? I believe that 95% of the population does not know how to breathe. More than 70% have very short breath, which results in stress, depression and anxiety. 50% of the population does not know how to breathe while they do sports and that results in less energy and more muscle tension.

After I have taught them the proper breathing techniques, I have seen people crying and laughing simply because they have released old patterns or because they experienced unconditional love and happiness through their own breathing.

WHAT BREATHING DOES? To learn how to breathe properly is vitally important. Deep breathing will improve all your conditions. From the physical point of view – healthy breath increases oxygenation throughout the body, improves energy levels and stimulates circulation.

From the mental and emotional point of view – healthy breath reduces worry and anxiety, clears past traumas and dramas, increases life enjoyment.

And last but not least is a spiritual expansion.

Healthy breathing deepens meditation, expands awareness and allows fuller expression of love and joy and much more. There is something about the breath. It is a key to a fulfilled life.

TECHNIQUE – The most important breathing technique of all is to know your own breath. So, close your eyes and listen to your breath. How is it? Is it shallow or deep? Is it fast or slow? Do you breathe into your lungs or all the way into the lower abdomen. How long is your breath in and your breath out?

Our breath is more important than anything else. Why? Because our breath is our life force. Without it, we die within minutes. We have to go with the flow of our breath through our whole life.

Be cautious! Stay in the present moment of your very own breath. Follow your every breath, experience what breathing does to your body and mind. And your every breath becomes your companion and does everything and anything you ever wished for.

Dancing to the rhythm of your breath, it’s like being dancing to the music of life and unconditional love. Change your life to its best, with your breath!

Tina Penxová

by Tina Penxová

Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle…”
I studied technical engineering, but ending up working as mindful breathing coach and yoga teacher.


Slovak patrol saves Russian wife lost at sea for 21 hours on a lilo

A Slovak patrol plane saved the life of a Russian woman who had spent almost 24 hours drifting seven miles out to sea off the Greek coast on a plastic lilo.

The patrol checking for illegal aliens  for the European Border and Coast Guard Agency,  Frontex, was despatched to search for the woman off Rethymno, Crete.

Russian medic Olga Kuldo, aged 55, from Zelenograd, near Moscow, was staying with her husband Oleg, aged 59, and daughter Yulia, aged 28, at  Rethymno on the north of the Greek island.

They alerted rescuers after she failed to return to her hotel room after a late afternoon swim.

Incredibly, Olga floated through one night and into the next day. But she was fried alive by the hot sun and needed hospital treatment for exposure and resulting heart problems

In an official statement the Slovak crew only said: “At 10.40 our aircraft located the missing person, floating on an air mattress, nine nautical miles from Rethymno and one nautical mile from the coastline close to Lavris.

“A Hellenic Coast Guard vessel was dispatched and rescued the 55 year old female who had been in the sea for about 20 hours. ”

But it was 21 hours later that she was spotted from the air after a huge boat and jet-ski search failed to locate her.

A rescue vessel brought her back to shore and she was rushed to hospital with “heart problems” and “hypothermia” after suffering from exposure and sun stroke.Her relieved daughter Yulia, 28, a TV producer, posted on social media: “Miracles happen.”

She said her mother, an ultrasound diagnostics doctor, had been “burned to ashes” by the daytime sun before the EU Frontex agency plane spotted her.

A local report on the island said she was on her subbed “when she was carried away to the open sea so she could not be seen from the beach”.

jess fingers

Man of the Mountains – Jesse takes his Lion’s share of Cup victory!

Wat-er success for Jesse Lingard’s Man U training in the mountains!

Harry Kane might have scored the hat-trick as England got their best-ever World Cup win … but staff at the greenest hotel in the world also had a sense of pride as the score was revealed.

The 6-1 trouncing of Panama at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium put the Three Lions into the final16 – and Jesse Lingard big goal was described as a stunner.

It prompted him to do the now-famous Jesse ‘J-Lingz’ – the victory salute he  uses by holding up his fingers to signify a ‘J’ and an ‘L’.

Jesse learned some of the tricks of his trade at AquaCity’s national training centre in Poprad, Slovakia, at the foot of the High Tatras Mountains. He was joined there by youthful colleagues Marcus Rashford and Danny Welbeck.

Jesse, aged 25, from Warrington, attended the centre and honed his ability to be right where he needs to be … and it paid off as he made what were described as mischievous runs-in waiting for a pass.

But it was down to England forward Marcus, aged 20, from Wythenshawe, Manchester,  to speak confidently after England’s  earlier 2-1 win over Tunisia   – he predicted they could win again when they face Panama on Sunday.

And he was spot on!

Danny also earned himself a place in the hearts of Slovaks when, as a teenage member of Manchester United’s Academy along with the other two, he used the AquaCity national training centre in Poprad to learn the soccer skills which now have him aiming for the top.

Dr Jan Telensky, majority share holder of AquaCity, said: “We are so proud our training facilities which produces world-class players have proved themselves yet again. Good luck in then next stage to Jesse, Marcus and Danny and the entire English squad.”



AquaCity pride over its ‘own Three Lions’ Jesse, Marcus and Danny

A leading Slovak hotel has sent its support to three of its ‘old friends’ in the 2018 FIFA World Cup England squad.

Jesse Ellis Lingard, an attacking midfielder for Manchester United and the English national team, learned a trick or two at the AquaCity-Poprad national training centre along with colleagues Marcus Rashford and Danny Welbeck.

Jesse, aged 25, from Warrington, attended the Slovak centre and honed his ability to be right where he needs to be … and in Volgograd it paid off as he made mischievous runs-in waiting for a pass.

But it was down to England forward Marcus, aged 20, from Wythenshawe, Manchester,  to speak confidently after England’s 2-1 win over Tunisia earlier in the week – he predicted they could win again when they face Panama on Sunday.

Danny also earned himself a place in the hearts of Slovaks when, as a teenage member of Manchester United’s Academy along with the other two, he used the AquaCity national training centre in Poprad to learn the soccer skills which now have him aiming for the top.

Dr Jan Telensky, majority share holder of AquaCity, who features in a short tribute video to players, said: “I had no idea they were going to feature my face in the video – but it makes the point that we are so proud our training facilities which produces world-class players. Good luck to Jesse, Marcus and Danny and the entire English squad.”

Danny, aged 27, plays for Arsenal and the English national team. He was transferred to Arsenal in September 2014 for a £16 million fee.


The dance of friendship…

A real taste of Indonesia came to Slovakia when dancers performed in Bratislava as part of the Kulturne A Informacne Stredisko 2017.

Indonisian dances have specific meanings, sacred ritual dances in temples like the sanghyang dedari and Barong dances involving a trance-like state – and story dances like the, legong and kecak …

Indonesian Ambassador to Slovakia, Adiyatwidi Adiwoso, thanked Slovaks for their interest in the art and culture of his country and said his homeland is open to opportunities in the small but determined Central European country which is rapidly becoming a “friend of Indonesia”.

The festival was held at one of Slovakia’s largest shopping centers Eurovea Mall, famous for its cultural events, lounge bars and magnificent views of the Danube.


jan rosko eric

Rosko and AquaCity’s Dr Jan talk the language of memories and success…

In a moving meeting at London’s plush Savoy hotel, financial angel and businessman Dr Jan Telensky (left) spoke with the man who helped him learn English when he first arrived in the UK after fleeing communist Czechoslovakia.

Dr Jan, the man who created AquaCity water park in Poprad, Slovakia, arrived in Britain when he was 21 with no money and unable to speak the language.

Dr Telensky said: “When I arrived in Luton all those years ago, for a short-time I was homeless and had almost no money as I waited for friends to meet me … but I didn’t know they had gone on holiday. It was very frightening as they were going to help me find work and I couldn’t speak English.

“Anyway, I spent my last few pounds on a bedsit and I began listening to the radio, trying to pick up a smattering of the language … and one of the people I listened to was Emperor Rosko. I began to understand  a little and things just grew from there.

“Now, all these years later I have had the chance to meet the man and thank him for something he had no idea he had done.”

Rosko (centre), who is 74 now and lives in LA, was riding the airwaves in the UK again to boost charities.

The Remember A Charity started its 2017 Awareness Week campaign with the launch of Last Pirate FM, a new pop-up pirate station ‘sailing’ across the UK with Rosko at the helm.

He said: “What an amazing story, it was an honour to meet Dr Telensky and I can only say I’m glad I helped him start on the road to success.”

Pictured with them is Eric Wiltsher, programme director of, one of the most successful European-based radio stations of the last few years, where Rosko still broadcasts on RTI Rosko Radio and has recorded ‘jingles’ for the station.

Eric said: Brilliant to meet up with my old pal Rosko and to be there when he and Dr Telensky finally got a chance to chat!


Made in Slovakia – some of the world’s Porsche-st cars!

Slovakia is really on the road to success as some of the world’s greatest cars begin to be made there.

Porsche has revealed a new generation of SUV which is to be “Made in Slovakia” for the first time. Up until the annoucement the Cayenne’s bodywork and driving gear has been built in Slovakia before being sent to the Porsche plant in Leipzig for putting together.

The pledge to move production in 2014 to Bratislava and a year later a  foundation stone of the new factory in the Devínska Nová Ves area was laid .

And next year the Audi Q8 followed by Lamborghini’s first SUV will be made in Bratislava too.

The new Cayenne model is longer and lower but about 65 kilograms lighter. Volkswagen  claims the new SUV will excel off-road. It is also said that it will be able to accelerate to 100 km in less than five seconds. Both engines are combined with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all four-wheel drive.  


How Slovakia launched itself into a cosmic club without boundaries

Somewhere, out there in the firmament a small cube of technological excellence is finally showing the world that Slovakia has joined the slow but determined battle to conquer space.

At 5.59 CET on June 23, 2017,  radio ham Dmitry Paškov, who lives in the Russian city of Ružajevka, started to receive data packets from skCUBE, which had been launched in conjunction with the Indian Space Research Organisation.

The main scientific experiment is its VLF receiver and a camera used to photograph Earth.  Part of the aim is to scan Slovakia from outer space.

Originally, the satellite was to be launched by the US firm Space X in May 2016, but it was postponed several times.

Space research has become part of the modern history of Slovakia going back to Soviet space programmes – but in 2015 this small country at the heart of Europe signed the European Cooperating State Agreement with ESA prompting Education Minister Juraj Draxler to say: “We have become a member of an exclusive club.”

In becoming an ESA member Slovakia gained knowledge of  important strategic information over cosmic activities and satellite development.”

Education Ministry spokeswoman Beáta Dupaľová Ksenzsighová said at the time: “ESA coordinates a joint space programme in its whole extent – from construction of space ships, via training of astronauts up to construction of satellites.”

Lucia Labajova, marketing manager of the Slovak Organisation for Space Activities, has said: “We see the development of skCUBE as a first spark of light in showing the world that Slovakia belongs to countries with a potential in space science and industry. We want to show that Slovakia has excellent universities, science institutions, and companies which innovate and make our country a good name around the world and going to prove it through our first satellite Made in Slovakia.”

Slovakia has been actively involved in space research and has two cosmonauts, Vladimír Remek, who flew in space in 1978, and Ivan Bella, who spent nine days on board the Mir space station in 1999.

The  Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics of the Comenius University in Bratislava has studied processes caused by cosmic radiation in meteorites and the Institute of Experimental Physics at SAV has designed and constructed space hardware for dozens of scientific probes and has conducted space weather research. 


Why these bikers are real ‘Angels’ of Slovakia

When health company boss Miroslav Hruška realised just how much of his ‘old’ stock he was having to throw away, it gave him an idea which turned out to be really ‘good for Slovakia’.

Miroslav, aged 33, who lives in Presov, East Slovakia, got on his motorcycle and set off delivering the products that would normally be dumped to deserving causes across the region.

Very quickly he enlisted the help of his biker mates and volunteers and set up the World Charity Road team to collect and deliver everything from food and clothing to people in need across Slovakia.

Miroslav, who runs Dobré zo Slovenska (Good for Slovakia), said: “Basically, we were looking for a deeper meaning to riding motorcycles than just the  freedom of the road.  World charity road responds to a need to help  people families and organisastions that really need support. They might need food, clothing and toys, things that people should have a right to.”

Now, every Sunday about 50 bikers set off through the dramatic landscape of Slovakia delivering a bit of happiness to the needy.

Eric Wiltsher, programme director at the independent international radio station, has shared his exclusive interview with Miroslav with the

during the Premier League match between XXX and XXX at Old Trafford on May 21, 2017 in Manchester, England.

How AquaCity moves mountains for Manchester United hopefuls

Heroes of British soccer have revealed one of the best-kept secrets of Slovakia  … for the last eight years Manchester United has been sending its young hopefuls there to a specialist mountainside training camp.

Every October Manchester United’s Youth Team spends time in the city of Poprad training at one of the world’s most exciting stadiums, playing ‘friendlies’ against locals and recuperating in the world’s greenest hotel.

Poprad is an extraordinary place, tacked to the foot of the High Tatras mountains and near to the Polish border.

Thirty years ago though it had daunting metaphorical mountains to climb having been abandoned to the remnants of the Velvet Revolution politics.

But people of vision were already making things happen and now Poprad is one of the most important cities in Slovakia. It has become the administrative, economic, cultural and tourism centre for the whole Tatras region.

And at its heart stands AquaCity, once voted the world’s greenest hotel … and this is where Manchester United hopefuls stay while they undergo training regimes against one of the most powerful natural backdrops in Europe.

Former Manchester United assistant manager Ryan Giggs said this: “It is vital in a young players development that they get to gain as many different types of football experience as possible. Because of the training in Poprad they can relate to playing against different opposition, experience new cultures and food, travelling and adapting to new surroundings. The training camp in Poprad allows all this to happen.”

And last week it all paid off in a big way – youth team  players who trained in Poprad were chosen to play against Crystal Palace  when Jose Mourinho   rotated his squad ahead of the Europa League final.. Manchester United won the game 2-0, with Josh Harrop and Paul Pogba scoring the goals.

The story really begins with former car worker  Dr Jan Telensky, his geo-thermal lake 2,000 metres inside the earth – and his belief in cryogenics.  Three little minutes   that can change your life.

He said:  “When I first came to Poprad, I saw a pipe coming up out of the ground. It had breath hot enough to melt your soul. So, I looked into the history of it and pretty soon I realised there was a natural miracle two miles below the earth. An eternal source of power, warmth and health. It’s been there for millions of years and it’ll be there for millions more.

“I decided to harness it, that’s all. The government and the town of Poprad worked with me on it.”

Next door to AquaCity  is a magnificent new football stadium, designated as a Slovak National Training Centre (NTC). It is the only ground in the world to be heated by an underground lake and have an all-weather pitch.

The NTC is where you can watch the Manchester United football’s stars of tomorrow train and play some of Slovakia’s Premier League and other overseas teams for a fraction of the price it would cost at Old Trafford.   There is a Hall of Fame board inside AquaCity with a list of the stars who have played there.

 David Moyes, a former manager at MU who was involved in the training experiment: “This the ideal place for a sports training camp, the fourteen swimming pools and the leisure facililities are enormously popular with our young players.”

And AquaCity  offers all sorts of fitness and enjoyment, not only for professional sportsmen but for families too with pools, massage jets, children’s pools  and water slides,  laser lights to change the color of the water, outdoor thermal pools, blue Sapphire pools, blue diamond pools, and a 50 metre swimming pool.

In the wellness and spa suites there is Vital World, the K-Vital Beauty Centre, the Massage Centre, and the Thai Massage Centre with edible massage treatments such as chocolate, honey and green apples.

Then there is the controversial cryogenics chamber which has been helping sports people and visitors with injuries and ailments.

It is the Big Chill, an oversized deep-freeze which makes you feel wonderful. It works  wonders for the skin and muscles, can boost your immune response, ease chronic pain, heal nerve damage, and improve sporting performance.

And Poprad too  really is a beautiful place to be, sitting as it does on a vast plain leading to the foothills of the perpetually snow-capped Tatras Mountains.

It came into being in the 13th century, when the king of Hungary persuaded German colonists to move to what was nothing more than isolated arable land. Way back then Poprad was just one of more than 20 farming communities dotted across the plains.  It soon garnered importance however, as a main stopping-off point on the trade route between Poland and Hungary.

Another ‘revolution’ took place in 1938 when a military airfield with grass for a runway was built  west of Velko village as World War II loomed. The first real runway wasn’t actually built until 1970.

Poprad Tatry Airport finally came into its own in the early 21st century when it was classed as of International standards.

The 13th century Early Gothic church of St. Egidius in the town square still retains pieces of  wall paintings  dating from the Middle Ages. And then of course there is the Renaissance bell tower built in 1592 with its three original bells. 


Back to the future in enigmatic Slovakia

Going on holiday in Slovakia really is like going back to the future.

On the one hand time stands still, sometimes deliberately and sometimes because there  simply has been no reason to change it.  On the other  Slovakia  has the proud Tatra Tiger, the nickname of its burgeoning economy. And of course it also has its incredibly successful hi-tech motor and aviation industries.

But there is no doubt that Slovakia remains the beating heart of European history with its ancient cities and towns, its boiling underground lakes and its snow-capped mountains where great bears and wolves still roam like antediluvian shivering armies

It is a small enigmatic country, bordered by Poland, Ukraine and Hungary, and is so ancient that you can taste history in the air … the smell of  Kapustnica soup cooking on a stove in a witch’s hat of a hillside  Koliba or the sulphur of the great Poprad River flowing from the Carpathians.

         And then of course there is the world’s greenest  and technologically astounding hotel, AquaCity,  Poprad, Central Slovakia, a town which now in so many ways brags the best in the ancient and modern.  The hotel was built by reknowned British and Central Europe visionary Dr Jan Telensky.

History has made Slovakia what it is today …  look at the stone tools dating back to the Ice Age and the Venus of Moravany, a female figure  carved out of  mammoth tusk  dating to 22,800 BC. The ivory figure was dug up by a farmer in 1930 in  Podkovica,  less than two hours from Poprad.

Sometimes in Eastern Slovakia you will come across the remains of hill forts standing against the skyline. Some date back to the First Century and are stark monuments to the Celtic invasion at the first documented turn of the pages of history.  Name some eastern forts

Yes, the history of the glorious little country just goes on and on. It is rife with tales of invasion and revolution. The Romans, the Huns, the Mongols, the Bohemians, Hungary, Poland and Germany have all wanted to steal a piece of it.

And then of course  in November 1989 there was  the Velvet Revolution which led to the downfall of Communism in Czechoslovakia and finally showed the way to the independence Slovakia had battled so hard to win.

The final revolution of course was in 2004 when it   joined the EU and was placed firmly on the international tourism map.

So, here we are in the first quarter of the 21st Century with politics and the economy, hopes and aspirations taking on an  entirely different complexion.

Eastern Slovakia is a wonderful and evocative place to be, with its hills and mountains  and,   its lowlands with its sublime vineyards. Tokaj is probably the most famous wine fermented there.

Poprad is likely to be your first experience of the mountainous country of the East, it is the closest city to the High Tatras Mountains and boasts the region’s major transport links, trains, buses and planes.  There is Poprad airport which was renovated and updated a few years ago and a there is a plethora of taxis waiting there to take you to the ancient city centre or indeed AquaCity, quite simply the place to stay and be seen.

Poprad is alive with quaint and charming bars and restaurants and is the gateway to the Tatra Mountains. But it has its own ‘hidden gem’, Spišská Sobota, a village less than ten minutes walk away which is a conservation site boasting Baroque burghers houses, merchants and artisans houses and a beautiful market square with a 15th century church and Renaissance bell-tower.

The real draw in the region though has to be AquaCity with its saunas, Olympic swimming pool, outdoor pools, centres of well-being, laser light shows, bars, restaurant, cafes, sumptuous rooms and its cryochamber. Amazingly the  hotel is powered by a  geothermal lake and the sun itself.

It’s the place to be to take part in all the things the mountains – described as the teeth of Slovakia – offer from dog sledding, skating on the mirrored lakes, snowboarding, horse riding, climbing and even golf.


A country where folk is the lore of culture

Slovakia has fought long and hard to keep its traditions and customs alive and today folk song and dance are  treated as family heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation.  

Historically all districts and regions had their own  music, dialects, customs and costumes.  Today these are kept alive, not only within families, but are also taught at local schools.

Slovaks sing about love and happiness at the drop of a traditionally knitted hat but they also sing with pride about the beauty of their homeland.

Folk festivals abound. The annual folk festival  at the foot of  the Poľana Mountains,  a small  range in central Slovakia  has been held  in the second week of July in the amphitheatre in the town of Detva for more than 50 years. Very often there can be 1500 performers taking part.

The open air Museum of the Slovak Village  is definitely worth a visit too. It is  a celebration of the harvest home and the ancient ways of collecting the  harvested.

It stands  on the outskirts of the northern city of Martin in the North of the country and came into being in the 1960s to commemorate Slovak buildings, farm methods and day-to-day living in the 19th  century. The  15 hectares  site consists of more than 100 buildings, farms, croft lofts, a pub, a village store, a garden house, a firehouse, a wooden Renaissance bell-house and an elementary school.

And then of course there is the  handicraft fair in Nitra,  at the foot of Zobor Mountain, in the   Nitra River  valley. Nitra is the oldest Slovak town.

Slovaks have a long tradition of handicrafts, woodcutters, ceramists, potters, tinkers, weavers, blacksmiths and makers of fujary,  a  musical instrument used by Slovak shepherds – a wooden  pipe as tall as a man.

There also makers of cat-o´-nine-tails, bobbin and point laces, embroideries and jewellery.

Almost every ruined castle in Slovakia has its legend. Sometimes these legends are blood-curdling. One such legend is the story of Csejte. In this tale, a ruthless countess murders three young girls and bathes in their blood, thinking it will renew her youthfulness.

Belief in witches, ghosts, and other supernatural beings persist in some areas. Morena, a goddess of death, is the object of a springtime custom. In it, young girls ritually “drown” a straw doll in waters that flow from the first thaw.

In rural areas, some Slovaks still believe that illnesses can be caused by witches or by the “evil eye.” They seek the services of traditional healers who use folk remedies and rituals.



If you ever decide to take tea in a koliba as eccentric as the one in Stara Lesna, take a fire extinguisher too. They spike your tea with a lethal dose of Slivovica and serve it in flames.

It gives you a heartburn that can only be put out by a bottle of red wine while the resident gypsy trio plays bohemian rhapsodies in this tiny village off Route 534, two miles from Tatranska Lomnica.

A stately Kalinka, Kalinka, Kalinka Ki-ya on a double bass, violin and a percussive cimbal gets the diners dancing hand-in-hand round the stone rotisserie where tiny game birds hiss and spit.

The gypsies kylinka to a halt. The diners return to their tables and raise their glasses solemnly.

Then the waiters take over, singing as they serve brynza (chopped onion and crusty bread) before the main course of kapustova polievka – dumplings with sheeps‘ cheese and fried bacon.

Kolibas really are the places to eat – smoky and boisterous, charming, funny and cheap.

They are the historic memories of the sheep sheds dotted across the mountains. For centuries those sheds were beacons to snowbound hunters. Roofs like witch’s hats pulled down against the elements, hickory smell of smoke, heavy soups, incendiary brandy and a roaring fire.

Restaurants, cafés and burger bars are springing up all over the place as Slovakia tourism booms and, because of them, an important part of the past is fading into the background.

But the real kolibas are worth tracking down. You can recognise them by the folk music behind closed doors.

Climbers and skiers like the koliba in Tatranska Lomnica because of its good beer and proximity to the ski slopes of Skalnate Pleso. Music lovers like it there too, particularly in August – it’s only a short trip to Zakopane into Poland for the International Highland Music Festival.

The kolibas and folk music are the cultural heart of Slovakia‘s society. They are the taverns they still write songs about.


Plum madness of Slivovica

One of my favourite libations is Slivovica (pronounced slee-woh-weetza). Absinthe may have a mythological, illegally glamorous reputation all over Europe – but Slivovica is rightfully seen as Slovakia’s plum madness.

The best is aged for years in oak barrels; it smells like molten gold and has a fire that incinerates your taste buds. The very best is distilled from Adriatic plums from the oldest trees along the coast.

Good brandies such as Amice or Karnataka come from Pelion, a town at the heart of Western Slovak’s wine region.

The worst is the un-aged variety sold in the darkest kalians and in back street supermarkets. It’s harsh but does its job.

So, let’s imbibe in a glass or two…

Slovak Craft Beer: Grabbing International Attention

Getting thirsty as the hotter weather comes? We don’t blame you.

Traditionally, Slovakia has been better known for its wine. But Slovakia’s craft beer is pretty amazing these days: not only in Bratislava, where there are four or five microbreweries that really stand out, but also in towns across the country from Banská Štiavnica to Poprad to Košice.

A brand new book by the leading travel publisher, Lonely Planet, Global Beer Tour, has now given Slovakia’s brewpubs the recognition they deserve. It has selected the country’s beer scene as one of the 30 around the world most worth talking about. To find out which of Slovakia’s microbreweries made the cut, you’ll have to go to the relevant chapter in the book, written by none other than Englishman in Slovakia’s Luke Waterson! The book is a bible for those of you that love beer and like travelling (most of us, surely?)

A hearty cheers, anyway. It’s always so nice to see Slovakia making a name for itself overseas. And for once, those Czechs have not stolen all of the hop headlines…

Communism... Based on image by zscout370

On 25 Years Since the End of Communism

A quarter of a century since the fall of Communism was marked in Slovakia perhaps as it should be: in a quiet and analytical way, with a lot of discussions in the media on the progress the country had made during this time.

We have mentioned on Englishman in Slovakia some of the tributes paid to the tumbling of the regime which still, 25 years later, has such a profound effect on so much of this part of Europe (those with a Slovak theme anyway): that compilation of various docufilm directors’ impressions on the country two decades after gaining independence, Slovensko 2.0, is a good starting point.

But the main question on everyone’s lips: has Slovakia developed in a good way, in the way people imagined or hoped that it would? And of course a lot of voices answered: no, not nearly as “good” as expected.  To paraphrase from one of the discussion programmes I got a chance to listen to: Slovakia, whilst technically the easternmost reach of the “west” is more accurately in politics the westernmost outpost of the “east”.

It’s not our place on this site to dwell so much on thorny Slovak state issues. There are plenty of them, which are perhaps best summarised in the word “corruption”. Slovakia’s PM Fico can argue, citing such successes as the Kia and Peugeot automotive plants, that he’s helped the economy (well, at least in the west of SlovaKIA) but culturally? Democratically? In its legal system? Ahem. Polls by CVVM (Czech) and IVO (Slovak) showed only 51% of Slovaks viewed what took place in that autumn of 1989, up to and including November’s Velvet Revolution, with positivity, and that’s no doubt based on disillusionment with those facets of life where there’s a country mile of room for improvement today.

But on the subject of travel, I can say that I’m happy to be here right at the beginning. And I really do mean the absolute nascence – because for years the Slovak tourism industry was dormant and for years more it developed in the wrong way (ski package deals, stag weekends). The beginning of the opening of Slovakia to tourism is now. As new flight connections to Poprad and Košice illustrate, the “set piece” – the east of the country – is more accessible than ever. Enterprising Slovak adventure agencies are getting international recognition. Cool places to eat that aren’t afraid to champion the Slovak character of their menus are introducing foreigners to the nation’s traditional food. Slovakia is now catering to a more discerning type of traveler: the kind that really wants to discover. And the potential is as great as the mountains and forests are vast.

Raise a glass of your finest Demänovka (herbal liqueur) to the next 25 years. Actually, Slovaks are generally more partial to Becherovka, which is a Czech version of the same drink…

Brezová Pod Bradlom Area

The little town (well, the main town around here) of Brezová Pod Bradlom, a hiking centre crouching on the north-west face of the Small Carpathians, is proof of how very versatile Western Slovakia/The Middle is in its landscapes. Here it feels a world away from the sedate winemaking towns like Modra and Pezinok in the south of this same range of hills. You’re that much further north, here, and the landscapes are accordingly wilder! The highlight of this region (at least, its most prominent landmark) is the monument/tomb of Slovak hero (and creator of Czechoslovakia) General Štefánik: Bradlo. Among the fascinating hiking options here are the start/end points for the long-distance Štefánikova magistrála and Cesta Hrdinov SNP trails: the latter continuing all the way across the country.

You’ll almost certainly arrive here from our Places to Go/Western Slovakia/The Middle sub-chapter (Piešťany Area) – and you will probably return the same way, or move further north into Places to Go/Western Slovakia/The North-Western Part (The Biele Karpaty). There’s also a possibility to head southwest from here via Jablonica into Places to Go/Western Slovakia/The Middle (Smolenice Area) 

Prievidza Area

Neatly defined as the Horna Nitra, or Upper Nitra Valley, this area can be bracketted pretty much as the upper reaches of the River Nitra and its watershed, which kicks off near Klačno right on the border of our Places to Go/Mala Fatra/Vel’ka Fatra chapter and wends down through Bojnice and Prievidza before bending away after Partizánske into our Places to Go/Western Slovakia/The South-Eastern Part sub-chapter at Topol’čany (the river does flow onto Nitra, hence the name, and then to Nové Zamky, before joining up with the River Váh and then the Danube).

For the most part, this is a part of Slovakia much forgotten about: steep hills frame it on two sides and offer stunning diversions, but it’s off the beaten path of classic hiking areas. But there is one huge exception: the fairy-tale chateau at Bojnice, Slovakia’s (understandably) most-visited castle. The pretty village of Bojnice is more or less joined to the biggest regional town, Prievidza, and the area is known for its mining (out in them hills).

So north from Prievidza and you strike our Mala Fatra/Vel’ka Fatra chapter, going southeast you very soon enter our Places to Go/Central/South Slovakia chapter at Žiar nád Hronom and spreading north-west/west, you’ll stay in the Prievidza Area until:

a) You reach Valáska Belá way up in the hills on route 574, where there’s a cut-through to Čičmany in the Mala Fatra/Vel’ka Fatra chapter (beyond here you head into Places to Go/Western Slovakia/The North-Western Part (Trenčín Area)

b) You reach Bánovce nád Brebravou on highway E572 (beyond here you’re also back in the very same Trenčin Area.)

A Different Take on the Fall of Communism: Central European Symposium 2015

Twenty-five years on from the collapse of Communism, this intriguing series of lectures at the Central European Symposium 2015 will discuss, there is more than one way of looking at the period from the 1940s to the end of the 1980s when much of Central and Eastern Europe was under a rigidly left-wing regime. Rather than remembering 1989 as the end of a failed experiment of Communism, these lectures focus on Central/Eastern Europe in a broader context over the preceding hundred years – with the region’s Communist dictatorships as one stage within a turgid century of historical change.

The venue? London’s UCL school of Slavonic and East European Studies (inaugurated exactly a century ago by Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk – the future first President of Czechoslovakia). The time and date? From 10am to 5pm on Tuesday 21st April. And finally – a map of the venue. Sign Up here for the event (which is free).

Aha – and the follow-up to the event? A drinks reception at the London Embassy of Slovakia.

Bratislava Castle Restaurant

Slovak cuisine tastebud-tickling time. And this, primarily, for a friend who is Bratislava-bound soon after a lengthy time away, and has been asking me about classic places to eat really good Slovak food in Bratislava Old Town.

On first examination, the question itself appears bizarre – what other kind of food would restaurants in the Slovak capital be serving up? Well, the current trend in the city centre seems to be leaning towards the international=cool approach. But traditional Slovak cuisine? More the domain of the old folks and the tourists (the old folks aren’t so bothered about gourmet, the attitude goes, and the tourists, ha, they can easily be conned into what constitutes good Slovak food), with the result that, outside of a few dingy krčmy (pubs) and a clutch of high-in-price, far-lower-in-quality joints around Hlavné námestie (the main square), really good typical Slovak restaurants are fairly elusive.

RELATED POST: Bratislava Christmas Market – A Great Op for Trying Traditional Slovak Food



So, dearth of top-end Slovak cuisine-oriented restaurants revealed, it was both shocking and heartening to discover that one of the very best in Bratislava is actually situated right next to Bratislava Castle. Shocking because who expects a really good showcase for national cuisine right by one of the most touristy spots in the whole country? Heartening because – well – we know that however much we celebrate off-the-beaten-track places on this site, it’s those big attractions where foreign visitors often gravitate and if they do, we would much rather they had the option of seeking refreshment in a decent restaurant (we know it’s easy to resort to the fast food stand or conveniently-close-to-where-hunger-strikes-but-bland eatery, but don’t). And one that can stand in, with some panache, as a showcase for Slovakia’s culinary offerings.

You will come across Hradná Hviezda in the stately cream-yellow courtyard buildings immediately on the west side of the castle (the side furthest away from the city centre, in other words). With a name translating as the Castle Star, it’s the sister restaurant of Modra Hviezda (Blue Star) a little further down in the Jewish Quarter near the Clock Museum – but it is the more dazzling of the two sisters. The setting exudes refinement, although inside, whilst the interior is pleasant enough with its walnut wood furniture and chandeliers, this is hardly what impresses. Nor is it the service (although, poised somewhere between the luke-warm and the congenial, the service is more than adequate). No, Hradná Hviezda will only have you planning your next visit back when you taste what it can do (cook well).

Deer and plums go so well together… ©

Deer and plums go so well together… ©

There are seven or eight choices of typical Slovak main courses, and each whets the curiosity (and the palate). The meat, always soft, flavoursome and embellished by rosemary and thyme, is hardest to resist. There is the mangalica (the wild boar that roams in the forests above Bratislava) with a pumpkin sauce and chestnuts – chestnuts being a typical accompaniment to Slovakia’s game-centric meat dishes. There is a rabbit served with paprika sauce and dumplings – rabbit is a common meat for country folks who regularly go out bagging them but in Bratislava it is far rarer, and enhanced here by a combo of traditional Hungarian and Slovak sides, the paprika that sets Hungarian food a-blaze and the dumplings which prop up typical Slovak food. Jeleň (venison) is also offered – with the sauce concocted from Slovakia’s signature fruit, the plum, and a rich, creamy potato puree. But Hradná Hviezda also does a mean strapačky (dumplings with sauerkraut) and one that’s enticingly presented in contrast to the sometimes colourless versions of the dish served up elsewhere.

Presentation (generous portions, yet thoughtfully arranged on the plates) is key with Hradná Hviezda’s food. The chefs clearly know exactly what they are doing. A meal here, consequently, is not cheap (mains are around 15 Euros, which puts it in a similar price bracket to one of our other favourite city centre Slovak restaurants, Traja Muškietieri).

It would have been nice to wash down the delicious food with a choice of better Slovak beers (only offering Zlaty Bažant and Krušovice, two of the dullest beers in the country, is a definite shortcoming). It’s definitely recommended, therefore, to sample their wine list which in contrast goes overboard to offer a wide variety of Slovak wines. White wines in Slovakia, especially those from the Small Carpathians (Male Karpaty) Wine region, can rival the world’s best, and the dry white from Rulandske, in the Pezinok region, is a true delight here.

Perhaps a glass of the latter would have been better paired with their trout… But we have only ever had eyes for Hradná Hviezda’s game. You’ll spend a lot longer than the walk up here takes if you were to keep to the lower reaches of the city centre scouting around to find game that compares to that available in the serendipitously twinkling Castle Star…


GETTING THERE: Directions are the same as for the castle, and this is an easy stroll up from the very centre, but for those with walking difficulties there is trolleybus 203, catch-able from Hodžovo námestie (and get out at the stop conveniently called “Hrad”).

OPENING: 10am-10pm. Sometimes it can be a good idea to book –  as the restaurant caters to tour groups (locals too, but also tour groups).

BEST TIME TO VISIT: Oh, a dark wintry lunchtime when huddling by their cozy fireplace seems pretty much the best thing to do. Hradná Hviezda’s best dishes are the heavy, hearty, wintery kind. And a visit in out of the cold means the perfect excuse to sample one of their oh-so-typically Slovak fruit brandies… mahrulovica (with apricots), borovička (with pears). The list goes on.

NEXT ON THE JOURNEY: From Hradná Hviezda it’s 2km north to another restaurant on a great viewpoint, Kamzík

Danubiana Art Museum – & Why It's Cool

Some of the cool sculpture around the Danubiana Museum

Some of the cool sculpture around the Danubiana Museum

This isn’t my first post about the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum (see this post for an example of the type of stunning exhibitions they get here). And, given that a trip here is possibly the best thing to do in the whole of Bratislava, it’s unlikely to be my last. But this post is more about how to get there, and how fun getting there can be.

For those of you not in the picture, the Danubiana Museum is a modern art gallery that’s been created on a promontory of land jutting into the Danube near the town of Čunovo some 15km downriver from central Bratislava. Everything about it from its design to its exhibitions is first-class, and has helped put Bratislava on the map as a sort of boutiquey arts destination. It has a good art shop and cafe too, where there’s a decent range of books on Slovak artists, and postcards. In the years following its opening in 2000, many more boutique art galleries opened in the Old Town. Yet surprisingly few foreigners make it out to the gallery itself. (it’s interesting to note that Danubiana only seems to get Slovak and German wikipedia entries, and it’s not overly prmoted in Bratislava, either, which perhaps partly accounts for it).

From inside the museum space, looking out at the Danube

From inside the museum space, looking out at the Danube

But with spring well on the way (at least, Bratislava is bathed in glorious sun as I write this) it’s not just the art that constitutes a reason to go here. It’s the journey itself. Particularly if you’re in the city for just a few days, having a green getaway on one of them is nice. Most visitors choose Devín Castle for that getaway, and rightly so, because that’s wonderful too. But heading in the opposite direction to Devín, i.e. downriver to the museum, is just as tempting. There are three ways you can do it:

1: Hiking, Cycling or Roller-blading along the trails on the Dunaj (Danube)

Cross over either of Bratislava’s two central bridges across the river (well the Košicka bridge is best for your purposes, as you’ll be heading east/south-east) and you’ll see the start of a cycle trail that takes you all the way out of the city, close to the course the Danube takes as it wends south to Čunovo and then almost immediately on into Hungary. It’s possible to hike, of course, but cycling or roller-blading are the main ways people do it.

The great thing is that along here there are bars you can rock up to on your skates/bike, stop at one of the picnic tables for a good mix of Slovak fried meat and a frothy beer, then continue on your way. As I’ve said, it’s probably 15km to Čunovo but it’s really quite beautiful: small lakes to stop at for a picnic just “inland” and, at one point, an old chateau. Patches of old forests and the lakes provide cooling off opportunities, as it gets very hot here in summer.

One possibility for bike hire is Bike Bratislava, located near the Downtown Backpacker’s Hostel. Hire will cost in the region of 15 Euros per day for adult mountain bikes. Or, try Bratislava Bike Point, a new-for-2014 service based under Most SNP (on the Petrzalka side) of the Danube.

2: A Boat Trip Down the Danube (Dunaj) From Central Bratislava

These trips don’t run all the time: just Saturdays and Sundays from May through to September. Take the boat trip, and you get free entry to the museum at the other end. It’s also an amazing experience to see Bratislava from the water, and as you wind out of the city you’ll see lots of the river that it’s impossible to glimpse from the cycle paths. Departure times are 2pm from central Bratislava (get there half an hour or so before). It’s a 45 minute trip to Danubiana. The return voyage is at 4:30pm and it takes 90 minutes as it’s against the current. This gives you a good 1.5 hours to look round the museum, have a coffee in the cafe or peruse the wonderful selection of art books in the shop.

Ticket sales are through Lod (10/6 Euros per adult/child for the boat trip that includes museum entry) but because their website is not abundantly clear I’ll tell you where the departure dock is. Head towards Most SNP (yeah with the spaceship up top) then walk left along the path besides the river.  You’ll see some of the boats they use moored ahead on the near bank. You will have to go to the ticket office first, however, on Fajnorovo 2 (basically, when you can’t go along the river any more bear left around the building impeding you and you’ll see the entrance). This is also where the boats to Devín and Vienna depart, incidentally (I’ll write something else on this later).

Don’t despair if you don’t see 2014 pricing information up there yet. The trips have run every other year and there’s no reason why they won’t this one. They’re probably waiting for the season to start (in May) and for the Danubiana Museum to finish its mini reconstruction in time for the main tourist season.

Weird & Wonderful Sculpture by Danubiana Museum

Weird & Wonderful Sculpture by Danubiana Museum

3: Bus From Most SNP to Čunovo 

I want to say a few words about this bus, because the museum website and indeed every other source in English says nothing about the logistics of this. On paper it sounds easy enough. Bus number 91 from the station right under Most SNP goes to Čunovo and takes 30-40 minutes to do so. You can also take bus number 91 from Most SNP and change in Rusovce. But these buses stop in the town of Čunovo. And Danubiana, despite having its address listed as Čunovo, is someway outside the town.

So here’s what you do. From where the bus drops you, continue on down the main street until it bends. Directly ahead lies a metalled track which goes passed a few houses on the left into woodland. Keep going. After five to ten minutes this comes out on a road which runs below the raised bank ahead which is the cycle path you could have taken from Bratislava. You won’t be able to get up immediately onto the cycle path as there is a stream in the way, so turn right and follow the road along until it comes out on a larger road. Then bear left, keep the snack stand you’ll see on your left and follow the signs, keeping on the cycle path you’ve now been able to join, which take you out onto the spit of land jutting into the river where the museum is. As a point of interest, you’ll first pass on the right Bratislava’s white water rafting centre, where Slovakia’s multi-medal winning rafting twins, Peter and Pavel Hochschorner, often train. There’s a hotel here too – the Hotel Divoká Voda, but I’m not going to vouch for its quality.

And at the end of all this, it should be noted that right now Danubiana has JUST REOPENED ITS DOORS following refurbishment. The current exhibition, Herman Nitsch’s Das Origen, runs until March 22nd.


OPENING: 10am-6pm October 1st-April 30th, 11am-7pm May 1st-September 30th

ADMISSION: Adults 8 Euros, Children 4 Euros

Košice & the East

Košice has finally come into its own gastronomically. With that typical second-city-in-the-country streak of independence fuelled by being European City of Culture in 2013, food here has come on a pace. Hlavná street with its enticing oval square of eateries bustles with culinary life of an evening and in the surrounding streets you will find bars showcasing the region’s best-known culinary export: tokaj wine. Outside Košice, good restaurants are less easy to find, but they exist, if you follow the right signposts…