Eastern Slovakia
Slovak and Carpatho-Rusyn Genealogical Research


I'm sure that there are many individuals on this site who could give some very good advice about traveling to Slovakia. Perhaps I have a cavalier attitude about international travel. My advice is JUST DO IT.

And you need to do it now, so that you can plan your second trip later. Why do your want to go? Is it to sightsee or is it to do research? Unless you plan to stay for several weeks, I think it would be hard to do justice to both, in the same trip.

My first trip to Slovakia was in 1984. The communists were still in power. That trip was a sightseeing trip and a chance to meet close relatives with whom my mother had been corresponding with over the years. I wan't interested in genealogy at that time. Since I had previously lived in German for three years on each of two occasions, plus the fact that I went to school in France for three years as a teenager. That trip was simple. We (my wife, daughter and I) flew to Frankfurt, Germany, rented a car, and drove through Germany and Austria to Sloakia.

I wanted to show my daughter, who was then 14, where she lived as a small child at ages 2-5, so that she would have a more current memory of her time in Germany. My daughter even met the young girls, in our old neighborhood, with whom she had gone to a German Kindergarten with. We spent a little over three weeks, visited a lot of favoriate places and met the family in Slovakia.

This trip was shorter, only two weeks. I had recently changed jobs and that was all of the vacation time I had. This trip was for research purposes. This time I flew to Vienna, Austria [Roundtrip airfair, Norfolk, VA, via Atlanta, GA, to Vienna, Austria and return: $1029.00] (I want to spend the end of my trip at the Austrian State Archives coupled with the fact that I wanted to reduce the cost of my rental car [Ford midsized car with airconditioning [It was August], unlimited mileage, $655.00 for two weeks] by returning it at the same place I picked it up). I do have one inside advantage, I spent the first week with relatives and did not have to look for a hotel. Since I had 82 relatives to visit, I didn't have to worry about food expense that first week either.

The second week we were on our own in Bratislava and Vienna. In Bratislava, I found a hotel on the edge of town for about $42.00 for two persons for two nights, Included private shower. A budget hotel by anyone's standard, but it was clean and met my needs. Vienna on the otherhand is more expensive, again I stayed on the edge of town, $200.00 for two persons for two nights including private bath. The price would have been only $116.00 without the private bath. A buffet breakfast was included. The hotel was small, only 20 rooms, but TV and Phones in the rooms, and a sauna, tennis and golf, were also available. Prices downtown would have been much more. Having the car gives you the flexibility to do as you please. You can do a lot of driving for the difference in price for what you spend to stay in the center of town.

I have a rule of thumb when traveling in a foreign country: "Always find your room for the night, before you stop to eat the evening meal." Besides taking the pressure off, the hotel will often point you in the right direction for an evenings entertainment.

If you don't travel by car, you are at the mercy of the trains or buses or the tour group. While a tour group relieves you of any decisions about where to stay or eat, it also limits your freedom to do what you want to do. If you are going sightseeing, then a tour group is good bet. If you want to explore on your own, you must have a car. I'll qualify that last point: If you are going to one major city only or perhaps stopping in another in route, you could do the cities by bus or taxi. Since I usually visit many more places and out into the countryside, I like the car.

If you are hard to please and want to complain when something isn't perfect, then stay home. Sometimes the hotel will be below standard and you will be to tired to look for another. Sometimes you won't know how to read the menu and don't know what to order; ask for the day's special, and enjoy it. Or just point to something that is priced in the middle of the menu. Enjoy whatever you are served. If you are a picky eater, you better learn the language before you go.

Many places speak some English. When they didn't speak English, I used my German like I did at the archives in Bratislava and Kosice. I even had one fellow stop be at night in downtown Bratislava. He was from India, spoke very good English but no Slovak or German. His automobile had been locked behind a barrier because he parked in a restricted area. The police were there and he didn't understand them and they didn't understand him. He must have recognized me as an American, because he asked me if I spoke Slovak or German. So, he told me in English what happened and I explained in German to the Slovak Police. They understood, and told me to tell him that they still fined him 500 Sk, about US$16.66 for parking where he shouldn't have. He paid the police, got his car freed, and thanked me.

I've crossed the Atlantic 26 times and the Pacific twice. If you worry about small things and are picky, picky, then you will not enjoy your trip. If you accept the small inconveniences because you may not speak the language, then think of all the adventures that you will be able to talk about when you get home.


Bon Voyage. Gute Reise

You won't be able to wait for the "second" trip.

Frank R. Plichta - email: plichta@aol.com

"Searching the World for PLICHTAs."

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