When I was serving as a pianist in the US Air Forces in Europe Band (Germany: 2000-2002), we were invited to tour Slovakia and perform several outdoor concerts. Going by what I had seen on TV, I was a little nervous and did not know what to expect. Well, almost immediately, I was very pleasantly surprised by the nice people, beautiful scenery, and cities that were a perfect blend of old and new.
In 1918, the Slovaks joined the closely related Czechs to form Czechoslovakia. Following World War II, Czechoslovakia became a Communist nation within Soviet-ruled Eastern Europe. Soviet influence collapsed in 1989, and Czechoslovakia was once again a free nation. The Slovaks and the Czechs agreed to separate peacefully on January 1st, 1993. Slovakia has experienced more difficulty than the Czech Republic in developing a modern market economy, but is progressing rapidly.
Slovakia has a population of about 5 ½ million people. It is about twice the size of New Hampshire. The economy is strongly supported by the natural resources of the region, including coal, iron, copper, and manganese. In the past, neighboring countries have used Slovakia mainly for producing raw materials for manufacturing. This means the factories producing most of the pollution are located here, and the low-cost raw materials are sent to other countries which in turn produce high-tech items for greater profit. Efforts are being made to turn Slovakia into a manufacturing country, so it can share in the profits of technology.
We were fortunate to travel with the Slovakian Dance Troupe the next few days and enjoyed watching their very professional presentations. All of the members were very friendly and made us feel welcome in their county.
After the concert, we had one day off to explore the historic old city of Bratislava.
The next morning, we were off to Kuchyna to meet the Slovakian Dance Troupe and perform a concert outdoors at a Slovakian Air Base.
The next day, I had the morning off, so I took a little drive out into south-west Slovakia. My rental car (a nice Volvo S60) had unlimited miles, and I paid for the gas myself. The first town I headed out to was Solosnica.
The next day, we loaded the cars and headed north about 75 miles to Trencin to perform a concert.
Next, we headed to the town of Zvolen, located almost in the middle of Slovakia. It is appx 140 miles to Ukraine at this point.
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