Monday, 17 May 2021

Escape to Osijek-Baranja County and its Epic Sights and Flavours

May 14, 2021 – Breathtaking views of the Danube at Erdut and Aljmaš, the bona fide masterpiece of Đakovo cathedral, the unique winemaking traditions of northern Baranja, the wildlife-rich wetlands of Kopački rit and the OPGs of Osijek-Baranja County. There's a whole other world to discover in this epic corner of Slavonia-Baranja.

It seems like the world is speeding up. Everything now is that much more immediate. In this age of Instagram and 'influencers', we quickly scroll past postcard-pretty pictures on our phones. 'Like'. Forgotten, in an instant.

Croatia is a country not without postcard-pretty pictures. But, to snatch attention in this super-fast, vacuous age, all too often we are shown the same images. Heart-shaped islands from above, dolphins at dusk, sunset over the Adriatic and its epic Dinaric Alps. You could be forgiven for thinking that every view in Croatia contains the sea.

reSlavonija_Aero0060.jpgSlavonia © Romulić & Stojčić.

There are very few mountains in the Pannonian basin. And there is no sea. Well, not any more. Instead, these flatlands stretch 600 km from east to west and 500 km from north to south through several countries. They engulf the eastern section of Croatia we know as Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem.

Unsurprisingly, such a vast plain is not without its epic qualities. But, the epic nature of Osijek-Baranja County in Slavonia-Baranja is difficult to capture in a competing image on social media. Its special qualities instead lie in the sounds, the tastes, the tradition, the sights and the people. This is a place that has to be visited to be understood. And, if you do, it's an experience that will far outlast any fleeting photo on Instagram. Here, we take a look at just a small section of the unforgettable offer in Osijek-Baranja.

Imperial horses and the bona fide masterpiece of Đakovo cathedral

State Stud Farm Đakovo

Horse breeding in Đakovo is thought to be even older than 1506 when first written mention of the town's stud farm comes from. An endeavour of regional bishops, it bred horses of Arab stock. But, that changed at the beginning of the 19th Century.

re45123_1507774006692_993915_n.jpgIn the fields, Lipizzaner horses © Silvija Butković.

Lipizzaner horses were the prized breed of the Habsburg monarchy, their genetic line today traced back to eight stallions from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. With the advancement of Napoleon's army across Europe, Lipizzaners were sent further east in order to protect them. This imperial horse has been bred in Đakovo ever since.

Born with black skin and black hair, their hair gradually turns to a characteristic light grey (although, some other colours occur). Traditionally, when the colour change was fully complete, the horses were ready for royal duty.

Denis_Despot_Ergela_Đakovo.jpgYounger horses on the State Stud Farm in Đakovo © Denis Despot / Tourist Board of Osijek-Baranja County.

Today, at the State Stud Farm Đakovo, the Lipizzaners are bred and trained in dressage. The farm contains Croatia's largest indoor riding hall, in which public performances take place. Previous visitors to the farm include several members of the British Royal family. Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip and their daughter Princess Anne came in 1972, while Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall came in 2016.

Đakovo cathedral

reDjakovo_katedrala0012.jpgExterior of Đakovo cathedral © Romulić & Stojčić.

The presence of Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer looms large in the history of Croatia. Nowhere does that presence loom larger in a physical manifestation than Đakovo cathedral. By far, it is the largest sacral building in Slavonia, the second-largest in Croatia.

reDjakovo_katedrala0002.jpg© Romulić & Stojčić

This part of Slavonia is completely flat. Therefore, you can see the cathedral for miles as you approach Đakovo. Once up closer, its red bricks give it the appearance of a modern building. In fact, Josip Juraj Strossmayer oversaw its construction between 1866-1882. In truth, he'd wanted to build it for much longer, but struggled to get the funds required for his vision. Indeed, the project was so delayed that the artist Strossmayer chose to paint the interior, German Nazarene Johann Friedrich Overbeck, died before he could begin the task. Instead, father and son Alexander Maximilian Seitz and Ludwig Seitz assumed the task.

reDjakovo_katedrala0023-Djakovacka_katedrala_interijer_4.jpgInterior detail in Đakovo cathedral © Romulić & Stojčić

The building's construction actually only took four years, but it took a full 19 years to complete decorations inside. It's easy to see why. The interior of Đakovo cathedral is a bona fide masterpiece. Ornate frescos depicting scenes from the Old Testament and New Testament radiate from above. Regardless of your faith, it is a breathtaking experience to walk within.

reDjakovo_katedrala0028-Djakovacka_katedrala_interijer_9.jpg© Romulić & Stojčić

reDjakovo_katedrala0019-Djakovacka_katedrala_interijer_12.jpg© Romulić & Stojčić

13 of the frescoes are by Alexander, 20 are by Ludwig. The detail of their work captivates the eye. The Neo-Romanesque architectural flourishes design inside are similarly grandiose. Visiting while on a journey to Bulgaria, future Pope John XXIII proclaimed it to be the most beautiful church between Venice and Constantinople.

reDjakovo_katedrala0026-Djakovacka_katedrala_interijer_7.jpg© Romulić & Stojčić

Breathtaking views of the Danube at Erdut and Aljmaš

re1234rt5y.pngThe Danube, as seen from the Brzica winery terrace in Erdut © Marc Rowlands.

Slavonia is defined by its two longest rivers. To the south, after passing through Zagreb and Lonjsko Polje, the Sava forms a natural border between Slavonia and Bosnia. To the north, the Drava river first separates Croatia and Hungary. Then, after Donji Miholjac, it serves as the border between Slavonia from Baranja. Just a mile or so from Aljmaš, the Drava flows into the Danube, which partially separates Slavonia from Vojvodina.

reSlavonija_Aero0123.jpgThe Danube in eastern Slavonia © Romulić & Stojčić.

When you're standing overlooking the Danube in Erdut village, you could almost believe you're on an island. The peninsula in which the village lies is surrounded on three sides by the Danube. It weaves in and out of the landscape, causing great gulfs between the dense forest that occurs on each side. This area is noticeably raised above the height of regular, flat Slavonia and in Erdut, a small castle tower stands on a hill. It's one of the best places to look at the Danube. The other is from the Brzica winery, less than a kilometre away.

At Brzica, you're some 80 metres above the Danube. Here, winery owner Ivo Brzica has taken advantage of the view. He's built a beautiful holiday home where guests can stay. It's right next to his own dwelling and the winery. The properties share a huge, open and informal terrace overlooking the river. It's a great place to try the award-winning Brzica wines. They plant Graševina, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Vranac. On some bottles, the label reads 1378. It's the number of kilometres the Danube has travelled to reach this point.

re99127089_1304385849765541_5021631833557696512_n.jpgA glass of Brzica wine overlooking the Danube.

Erdut visitors wanting to get up closer to the Danube can now do just that. A newly appointed 10-kilometre footpath now runs alongside the river all the way from Erdut to Aljmaš. It's a beautiful walk through epic nature.

The unique landscape and winemaking traditions of northern Baranja

While much of Slavonia is uniformly flat, the topography is more varied in Baranja. Baranja Mountain stretches in a northeast-southwest direction between Beli Manastir and Batina. It is 21 kilometres long, three kilometres wide and much of its slopes are used for agriculture, grapes for winemaking, predominantly.

Krešimir-Čandrlić-TZ-Osječko-baranjske-županije.jpgA Surduk in Baranja © Krešimir Čandrlić / Tourist Board of Osijek-Baranja County.

Long ago, heavy rains began to produce natural gorges which cut through the higher ground. Over time, some of these became considerably deep, widened by the flow of water and sometimes mud. Eventually, these gorges between hillsides became passageways for horses and carts. In Croatia, these narrow routes are exclusive to the Baranja region and are very pretty to walk. Their walls are lined with tree roots, which stop them from collapsing. The branches and leaves of these trees often overhang the gorge, sometimes giving you the impression you're in a tunnel. Such a route in Baranja is known as a Surduk.

59929298_291292758447045_4092839649649623040_n-1.jpgA line of traditional Baranja wine cellars. Unique in Croatia to Baranja, such a building is known as a Gator © Visit Baranja.

On this same ground, you'll find another phenomenon unique to Baranja. A Gator is a traditional wine cellar of this region. Sometimes found on the lower course of a Surduk, a Gator is unlike a typical wine cellar in that it has no subterranean section where the wine is stored. Instead, a Gator extends back into the hillside. Wine is kept in the deepest recesses of the building, where it is coolest. In several places in Baranja you can see a street with several of these buildings side by side. Usually, each Gator is owned by a different family and each will make their own particular family wine.

Podrumi Kolar family winery in Suza

rrrrrrrrrrrr184522583_4216656801706120_7724425057568396905_n.jpgWith a 100-year-old cellar and great wines, the Podrumi Kolar family winery in Suza.

The Kolar family wine cellar is 100 years old, although the restaurant and tourism aspect of their enterprise has only been around since 2004. The whole family are involved and they purposefully intertwine their winemaking with a visitor offer. In addition to the restaurant attached to the wine cellar and they have a wonderful campsite just a couple of hundred metres down the road. All of their wines are great. But, if you visit, be sure to try their Sauvignon. Some say it's the best in the whole of Baranja.

Josić winery and restaurant in Zmajevac

reee80820150_10157752856922510_7899019450953760768_n.jpgTraditional Baranja and Slavonia flavours at the Josić winery and restaurant in Zmajevac.

At the Josić winery and restaurant in Zmajevac they make brilliant wines. Among them, Baranja shiller, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Graševina, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon. You can visit the wine cellars and try traditional foods of the region in their extensive restaurant.

Vinarija Gerštmajer in Zmajevac

reee10409647_797460223636993_347799443786816980_n.jpgIncredible views from the garden at Vinarija Gerštmajer in Zmajevac.

A deep dust gathers on some of the oldest bottles kept in the cellar at Vinarija Gerstmajer. And, there's plenty of those. The charming family patriarch is clearly a proud wine enthusiast and reserves some bottles from every year of their celebrated but small production. Sadly, this archive now stretches back only until the mid-1990s. It used to be much older, cataloguing all of the years his own father ran the winery. But, when the family returned after the war, they were greeted by empty cellars. The cellars are once again full. You can try them in the cellar or out on the terrace, overlooking a scene of uninterrupted nature.

The wildlife-rich wetlands of Kopački rit

reKopacki_rit.jpgWetlands of Kopački rit © Tourist Board of Osijek-Baranja County.

Occupying the marches, lakes and floodland between the Drava and the Danube, Nature Park Kopački rit is one of Europe's largest wetlands. Although a home to many different types of life, it is most famous for its bird population. As many as 300 different species of birds inhabit the park, many of them being migratory and nesting species. Of particular note, a large colony of grey heron and and the largest population of woodpeckers in the entire Danube basin. You can now tour a section of the waters in a large visitor boat. It is electrically powered so as not to disturb the life-rich riverbanks. After the boat drops you off, make your way through the rest of the park across specially constructed pathways that wind their way across the waters and reeds.

reee181763729_3395698553866665_437148493806686223_n.jpgThe wooden walkways of Kopački rit Nature Park in Osijek-Baranja County © Romulić & Stojčić.

The OPGs of Osijek-Baranja County

The landscape in Osijek-Baranja County is only so picturesque because of the people who live in it. It is their endeavours that shape it. Traditional agricultural pursuits explain the pretty rows of vineyards, the different coloured fields and gardens filled with fruit trees. While some agriculture here exists on a grand scale, many families in the region make the most of their own small plots of land.

Osijek-Baranja County family farms or OPGs preserve the traditions of the region, not only in the way they use the land but in the produce that results. From the beekeeping that makes EU-protected honey to the vineyards producing Croatia's best white wine, practices in these family farms are often passed down from generation to generation. The best way to learn how they do it – and try the amazing traditional flavours of Osijek-Baranja County – is to go to an OPG. Here are just several you can visit.

Zorić distillery in Erdut

Zoric.jpgZorić distillery in Erdut, Osijek-Baranja County.

The Zorić family in Erdut have long been growing fruit and making Croatian brandy aka rakija. But, this youngest generation, lead by youthful father Dinko and his wife Sanja, have upped their game significantly. They have built the most modern craft rakija distillery in the region. From there, they make one of Croatia's best new premium rakijas, Divania. In English or Croatian, they will guide you around the distillery and explain the process before letting you try it on their lovely terrace. If you're lucky, you might also get to try the family-made kobasica sausages – they're very good! Their rakijas are made from apricots, quinces, apples, pears and cherries and the family are great hosts.

Seoski turizam Lacković in Bilje

re20431767_822347511276386_375301605997322700_n.jpgFilled with flowers, Seoski turizam Lacković in Bilje.

A beautiful family-run farm, with 16 beds for guests, Seoski turizam Lacković are used to hosting visitors. The farm itself has pretty rows of vegetables out back. Next to them, a variety of birds are kept. The hosting area has a lovely terrace with a view of the pretty tree-lined path that extends down through the large garden. During the recent Month of Baranja Cooking (Mjesec baranjske kuhinje), visitors tried their hand at making traditional baked foods pita and kiflice.

OPG Čudesna šuma

rROMMM182218841_3395418300561357_8222892496436052806_n.jpgMeeting the llamas at OPG Čudesna šuma © Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit.

Visit the llamas or a special gastronomic event at this future eco-village and food forest. To read a detailed reportage from our spring 2021 visit to OPG Čudesna šuma, look here.

Both the author and Total Croatia News would like to thank the following for their invaluable help in creating this article: Ivana Jurić and the Tourist Board of Osijek-Baranja County, Marija Burek and the Tourist Board of Đakovo, Renata Forjan and Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit and Domagoj Butković of expert travel guides to Slavonia and Osijek-Baranja County, Kulen travel.

Thursday, 13 May 2021

OPG Čudesna šuma: Paradise Reimagined in Beautiful, Traditional Baranja

May 13, 2021 – OPG Čudesna šuma: How an unexpected turn of events helped world-renowned photographer Mario Romulić realise his lifelong dream.

War and genocide and the aftermath. Famine. Disease. Death. In a former life, harrowing images filled the lens of internationally renowned photographer Mario Romulić. But thankfully, we're now far from such scenes.

In fact, at OPG Čudesna šuma - Mario Romulić's home and family farm - we're pretty much far from everything. One other eco-farm is his only neighbour. Well, unless you count the llamas the Romulić family keep out back. Occasionally, through the rich green of surrounding trees, you see birds flying above the branches. Probably they're toing and froing from Kopački rit. The nearby Nature Park is less than a kilometre from OPG Čudesna šuma. Famously, the wetlands are home to over 250 species of birds. They are also the reason why Mario Romulić is here.

ReeeeeMG_2366_DxO-GŠ-e1559901697596.jpgKopački rit Nature Park © Kopački rit Nature Park.

“Back then, I was very occupied with Kopački rit,” remembers Mario of the time, 21 years ago, when he moved to what is now OPG Čudesna šuma. “I was working as a cameraman for people like Reuters, all over the world. The assignments would last 7-10 days and I'd be in places like Afghanistan, Rwanda, Congo, Liberia, Bosnia. It was often quite dangerous. For the next 20 days, I would spend a lot of time in Kopački rit, trying to calm my nerves. It was something like a cure after seeing all these horrible scenes. Eventually, instead of travelling every day from my home in Osijek to Kopački rit, I decided to try and find something close by. And this is what I found.”

Just as this beautiful, natural landscape in Bilje, Baranja once served as a peaceful getaway for Mario Romulić, his OPG Čudesna šuma today does the same for others. Because, after dreaming for two decades of turning this blissful plot and homestead into a forest farm and eco-village, Mario Romulić is finally turning that vision into a reality.

REEEEE123849689_631301844230484_3242943399468051911_n.jpgThe impossibly pretty OPG Čudesna near Kopački rit Nature Park, Bilje Municipality, Baranja © OPG Čudesna šuma.

“Because of my job - first, travelling all around the world, then travelling Croatia - I did not even have much time to think about it, let alone do it,” says Mario. “But, then Corona came. Finally, I found myself at home. At last, I had time to work on my dream.”

OPG Čudesna šuma in the Month of Baranja Cooking (Mjesec baranjske kuhinje)

A group of 30 or so are Mario's guests today at OPG Čudesna šuma. They're here for a presentation of speciality cooking. It's the grand finale of the Month of Baranja Cooking (Mjesec baranjske kuhinje).

Over previous weeks, OPGs from all across the region have welcomed guests to try goulash, soups, stews, perklet and other traditional foods of the area. While visiting, they've been embraced by the beautiful landscape of Baranja. Not only have they discovered how this delightful, distinct cuisine tastes, but also they've learned exactly how it's prepared. However, they've evidently saved the best for last. On the menu today, river fish inventively cooked, accompanied by a riotous rainbow of seasonal vegetables.

reOPG_Čudesna_šuma181580000_726510768042924_6910637969151864081_n.jpgSeasonal vegetables of Baranja in springtime at the Month of Baranja Cooking (Mjesec baranjske kuhinje) © OPG Čudesna šuma.

It's a beautifully sunny day, right at the start of May. It depends on your preference, but looking across this happy vista in the glorious sunshine, it's difficult to imagine this not being the perfect time to be in Baranja. Young children are raised to chest height by their parents so they can meet Mario's free-roaming llamas face-to-face. The children's faces flit between surprise, curiosity and delight. The llamas return their stare. They're used to welcoming new guests.

re182218841_3395418300561357_8222892496436052806_n.jpgMeeting the Romulić family llamas at OPG Čudesna šuma © Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit.

Partially shaded by trees, the smiling adult guests sit casually on wooden benches around a central, outdoor cooking area. Several open fires display a range of traditional cooking methods. Steam rises from a cast-iron stove suspended over one. Beneath the vapours, you can make out the dish is fish paprikash. It's unmistakable because of the deeply red coloured bubbles, a result of generous amounts of paprika.

RErommy.jpgGuests enjoy a warm springtime day at OPG Čudesna šuma during the Month of Baranja Cooking (Mjesec baranjske kuhinje), as fish paprikas cooks over an open fire © OPG Čudesna šuma.

A huge bag of this paprika sits propped up, close by. It's from another organic OPG, just a kilometre or so from here. The colour is vivid, impossibly red, unrecognisable from anything store-bought. At the next fire, pike impaled on wooden sticks are placed far enough from the flickering flames so they cook slowly and do not burn.

RRRRRRMG_9076.jpgPike impaled on sticks, cooking by an open fire at OPG Čudesna šuma @ Marc Rowlands.

In the outdoor kitchen, Mario Romulić's co-chefs prepare an unending supply of fish dishes and vegetables. Carp, catfish, trout, bream. There's a bounty of fresh asparagus. It's that time of year. With the restraint of experience, they've cooked it perfectly. After the crunch of the bite, the flavour explodes. They're seasoned simply – delicious olive oil and sea salt.

RRRRRMG_9083.jpgSeasonal asparagus, perfectly cooked, served with smoked river fish © Marc Rowlands.

A group of peers – accomplished chefs from Osijek-Baranja restaurants – peak over the shoulders of Romulić's co-chefs. They're admiring the inventive techniques employed. Although, being chefs, they can't help themselves. They end up briefly forgetting their families in order to help out.

Mario Romulić, the host with the most

re181662505_3395417317228122_5675229268416633172_n.jpgMario Romulić © Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit.

After all the guests arrive, Mario Romulić holds court. Cheerily he welcomes us all to OPG Čudesna šuma and the event. Without question, the success of rural, village tourism depends on the personalities of the hosts. It's no good plonking a group of visitors in a pretty place and throwing some food in front of them. We've all seen trees, grass and food before. Rural tourism is not just about the place, it's about the experience, the ambience. And, especially, it's about the people.

Hands down, the OPGs of Slavonia and Baranja are the best in Croatia at this. The folks here are famous for their friendliness, warm welcome and big personalities. And, Mario Romulić has one of the biggest of them all.

In the research for this reportage, looking back at archive pictures of Mario Romulić is startling. During his years spent as an international photographer, he himself has been photographed many times – on assignment in distant countries, at the opening of exhibitions that have showcased his celebrated work. In most, there's an intensity to his stare. It's sometimes difficult to look at. He looks like a man who has tales you never want to hear, like a man who has seen too much.

re181833835_3395419193894601_1580949382978993421_n.jpg(L- R) OPG Čudesna šuma co-chef at the event Mihael Tomić, renowned Osijek chef Ivan Đukić currently of Osijek's Lipov Hlad and a happy Mario Romulić © Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit.

By comparison, the Mario Romulić that welcomes us at OPG Čudesna šuma today is unrecognisable. Sure, there's a little more grey to his long hair and beard but, otherwise, he looks incredibly healthy and happy. The intense stare is gone, replaced by a warm, wide smile that shows across his entire face. Even in early May, he has a darkened skin tone, the telltale signs of a man who spends much of the day outdoors. Romulić's enthusiasm for his guests and the event is palpable. After his sincere welcome, this enthusiasm is immediately transferred to each of his guests.

Mrs Romulić ensures everyone's glass is overflowing with wine or juice. One of Mario's teenage sons helps out with the food, while the other is taking photographs of the event. Well, someone has to do the photography now that dad wants to be a chef and host! Mario himself is engulfed in smoke. Among the other duties he's assumed today, Mario is tending a smoker. Without a doubt, this is the most revelatory cooking method we meet today.

RAFGGMG_9033.jpgMario Romulić tends to smoked river fish, a revelatory gastronomic experience at OPG Čudesna šuma © Marc Rowlands.

Smoked fish of Slavonia and Baranja at OPG Čudesna šuma

reOPG_Čudesna_šuma181569372_726510701376264_2349368327366088172_n.jpgAn American-style smoker, loaded with river fish. TOP TIP: A great way to stop fish sticking to the grill of your barbecue or smoker is to place them on top of a layer of lemon slices © OPG Čudesna šuma.

“We do have smoked fish here, but not in this way,” he says. “This is more like an American grill. I never heard of anyone trying Baranja cooking like this. Actually, I never heard of anyone nearby who has a smoker like this. The first time I tried stuka (pike) in the smoker, that was unbelievable. It's incomparable, really special.”

re182065042_3395417427228111_6987374227558501361_n.jpgExquisite presentation of river fish by the enthusiastic team of OPG Čudesna šuma © Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit.

“In Slavonia and Baranja, there are just a few ways we usually cook our river fish - carp on sticks, fish paprikash, perklet and fried fish. So, we tried something new, to expand the palette. For instance, almost nobody eats Babuška (a type of carp). They feed it instead to their pigs. It costs 5 kuna a kilo! But, if you cook it in this completely natural way, it's delicious.”

re181464507_3395417533894767_3887484501591319798_n.jpgMore river fish, cooked by the team of OPG Čudesna šuma © Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit.

He's not wrong. Today's mountain of different smoked fish is the talk on most of the adult lips. The rich flavours surprise. Compliments and returns for second helpings ensue. Mario stands to one side, happily watching as his smoked fish secret escapes. In the future, he plans similar events based on other regional foods - Black Slavonian pig, wild meats like deer or boar. Eventually, in the seven hectares of land he owns here, he would like to expand OPG Čudesna šuma as an eco-village, with beds for visitors, a natural swimming pool and then surround it with a food forest. Big plans. It looks as though the camera may stay more permanently in the hands of his son. Because it's difficult to imagine Mario Romulić leaving his happy place and the realisation of his long-held dream.

re60723980_10157204309393875_1954899380326629376_n.jpgMario Romulić in his happy place, with a friend © OPG Čudesna šuma.

Both the author and Total Croatia News would like to thank the following for their invaluable help in creating this article: Ivana Jurić and the Tourist Board of Osijek-Baranja County, OPG Čudesna šuma, Mario Romulić and family, Renata Forjan and Turistička zajednica Općine Bilje - Kopački rit and Domagoj Butković of expert travel guides to Slavonia and Baranja, Kulen travel.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Touch of Baranja Photo Exhibition in Zagreb Until End of April

April 21, 2021 - A Touch of Baranja showcases 20 photos of the Baranja region to promote this rich natural and cultural site to both domestic and foreign visitors.

If you want to experience a touch of Baranja, but you're stuck in Zagreb, the city's Flower square (Cvjetni trg) offers you a compromise.  

Dodir baRAnJe (A Touch of Baranja), an outdoor photo exhibition that will remain open until the end of April, highlights 20 photos of beautiful Baranja.

''A picture says a thousand words, so this is how we decided to present the beauty of Baranja and motivate Zagreb's citizens and their guests to visit the region located between the Danube and Drava rivers next to the border with Hungary to have a proper break,'' says the website of the Baranja Tourist Board.

The Tourist Board, along with Tourist Boards of Draž and Bilje-Kopački Rit hosted the event.

Nenad Milić, Dubravko Franjin, Romulić&Stojčić Studio, Mario Đurkić, and Zvonimir Janković are the photographers whose work is being featured in the exhibition. Below every photo, there is a QR code that offers an explanation of the photo both in English and Croatian, and in the evening, the photos are illuminated by solar power collected during the day.

As written by the Explore Croatia site, Baranja is special for its display of multiculturalism of the people who live there and who have previously passed through the territory. Tradition and cultural heritage in the area have survived the challenges of time, and nowhere is that more visible than in Baranja's cuisine.

Visit_Baranja.jpg

© Visit Baranja 

''Baranja continues to remain a special destination which will tell the traveller various stories about tradition, family, life secrets, love, death, wines, hot peppers, specific fishing, weddings…“, explains the Explore Croatia site.

Baranja also offers the richness of nature as it is surrounded by rivers and the Kopački Rit swamp and bird reserve that is home to a wide and impressive variety of animals and plants, representing a real treat for the dedicated traveller.

When in Baranja, make sure to try the delicious Fiš Paprikaš, Baranja's own local Kulen recipe, and carp prepared in a delicious way only Baranja knows how to do.

Learn more about Croatia's food on our TC page

For more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Syrian Migrant Family Rescued from Inaccessible Slavonia Wetlands

February 13, 2021 – Osijek-Baranja police rescued a Syrian migrant family, including two children, from inaccessible Slavonian wetland terrain. They had become cut off and stranded on an island, surrounded by swollen waters

Osijek-Baranja police have rescued a Syrian migrant family, including two children, from inaccessible Slavonian wetland terrain, police revealed in a statement released on Saturday 13 February. They had become cut off, surrounded by swollen waters, in the area around Kopacki rit Nature Park.

At around 10 a.m. Friday 12 February, in a forest area near Aljmaš, police found a 19-year-old Syrian citizen during a regular patrol. The 19-year-old asked for police help because his family was cut off on a river island of Kopački rit.

Immediately after learning about the other members of the Syrian migrant family, the police dispatched two patrol boats to look for them. They discovered the Syrian migrant family in a very short time. In addition to the teenager already discovered, police found the rest of the Syrian migrant family travelling party to include three women, born in 1973, 1998 and 1999, and two children, born in 2016 and 2017.

The found persons were transported to the mainland by the police. There, they were met by an ambulance, which had been called due to cold temperatures in the area and fears their exposure could have lead to hypothermia. They were transported to the Osijek Clinical Hospital Center (KBC).

The Syrian migrant family was released from the hospital later in the same day.

It has been established that the Syrian migrant family have expressed their intention to apply for international protection in the Republic of Croatia. They have been sent to the Shelter for International Protection Seekers, a reception centre for asylum seekers in Zagreb, said the police.

Kopački Rit, where the Syrian migrant family were rescued, is a nature park in the eastern Croatia municipalities of Bilje and Kneževi Vinogradi. It is located northwest of the confluence of the Drava and the Danube, right next to the border with Serbia. It is comprised of many backwaters, marshland and ponds that exist immediately between these two great rivers. It is one of the most important, largest and most attractive preserved intact wetlands in Europe.

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Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Croatian Wetland Areas Mark 50th World Wetlands Day

February 2, 2021 – Today is the jubilee 50th World Wetlands Day. Croatia marks this year's theme "Wetlands and Water" in line with epidemiological measures, as many public institutions of Croatian wetland areas organize numerous online and offline activities.

On the occasion of World Wetlands Day, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development has pointed to a growing freshwater shortage crisis that poses a significant threat to humanity and the planet. This year's theme – Wetlands and water – pays special attention to wetlands as a freshwater source.

50 percent of wetlands lost in the last 50 years

Croatia has several wetlands: Nature Parks Kopački Rit, Lonjsko Polje, and Vrana Lake, the Special Reserve Crna Mlaka in Jastrebarsko, and the Lower Neretva River. Croatian wetland areas seek to encourage actions to restore wetlands and stop their loss by marking World Wetlands Day.

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Crna Mlaka in Jastrebarsko / Public Institution Green Ring of the Zagreb County

On this day in 1971, the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, was signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar. The Convention, known as the Ramsar Convention, obliges each signatory country to the general conservation of wetlands on its territory and provides a framework for international cooperation in protecting and sustainable use of wetlands.

Croatia has been a signatory to the Ramsar Convention since 1991, and the above mentioned Croatian wetland areas are on the Ramsar Convention's list.

As a contribution to implementing the Ramsar Convention in Croatia, three relatively small areas within the Neretva delta were proclaimed as special reserves last year. The places named "Blue Eye and Lake Desna," "Neretva's Estuary," and "Kuti" have preserved, unique, and representative wetland habitats and characteristic species of particular importance for Croatia.

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Neretva River / Copyright Romulić and Stojčić

Although wetland habitats represent one of the greatest values of biological and landscape diversity, since more than 40 percent of plant and animal species are associated with them, they are also the most endangered ecosystems in the world. In the last 50 years, 50 percent of all wetlands in the world have been lost.

Wetland areas as the best flood defense

Apart from being wet habitats for numerous plant and animal species, they are also crucial in adapting to climate change. Thus, wetland habitats are extremely important in flood defense, especially in Croatia.

Lowland rivers with moist habitats along their trough, into which they flow during high water levels, represent the best way to defend against floods. This is precisely how the flood defense system in Posavina was built. Thus, high waters of the Sava River flow into the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park floodplains, while Kopački Rit Nature Park "receives" high waters of the Drava and Danube, thereby changing their landscapes.

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Lonjsko Polje Nature Park

The value of wetland habitats is also related to the restoration of groundwater supplies, the consolidation of shores, the retention of nutrients and sediments, and water purification. On World Wetlands Day, public institutions that manage protected areas in Croatia organize numerous activities.

Due to epidemiological measures, Lonjsko Polje Nature Park will not organize the traditional gathering "Future on the edge of the swamp" this year. However, the importance of water and wetlands will be discussed at a small event at the Public Institution headquarters in Krapje.

As part of this event, Matica Hrvatska's branch from Kutina will review the meetings "Future on the Edge of the Swamp" in the last 20 years. Employees of the Public Institution will participate in a workshop on the construction of roof platforms for white stork nests.

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Village of Krapje / Lonjsko Polje Nature Park Boris Krstinić

In Northern Dalmatia, Vrana Lake Nature Park continues cooperation with the School of Applied Arts and Design in Zadar. Students will have virtual and field lectures on the topic of wetlands, their importance, and rich biodiversity, emphasizing birds. Students will create illustrations of different bird species presented in a virtual exhibition on the Park's website.

The traditional 9th "Bird Masquerade" will be organized for primary school students, and students from 1st to 4th grade of local primary schools will make masks of wetland birds. On February 6, free bird watching will be organized for all visitors.

The promotional video "Vrana Lake Nature Park: a place where birds always return" by the author Goran Šafarek will be shown for the first time:

Kopački Rit Nature Park traditionally celebrates World Wetlands Day in cooperation with Elementary School in Bilje. Second-grade students prepared artworks, literary ensembles, and a musical performance on the topic of Kopački Rit and its natural features. A lovely presentation of their work is also available online.

The Public Institution for the Management of Protected Nature Areas of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County conducts education on the importance of wetlands through an LED screen in Metković, where images with short educational texts about wetlands will be shown.

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Kopački Rit Nature Park / Copyright Romulić and Stojčić

Friday, 18 December 2020

PHOTOS: 11 Incredible Croatia Treehouses to Stay In and Escape to Nature

December 18, 2020 – Staying in one of these amazing Croatia treehouses offers perfect seclusion and a welcome return to nature

Sometimes you just want to be alone. Parties and crowds have their time and place, but sometimes what you need is an escape to the countryside. Journeys into the wild can be more than just a breath of fresh air – they're a chance to reconnect with nature, a getaway from laptop screens, the buzz of overhead cables and the sounds of the city. Staying in one of these splendidly situated Croatia treehouses will provide a true return to nature. Sometimes basic and closer to camping, at others, luxurious and with every amenity you'd expect from a stylish seaside villa, all of them allow you to get up close to wild surroundings you've come to be amongst.

Treehouse Cadmos Village, Komaji, Konavle near Dubrovnik
CadmosVillage2.jpg© Treehouse Cadmos Village

Sat between the branches of Cadmos Village Adventure Park, this small treehouse overlooks the Konavle valley, with the Sniježnica mountain in the background. Its position within the family-oriented adventure park marks it as the perfect place to crash out after a day of paintballing, rope bridges, climbing, cycling, zip lines or archery.

CadmosVillage1.jpg© Treehouse Cadmos Village

The treehouse sits on a seven-metre-high platform with a terrace where you can take in the view. Solar-powered, it can accommodate six people in three bedrooms and has a kitchen, dining area and showers. It's 25 kilometres from Dubrovnik from here, ten kilometres from Cavtat and just five kilometres from Dubrovnik airport.

CadmosVillage3.jpg© Treehouse Cadmos Village

Mlin Treehouse, Sveti Vid Dobrinjski, Dobrinj, Krk island
tree-house-ivan-juretic-7mliin.jpg© Ivan Juretić architects

Sitting in the trees behind the Holiday House Mlin near Dobrinj, in the interior of island Krk, Mlin Treehouse is small in size – just eight square metres inside – but has a definite wow factor. This can be attributed to architect, Ivan Juretić, who has designed here a building full of unexpected angles and intermittent panels which allow light to stream into the property.

mlin1.jpg© Ivan Juretić architects

Dobrinj itself is a great place to get away to, and you're only a couple of kilometres from the sea here. Better still, the main Holiday House Mlin has its own private pool – you should probably check before booking if you're allowed to use it.

tree-house-ivan-juretic-8mlinkrk.jpg© Ivan Juretić architects

Tree House Gorski Lazi, Tršće, Gorski Kotor
GorskiLazi1.jpeg© Tree House Gorski Lazi

This treehouse in Gorski Kotor looks little more than a garden shed from the outside and, indoors, the two double beds found here are indeed tucked tightly into the corners. But, the experience at Tree House Gorski Lazi isn't supposed to be taken exclusively within the rustic interior, it's one to be enjoyed on the outside and within the natural landscape.

GorskiLazi2.jpeg© Tree House Gorski Lazi

To encourage this, a large, open-air terrace sits in front of the house from where you take in the view – grassland rolls gently below you before being engulfed on all sides by surrounding forests that change colour spectacularly through the seasons. They rise to cover nearby hills, mountains completing the perfect vista on a near horizon. Further encouragement to spend your time in this spot is the barbecue and loungers situated here, although there's a gas stove in the kitchen below the house if you fancy something quick. The house is located 15 kilometres from Risnjak National Park.

GorskiLazi3.jpeg© Tree House Gorski Lazi

Treehouse Resnice, Barilović, Karlovac County
Resnice3.jpg© Treehouse Resnice

Sat within the treetops of eight hectares of natural forest in Barilović, Karlovac County, Treehouse Resnice is one of the most homely and inviting of all Croatia treehouses. From the dwelling, the rivers Mrežnica and Korana are just a couple of kilometres walk, inviting you to take romantic and peaceful walks of exploration in either direction. But, truth be told, you might be just as happy hanging around the house - Treehouse Resnice is beautifully constructed, with no less attention paid to its interior design.

resnice-treehouse-2.jpeg© Treehouse Resnice

A balcony on the house encompasses a supporting tree and you can rest here in a hammock. There are two additional structures next door specifically for relaxing and dining outside. Indoor and outdoor dining areas, complete with barbecue, extend its offer throughout the seasons. The double bedroom is found in the loft, beautifully decorated beneath wooden beams.

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Robins Hood, Zakrajc, Skrad, Gorski Kotor
Robins3.jpg© Robins Hood

Situated in the small settlement of Zakrajc near Skrad, between the Zeleni Vir water spring and the Kulpa river which acts as a natural border between Croatia and Slovenia, the topography surrounding the Robins Hood lodging is a gift to hikers and walkers. Streams and the river cut through rocks and hills, there are lots of pretty settlements and forestland to pass through.

Robins4.jpg© Robins Hood

The mountains of Gorski Kotar provide an impressive backdrop. Far from neighbouring eyes, this is one of the Croatia treehouses if you want to be alone with your surroundings, although the owners who built this place do also have a highly-rated restaurant in nearby Delnice and might extend an invitation.

Robins1.jpg© Robins Hood

Sanjam Treehouses, Lika
Sanjam Liku Treehousecroatia2.jpg© Sanjam Treehouses Lika

The uninhabited settlement of Drenovac Radučki in Gospic, at the foot of Mount Velebit, offers what seems to be perfect countryside seclusion when viewed exclusively from the windows or terraces of the two ultra-modern Sanjam Treehouses in Lika. Occasionally, you might hear a car pass on the nearby road from Karlobag to Knin. But, not so often. It's surprising to think that from here, in summer months, folks are swimming in the waters of the Adriatic less than 10 kilometres away. For visitors with a car wanting to escape the crowds after a day on the beach, these Croatia treehouses are an extremely inviting option.

Sanjam Liku Treehousecroatia23.jpg© Sanjam Treehouses Lika

The interior design is contemporary, sparse and uncluttered, featuring every home comfort you could wish for on any extended stay. One house has 43 square metres, with two bedrooms, while the other has 39 square metres and one bedroom. The experience here might not be so secluded and carefree if you're staying at the same time as neighbours you don't know – the treehouses are quite close and the view from one terrace faces the windowless, rear facade of the other. For an extended family or group taking both houses simultaneously, it's the perfect spot.

Sanjam Liku Treehousecroatia24.jpg© Sanjam Treehouses Lika

Plitvice Holiday Resort, Grabovac, Rakovica
Plitvice Holiday Resort2.jpg© Plitvice Holiday Resort

The five pretty treehouses of Plitvice Holiday Resort in Grabovac sit beneath towering trees and overlook a few more traditional glamping huts and a water feature through which wooden walkways snake. Yes, you might have neighbours here, but if you're looking for a superior camping spot that will keep you close to the nearby Plitvice Lakes, this is a lovely option.

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Each of the houses has two bedrooms, each with their own bathroom, plus a kitchen and a terrace and all come with WiFi and air-conditioning for the warmer months and heating for the cooler ones. The surrounding locale and views are pretty year-round.

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Obonjan Treehouse, Obonjan island, Dalmatia
Obonjan2.jpg© Obonjon island

Obonjan island has in recent years been run as a private camping site, catering only for adults. Music festivals have taken place there, revellers dancing between the pine trees, doing yoga by the beach or swimming in the seas close by. The island offers a range of camping accommodation options and in 2018 set up this, its first treehouse, with a view to expanding the offer with more builds.
Obonjan1.jpg© Obonjon island

The small and simple construction has a unique appeal among the Croatia treehouses listed here as it lies just eight metres from the inviting blue of the Adriatic. It has an en-suite bathroom, fridge, air‐conditioning, electricity and a small external terrace with table and deck chairs.

ObonjanTree-House-008.jpg© Obonjon island

Riverland Mrežnica, Zvečaj, near Duga Resa, Karlovac County
RiverlandMrez2.jpg© Riverland Mrežnica

Small and simple camping huts, the appeal of the two Croatia treehouses of Riverland Mrežnica is undoubtedly the truly fantastic views. Windows and terraces overlook (as the name suggests) the Mrežnica river, the view framed between the branches in which the treehouses sit.

RiverlandMrez1.jpg© Riverland Mrežnica

This green backdrop surrounds on all sides. Each treehouse accommodates two people, with double beds, located immediately below the roofs, accessed via wooden step ladders. You can take a bike or a boat to explore the nature around you.

RiverlandMrez3.jpg© Riverland Mrežnica

Zlatna Greda, Baranja, nr Osijek
ZlatnaRek2.jpg© Zlatna Greda

The appeal of the countryside around Osijek and Baranja is becoming better known and reasons for visiting Bilje Municipality, just north of Osijek, now extend much further than the beautiful Kopacki Rit Nature Park that can be found there. To the park's immediate north, Zlatna Greda is an adrenaline park and eco-farm offering cycling, rowing, ziplines and the perfect door into the surrounding nature.

ZlatnaRek1.jpg© Zlatna Greda

Although Zlatna Greda is the sole inclusion on this list of Croatia treehouses which does not offer overnight stays, it can be rented for several hours and is a good spot for groups to rest, take lunch or dinner and watch the sunlight fade. It can accommodate a group of up to 12 people and there are several tiers of accommodation – both dormitory and private rooms – available elsewhere in the complex.

ZlatnaRek3.jpg© Zlatna Greda

Tree Elements, Donji Nikšić, Rastoke, Karlovac County
treel2.jpg© Tree Elements

Not close to completion yet, the images here show how the Tree Elements Croatia treehouses in Donji Nikšić will look when finished. Situated within a 28 thousand square metre plot, bought specifically for the purpose by a young entrepreneur, build of the first two treehouses is ongoing, their progress delayed by the unforeseen happenings of 2020.

TreeEl1.jpg© Tree Elements

The plans look special and we confidently expect to see them rising further from the ground in 2021, when visitors will be able to take advantage of the wonderful surroundings of forest, streams and the nearby river Korana. The village of Rastoke, with its cascading waterfalls and waterside eateries, is also extremely close by.

treel3korana.jpg© Tree Elements

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

PHOTOS: Croatia's Incredible Culture And Nature - Romulić and Stojčić New Exhibition

August 25, 2020 - The award-winning artistic photography duo Romulić and Stojčić showcase their work 2011 – 2019 for free at Ulupuh Gallery, Zagreb until Monday 7 September

Mario and Dražen aka Romulić and Stojčić have been collaborating for almost 20 years. Their innovative photography is often breathtaking and shows the very best of Croatian cultural and natural heritage.

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Motovun

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A new exhibition, 'Interval' showcases some of their best-loved work from 2011 – 2019. Curated by Elizabeta Wagner, the exhibition opened on Tuesday 25 August and runs until Monday 7 September.

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Kopački Rit

The images of Romulić and Stojčić examine the nature, landscapes, architecture and culture of Croatia. Although they embrace innovative photography techniques and contemporary multimedia modes of expression, beneath the fresh perspectives lie a palpable love of Croatia and some of its greatest assets. Wholly apolitical, their photographs can be enjoyed by all.

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Grebeni kraj, Dubrovnik

Romulić and Stojčić were first spotted when they won first place at the Zagreb Tourist Film Festival in 2012 with the short film 'Višnjan Observatory'. One year later, they held a large international exhibition on the occasion of Croatia's accession to the European Union; 'Flash of Diversity' was exhibited in Budapest, Brussels, Rome, Linz, Moscow and Kiev.

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Makarska

Their joint work as Romulić and Stojčić has appeared in about 10 books and several exhibitions in Croatia and abroad. They are also frequent collaborators with Total Croatia News – you can see one of their stunning photographs at the start of each day if you follow our Facebook page and set to 'see first'. There are few better ways of waking up than with a beautiful photograph of Croatia that will stay with you for the rest of the day.

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Kopački Rit

Today, Romulić & Stojčić run a successful multimedia studio that deals with professional photo and video production. They maintain a special interest in tourism and architecture and collaborate with numerous tourist boards, construction companies, architects and designers.

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All photos © Romulić and Stojčić

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

HeadOnEast: How to Make the Most from a Weekend in Eastern Croatia

October 23, 2019 - Even for many Croatian residents, eastern Croatia is a relatively unknown destination, so what is there to explore in a weekend? TCN decided to HeadOnEast on a family road trip to find out.

We had been discussing a weekend in Budapest or Vienna. That is one of the great advantages of living in Varazdin - there is so much that is in driving distance. But in the end, we made a family decision to go in an entirely different direction for a weekend of family discovery - Slavonia.

The initial publicity from the HeadOnEast - [email protected] has died down now that Days of Croatian Tourism is behind us and the tourism chiefs are safely back in Zagreb, but those few days reignited my enthusiasm for eastern Croatia, and the family seemed to like the photos I was sending back. Could we have a more fun weekend in Slavonia rather than Budapest or Vienna? We decided to find out. 

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School finished at 13:15 in Varazdin, and we were on the road by 15:00, destination Bilje just outside Osijek, where we would stay with friends. The journey time was much shorter than I had imagined, just over three hours via Zagreb. Slavonia was actually closer than most of the coast. 

The roads were clear and we made good progress and as we turned off the main Belgrade motorway closing in on Osijek, a huge church appeared on the horizon. But really massive. 

Djakovo Cathedral. It was only just off the road, so we decided to stop for a quick wander around. 

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And what a pretty little place Djakovo is, with one of the nicest main squares in Croatia.

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And the cathedral is outstanding, both inside and out. Mass was underway and so we snuck in - this photo above is just from one of the sides, not the main altar. 

We debated on whether or not to visit the famous Djakovo Lipizzaner horses, but decided that we would save that for next time as we wanted to press on.  

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Downtown Osijek of course his its own mightily impressive cathedral from the same era and architect, some 3.5 million bricks in all towering over the city skyline.

There was a really nice vibe around town early on the Friday night, a wonderful place to walk around and explore the historic streets and buildings. 

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Being on the Drava, Osijek has its own 'riva' just as in Dalmatia, a place of space, nature and people watching. A nice little spot for a coffee on arrival. 

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it was my family's first visit to Slavonia and I wanted them to see as much as possible, and the walk along the river to Tvrda, or Fortress, was magical. And although the fortress and old town date back centuries, some rather impressive changes and upgrades are in process, such as this spectacular new square, which was until recently mostly a muddy parking lot. 

And when the old town comes alive, it really comes alive. Things were a lot quieter during our visit, but take a tour of the HeadOnEast gourmet festival earlier this month in the video above. 

Osijek surprised us all with its beauty and the sheer number of historic buildings and wide tree-lined avenues - gllimpses of its past glories. Get more of a feel in this walking tour above, organised by locals with a lot more knowledge than this fat British blogger. 

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And so to our accommodation, and one which we were all looking forward to. A weekend without gadgets in the natural beauty of OPG Mario Romulic just outside Bilje. 

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Mario is a good friend of mine and is diversifying from his very successful career as one of Croatia's premier photographers to open his own organic farm next to his home. It is fantastic! I stayed there a couple of weeks ago for the first time, slept like a log and woke to the clucking of hens. 

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And all around the wooden house, organic produce leading to the family home. The kids loved it, especially the 15 cats (mostly tiny kittens) which were roaming freely with the hens. 

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But we had also come to explore, and the first stop was a visit to the legendary cellars of Ilocki Podrum, Croatia's most decorated winery and purveyors of wine for the Royal weddings of William and Harry, as well as the Queen's coronation back in 1953 - learn more about that and the most expensive bottle of wine in Croatia

But before the tour of the cellars, a little breakfast. A glass of Traminac with the most unusual-sounding breakfast dish I have ever come across. Literally translated - Torn Underpants. They tasted a lot better than they sounded. 

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The Ilok cellars are incredible, the stories even more so, and the wines even more so than that. There is a separate article coming on TCN, but in the meantime, just visit!

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 And plenty were visiting, even in mid-October. Just one of the day's tour groups from the United States. Despite its position as the easternmost point of Croatia, Ilocki Podrum receives some 70,000 tourists a year, 45,000 of them foreign. 

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But while I was aware of the wines, I had no idea that tourism at Ilocki Podrumi was also booming in addition to the wine. The estate of Principovac is located in splendid isolation outside of town, a very popular wedding venue and complete with restaurant, quality accommodation, tennis courts and even some golf. A really great conference centre and place to escape the stresses of life. 

And to party. The New Year's Eve festivities for 500 guests are quite something apparently. Take in the view in the video above.  

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There was just enough time to visit the compact old part of the town of Ilok as well. Really rather pretty and definitely a destination for a relaxing weekend in its own right.  

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Slavonia is VERY flat and we loved the golden autumnal colours as we drove, as well as several very quirky things along the route. The famous Slavonian straw artist has been busy in the region... 

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And then, finally, the chance to fill in one of the biggest gaps in my knowledge of Croatia - Vucedol.

And what a gap it turned out to be. I knew that there was some claim to ancient civilisation in eastern Croatia, but I had never researched it too much, and so the Vucedol Museum was quite a shock. For this modern-day suburb of Vukovar had once been as important as Paris today in terms of settlements in Europe.  

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And the discoveries of Vucedol place it very favourably with other world-famous cultures such as the pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge etc. And yet very little is known internationally about Vucedol.  

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A very developed civilisation which gave the world the oldest calendar in Europe, the first metal casting of tools, and some rather funky fashion 5,000 years ago.  

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And rituals of human sacrifice. 

More on Vucedol coming soon, but check out the museum, it is one of the very best in Croatia and a great family attraction. And the enticing thing is this - only 10% of the area has been excavated. Imagine what else is waiting to be found if the other 90% is ever excavated. Croatia could be home to one of the world's most important archaeological sites. 

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From the ancient past to the very recent past, as we visited probably the most famous building in eastern Croatia and symbol of the suffering of the heroic city of Vukovar, which is now under reconstruction.  

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I had planned on exploring Vukovar on a future visit, but as we were so close, we decided to drive through. The iconic water tower in the distance, the Danube separating Croatia from Serbia.  

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And cruise tourism, the type you rarely read about in the news, but growing slowly and bringing tourists to the east - cruises down the River Danube. Still going strong in mid-October.  

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And so to our next stop - to the oldest continuously inhabited town in all Europe, home to some of the more sensational Vucedol finds. Vinkovci, a fascinating town we covered in some detail recently

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And since my visit a few weeks ago, yet one more sensational discovery - wonderfully preserved remains of a Roman chariot and horse.  What other secrets await to be discovered - from Roman times, the Vucedol era, and others?

There was lots to ponder and discuss as we headed back to our organic paradise on Saturday night. 

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Sunday morning was spent with Barba Mario. As far away from the stress of modern life as one could hope to be.  

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We really enjoyed our tour of his wonderful project, which you can learn more about on Facebook. and all the little details, such as this little bug hotel, which provides the right conditions for wild bees to thrive. They are essential as they work in much lower temperatures than ordinary bees, therefore pollinating where pollination would otherwise not happen. 

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And after a tour, a little breakfast - all locally sourced or home-grown.  

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Slavonia is known for many things, including the best hospitality in all Croatia, and while we had planned to leave a little earlier, a tour of Mario's 'Meat Church' and an invitation to lunch proved too hard to resist.  

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And while Mario slow-cooked the meat, we drove the one kilometre necessary to one of the natural jewels of Croatian tourism, Kopacki Rit Nature Park. 

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The weather was perfect, the nature more so - one of the most important wetlands in Europe, with over 300 species of birds. 

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And nicely constructed wooden walkways took you through the marshlands - beautifully done. 

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And we were not alone. Another boat full of tourists heads out into the Kopacki Rit waterways. 

Meanwhile... 

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Romulic the photographer combines with Romulic the masterchef. 

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Cooking as It Once Was. 

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A hearty lunch, great company and fabulous Slavonian hospitality. It was with some regret that we packed our things and headed back west to our regular lives. 

Budapest or Vienna for the weekend? Why not explore the jewels which are much closer to home instead? 

Here are 10 things that I learned about eastern Croatia this month

Monday, 26 August 2019

EU Providing 3.2 Million Euros for ''Amazon of Europe'' Bike Trail

Since joining the European Union (EU) back in July 2013, Croatia has had access to European Union funds for various different sectors, with the tourism and transport sectors getting a boost in multiple ways thanks to the cash. Pelješac bridge is just one of the most talked about strategic projects for Croatia which is being co-funded by an enormous amount of EU money.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes on the 25th of August, 2019, the ''Amazon of Europe'' bike trail is a brand new, emerging cycling route that will connect Croatia with a few of its neighbours, including Slovenia, Austria, Hungary and Serbia. Thanks to co-funding from EU funds, it won't take too long before the trail is ready for use.

The new bike trail will without a doubt succeed in attracting lovers of cycling to this part of Croatia, which is otherwise greatly overlooked in terms of tourism, living in the shadow of Dalmatia and even of Zagreb County.

The 700 kilometre-long cycling route will connect five countries en route from Austria to Hungary on both sides of the Mura, Drava and Danube rivers. These areas are brimming with countryside, rich fauna and picturesque sights.

The project was funded by the Interreg Danube Transnational program, the construction of the trail is currently expected to last for 36 months and has a total value of 3.2 million euros. The project leader is Croatia's neighbour to the north - Slovenia, and one of the project's many partners is the OBŽ county development agency.

This will be one of the longest cycling routes in this part of Europe, and when coming through the Republic of Croatia, the route will follow the course of the Drava river from the rolling green hills of beautiful Međimurje, all the way to the very mouth of the Danube river.

The route will also pass through stunning Kopački rit. The sign-posting and construction of rest areas will begin by the end of the year, and the route should be opened in 2021.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle and travel pages for much more.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Winter in Kopacki Rit Captured by Romulic & Stojcic Video Magic

June 2, 2019 - One of Croatia's top natural habitat's, Kopacki Rit, is beautifully captured in winter by leading Croatian photographers, Mario Romulic and Drazen Stojcic. 

They are perhaps best known for their spectacular timelapse videos of Croatia, all of which have gone viral, but Osijek photography maestros, Mario Romulic and Drazen Stojcic, have done perhaps more than anyone to capture the natural beauty of their native Slavonia and Baranja region. 

The region, largely overlooked by tourists, is a true natural paradise, and the lenses of Romulic and Stojcic have been capturing its beauty in all four seasons for many years now. 

Of particular interest is the idyllic Kopacki Rit Nature Park, which lies on the banks of the Danube, a little north-east of Osijek. It also back on to the back garden of Romulic, and he has used this easy access to capture animal life at every opportunity over the years.  

 The latest video work by Romulic and Stojcic has just been uploaded, a beautiful snapshot of wildlife and nature in Kopacki Rit during winter. 

 The video is part of an EU-funded project to improve tourism in Kopacki Rit, including the construction of a tourist dock at Lake Sakadas, which already welcomes visitors via electric boats. 

 You can follow more of the work of Romulic and Stojcic on their official Facebook page

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