Wikijunior Europe: Slovakia
Slovakia is a country in central Europe. It shares borders with Ukraine, Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic and Poland. The capital city is Bratislava. Other big cities are Kosice and Nitra. Slovakia has been a member of the European Union since 2004 and its currency is the Euro since January 2009.
Slovakia became independent on January 1, 1993 with the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia in the Velvet Divorce; it was the last European country to become independent in the 20th century. Czechoslovakia existed from 1918 to 1992 while during World War II Slovakia was a Nazi Germany-occupied state. Prior to 1918 Slovakia had been part of or under the influence of Hungary or the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today there remain large minorities of Hungarians in Slovakia.
Slovakia is a landlocked country in Central Europe with an area of about 49,000 square kilometres (almost 19,000 square miles). The Slovak climate lies between the temperate and continental climate zones with relatively warm summers and cold, cloudy and humid winters.
Around 40% of Slovakia is covered with forests. Slovakia's forests contain a wide variety of animals include brown bears, wolves, foxes, wild boars, muskrats, chamois and lynxes. Slovakia features a high percentage of wildlife included in protected areas. There are hardly any mountain ranges and areas not under some form of protection.
The Tatra mountains run through northern Slovakia and south-eastern Poland. The highest mountain in Slovakia is Gerlachovský štít at 2,655 metres.
Slovakia has a population of over five million. The majority of the inhabitants of Slovakia are ethnically Slovak. Hungarians are the largest ethnic minority. Other ethnic groups include Roma and Ruthenians or Ukrainians. The official state language is Slovak, a member of the Slavic Language Family, but Hungarian is also widely spoken in the south of the country and enjoys a co-official status in some municipalities, and many people understand Czech.
The majority of Slovak citizens identify themselves with Roman Catholicism (although church attendance is lower); the second-largest group are people without confession. About 6.93% belong to Lutheranism, 4.1% are Greek Catholic, affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, Calvinism has 2.0%, and some are Eastern Orthodox. About 2,300 Jews remain of the large estimated pre-WWII population of 90,000.
As in much of Europe, football is the most popular team sport in Slovakia. Ice hockey is also popular.
Slovakia features natural landscapes, mountains, caves, medieval castles and towns, folk architecture, spas and ski resorts. More than 1.6 million people visited Slovakia in 2006, and the most attractive destinations are the capital of Bratislava and the High Tatras.
One of Slovakia's main tourist attractions are the Tatra Mountains, (particularly the High Tatras), the highest part of the Carpathians. They feature many rare plant and animal species and offer numerous ski, hiking and mountaineering opportunities.
Rivers and streams in the mountains of Slovakia are often used for rafting and other white-water based activities and sports. New water parks are being built thorough the country. Most visitors come from the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany.
Slovakia has 7 World Heritage Sites including two which are shared with Hungary and Ukraine.
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