Travel

Meet the Oldest Inhabited Town in Europe... in Eastern Croatia

Do you know where the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe is? The scene of the famous murder on the Orient Express? Home to the oldest European calendar? Senka Vlahovic took that fateful train on May 1, 2017, and sent in this report. 

When one decides to take a trip on a nice spring day, and it turns to be a winter day at 2°C with rain and wind in the latter half of the April, the trip suddenly turns into an adventure. Well, to be honest, I am not the type of the person who will go to the North Pole or the jungle or eat weird food or put my head in a crocodile's mouth. All the same, planning my visit to Vinkovci and discovering its stories also filled me up with adventurous emotions. In the future, I would love to explore my own country first, its cultural and natural treasures, before heading to the jungle or flying to the Moon.

So, one morning on a winter day in April of this year I started my adventure by taking a train from Osijek to Vinkovci. The reason I decided to go to Vinkovci by train was the Orient Express, Agatha Christie and the fact that Vinkovci is the second biggest railway junction in Croatia. I had not travel led by train in over 17 years, and it was kind of exciting buying a ticket at the train station in Osijek. The train interior was terribly old fashioned but that was the touch I kind of liked, made me nostalgic for past times and it was really cosy and warm. So I sat down and tried to imagine myself as one of the fancy passengers of one of the most famous trains in railway history, the Orient Express.

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ORIENT EXPRESS AND VINKOVCI

This train started to operate in 1883 as the Express d'Orient from Paris to Vienna and changed its name to the Orient Express in 1891. It was also called „the King of Trains, the Train of Kings“ because many famous people that were travelling in it, people like Emperor Haile Selassie, Leopold II, Lawrence of Arabia, Josephine Baker, Mata Hari, Isadora Duncan, Agatha Christie... The route of the Orient Express changed several times and thanks to the opening of the Simplon Tunnel in 1918, the route known as the Simplon Orient Express started to operate from Paris to Istanbul passing through Vinkovci in 1919. The Simplon Orient Express was connecting Western and Eastern Europe from 1919 until 1939 and again from 1945 until 1962.

AGATHA CHRISTIE AND VINKOVCI

„Murder on the Orient Express“, a novel by Agatha Christie was first published in the United Kingdom on 1st January 1934. Assuming that all of the readers know the story I'll just write that the most important part of the book, the murder, happened in Vinkovci: „That night, in Vinkovci, at about 23 minutes before 1:00 a.m., Poirot wakes to the sound of a scream.“ Hercule Poirot was solving the murder in the train stuck in the snow somewhere between Vinkovci and another Slavonian town, Slavonski Brod.

Maybe it would be also interesting to note that one of the most famous detectives ever started his journey in this novel from Aleppo in Syria.

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RAILWAY EXIBITION ON RAILWAY STATION IN VINKOVCI

This permanent exhibition has covered the railway system at the Vinkovci junction and broader area since 1878, and it is located in the former 2nd class waiting room of the Vinkovci railway station. The exhibition was set up on the basis of a collection of 399 items which were collected and donated by members of the Association of HŽ Railway Pensioners Vinkovci. Among many items I would like to point out several of them: track vehicles with a mechanical drive, a 19th century signal lamp with candle, manual telephone exchange, timetable from 1913, supervisory book of the Vinkovci station kept from 1918 to 1965 and interesting old photographs.

MUSEUM AND VINKOVCI IN ITS 9TH MILLENNIUM

„The Vinkovci area is the oldest continuously inhabited area in Europe, as confirmed by archeological finds dated less than 50 years apart, reaching back through more than 8000 years of history.“ – Museum of Vinkovci

Vinkovci is very well known as an important historical and archaeological site, and I find it impossible to dedicate one paragraph only to the museum of a place where life has continued for such a long time. And I can't stop thinking what would some other country in Europe would do with this data? I mean, Croatia has the oldest inhabited town in Europe, and how many Croatians know that, not to mention the rest of the world?

For now, I shall just mention Vinkovci's key contributions to world heritage: the oldest mass production of metal objects, the oldest known true bronze and the oldest European and Indo-European calendar.

BIRTH HOUSE OF IVAN KOZARAC AND LOVE STORY FROM KRNJAŠ, ONE OF THE OLDEST PARTS OF VINKOVCI

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Not so long ago I discovered the story behind one song usually played on the Slavonian instrument, the tamburitza. The song i.e. poem is about love, of course, but not only between a man and a woman. The poet also expresses his love towards Slavonia and its way of life at the beginning of the 20th century, describing how he had to jump over fences, sneak from girl's parents, feed the watchdog only to get to her window. He admits he caressed other girls over the years, but has never forgotten her. The lyrics were written by Slavonian poet Ivan Kozarac who loved a girl called Marija whom he couldn't marry. Severely ill from tuberculosis, Ivan Kozarac wrote these lyrics 10 months before he died at the age of 25. Today, Ivan and Marija can finally be together, stopped in time in front of his house by the Bosut River.

Find out more about Ivan Kozarac and his birth house.

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DID YOU KNOW...

... that Celts were the first to coin money here?
... that the Romans were saying that the Bosut River flows in one direction before noon, and the other in the afternoon? The Bosut flows so slowly that even the slightest wind will leave the impression that the river flows in the direction it blows, even upstream

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... that two Roman Emperors, brothers Valentinian and Valens were born in Vinkovci (Cibale)?
... that Valens was called Sabaiarius (beer drinker or beer belly) cause he loved the beer so much?
... that Vinkovci had 14 breweries between the two world wars?
... that the archeologists discovered the Orion on March 21st, 1978 at the site of the biggest current hotel in Vinkovci „Hotel Slavonija"?
... that luxury 1600-year-old silverware was found in Vinkovci in 2012? This was a significant archaeological discovery not only in Croatia but also in the world. That 36 kg heavy antique silver contained a total of 50 silver dishes of different plates, bowls, jugs, glasses, spoons...

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Due to the weather conditions, Ididn't visit Sopot Archeology Park, sacral monuments, neither could I enjoy walking by the Bosut and over main city square decorated with Orion ornaments... but I don't mind. It gives me a great reason to visit Vinkovci again, maybe in September on Vinkovačke jeseni (Vinkovci's Autumns), one of the greatest folklore events organized in these parts.

What do over 8000 years of history and Agatha Christie have in common? The answer is simple, right? VINKOVCI! And what should you do knowing this as a proud citizen of this country or proud European or just human being? You should VISIT VINKOVCI!

Want to learn more amazing things about a region of Croatia many Croats know little about? 25 things to know about Eastern Croatia, including more on Vinkovci.

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