You really shouldn’t be surprised Croatia is home to a town of such immense historic importance.
After all, the Roman amphitheatre in Pula is the only one in the entire world with all three rows completely preserved, Stone is home to the “Great Wall of Europe” and Hum is the world’s alleged smallest town.
Vinkovci are hiding all the way in Eastern Croatia. This small gem will knock you off your feet with its illustrious history, striking traditions and magnificent surroundings.
Let’s start exploring.
Vinkovci nestles comfortably along the fertile shores of the Bosut River, between the impressive Danube and Sava. Owning to its favourable position, Vinkovci has been continually inhabited for more than 8,000 years!
The best way to experience this thousands-of-years-old culture is to visit Sopot Archaeological Park. The area contains six huts, reconstructed according to findings from that site, and provides unique insight into the life and customs of antecedents of the Vinkovci people.
One of the most important discoveries dates back to 2,600 BC – the Orion, the oldest Indo-European calendar. Discovered in the late 20th century, it took two decades for archaeologists to determine the engraved ornaments represent the constellations which adorn the night sky above Vinkovci through all four seasons.
The calendar was created in the same time period as the Sumerian and Egyptian calendars and it is entirely original.
Both the Orion and the findings from Sopot are today displayed in Vinkovci Town Museum.
The Vinkovci area blossomed during the Roman rule. At the time Vinkovci were known as Aurelia Cibalae and flourished as the third largest city in the province of Pannonia Secunda – which today is split into the regions of Slavonia, Syrmia and Baranja.
In the 4th century Vinkovci was the home to Valentinian and Valens who later went to become Roman Emperors. There definitely seems to be an unbreakable bond between Croatia and distinguished Roman Emperors.
The Middle Ages resulted, among other things, in the picturesque church of St. Elias, which has had a rather interesting life.
Built sometime during the transition from the 11th to 12th century, the church was later demolished and new construction arose in the 14th century. It continued to be used as a sacral object until the 18th century, when it was used by the military. Later it became a storehouse until World War II.
In the 16th century Vinkovci became a part of the Ottoman Empire and it took over a century for the Habsburg Empire to retrieve the settlement. Vinkovci was part of the Slavonian Military Frontier until the late 19th century.
Today Vinkovci are the largest town in the Vukovar-Syrmia County and a local transport hub due to its railway grid.
When thinking about the Vinkovci region, its lush culinary traditions are the first thing one thinks of.
Spicy dry sausage kulen, salty pork cracklings čvarci, head cheese, čobanac, fish or goose paprikash stew, homemade bread with lard spread – delectable gastronomic treasures will satisfy foodies with the most selective tastes. Follow your meal with a glass of local plum brandy rakija, and you’ll have yourself a true Slavonian experience!
Fall is Vinkovci’s favourite season. That is when one of the most recognizable and celebrated traditions of Vinkovci takes place: the Vinkovci Autumns – Vinkovačke jeseni.
The folk music festival gathers folklore groups from all over Slavonia and Croatia. They use the occasion to display their striking folk costumes in all their glory, celebrating the still so important traditions of the past. Accompanied by the sounds of tamburitza and bagpipes, it is one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience rich Slavonian cultural heritage first hand.
Looking to extend your stay? There are several rural homesteads in Vinkovci where visitors can spend a few nights in comfortable feather-beds, indulge in the aforementioned lush gastronomic offer, or even participate in the village work. Hospitable hosts show their generosity and welcome to every host – it is Slavonian authenticity at its best!
Fertile fields and centuries old oak woods created a rich land abundant in life. It is a place of confluence of Eastern and Western influences, which has introduced diversity and richness of culture and lifestyles.
One of the best ways to explore Vinkovci and its surroundings is on a bicycle. Not only is the area completely interspersed with cycling lanes, but the Danube Cycle Path passes through Syrmia Region as well. And where else would the starting point be than in the very heart of Vinkovci.
The nearby Spačva forest, one of Croatia’s most incredible places, serves as ideal hunting grounds, whilst the nearby rivers are abundant in freshwater fish and thus ideal for fishing enthusiasts.
Close to Vinkovci is the heroic town of Vukovar which had a significant role in the Croatian struggle for independence. Also worth mentioning is Ilok. This small town on a hill overlooking the Danube is best known for its castle and the most luxuries wine hiding in its cellars.
If you travel a bit to the north, you will find Kopacki rit Nature park, the best preserve wetlands in entire Europe.
So let’s sum up. For anyone looking to remain off the conventional tourist trails, Vinkovci are the Holy Grail. With its jaw-dropping history, ethereal nature and sumptuous cuisine Vinkovci somehow still retain an aura of idyllic rural life.
Welcome to Slavonia!
Have you ever been to Slavonia? What other places away from conventional tourist paths would you suggest? Share in the comments!
Photo Credit: Vinkovci Tourist Board, Vinkovci Town Museum