Slavonia is Croatia's farthest eastern province. The interior regions of Croatia are the least visited, usually being pasted over for the coastal provinces, and Slavonia is no exception. The region has it's own history, people, geography, and atmosphere that are unique from the rest of Croatia. Slavonia's landscape is flat and fertile, with farming being the main means of livelihood. Small farming villages characterize the province and the main city is Osijek. One of Slavonia's biggest natural attractions is Kopacki Rit Nature Park, a marshland that attracts a huge variety of birds and is popular with naturalists.The Patriotic War of the 1990's had a devastating effect on Slavonia with heavy bombing and much damage. Efforts have been made to restore some of the historical and architectural treasures from the region, while some are beyond repair. The war also crushed the economy, which is still struggling to recover.
The town of Vukovar on the banks of the Danube River was a beautiful and prosperous place not that long ago. Unfortunately the Patriotic War in 1991 brought the town to a crashing halt. With both a large Serb and Croat population, tensions ran high in Vukovar leading up to the war and exploded by August of 1991. The main town center was in ruins following the war and much of it still is. Many of the public buildings, including museum, art galleries, and libraries were looted and many of the historic buildings were reduced to rubble. Some buildings have been restored and the effort is on going, but Vukovar is a lot different today than it was before the war. The economy has suffered greatly and the population has fallen drastically. If nothing else, it is an excellent example of a post war town.There is an 18th Century Franciscan monastery which sits upon a hilltop and the Town Museum, which are both worth visiting. Vukovar also has a number of churches and Baroque buildings in the town center, all of which were heavily damaged.
Sarengrad sits along the banks of the Danube River. A fort was built here as a control point along the river. The town of Sarengrad developed around the fort, with a Franciscan Monastery established here by Ivan Maroivicki in the 15th century. During the Turkish invasion the fort was destroyed, but the monastery remained in tact. Following the departure of the Turks, monks once again set up in the monastery. Unfortunately during the Patriotic War of 1991 many buildings, including the church and monastery, sustained heavy damage. They have since been restored, as have other buildings and monuments in Sarengrad.
Erdut, along the Danube River, has a number of old attractions but has become more well known for its recent history. In 1995, following four years of Serb occupation, Croatia and Yugoslavia agreed to return Slavonia and Baranja to Croatia. The declaration was drawn up at the Cseh Mansion in Erdut.A Roman fortification and a medieval Castle were built in the town. The castle was restored by the Turks and later used by the Habsburgs, but today only two towers from the old castle remain. The Cseh Mansion, built in the 19th Century still stands, although it has undergone some restoration work since 1995.
Vinkovci has a long history. It was founded by the Romans under the name Aurelia Cibalae and is noted for being the birth town of Emperors Valens and Valentinian. Today Vinkovci is a typical Slavonian town, home to a number of attractions and host to a popular festival. The Vinkovci Autumn Festival (Vinkovacke Jeseni) draws visitors from throughout Slavonia and other parts of Croatia. It is a festival of Croatian folklore, with music, costumes, performers, and street events.Also of interest in Vinkovci is the St. Elias Church (Sv Ilija), which dates to the 12th Century, and the Civic Museum (Gradski Muzej). On display in the museum are artifacts from the Roman necropolis as well as a section on Croatian folklore. The Church of St Eusebius and St Pollio (Sv Euzebije I Polion) dates to the late 18th Century.
Illok, in the Srijem region, has been in existence since Roman times. The town lies along the banks of the Danube River. During the Middle Ages defensive walls and other fortifications were built, much of what is still standing dates to around the mid 14th Century, when the structures were reinforced. From the 15th Century stands the St Ivan Kapistran Church and Monastery, named for the man credited with uniting the Christians against the Turks. Near the church and monastery is a section of the old defense wall.During the Turkish occupation of Illok in the 16th Century, Trukish baths were built, some of which can still be seen. In the late 17th Century, Livio Odescalchi acquired the town and built the beautiful Odescalchi Manor. This three story horseshoe shaped mansion, is home to the Odescalchi Collection, the Civic Museum (Gradski Muzej), and a restaurant with outdoor seating during the summer months.
Pozega is a small town southeast of Zagreb and west of Osijek. It is often overlooked by travelers but is worth a stop for the beautiful Baroque style Trg Sv Trojstvo, main square. On the square is the Church of the the Holy Spirit (Crkva Sv Duha) built by the Franciscans in 1280.The church was used as a mosque by the Ottomans in the 16th and 17th Centuries, during the Turkish occupation. The adjacent monastery was built in the 18th Century.Nearby, the Gothic Church of St Lawrence (Crkva Sv Lovre) dates to the 14th Century but was renovated in the early 1700s in Baroque style. The Town Museum (Gradski Muzej) with a variety of artwork and archeological finds, is also on the main square.As well, there are a number of Baroque townhouses with stuccowork around the square. In the center of the Trg Sv Trojstvo is a column built in 1749 to commemorate victims of the Plague.
Kutjevo, on the slopes of Krndija Mountain, is in the heart of a prominent region in Croatia. The town is famous for the Cistercian built monastery here in 1232, which was taken over by the Jesuits following the end of the Turkish reign. The Jesuits resumed cultivating fruits in the region.The Church of St Mary was built by the Jesuits in the 18th Century. Kutjevo is also known for breeding Lippizaner horses and holding horse races.
Slavonski Brod, Croatia
Slavonski Brod, on the north side of the River Sava , was originally known as Marsonia when it was founded by the Romans. Like much of the region, the town fell under Trukish occupation in the 16th and 17th Centuries.The main attraction in Slavonski Brod is the 18th century Brod Fortress (Brodska Tvrdjava), which was built to guard against Ottoman forces. It served as a military fortification for over 100 years, and was capable of holding 4,000 soldiers.The main square, Trg I B Mazuranic, offers street side cafés. There is also a Franciscan Monastery (Franjevacki Samostan) and the Church of the Holy Trinity (Sv Trojstvo) both in Baroque style and worth walking by. Slavonski Brod is a medium size town with modern suburbs containing high-rises. The town did suffer serious damage during the war in 1991.
Vrpolje is the town where the famous Croatian sculptor, Ivan Mestrovic was born in 1883. He was not raised in the town but nonetheless, maintained ties to the community and donated a number of his works to the town. In the church of St Ivan can be found Mestrovic's statue of St John the Baptist, a crucifix, and outside, the better known "Bust of a Woman". There is also a gallery, Spomen Galerija, with a collection of his sculptures in wood and bronze, as well as casts by the artist.Vrpolje is just 39km / 24mi south of Osijek.
Nova Gradiska, Croatia
Nova Gradski, on the southern slopes of Mt Psunj, was first known by the name Fredrichsdorf, and was founded by the Viennese. The area around town is all agricultural land with livestock breeding. There is a sort of farmers market, held quite regularly in the main square. Nova Gradiska's main square is surrounded by Baroque buildings and is a pleasant place to relax.Also of interest in the town is the Church of Immaculate Conception, a neo-Classical structure which was once called the Church of St Stephen of Hungary, and the Sactuary of St Theresa. Nearby Nova Gradski are some hiking and climbing opportunities on Mt Punj.
The town of Daruvar, known as Aquae Balissae during the Roman times, is a popular spa. The hot water springs are used at the Medical Centre (Daruvarske Toplice) to treat a variety of ailments including rheumatism, inflammatory problems, sterility, back problems, and to help in rehabilitation following operations, as well as a host of other illnesses. Visitors can also go to Daruvar just to enjoy the warm waters and soak up the atmosphere.Of note in Daruvar are two churches from the 18th Century. Daruvar is also unique in that it is home to a large Czech population, where Czech is still spoken and many Czech customs are still in place.
The small town of Virovitica is noteworthy for its Baroque church of St Rock (Sv Rok) and the Pejacevic Manor. The Church of St Roch contains some works by the sculptor Hozinger and the painter Gobler, who did some work on the interior. Note the ornate Baroque altar. The large Pejacevic Manor, built in the early 19th Century, is on the site of the old Wasserburg Castle. It now contains the Civic Museum (Gradski Muzej) with art and folklore displays, and an archeological collection.The history of the town dates back over 1,000 years, and was originally known as Wereuche.
The hot springs at Lipik were "rediscovered" and developed in the early 1800s and became one of the most famous Croatian spas, attracting visitors from all over. Rich in fluorine, sodium, and calcium the Lipik spa became particularly popular in the first half of the 20th Century following the first World War. The town was hit hard during the Patriotic War in 1991 and sustained considerable damage. However, a new spa has since been built with hotels and a medical center. Lipik is also a breeding center for Lipizzaner horses, considered by many to be the most popular riding horses in the world.
Zupanja is a border town with Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are divided by the River Sava. The most famous site in the town is the old wooden watch-tower (Cardak), which served to guard the border when it was built in the 19th Century. The tower houses the Zupanja Museum with archeological, palaeonthological, ethnograpahic, and historical collections from the Zupanja area. This region was inhabited as far back as the Bronze Age.Also of interest in town is the main square with a monument, which commemorates the introduction of football and tennis to Zupanja. The church of St John the Head-Cutter dates to the early 19th Century.