Spirit of Pleasure and Sports Meet in Baranja

By 1 April 2019

On the last day of March, the Baranja region, this pearl of Pannonia, hosted two events that combined fun, sports in nature and enjoyment of life: Kotrljanerski Doručak and Banovo Brdo Trk & Bic Vertikal.

The Kotrljaneri Recreational Cycling Association from Osijek organised the Kotrljanerski Doručak (Kotrljanerski Breakfast) for the sixth time. The concept is straightforward: all cyclists who want to participate gather at the agreed location, have a morning coffee together, climb on their bicycles, and go for breakfast together. This year, the gathering location was a cafe bar in the centre of Bilje, and breakfast was organised at Baranjska Kuća restaurant in the Karanac ethno-village.


The route was just over twenty kilometres long, enough to wake up the appetite. The path led the participants to the northern part of the Baranja tourist route. After Bilje we went through Vardarac and its two fantastic restaurants; the one is the Citadela, the other is Darocz.

Once, before the treaty of Trianon, Vardarac was called Darocz. According to some interpretations, the word darocz means a hunter who deals with skinning the animals. The village received its prefix Vár (“fort” in Hungarian) in the early 20th century, probably because the Baranyavar fort once owned it.

Two days before the Kotraljanerski Doručak, we stopped at Darocz with the intent to try the “perkelt” made with rooster’s balls. Unfortunately, the restaurant was full of guests, due to excellent food and the tamburitza band which played that evening. Since we did not reserve our seats in advance, we had to quench our hunger somewhere else. Fortunately, we did not have to go too far away; we were in Baranja after all.


In addition to great food, Vardarac is a village known for the "Kakasutes" event (beating of the rooster) – the final event of carnival ceremonies. The young men from the village dress as roosters and have the right to take away all the poultry from the yards, so people hide their hens and chickens and give them roosters instead. Costumed roosters then put patches on girls’ eyes, and they have to find the actual roosters to beat. At least, that is how it used to be, but in the meantime, the real roosters have been replaced with puppets. According to the folklore, the fastest girl to complete the task will be the first to marry. Interestingly, this custom exists just in Vardarac. It has almost gone instinct, but the local youth restarted it in 2003.

The next village on the route is Lug, which hosts the eponymous hotel and the Zlatni Bunar restaurant. After we were rejected in Vardarac, this is where we enjoyed the fishy delicacies, such as Counts’ perch. Lug is also known as the location of the Paprika Festival, which brings together the biggest Croatian fans of hot spices. Even Goran Vrabec was shocked last year.

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We then go through Grabovac and arrive at Kneževi Vinogradi, where we take the roundabout to Karanac, the second part of the Baranja's tourist route. Karanac is an interesting village with three churches (Catholic, Orthodox and Reformed), two wineries (Svijetli Dvori and Szabo), several excellent family farms (such as Bakine Čarolije) and a famous restaurant – Baranjska Kuća, which was the location of our breakfast.

After a welcome drink, our host Bajo led us to the Street of the Lost Times, which was followed by a rich Baranja breakfast. Bread, lard, peppers, onions, pork greaves, sausages, “švargla”, bacon, everything was on offer. After the breakfast, we had enough energy to go to the top of Banovo Brdo, not through Kamenac, but via a field route directly from Karanac and attend (this time as spectators) another exciting sporting and entertainment event.


The sports and recreational club Žuti Šešir from Osijek organised Banovo Brdo Trk & Bic on the most beautiful Croatian wine route. The gathering place was the Belje viewpoint. Cyclists fought in a knockout competition on an 800-metre track, with a 100-metre height difference. Runners had to run eight kilometres, and they had a height difference of 200 metres.

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Banovo Brdo was full of visitors, among whom I found my cycling colleagues from Serbia. An ideal opportunity to talk and draft new cycling plans. Spring has just begun, and the bike is a perfect means of transport for hedonists because you are too slow on foot and too fast in a car. How many hidden hedonistic corners, starting from the wineries to excursion sites to family farms have I discovered on my bicycle? It is difficult to count them all, but it is impossible to count how many more there are yet to be found.

And Baranja, although a relatively small region, is always a pleasant surprise, just when I think I got to know everything there is to know. There is that old poem about Baranja: “Who knows what kind of beauties Baranja has, we have to enjoy them. I have the feeling I have to discover them, and then I will be happier. We need to enjoy every moment; the challenges are in every corner."

More news on the Baranja region can be found in the Lifestyle section.