Slavonija

Three days in Slavonia and Srijem

20 June 2021.

Written by Matija Čaić

We decided to use the free weekend to visit Slavonia and Srijem. Three very interesting cities are located in the very east and very close to each other. The cities are Ilok, Vukovar and Osijek.

Whoever says that Croatia is small, he certainly never tried to get from the central part to Ilok. Basically, it’s about 5 hours of driving like this.

It means press the pedal and eagerly waiting for the moment when you will have to use the steering wheel. But with good company and good music, time flies.

The plan was as follows. The first day we get to Ilok and settle down. The second day we visit Vukovar and Osijek. The third day we visit Ilok and on the way back Jasenovac and Lonjsko polje.

First day

We left after lunch around 3:30 p.m. We counted on a 4.5 to 5 hour drive so we just got to settle in and prepare for the rest of the tour. The highway, once known as the Highway of Brotherhood and Unity, leads all the way to the border with Serbia, and from there we have another fifty kilometers to the destination where we rented an apartment. Or so we thought.

It was only somewhere near the Županja junction that it was necessary to turn on the navigation as we were leaving the highway, turning to Vinkovci and local roads to Ilok.

When we got to that part, we realized the true scale of the emigration of people from Slavonia to Ireland or Germany. In the villages we passed through, only every third house was lit, and no one on the road even though it was not even 8pm. Finally, after a little over an hour of driving through the forests and fields, we arrived in Ilok.

Definitely this area that includes Ilok, Vinkovci, Osijek and Vukovar deserves if not a highway, then at least a better that will connect them all. We came to the address where we rented, as we thought, an apartment. Turns out we actually got a room in the flat we shared with the owner.

A small shock at the beginning, which the owner quickly canceled out with the well-known Slavonian hospitality. We got for dinner everything that was in the fridge and a great freshly baked apple pie.

After we ate as much as we could, we were informed to feel free to use everything in the kitchen when we needed it.

Second day

We started the day where we left off last evening, at a table filled with food. After a conversation with the owner, we headed to Vukovar. It took us half an hour to get to the Museum of Vučedol Culture at the entrance to the city. We got a little early so we waited about ten minutes for the museum to open. Luck was on our side so we got tickets at half price.

The museum is very modern and interactive. Many exhibits very accurately portray the Vučedol culture. One section is dedicated to the archaeologists who worked on the excavations. I don’t know if we overlooked it or if there really wasn’t even a replica of their most famous discovery in the museum, the Vučedol dove.

The next destination was Vukovar and the river Danube.

Vukovar really has potential. We passed several very impressive buildings, a brewery that produces a great blonde ale, and the most famous building the beautiful Eltz Castle. Considering that over 300 river cruisers dock in the port each year, one wonders why it then seems so poor.

We had just arrived in time to board a ship that would take us on a one-hour drive along the Danube.

Along with the wine tasting, we saw barges waiting to be unloaded, a cargo port and the famous Vukovar water tower. It is not clear to me where Johann Strauss Jr. saw the beautiful, blue Danube. The color that predominates in that river is some combination of brown and green.

Hunger had begun to appear, so after the cruise we headed for Osijek.

Osijek is the largest Slavonian city and the fourth largest in Croatia. The first impression a man gets when he comes into it is spaciousness. Wide streets and large parks are everywhere so it is very easy to breathe in this city. Magnificent Austro-Hungarian buildings are everywhere. All in all, a beautiful city tailored to man.

We visited the walls of Osijek, the promenade along the Drava river, Sakuntala Park, the monument to Catmother and the installation Crveni Fićo.  

It was already 6 o’clock, and we had an hour’s drive to the apartment, so we headed back.

Third day

That day was reserved for a tour of Ilok, return and tour of the Jasenovac Memorial Park and Lonjsko Polje Nature Park. We said goodbye to the landlady and promised to leave good reviews on Booking. She really deserved it.

Ilok is rightly called Little Dubrovnik. The old town has very well preserved walls and buildings from the time of the Turkish invasion.

We went down to the Danube, watched the barges pass by, bought gifts for the family, famous Slavonian sausages and headed towards Karlovac. We  stopped in the mammoth valley along the way. An orchard where quite a few bones of prehistoric animals were found.

Jasenovac pleasantly surprised me. I expected that after the fall of communism that memorial area was neglected. On the contrary, this is one of the best-kept museums and surrounding areas I have seen.

The monument in the shape of a flower still stands in the middle of a ledscaped meadow. The mounds are erected where the buildings in the concentration camp stood, and the train that brought the inmates was preserved.

The museum exhibits real objects of the camp inmates as well as detailed descriptions of the work of the camp and the construction of the monument.

We left Lonjsko polje for the end. It took us quite a drive at first until we found the entrance to the park. There they directed us to a circular path through the park which we did not go all the way because it was quite muddy due to the rain. Then we drove a little more through the different villages around the park and concluded that a visit to this park should still be better planned because this flood area is huge.

And that’s it. Tired, but satisfied, in the evening we were in Karlovac full of impressions.

We didn’t know it was going to be that hard

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