Slovakia and Bears: Travel Suggestions for Tourists
Typically, when traveling, it is best to be aware of wild animals and keep a distance. The same holds true in Slovakia. However, since bears are a relatively common everyday sight in many locations, tourists in Slovakia face a unique situation. In addition, since bears are an integral part of Slovak culture, any visitor should be prepared in advance for how to interact both with the bears and the people of the country. Indeed, when traveling in Slovakia, one will notice immediately how well bears and people get along side by side in many cases. It is rare that a bear will harm anyone, as long as it is left alone to go about its business.
Since this relationship has developed over many many years, Slovaks have integrated bears into everyday life, and even joke openly about resident bears wandering in the streets of typical villages. One folk dance, called the “bear dance” is considered central to folklore and culture. Each year, thousands join together in this dance to celebrate the coming of spring. Dancers spin around and with arms held high, they say broom broom, and pretend to eat honey. Doing the dance correctly is a rite of passage especially for young boys.
Perhaps the most unique of all sights are the bears of Brezina. These bears are descended from trained, performing circus bears from the Soviet era. In this enchanted forest near Trencin, the bears wander peacefully in the park. People gather regularly to observe the bears, and have even built a bear playground for them. Why? This is because despite several generations of bear families, these bears have passed along the circus tricks to their young. Because of this, the bears do tricks and perform amazing feats in the park. Some ride small bikes, and others dance to music. In winter, the bears skate on an ice rink to the joy and delight of families who gather to watch the spectacle. The bears are protected by law, and considered a national treasure.
Overall, the ubiquitous presence of bears in Slovakia is a little know fact outside of the country. However, this is surely a reason to visit Slovakia. As tourism develops, the bears are likely to take a central place on any visitors itinerary.