Slovakia

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Long under the thumb of one power or another since the Stone Age— the Avars, Romans, Hungarians, Ottomans, or Austrians—Slovakia finally wrestled free in the 1990s with its Velvet Divorce from Czechoslovakia. The economy isn't as robust as in neighboring Czech Republic, and Slovakia's tourism sector took some time getting off the ground. But in the end, this all works out in the visitor's favor—experience the unspoiled nature of the Tatra Mountains, the massive Karst cave systems in the east of the country (the largest in Central Europe and a World Heritage Site), and some the prettiest rivers on the continent. There was almost no significant urban development during the 20th century, so Slovakia's old towns still retain a sooty veneer of authenticity, with plenty of hidden nooks to explore.

Fodor's Essential Europe
Whether you want to eat your way across France, see the Renaissance art of Italy, or take...

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