Imagine that you have a week in Europe to spare. Where would you go?
There are ten European countries you have yet to visit: Belarus, Cyprus, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine.
And your time is bookended by commitments in Cardiff, Wales, and Leipzig, Germany.
Turns out that flying out of Cardiff is largely impractical, so most locals fly from Bristol, England. And it just so happens that Bristol has a direct flight to Košice, Slovakia. You book it immediately.
Most people who go to Slovakia hit up the capital, Bratislava. It’s decently connected, it’s pretty, and it’s a short getaway from Vienna. Košice (pronounced koh-SHIT-sa), a university town in the eastern part of the country, is much more off the beaten path.
I didn’t do much during my time in Košice, but I found it a thoroughly enjoyable place to spend a day or two. Here are some of my favorite photos:
Košice is a city with a tiny moat running down its main drag, tram tracks on either side.
A city with pink flowers bursting out of ornate Baroque balconies.
A city where locals sip beers at the base of a cathedral.
A city where doorways in the old town lead to graffiti-adorned walls.
Most famous is Košice’s singing fountain. This fountain plays acoustic covers of pop songs all day. And to my delight, they played “I Swear” by All-4-One three times within a two-hour period. (Really not helping the “Eastern Europe still thinks Miami Vice is on” stereotypes there, fountain.)
I wonder where that doorway leads!
That sounds good. I’ll have that.
The colors of Central European buildings would look garish anywhere else — but warm and perfect under a blue sky here.
The gothic cathedral is enormous — it easily dwarfs every other building in town.
Perhaps my favorite thing about Central Europe is the cafe culture. People sit out all day long, starting with coffees and moving on to beer and wine.
It’s also cheap. Britt from Adventure Lies in Front, a friend of mine from Travel Blog Success, happened to be passing through Košice en route from the Tatras to Budapest. We got some local rosé — just two euros per glass!
I headed over to the mall to pick up a European converter that could take three-pronged plugs (of COURSE I had left mine in Wales!) and snapped this shot of the tram en route.
I love this dog! It could be a model.
Goodnight, Košice, and thank you for the briefest, loveliest stay.
I’ll admit that this isn’t the way I usually like to visit a new country — I like to visit at least three different destinations to get a better idea of the country as a whole. But sometimes you just don’t have the time. I would love to return to Slovakia and see much more, starting with the Tatras!
Essential Info: I stayed at Penzion Grand Košice but I don’t recommend it as 1) there is no staff present after 10 PM and 2) I got bedbugs 3) which you can imagine is extra complicated when you get bedbugs after 10 PM. It was cheap and decent otherwise, but I don’t think it’s worth the hassle of either of those issues. Find more hotels in Košice here.
Košice is well connected by train and bus. I had trouble finding information on how to get from Košice to Poland, but it was actually easy — I took a train to Poprad, walked next door to the bus station, and then got on a bus to Zakopane (you buy your tickets on board). From Zakopane you can easily connect to Kraków and beyond.
Don’t visit Slovakia without travel insurance. Whether you cut yourself and need to go to the hospital for stitches, or your phone gets stolen at a bar, or an injury means you need to cancel all or part of your trip, travel insurance will help you and keep you financially afloat if the worst happens. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Slovakia.
What’s your favorite random city that doesn’t get enough love?