100km (62 miles) E of Poprad; 400km (248 miles) E of Bratislava

Kosice (www.kosice.sk), Slovakia's second-biggest city after Bratislava, has transformed itself from a smoggy, provincial backwater into one of the country's most attractive urban destinations within the short span of a decade. Much of the credit goes to the former Slovak president, and former Kosice mayor, Rudolf Schuster, who vigorously promoted development of the city, including the extensive renovation of the main drag, Hlavná ulica. Hlavná is a stunner from end to end, a 30-minute corso that takes you past the country's biggest Gothic cathedral, its turn-of-the-20th-century State Theater, a lovely little park with a singing fountain, and, in warm weather, a never-ending row of outdoor terraces, packed with stylish coffee drinkers.

Kosice has been an important market town on major east-west and north-south trade routes for centuries, and during the 16th and 17th centuries served as a bastion for the Hungarian nobility in their struggle against the Ottoman Turks occupying the Hungarian mainland. Just 20km (12 miles) from the frontier with modern Hungary, the city, in more recent years, has shuttled back and forth between Hungarian, Czechoslovak, and now Slovak sovereignty. The city still has a sizable Hungarian minority, and if you listen carefully you will hear Hungarian spoken on the streets.